'Significant find': Divers discover Glenelg shipwreck

Mex Cooper
July 3, 2009

A shipwreck has been found off Victoria's east coast 109 years after 31 people drowned when it mysteriously sank.

The Glenelg set off from Lakes Entrance, east of Melbourne, on March 25, 1900 on a regular short run to Bairnsdale.


The iron steamer's captain Thomas English is believed to have double-checked the ships two lifeboats moments before sailing, telling bystanders it was always best to be prepared.

The lifeboats were used by the ship's only three survivors when it ran into bad weather and monstrous waves not long after leaving shore.

Survivors told a marine board inquiry they heard a crash before water began to fill the ship.

More than a century later, their evidence helped a group of wreck divers discover the Glenelg lying upright on the sea bed.

Southern Ocean Exploration group leader Mark Ryan said the team had been searching for the ship for more than three years.

The divers used the survivors' recollections along with CSIRO data and the ship's logical course to find the 135-foot wreck, which remains in surprisingly good condition.

"We believe it to be a very significant find," Mr Ryan said.

"At the time it was one of Victoria's greatest maritime disasters with 31 people perishing, up until then only the Loch Ard (in which 52 drowned) had more."

In 2000, a bronze plaque commemorating the maritime disaster was unveiled at Lakes Entrance by descendants of some of those killed.

"It's very eerie knowing how many people perished. We are very mindful and respectful in the way that we handled the sight," Mr Ryan said.

Mr Ryan said it was hoped the wreck may reveal the reason behind the tragedy, which remains a mystery.

He said the cost of the search had been covered by the divers, who were all driven by their passion for shipwreck diving.

"Some people like fast cars, some people like to go snow skiing, we dive shipwrecks," he said.

"It really gets the adrenalin pumping when you descend on to a wreck and no one else has seen it for 109 years."

The Glenelg is the seventh Victorian wreck discovered by Southern Ocean Exploration.

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