Wreck Dive | Boat access
Historic shipwreck protected zone. Permit Required.
For more details please see vic-shipwreck-protection-zones.
Do not dive near the Clarence without a permit. The shipwreck lies in a 100 metre protection zone. If you enter this zone severe penalties apply. Stay clear!
Level: Open Water and beyond.
The Clarence was a two-masted wooden schooner used to transport livestock and cargo that ran aground on a sandbank south-east of St Leonards in Port Phillip.
The wreck of Clarence is the best preserved example of an early Australian built schooner found in Australian waters.
The Clarence lies on a sandy seabed in 5 m (16 ft) of water. On a good day, the wreck is clearly visible from the surface.
The outline of the vessel is clear apart from the starboard side of the stern which is buried. The port side of the ship from bow to stern, and from keel to deck level is almost complete. The paired frames used as the framework for the hull can be seen poking out of the sand and outline the shape of the wreck.
At the time of its wrecking the Clarence was used to transport sheep. Part of the Baltic pine decking used to accommodate the animals can be seen at the stern on the hull.
The site of the Clarence is a historic shipwreck protected zone with a 100 metre radius from:
Latitude: 38° 12.154′ S (38.20257° S / 38° 12′ 9.25″ S)
Longitude: 144° 43.395′ E (144.723253° E / 144° 43′ 23.71″ E) .
A permit from Heritage Victoria is required to dive the Clarence. Anchoring is prohibited.
The Clarence was a wooden two-masted schooner of 67 tonnes, built in 1841, on the Williams River in northern NSW. The Clarence was built on the dimensions of 51 ft (16 m) in length, with a beam of 16.3 ft (4.97 m) and a draught of 8.7 ft (2.65 m). The vessel was carvel built with the square stern, and standing bowsprit, being owned at the time of its loss by James Benton and Thomas Baker.
The Clarence was used in the trade of timber, cattle, sheep and other cargo between Sydney, Port Phillip, Port Albert and Twofold Bay until it was stranded and nearly wrecked in Warrnambool. After repair, of which there is also some indication that it was refitted to accommodate passengers, it transported passengers until late 1848. A female bust figurehead was added sometime during the period between 1842 and 1850, possibly after the vessel was stranded at Warrnambool in September 1847. In 1848, the Clarence was again used as a cargo vessel in Bass Strait trade, sailing between Port Fairy, Port Phillip, and Launceston.
The Clarence is significant technically and archaeologically as an example of an early Australian-built vessel. Most ships built in Australia during this time were constructed by the rule of thumb, without using models and plans. There is very little evidence, therefore, of shipbuilding techniques used by early Australian shipbuilders, except in the archaeological record. By studying the Clarence, archaeologists can learn more about the techniques employed by early Australian shipbuilders, to whom supplies in lumber and metal fastenings were tightly restricted.
On its final voyage the Clarence was bound from Melbourne to Hobart with 132 sheep, and two crew under the command of Captain William Dalton. On Monday 2 September 1850, as the Clarence made its way down Port Phillip everything seemed to be routine, as reported by Captain Dalton in the Argus of 6 September 1850:
Some men were engaged to remove sheep from the standard stranded schooner and over the insuring days 130 sheep, plus everything of value was also stripped from the Clarence as it settled deeper. The lighter Brother and Sister was dispatched to the wreck to conduct further salvage.
"On Monday night the vessel was brought to anchor in three and a half fathoms between the two black boys near Indented Head, the wind blowing stiff from south-west to south-south-west. During the early part of the night the wind freshened but not sufficient to cause any apprehension as to the safety of the vessel. About 9 p.m. the cable parted and before another anchor could be let go, she stuck on the bank. Every expedient was resorted to that experience could suggest to force her off but without success, and Captain Dalton proceded to Geelong to obtain assistance."
See also, Heritage Council Victoria: Clarence,
Heritage Victoria slide collection on flickr: Clarence,
Australian National Shipwreck Database: Clarence and
Dive Information Sheet: Clarence (1841-1850).
This vessel is one of the many historic shipwrecks included in Victoria's shipwreck-discovery-trail. Qualified divers can explore the wrecks of old wooden clippers, iron steamships and cargo and passenger vessels located along the coast and in Port Phillip. Some of these wreck dives are suitable for beginners, even snorkellers, while other wrecks require the skills and experience of advanced divers.
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 email@example.com.
Traditional Owners — This dive site is in the traditional Country of the Wathaurong (Wadda-Warrung) people of the Kulin Nation. This truly ancient Country includes the coastline of Port Phillip, from the Werribee River in the north-east, the Bellarine Peninsula, and down to Cape Otway in the south-west. We wish to acknowledge the Wathaurong 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.
Clarence Location Map
Latitude: 38° 12.154′ S (38.20257° S / 38° 12′ 9.25″ S)
Longitude: 144° 43.395′ E (144.723253° E / 144° 43′ 23.71″ E)
Datum: WGS84 | Google Map
Added: 2012-07-22 09:00:00 GMT, Last updated: 2022-05-08 22:55:35 GMT
Source: Victorian Government GPS (verified)
Nearest Neighbour: Foig a Ballagh, 551 m, bearing 174°, S
Historic shipwreck protected zone.
Two-Masted Wooden Schooner.
Built: Williams River, NSW, 1841.
Sunk: 2 September 1850.
St Leonards, Port Phillip.
Depth: 5 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.