Shipwrecks automatically become historic shipwrecks under state and Commonwealth legislation once they are 75 years and older (from the time of wreck). Both Victorian and Commonwealth shipwreck legislation also provide for the declaration of protected zones around particularly significant and/or fragile historic shipwrecks. Protected zones are no-entry zones and can be up to a maximum radius of 500m around a wreck site.
Of 600 recorded historic shipwrecks in Victoria, only nine have been placed inside protected zones. These protected zones vary in size and very few are identified by pylons or danger marks. However, they are all marked on navigational charts and it’s the responsibility of boat operators to know where the zones are located.
Protected zone locations
There are six state protected zones and three protected zones in Commonwealth waters. You will find they are marked on the following nautical charts:
- AUS 158 Port Phillip South and West Channels
- AUS 143 Port Phillip and the Rip
- AUS 182 Approaches to Corner Inlet and Port Albert.
The locations of protected zones are also marked on most navigational software.
State protected zones
The following shipwrecks inside Port Phillip Bay have protected zones around them. Heritage Victoria has developed a brochure (DOCX, 155.9 KB)to assist in avoiding the protected zones located within Port Phillip.
Protected zone location: -37.967382, 145.007876 (0.5 hectare rectangle)
Cerberus (1926) is a highly significant shipwreck and landmark in Half Moon Bay, Black Rock. Cerberus was the first armoured fighting ship built for service in Australia and the first designed to operate without sails. Cerberus was the flagship of the Victorian Navy and in 1911, following Federation, became part of the newly formed Royal Australian Navy.
Heritage Victoria are not issuing permits to enter the protected zone of HMVS Cerberus due to safety reasons. The hull is in imminent danger of collapse and there is risk of entrapment and drowning if caught inside the hull.
SS City of Launceston
Protected zone location: -38.076829, 144.826321 (250m radius)
The City of Launceston (1865) is one of Victoria’s most significant wrecks. The discovery of the wreck and subsequent lobbying of the State Government led to the proclamation of the first state-based legislation protecting shipwrecks in Australia. The original ferry between Melbourne and Tasmania, it is one of the most intact iron steamship wrecks of its age in Australian waters .
The wreck has spent over 150 years underwater and maritime archaeologists have attempted to halt the corrosive effects of the water by connecting large anodes to the hull – which means the anodes corrode instead of the wreck. This work has contributed to international studies on underwater corrosion on iron shipwrecks.
Heritage Victoria is not currently issuing permits to access the protected zone of City of Launceston due to the fragile nature of the wreck site. However, we have periodically opened the site for diver open days, with the last one in 2015/2016 to mark the 150 anniversary of the wreck. We are working towards opening the site again in the near future.
Protected zone location: -38.202570, 144.723253 (100m radius)
Clarence (1850) is an early cargo trading vessel, archaeologically significant for its ability to improve our understanding of early Australian shipbuilding practices. Clarence is also one of the most surveyed wrecks in the state.
Maritime archaeologists surveyed and excavated the site in the 1980s Since 2012, Clarence has been the subject of an international study of in-situ preservation techniques. This has involved partial excavation and re-burial of wreck and artefacts and ongoing monitoring to study the effects on differing materials underwater.
Heritage Victoria is not currently issuing permits to access the protected zone of Clarence, while the wreck is part of the in-situ studies.
Protected zone location: -38.207960, 144.730102 (100m radius)
Joanna (1843)is a very significant wreck. Not only is the vessel well preserved, but to date it is the earliest known example of a Victorian-built sailing ship to be found in Victorian waters.
The wreck of Joanna offers maritime archaeologists a rare opportunity to learn about Australian shipbuilding and local trade in the mid-19th century. So that the wreck can be studied with minimal disturbance, Joanna was declared a historic Shipwreck and Protected zone on December 5, 1990.
Heritage Victoria is not currently issuing permits to access the protected zone of Joanna, as the wreck is completely buried under sand. However, when the wreck is again exposed, permits will again be issued for suitably qualified divers to see the site.
The main points of interest on the wreck site is the cargo of bagged lime that has been fused together. This pile of lime is 2 or 3 metres high and has protected the remains of Joanna’s hull.
Will O’ the Wisp
Protected zone location: -38.241498, 144.701159 (50m radius)
Will O’ the Wisp (1853) is the wreck of a former opium schooner. When it was first discovered, the wreck was lying in two to three metres of water and a large part of the hull remained, with many artefacts still visible in-situ.
Heritage Victoria is not currently issuing permits for the protected zone of Will O’ the Wisp as it also rests within the security area surrounding Swan Island.
Protected zone location: -38.272943, 144.705493 (250m radius)
William Salthouse (1841) is one of the oldest and most important shipwrecks to be discovered in Victoria. Significantly, it was the first cargo vessel to sail between Canada and Australia, directly flouting Britain’s trading laws which banned direct trading between British colonies.
The wreck of William Salthouse offers a rare glimpse into early cargo transportation techniques and an insight into items people in the early period of the Victorian colony were interested in purchasing, including wine, champagne and salted meats. The wreck was heavily looted after its discovery in 1981 and was also subject to heavy erosion and was placed inside a protected zone as a result.
Heritage Victoria is currently issuing recreational diving permits to access the William Salthouse protected zone. While the hull is difficult to make out in its entirety, many of the barrels are still visible and animal jawbones from the salted meat can often be seen. The barrels are mostly lying where they were originally stowed over 170 years ago. You can also see evidence of maritime archaeologists’ attempts to stabilise the site from erosion by using sea grass mats.
Commonwealth protected zones
The following three shipwrecks around the coastline of Victoria have protected zones around them.
Protected zone location: -38.486944, 144.750556 (500m radius)
SS Alert (1893) was a 19th century coastal steamer, which sank in a wild storm in the late 1800s with the loss of 15 (of 16) crew on board.
Heritage Victoria is currently issuing permits to access the protected zone of SS Alert to suitably qualified divers. The ship lies almost upright on the sea floor and many artefacts are still visible on the site as it has never been officially salvaged.
Protected zone location: -38.744000, 146.677800 (50m radius)
PS Clonmel (1841) is a very significant site as the ship’s wrecking directly enabled the opening up of Gippsland and the development of the small towns around Port Albert. The Clonmel was one of the first steam-powered vessels on the Australian coast and is significant as an early wooden-hulled paddle steamship.
Heritage Victoria is not currently issuing permits to access the protected zone of Clonmel, as the wreck is completely buried under sand.
Protected zone location: -38.5524, 147.2074 (500m radius)
If you want more information on these wrecks or any other historic shipwrecks in Victoria, refer to the Victorian Heritage Register.
Heritage Victoria recognises that we need to protect significant places if we want them to have a future. Permits help protect the important features of heritage places and objects. Permits to enter and/or dive in a state protected zone are subject to fees. Payment can be made by cheque or EFT and must be made when lodging a permit application.
Permit to enter a state protected zone:
- Application for permit for entry into a protected zone or to disturb a shipwreck or shipwreck artefact (DOCX, 218.5 KB)
- Protected zone permit application fees (PDF, 139.4 KB)
For the three protected zones in Commonwealth waters, you need to use the Commonwealth online form to apply for a permit.
It is an offence to enter, anchor, fish, trawl or dive in a protected zone without a permit. People found within a protected zone without a permit can be issued with penalty infringement notices of more than $470 and multiple fines can be issued if more than one offence is detected. If prosecuted, you may be issued with fines of more than $7500.