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Wreck Dive Wreck Dive | Shore access Shore access

Ideal For Snorkelling Outside Port Phillip Wreck Dive Site

Three Masted Wooden Barque | Depth: 3 m (9.84 ft) to 10 m (33 ft)

Artisan Wreck Dive
Artisan Wreck Dive
© Phil Watson

The Artisan lies about 150 m (492 ft) off Wreck Beach in Wreck Bay, just south-east of Harmers Haven, Cape Paterson on Victoria's Bass Coast. The vessel is historically significant to the community of Wonthaggi, however archaeologically the vessel has limited significance due to it being totally wrecked, however, some information might be obtained from the small sections of the wreck washed up into the creek bed.

Diving and Snorkelling the Artisan Shipwreck

Wreckage from the Artisan lies strewn across the reef with some visible at low tide. In the water, there are low sandstone gullies filled with small items from the wreck only 50 metres from the shore. A hundred metres offshore it changes again into a vast area of gullies, ledges and overhangs in 5-8 metres. The scattered rock formations are still found 500 metres from the shore. Visibility drops significantly after rain thanks to the nearby creek. This area is typical of the great-southern-reef. It's exposed to southerlies and can have nasty rips.

Artisan Dive Site Map
Artisan Dive Site Map | © The Scuba Doctor

Location: Harmers Haven, Victoria 3922

Wreck Beach is 3 km of crenulate, south-west facing, sandy shore, backed by dunes extending up to 500 metres inland and fronted by near continuous intertidal rock flats. At high tide, the 1 to 1.5 metre high waves break over the submerged reefs and produce a narrow, steep beach. At low tide, the rocks are exposed (and the beaches high and dry). There is road access to the fishing shacks at Harmers Haven, with a short walk over the dune to the beach.

Parking: At the eastern end of Harmers Haven follow Berrys Road south. There is a turn off to the south where the road becomes Old Boiler Road. There is parking available at the end of the turn off. There is a sandy track down onto Wreck Beach here.

Entry/Exit: Enter and exit from the beach.

Ideal Conditions: Being as the beach is south-west facing it's best dived with offshore north-east winds. Very calm conditions with no swell are required. Beware of strong currents. Best at high tide. See WillyWeather (Harmers Haven) as a guide for the tide times and the height of the tide.

Bass Strait Warning: Always keep an eye on sea conditions throughout any shore or boat dive in Bass Strait on Victoria's coastline. Please read the warnings on the web page diving-in-bass-strait before diving or snorkelling this site.

Artisan Shipwreck History — Built in 1881

Source: State Library Victoria

The Artisan was a 1155 ton single decked, three-masted sailing barque built in 1881 by Stewart and Richie in St John, New Brunswick, Canada. The Artisan was 189.6 ft (58 m) in length, with a beam of 37.7 ft (11 m) with a depth of 22.4 ft (6.83 m). The hull was of softwood (pitchpine and spruce) construction and sheathed in felt and yellow metal. In 1897 structural modifications were made to the vessel with two tiers of iron beams being added to the existing supports, structural improvements not surprising for a softwood vessel then approaching its seventeenth year in service.

Artisan Sinking — Wrecked 23 April 1901

Source: State Library Victoria

The large wooden barque Artisan left Manila in the Philippines in February 1901 bound for Newcastle in NSW to pick up a cargo of coal. On 21 April 1901 just off the coast of Victoria the ship was struck by a severe storm and thick weather which lasted for two days and made position fixing impossible. The gale continued and one by one, although close-reefed the gale carried the sails away and the buoyant, lightly ballasted vessel with bare poles was at the mercy of the driving wind and waves.

The drama was compounded by an oil lamp igniting and setting fire to the deck of the vessel, which was bought under control by the crew. Seven hours later at about 3 a.m. on 23 April 1901, the vessel was driven ashore onto a low rock platform near the present-day hamlet of Harmers Haven. Blue distress rockets had failed to draw attention to their plight, but miraculously at daylight the captain's wife and crew found they could safely step ashore.

Caretakers of the Cape Paterson Coal Mine, Richard Jennings and his wife, lived a short distance away and looked after the crew, the Captain and his wife. The captain was critical of the delay in arranging transport for himself and the crew to Melbourne. The Newhaven-San Remo Rocket Corps made a hazardous overland voyage with lifesaving gear after spotting the wreck and later assisted the passage of the mariners to Melbourne.

