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The wreck of the S.S. Tasman

Stern of the SS Tasman shipwreckShortly after the AE2 dive team returned from their 1997 trip to Turkey, fellow diver, John Riley, was keen to locate and dive the wreck of the S.S. Tasman, a steam ship that foundered in 1883 near the Hippolyte Rocks just off the Tasman Peninsula, Tasmania.

On February, 1998, a team comprising John Riley, Peter Fields (surface support and GPS tracking), Merv Maher, Barry Hallett, Dave Apperley, Scott Leimroth and Mark Spencer were the first to descend to this historically important wreck sitting at 70 msw (metres salt water).

Engine of the SS Tasman shipwreckAdded to the adventure of this diving was the fact that the wreck sits very close to some big seal colonies on the nearby Hippolyte Rocks, and the area is thus renowned for white sharks. The long decompression stops were psychologically easier for everyone by having a Shark Pod (an electronic shark repulsant device) hanging at the 6 metre stop.

Several expeditions have been made to this wreck site with the assistance of the Tasmanian Cultural Heritage Branch of the Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment.

Trimix divers Tim Hynde and Kevin Denlay later joined the survey and documentation efforts.

Eaglehawk Dive Centre supplied the boat, gas requirements and other logistical support necessary for these deep dives in the open ocean wilderness that prevails off Tasmania.

The wreck of the S.S. Keilawarra

Anchor on the SS Keilawarra shipwreckIn the early part of 2000, proprietor Chris Connell of Dive Quest, Mullaway, told Mark of an alleged ship wreck, thought to be the Keilawarra, which sank with the loss of over 40 lives in 1886 off North Solitary Island.
A local professional fisherman Darcey Wright, long suspected one of his favourite fishing locations was a shipwreck.
When Mark announced this to John Riley, Riley set up the first diving expedition with Dive Quest to locate and verify the wreck's identity.

In September, 2000, the Olympic Games in Sydney held Mark captive, so Riley in the company of Kevin Denlay and with the assistance of Chris Connell and Darcey Wright, set off to discover the Keilawarra, which they did successfully with 40 metres-plus visibility.

The wreck, located in 75 metres, was first dived by Kevin and John on September 17, 2000. Mark later joined Riley, Kevin and Kevin's friend Peter Frith on their second expedition in late December, 2000, for the second dive expedition to the Keilawarra.

Galley area of the SS Keilawarra shipwreckThese photos show an untouched shipwreck with a wealth of historical information. Conditions on the first of two dives were extremely dark, and the second dive had better illumination and clarity but a 1.5 knot current on descent.
Survey and documentation of the site continues.

The wreck site is protected by the provisions of the Commonwealth Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976, and we were pleased to have had a visit by the local Coffs Harbour police boat while anchored over the site.


Cave Diving

Cave diving demands extended skills and equipment not normally acquired in open ocean diving. The main technical diving agencies run special courses in cave diving, and Mark's certification was through TDI. However, in Australia, the Cave Divers Association of Australia is renowned as the pre-eminent training agency for all levels of cave diving.


McCavity Cave -- Wellington, NSW

Brush formation in McCavity CaveA team comprising mostly members of the Sydney University Speleological Society spent two years in 1995 and 1996 mapping and photographing Australia's only known flooded cave adorned with calcite decorations. This is McCavity in the Wellington Cave complex located west of Sydney. The results were published in issue 45, Jan-March, 1997, journal of the Australian Geographic Society, who also sponsored the project.

Stalagtites in McCavity Cave Diver in McCavity Cave Leathe Cave in the Jenolan Cave system Transporting dry camera equipment through a sump at Jenolan Caves A diver negotiates a squeeze in Jenolan Caves