Location: Geelong
State: VIC
Date Sank: 1869
Vessel Type: Clipper
Construction Material: Wood
Max Depth: 8
Average Depth: 7
Average Visibility: 5
Diver Qualification: Open Water
Access Type: BOAT
Directions: This wreck is located almost dead centre between Cunnigham Pier and the old Yarra Street pier (now demolished but marked by a Cardial Mark) and approximately two thirds along the length of Cunnigham St Pier. There is next to nothing to sound so when you think your there just drop in and good luck. If you miss it on the first dive you will find it on subsequent dives. Even experienced divers have trouble finder her every time.
Wreck Description: The Lightning. So named because she was a clipper and built with the intention of being lightning fast. It lived up to its expectation and to this day holds the record of being the fastest wind driven sailing ship to sail from England to Australia. A record of over a hundred and forty years. Not bad eh. Well what went wrong for her was that she sailed to Geelong with Immigrants all looking to find their wealth on the gold fields of Ballarat. Immediately after docking the passengers, and then the crew took off in search of the gold. The owner/captain obviously stayed and saw to her loading of wool bales etc and prepared her for a return voyage back to England. After several weeks she was still tied up with no crew and not much prospect of finding one. Suddenly she caught fire. It is said and suspected that she suffered spontaneous combustion from the wool in her holds and with that burst into flames. In the mid 1860's there wasn't much around in the way of fire fighting equipment so after a token effort to put her out she was cut loose from what today is the Cunningham pier (then know as the Moorabool Street pier) and pushed/towed away from the pier by row boats so that she wouldn't do damage to other boats. Night fell and the spectacle apparently was worth seeing and people flocked to the shore to watch her burn. By day break she had burnt to the water line and had not sunk. So the military of the day were brought down from Melbourne with some artillery and set about blasting it with cannon balls. Almost a days worth of shelling was put into her before it was decided that what was left could do no further damage to shipping. The dive. Well what is there to find after a hundred and thirty years under the sea. Not a lot. Her timbers do become exposed from time to time but you are lucky if you are there on the days that they are exposed. The biggest find that every one looks for and very few are not dissappointed about is the finding of some old cannon balls. Two sizes were used. 4" & 6". Today these are close to half that size when found but with any encrustations on them can be up to football size. Because of the location and the years of shipping in this immediate area though there almost always still can be found cutlery and crockery and old bottles. These though most probably did not belong to the lighting. I was fortunate enough to find a small item one day and took it home to clean my treasure to find when it was cleaned that on the bottom it said "Microwave Safe" Damm. Wasn't such a great find after all. You will note that I have suggested this dive to be done from a boat although you are not more than 100 metres from shore. A boat here in this location better marks your position and advises the big ships that come in and out of the port not to mention the tugs and floatilla of small craft that you are there. An experience with the Tug "Sir Roy Fidge" taught my buddy and I this lesson. We heard a noise and puzzled by it decided it was time anyway to come up. On reaching the surface we noted the Sir Roy Fidge barrelling down towards us. The skipper was nice about us being there and apologised but had mistaken our small dive flag as a bit of flotsam and had his crew on deck to pick it up when we all spotted each other and steps taken to avert further danger. After our dive we joined the skipper on his bridge and seeing the water from the bridge of the tug the reflection on the water and how far away the Captains and Skippers of these ships are from the water, his mistake was easily understood. We tendered our appology instead. Thus today we only dive under our boat, and suggest that you do likewise.