Wreck Dive | Boat access
Level: Open Water and beyond.
The Campbell (aka SS Campbell) was on a voyage from Sydney to Melbourne on 23 August 1949 when the steering failed and the vessel struck Corsair Rock attempting to enter Port Phillip. The Campbell shipwreck lies at the extreme western end of the Nepean Reef dive site, under and just to the north of Campbell Rock.
The Campbell was a steel screw steam-powered whaling vessel of 135 tons, gross with the dimensions 98.3 x 19.1 x 11.4 feet (30 x 5.8 x 3.5 metres). Built in 1911 by Nylands Voerkstad of Christiana, Norway, it had a single deck, six compartments and used water ballast. The three cylinders of its triple-expansion steam-engine, also made by Nylands Voerkstad, had the measurements of 11.5, 18.5 and 31 inches with a 22-inch stroke, producing 63 nominal horsepower (indicated horsepower 370). It was owned by Kristian, Nielsen & Co. of Laurvig, managed by agents C. Monsen & Co. and was registered to the port of Tonsberg, Norway.
On her final voyage, commanded by its master Olle Olsen, and with eight crew, the Campbell had left Sydney for Albany with its sister ship the Sorrel. At night, in moderate weather but with a heavy sea, they were still in convoy when engine trouble 15 miles off the Heads made Captain Olsen decide to make for Melbourne for repairs. With no pilot, though in the correct channel, the Campbell was steaming through the Heads at 8 knots (15 kpm) when the current in the Rip set the vessel off course.
It was headed for Point Nepean and, seeing white water, Captain Olsen immediately ordered full speed astern when a large wave swept the vessel on to the reef. With large waves crashing over the decks, the crew at first attempted to launch the ship's lifeboat, but this proved impossible. Launching a small dinghy known as a pram by Norwegians, five crew had embarked when a large wave crushed it against the side of the hull of the whaler, staving it in. The crew on deck watched helplessly as their shipmates were swept into the darkness by a current.
The remaining four crew then attempted again to launch the lifeboat, and this time a wave assisted their efforts by washing the boat off the deck. They began searching for their crew mates, believing they were in the water after the pram had been wrecked. After three hours of searching they were unsuccessful and, at daybreak, were eventually picked up by the pilot steamer Alvina and landed at Queenscliff.
Meanwhile, the crew in the pram had taken off most of their articles of clothing to plug up the holes in the boat and had returned to the wreck to pick up their crewmates, when they saw the lifeboat swept off the deck. They tried to come in on the back beach down the coast but were unable to get ashore due to the large surf, eventually making it to Queenscliff Pier in an exhausted state.
Captain Olsen was to say later that it was amazing that no one had drowned; the only death was that of his beloved terrier. He also criticised the officer at the Queenscliff fort who would not let his scantily dressed and shivering sailors in, believing as they could not speak English they were foreigners endeavouring to enter the fort surreptitiously.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Rip & Tides Warning: Always keep an eye on sea conditions throughout any shore or boat dive within "The Rip" (aka "The Heads"). This is a dangerous stretch of water, where Bass Straight meets Port Phillip, which has claimed many ships and lives. Please read the warnings on the web page diving-the-rip before diving or snorkelling this site.
The GPS Marks for this dive site are known to not be accurate. If you have good GPS marks for this dive site, please pass them on to us.
This site lies in the Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park. The park is made up of six separate marine areas around the southern end of Port Phillip: Swan Bay, Mud Islands, Point Lonsdale, Point Nepean, Popes Eye, and Portsea Hole.
Thirty-one of the 120 shipwrecks known to have occurred within a 10 nautical mile radius of Port Phillip Heads are thought to be within the Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park in Point Lonsdale and Point Nepean.
Aboriginal tradition indicates that the Bellarine Peninsula side of the Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park is part of Country of the Wathaurung people, and the Mornington Peninsula side, including Mud Islands, is part of Country of the Boon Wurrung people.
See also, Parks Victoria: Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park,
Park Note: Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park,
Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park - Map,
Divers Guide - Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park,
Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park Identification Booklet, and
Taxonomic Toolkit for the Marine Life of Port Phillip Bay.
You are not permitted to carry a spear gun while snorkelling or scuba diving in Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park.
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.
Campbell Location Map
Latitude: 38° 18.000′ S (38.3° S / 38° 18′ S)
Longitude: 144° 38.400′ E (144.64° E / 144° 38′ 24″ E)
Datum: WGS84 | Google Map
Added: 2020-05-17 13:28:26 GMT, Last updated: 2022-05-07 00:53:45 GMT
Source: Australasian Underwater Cultural Heritage Database (approximate location only)
Nearest Neighbour: Trimix Corner, 82 m, bearing 241°, WSW
Steel Screw Whaling Steamer, 135 ton.
Built: Christiana, Norway, 1911.
Sunk: 13 June 1914.
Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park.
Depth: 3 to 9 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.