Wrecks in Tasmanian Waters


Since the wreck of the ship Sydney Cove in 1797, around 1,000 vessels of all sizes are known to have been lost in Tasmanian waters.

Weather and stormy seas have often been a major factor, not surprising considering Tasmania’s situation at a latitude known as the roaring 40s. In fact each side of Tasmania’s roughly triangular coastline borders on notoriously rough waters – Bass Strait, the Southern Ocean and the Tasman Sea.


Ships have been wrecked all around Tasmania but there are a number of particularly bad spots on busy shipping routes such as the approaches to Hobart and Launceston and in the Bass Strait on the major route between Europe and Melbourne or Sydney. As a rugged, mountainous island Tasmania relied very heavily on water transport well into the era of motor vehicles and decent roads.  But its rocky coastline with countless small islands and rocky outcrops provided an infinite number of hazards particularly in the days of sail and before accurate charts were made.

The causes of the wrecks vary widely but common factors include atrocious weather, massive waves, lack of experienced or fit crew, navigation errors, poor charts, equipment failure and shifting cargo. Particularly for small boats you could add poor knowledge of local conditions, alcohol and falling asleep at the wheel.

This exhibition looks at just a small selection of Tasmanian wrecks using photographs, paintings, documents and objects from collections around Tasmania.

Exhibition open until June 24 2019.