S.S Lake Illawarra

Location: Under Tasman Bridge Derwent River
State: TAS
Date Sank: 1975
Vessel Type: Steam bulk carrier
Construction Material: Steel
Max Depth: 35
Average Depth: 25
Average Visibility: 1
Diver Qualification: Open Water
Access Type: BOAT
Directions: The wreck lies directly across the new bridge span almost broardside to the bridge, between the third and fourth pylon from the eastern shore.
Wreck Description: In January 1976 Captain Pelc was proceeding up the river with a cargo of zinc concentrate. Off Rosney Point he realised that he was approaching the Tasman Bridge too fast and at the wrong angle. He over-corrected and began to head for the mud flats off the Domain. It was too late to make the opening, but he tried again to correct the vessel. This time the loss of speed made her unmanageable. Throwing the engines into full reverse the torque from the propellers threw the ship broadside into the bridge. Two pylons were shattered and a large section of the bridge fell onto the bow of the vessel. No-one knows exactly how many cars drove off the bridge in the darkness. With in 15 minutes the ship sank, eventually resulting in the death of seven crew members. The captain made it to the life raft but could not explain why he had so badly managed his approach to one of the words safest harbors. The destruction of the bridge cut the city of Hobart in two and caused immense social dislocatation. Salvage divers recovered all the bodies from the wreck and helped themselves to the navigation instruments. The eventual repair of the bridge has made the wreck easy to locate. She lies directly across the new bridge span almost broadside to the bridge, with the bow touching a repaired pontoon. The wreck is covered in jewel anemones and river mud. The dive should only be attempted by people with recent low visibility experience. It is probably the spookiest dive in Tasmanian waters and divers would be under greater than normal psychological stress. You must get permission from the Port Control tower before diving the wreck or else you will get a surprise visit from the police boat. Do not interfere with any of the recording instruments on the bow of the ship. The bow is also cluttered with debris and should be avoided. For a first dive, most would be content to stay around the bridge of the vessel in 24 meters of water. A torch is not really needed as a diffused greenish light penetrates through the silt above. One level down it is much darker, and is pitch black on the main deck in 30 meters. The bottom is 35 meters deep although the river silt is thick and runny that it is difficult to tell if you have hit the bottom. Going inside the compartments turns a risky dive into something that is downright dangerous. Only divers with specialist expertise in wreck penetration should attempt this. Some unpleasant experiences might be had in locating the wreck. It is not uncommon to miss the wreck for the first few dives and land in the hold, or on the bottom. It is better to abort the dive than swim around in the dark not knowing what you have landed in. With practice you will be able to drop the anchor on the bridge every time. The ships bridge lies directly off the northern boundary fence of the old DMR depot, and level with the western-most new pontoon. It is easy to find with a good sounder. There is an excellent model of the wreck in the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. - From "Dive Tasmania", by Michael Jacques