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Wreck Dive Wreck Dive | Boat access Boat access

Deep Rated Outside Port Phillip Ships Graveyard Technical Rated Wreck Dive Site

Steam Driven Hopper Barge | Max Depth: 46 m (151 ft) — Graveyard

Diving the Batman
Diving the Batman
© Ian Scholey

The Batman (aka SHB Batman) shipwreck, which lies in the Victorian Ships' Graveyard, was a sister vessel to the Fawkner. She was used as a self-propelled hopper barge, a gunship, and a minesweeper.

The armed steam hopper barge Batman was operated by the Melbourne Harbour Trust and added to the Victorian Navy in 1884 as a naval auxiliary vessel. Her job was to work on Port Phillip carrying the spoil to the Spoil Grounds.

The Batman gained a bad reputation for being involved in collisions with other vessels. These included the steamer Victorian, steamer Gabo, steam tug Royal Oak, Italian barque Innocenti, lighter Jane Woodburn, steamer Flora, bay steamer Awaroa, and the steamer Casino.

Diving the Batman Shipwreck

Geoff Naylor was a member of a group of divers to explore the Ships Graveyard area in November 1972, and on their first dive they discovered the steam hopper barge Batman.

The Batman shipwreck lies facing north-south with her bow toward the north in the Victorian Ships' Graveyard, Bass Strait.

The bow and stern sections are still intact but her mid section has collapsed. The bow is quite interesting and this is where the large upright boiler is located.

The top of the structure is in 39 metres and the bottom is 44 metres. In a single no deco dive you just have time to swim over the wreck and have a quick look around the bow.

r Batman Dive Site Plan
Batman Dive Site Plan | Source: Jim Anderson

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.

Batman Shipwreck History — Built in 1883

© Unknown

The Batman was a steam driven hopper barge of 388 tons gross, built in 1883, by William Simons & Co. Ltd. at its London Yard on the South bank of the River Clyde in Renfrew near Glasgow, Scotland and launched on 3 December 1883. The overall length of the Batman was 156.6 ft (48 m), beam 26.1 ft (7.96 m) and draught 12.2 ft (3.72 m).

The engine room of the barge was right aft, and the hold or receptacle for the silt took up a good share of the vessel's length. The barge was propelled by a screw driven by engines 75 horsepower nominal, or 350 horsepower effective. Tho multi-tubular boiler was constructed of steel and had a working pressure of 50 psi. The engines were compound and worked direct action on the screw. The diameters of the high and low pressed cylinders were 22 in and 40 in respectively, and the stroke was 27 in.

The Batman's ordinary speed was between 8 knots (15 kpm) and 9 knots (17 kpm) with the engine making about 70 revolutions per minute, and by putting on a spurt she could make 10 knots (19 kpm). The Batman could tow two 500-ton barges at the rate of 6 knots (11 kpm), and one barge at 7.5 knots (14 kpm).

Batman Passage to Melbourne

The Batman was rigged as a topsail schooner for her passage to Melbourne, so as to be able to take advantage of the wind when it could help her, but the voyage was essentially a steaming one. Head winds form by far the largest item in the log record of the voyage. The engines had thus the entire work to perform, and this was accomplished satisfactory without hitch or breakdown.

The Batman took her departure from Glasgow in charge of Captain James Smith on 25 December 1883 and reached Gibraltar on 2 January 1884. She had a bad time of it in the Bay of Biscay and was hove to for 20 hours during a heavy gale The barga left Gibraltar on 4 January 1884, and had a run of fine weather as far as Malta whence she was again called on to contend with fresh head winds until arrival at Port Said on 15 January 1884. After coaling there she entered the Canal and anchored at Suez on 21 January 1884, taking her departure thence on 23 January 1884.

The temperature in the Red Sea was anything but a treat, and for three days before arrival at Aden the barge had to steam against strong contrary winds. The Batman put into Aden on 30 January 1884 and after coaling, left for Colombo on the 31st. For seven days there was another visitation of adverse weather, but after that the weather was of a more benign character, and very fair progress was made to Colombo, where a call was made on the 15th February.

