GPS: S 31° 13.273'
E 115° 21.546'
Location: 6 miles SW Ledge Point
Site depth: 2-8 metres
Divable conditions: <0.5m swell
Visibilty: 10 metres
Vessel: VOC Merchant Jacht
Tons: 260 tons
Vessel length: 42 metres
Wreck event: Wrecked on reef 1656
The Vergulde Draeck (Far-hool-de-drak). Or the "Gilt Dragon". Australia's third oldest known shipwreck and one of the four VOC, Dutch East India Company's merchant ships known to have wrecked on the West Australian coastline in the 17th and 18th century. Discovered by Graeme Henderson in 1963 while spearfishing off Ledge Point. The Vergulde Draeck is one of the most significant wrecks with regard to the early history of the Perth coastline and also one of its greatest mysteries. Before dawn on 28th April 1656 the ship carrying 78,600 guilders in silver, hit the shallow reef 3 nautical miles from shore. Of the 193 on board only 75 survivours made it to land in the ship's boats with very little salvaged from the wreck that is believed to have quickly broken apart. It is thought they assembled at one of the bluffs some 5 kilometres north of the town of Seabird, a party of seven men were sent by small boat to raise the alarm in Batavia (Jakarta) and two months later when the rescue ships arrived all 68 dutchmen had vanished without a trace.
The Vergulde Draeck is an extremely difficult site to visit. The wreck site sits in a 8 metre deep hole and cave system between two breaks where the reef rises to within 2 metres of the surface. Waves break to the west and to the east of the site and in very close proximity, for this reason there has to be virtually no swell to be able to visit the site and the boat must be anchored well away from the wreck site in deeper water. Added to this problem, boat launching is not possible at Seabird and rarely possible at Ledge Point. The wreck sits quite a distance from the nearest launching area at Lancelin to the north or Two Rocks 22 miles to the south, light easterly offshore winds are best for venturing out to the wreck and care should always be taken at the wreck site. It took us four years to finally get the right weather window at the right time to get our chance to visit this site, but after learning the background of this wreck, it is well worth the wait to dive a site of such historical significance.
The Vergulde Draeck, like all wrecks older than 75 years of shipwrecks of historic and heritage value, is protected from any interferrence, disturbance or removal of wreck material by the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976.