Submerged: Stories of Australian Shipwrecks



On display in the Carnegie Gallery is 'Submerged - Stories of Australian Shipwrecks', a travelling exhibition from the Australian Maritime Museum Council and the Australian National Maritime Museum, detailing some of Australia’s best known wrecks, as well as some lesser known stories.

Australia’s coast is the final resting place of over 11,000 shipwrecks – roughly one wreck for every three kilometres of coastline. And Tasmania’s, Sydney Cove, Cataraqui and Lake Illawara are three of 14 wrecks whose stories feature in a nationally touring panel exhibition Submerged – Stories of Australia’s Shipwrecks uncovering Australia’s rich shipwreck history.


Submerged is presented by the Australian National Maritime Museum and the Australian Maritime Museums Council and is the result of a national project with workshops held across the country to develop the exhibition and to source shipwreck stories. 68 shipwreck stories were nominated by 46 maritime museums and heritage institutions from around Australia with 14 of the most compelling stories selected to feature in the exhibition.

Sydney Cove was a British Indian merchant ship which ran aground on Preservation Island in 1797. The survivors’ accounts and information gained during the salvage and rescue attempts resulted in the exploration and mapping of Australia’s southern coast by Matthew Flinders and George Bass.

Cataraqui was a British barque which was cast onto the rocks on Fitzmaurice Bay, King Island in 1845 in the worst civil maritime disaster of an Australia-bound vessel. Four hundred people, mostly migrant families, perished. The 1975 loss of Australian bulk carrier Lake Illawara is the most recent shipwreck featured. It struck a bridge in Hobart killing its seven crew and five motorists.

The exhibition also features wrecks of trawlers, steamers, schooners, whalers and a submarine. The oldest vessel is WA’s Batavia. Its 1629 loss on Beacon Island, and subsequent mutiny, is one of the most dramatic events in Dutch and Australian history.

Other wrecks include Sanyo Maru, a Japanese motor vessel lost in 1937 in Boucaut Bay NT, Tasmania and the Fijian fishing trawler Degei which struck rocks on Donington Reef, SA in 1974 and the paddle steamer Wagga Wagga which sank at Narrandera, NSW in 1913.

The exhibition also features one shipwreck from outside Australia – Australia’s second submarine HMAS AE2 which was lost in 1915 during the First World War in the Sea of Marmara, Turkey.

Australian National Maritime Museum director Kevin Sumption said “As an island nation, shipwrecks are a very important part of Australia’s rich maritime heritage. The Australian National Maritime Museum is delighted to be partnering with the Australian Maritime Museums Council to unlock these fascinating stories and remember everyone who lost their lives on our coast.”

Submerged – Stories of Australia’s Shipwrecks is on a two year national tour across regional Australia. All 68 submitted shipwreck stories are available now on the AMMC website in a digital archive – The exhibition is assisted by the Australian Government Visions of Australia program.

The exhibition is augmented with stories and objects from Tasmanian shipwrecks using the Maritime Museum of Tasmania's collections.

The exhibition is open until 10 December.