The voyage was resumed on the 21 February 1884, and there was nothing special in winds or weather until the south-east trades were fallen in with. These were strong always, and at times blowing half a gale, and there was a high turbulent sea for 14 days before making Fremantle, Western Australia. The Batman put in there on 18 March 1884, and left again on 21 March.

For the first two days the weather was rough enough, but on tho remainder of the passage tho barge made very good headway. During the bouts of heavy weather the bulwarks were knocked about a good deal by the violence of the seas which assailed her, but the damages were made good to a certain extent, and the craft has come into Melbourne in creditable order in the morning of Sunday, 30 March 1884.

The master and chief engineer of the Batman were found guilty of drunkenness on the voyage to Melbourne from the Clyde. The certificate of Captain Smith (the master) was suspended for two years, and John McLeod (the chief engineer) for one month.

The Batman cost £12,000 with an additional expenditure, probably amounting to £1,300, also being spent. The Melbourne Punch joked on Thursday, 17 April 1884, "Too Bad. Fancy the indignity heaped on to the founders of the colony by the Melbourne Harbour Trust, in naming their 'hopper barges' 'Fawkner' and 'Batman'."

Batman as a Multi Purpose Vessel

HMVS Batman
HMVS Batman
from The Victorian Fleet painting
by Arthur Gregory, 1888

The steam hopper barge Batman was operated by the Melbourne Harbour Trust. To supplement the ships of the permanent force of the Victorian Navy, the Batman and Fawkner were armed so as to serve as naval auxiliary gunboats. The Batman and Fawkner were first armed in 1885 with one BL 6-inch 80-pounder naval gun and two Nordenfelt machine guns. Strengthening of the bow, the fitting of a magazine, shell room, crew quarters and some armour plating protection for the crew added two more gunboats to the fleet.

During its usual participation in dredging operations, carrying mud to the Spoil Gronds, the Batman was often an attendant to the Francis Henty dredge.

The Batman also served as a non-commissioned minesweeper in 1914.

Batman Collision Incidents

The Batman had a long career of hitting, and being hit by, other vessels.

A collision between the hopper barge Batman and the steamer Victorian in the River Yarra on 28 April 1886, by which the Victorian was damaged to the extent of about £250. The Victorian struck the Batman on the port bow about 10 ft from the stern. The Victorian was moving at the rate of about five miles an hour. The blow carried away the stanchions and about 20 ft of the rail and bulwarks of the Batman, while the anchor of the barge caught also in the bulwarks of the Victorian. It was decided that the Victorian was as close to the bank as she could safely get. The cause of the collision was that the Batman kept close to the bank, touched the mud, and cannoned off in front of the Victorian. No charge of default was made.

On the 3 November 1886, the hopper barge Batman collided with the steamer Gabo. The Batman had left a barge at the Dolphin, off the Yarraville pier, and as the Gabo passed the Batman the collision occurred. The Batman sustained some damage, while the Gabo was undamaged.

The steam tug Royal Oak collided with the hopper barge Batman, in Hobsons Bay, on 16 November 1886. The Royal Oak was crossing from Wiillamstown to Sandridge at a speed of about five knots. The Batman was going down the channel pretty deeply laden. When about 400 yards apart the masters of each of the vessels saw that the positions of the crafts were dangerous to each other. The master of the Royal Oak eased, stopped and backed, while the master of the Batman stopped and put his helm to starboard for the purpose of passing under the stern of the Royal Oak. The result, however, was that the vessels collided, the Batman striking the Royal Oak at the stem. The damage done was slight.

A collision between the Italian barque Innocenti and the hopper barge Batman occurred on the Yarra on 25 September 1888 at about 4:15 p.m. The Pilot Board exonerated the master of the Batman, and the pilot of the Innocenti from all blame in the matter.

A collision in the Yarra between the steam hopper barge Batman and the lighter Jane Woodburn occurred on 31 August 1897. The Batman, when under way, sunk the lighter when the latter was lying moored full of coal to the wharf. The force of the impact was so great that the lighter filled and sank almost immediately her deck being under water within the space of a few minute after the accident occurred. The collision was due to an error of judgement on the part of the person in charge of the Batman, but it was not thought necessary to prefer a charge against him.