Artisan Survivors Campsite
Artisan Survivors Campsite
Source: State Library Victoria

With its back broken and impossible to refloat the vessel was a total loss. The mate stayed behind to deter looters during the salvage operations. Extensive salvage took place.

Built at an estimated cost of 4000 pounds the Artisan was owned by 23 part owners all from St Johns, New Brunswick, major shareholders being John Stewart and William Ritchi. Lesser shareholders included William Thompson & Co. who were large shipowners with a fleet of 14 ships and barques, three steel ships and nine steel ocean steamers.

A Marine Court of Inquiry found no-one was to blame for the wrecking, and the ship was well found with gear and safety equipment but considered that it would have been prudent for the master to have kept his vessel on a port tack when the wind was from the eastward. A number of vessels including the Canadian ship George T. Hay which was sheltering behind Cape Woolomai and burning blue distress flares, and the Tasmanian schooner Marie Laurie which sheltered in Western Port after having its port bulwarks stove in, were in distress during the period of the gales.

See also, MAAV: Artisan 1881-1901,
Heritage Council Victoria: Artisan,
Heritage Victoria slide collection on flickr: Artisan, and
Australian National Shipwreck Database: Artisan.

Heritage Warning: Any shipwreck or shipwreck relic that is 75 years or older is protected by legislation. Other items of maritime heritage 75 years or older are also protected by legislation. Activities such as digging for bottles, coins or other artefacts that involve the disturbance of archaeological sites may be in breach of the legislation, and penalties may apply. The legislation requires the mandatory reporting to Heritage Victoria as soon as practicable of any archaeological site that is identified. See Maritime heritage. Anyone with information about looting or stolen artefacts should call Heritage Victoria on (03) 7022 6390, or send an email to

Finding the Artisan Shipwreck

The GPS mark we were given for the Artisan places it on Wreck Beach.
Latitude: 38° 39.568′ S   (38.659467° S / 38° 39′ 34.08″ S)
Longitude: 145° 34.862′ E   (145.581033° E / 145° 34′ 51.72″ E)

240 m, bearing 80°, E

We've decided to use a mark created from Google Earth based on the description of where the Artisan lies in the water about 150 m (492 ft) off Wreck Beach by Ian Lewis in his book "Shore Dives of Victoria", 3rd edition pages 162–163. The Artisan wreckage is scattered over a wide area of sandstone canyons with gullies and gorges.

Boon Wurrung / Bunurong country
Boon Wurrung / Bunurong country

Traditional Owners — This dive site is in the traditional Country of the Boon Wurrung / Bunurong people of the Kulin Nation. This truly ancient Country includes parts of Port Phillip, from the Werribee River in the north-west, down to Wilson's Promontory in the south-east, including the Mornington Peninsula, French Island and Phillip Island, plus Western Port. We wish to acknowledge the Boon Wurrung as Traditional Owners. We pay respect to their Ancestors and their Elders, past, present and emerging. We acknowledge Bunjil the Creator Spirit of this beautiful land, who travels as an eagle, and Waarn, who protects the waterways and travels as a crow, and thank them for continuing to watch over this Country today and beyond.


Artisan Location Map

Latitude: 38° 39.590′ S   (38.659828° S / 38° 39′ 35.38″ S)
Longitude: 145° 34.698′ E   (145.578308° E / 145° 34′ 41.91″ E)

Datum: WGS84 | Google Map | Get directions
Added: 2012-07-22 09:00:00 GMT, Last updated: 2022-05-01 22:23:26 GMT
Source: GPS
Nearest Neighbour: Amazon, 10,315 m, bearing 83°, E
Three Masted Wooden Barque, 1155 ton.
Built: St John, New Brunswick, Canada, 1881.
Sunk: 23 April 1901.
Wreck Beach, Cape Paterson, Bass Coast.
Depth: 3 to 10 m.

DISCLAIMER: No claim is made by The Scuba Doctor as to the accuracy of the dive site coordinates listed here. Should anyone decide to use these GPS marks to locate and dive on a site, they do so entirely at their own risk. Always verify against other sources.

The marks come from numerous sources including commercial operators, independent dive clubs, reference works, and active divers. Some are known to be accurate, while others may not be. Some GPS marks may even have come from maps using the AGD66 datum, and thus may need be converted to the WGS84 datum. To distinguish between the possible accuracy of the dive site marks, we've tried to give each mark a source of GPS, Google Earth, or unknown.


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