Ville De Rouen, 1901
Location: 3 nm off Moore River mouth
Bow: S31° 21.567' / E115° 26.833'
Stern: S31° 21.552' / E115°26.887'
Site depth: 5-8 metres
Divable conditions: Swell <1.5 metres
Visibilty: 5-15 metres
Vessel: 4 masted barque
Vessel length: 66.9
Wreck event: 1901, ran aground in poor visibility
The Ville De Rouen was built by Atel & Chant de la Loire in St Nazaire, France. The vessel was a 4 masted barque, one of only a small number of 4 mast vessels lost on the West Australian coast. These large sailing ships were among the last of the sailing freight era that died out in the early 20th century.
The Ville De Rouen had sailed from Cardiff carrying a load of pig iron, fire bricks and alcohol to be delivered to Fremantle. On the October 28, 1901 the vessel ran aground on a reef north of the town of Guilderton, 80 kilometres north of Fremantle. The French consul had cleared Captain Barthelmelds of all blame regarding the wrecking event due to strong currents pushing the vessel off course and restricted visibility when approaching Fremantle in the night. The first vessel to render assistance was sent away by the crew and Captain and it was said that the crew were also found on the beach, more occupied with drinking the cargo then salvaging the vessel after they had abandoned ship. When the captain and crew reluctantly were taken to Fremantle, two crew had been left on site to retain salvage of the vessel however, when the Captain returned the crew had left and the vessel was found almost completely submerged, with its masts still upright with some of her sails still set. It had however shifted position and drifted a kilometre to its final resting place where it lies today.
The Ville De Rouen wreck is situated almost directly west of the Moore River mouth and the coastal town of Guilderton north of the Perth metro area. The closest and easiest boat launching site is from Two Rocks marina and it is about an 11 nautical mile or 20 kilometre boat trip north to the wreck site which lays 3 nautical miles offshore. The wreck is located on the reef named after the ship, the Ville De Rouen Reef on the north eastern corner of the reef. Given that the ship drifted to its final location it is actually located on the eastern or inshore section of the main reef, on the western edge of a reef shelf that runs north to south. The wreck lays with its bow pointing west in the sand at 9 metres depth with the stern and bulk of the wreck laying on the reef in around 5-7 metres. Although east of the main reef, the site still gets hit by the swell and it's best dived in low swell conditions.
The wreck site is a great wreck to dive, like most century old sites in swell the ships structure has been flattened and reclaimed by the reef but the amount and size of ships fittings, masts and deck machinery make the dive very attractive. Some of the mast sections on the wreck are huge compared to other wrecks and are found towards the southern edge of the site, the best anchor site is near the bow in the deep, flat sand area immediately west of the bow GPS mark and the wreck runs roughly southwest to northeast from that location.