SS Flora
SS Flora
Source: State Library Victoria

At 2:30 p.m. on Thursday 2 August 1906, the steam hopper barge Batman collided with the steamer Flora, which was just completing a trip from Devonport with 73 passengers. The collision occurred at the eastern end of the Coode canal. Ethelbcrt Kirkland, master of the Batman was reprimanded.

Awaroa sunk by collision with Batman in Yarra River
Awaroa sunk by collision with
Batman in Yarra River
Source: State Library Victoria

A collision in the River Yarra, at 7.15 p.m. on 10 July 1915, between the bay steamer Awaroa and the hopper dredge Batman, resulted in the sinking of the Awaroa in a few minutes. The crew and about 20 passengers who were on the Awaroa were safely landed. At the time of the accident the Awaroa was returning from a trip to Queenscliff, while the Batman and another barge were proceeding down the river towards Williamstown. The vessels were in the portion of the river known as Coode Canal. It is believed that the bows of the Batman made a hole in the Awaroa amidships on the port side. As the Awaroa was rapidly filling, Captain M'Nair steered it as closely as possible to the south bank, where it settled down. The passengers were taken off by a motor launch. Refloated by the Harbor Trust, the Awaroa then ran between Melbourne and Launceston until 25 July 1925, when she foundered off Cape Liptrap. The crew took to the boat and were rescued by the steamer Huntingdon.

SS Casino
SS Casino
Source: State Library Victoria

On 27 August 1915 the steam hopper barge Batman collided with the steamer Casino off Point Gellibrand (Williamstown). The Casino was beached with a hole in her port side. Charles Stroud, master of the Batman, was suspended for a month.

Batman Sinking — Scuttled 21 May 1935

Five laid up steam hopper barges tied up at "Rotten Row", officially known as Spotswood Wharf, were offered for sale by the Melbourne Harbour Trust on Tuesday, 27 Nov 1934 — Burke, Wills, Batman, Fawkner and H.C. Piggot. The coal hulk Bunyip was also offered for sale.

The Batman and Fawkner met their ends a day apart. After 52 years of service, the Batman was towed by the tug Sprightly out through Port Phillip Heads into Bass Strait and scuttled on Tuesday, 21 May 1935 in the Victorian Ships' Graveyard. At the designated sinking site the sea cocks were opened and the Batman was sent to the bottom with two 5-pound charges of blasting gelatine.

It was reported in The Argus, Wed 22 May 1935, page 5, that the Batman was sunk almost on top of her sister ship the Fawkner, see Sister Ships of 52 Years Sunk Together. However, based on our current knowledge of the locations of these two vessels we have the Fawkner at:
Latitude: 38° 21.378′ S   (38.3563° S / 38° 21′ 22.68″ S)
Longitude: 144° 25.310′ E   (144.421833° E / 144° 25′ 18.6″ E)

which is 955 m, bearing 98°, E from the Batman.

See also, Heritage Council Victoria: Batman,
Australian National Shipwreck Database: Batman,
Caledonian Maritime Research Trust: Batman, and
Dredgepoint: Batman.

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

Traditional Owners — This dive site does not lie in the acknowledged traditional Country of any first peoples of Australia.


Batman Location Map

Latitude: 38° 21.306′ S   (38.3551° S / 38° 21′ 18.36″ S)
Longitude: 144° 24.659′ E   (144.410983° E / 144° 24′ 39.54″ E)

Datum: WGS84 | Google Map
Added: 2012-07-22 09:00:00 GMT, Last updated: 2022-05-18 11:04:16 GMT
Source: Book - Victoria's Ships' Graveyard GPS (verified)
Nearest Neighbour: Dunloe, 667 m, bearing 261°, W
Steam Driven Iron Hopper Barge, 388 ton.
Built: Renfrew, Scotland, 1883.
Scuttled: 21 May 1935.
Victorian Ships' Graveyard, Bass Strait.
Depth: 42 to 46 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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