Wreck DiveWreck Dive | Boat access

Advanced Open Water Rated Deep Rated Outside Port Phillip Wreck Dive Site

Steel Hulled Steam Ship | Max Depth: 35 metres (115 feet) — Graveyard

© Unknown

The steamship Coogee (aka Lancashire Witch, SS Coogee, HMAS Coogee) shipwreck is historically significant for its working life in a variety of roles for nearly 40 years, serving as a Port Phillip excursion steamer, Bass Strait passenger ship, cable repair ship and as a minesweeper during World War I. It is recreationally significant as one of the wrecks in the Ships' Graveyard and is a spectacular advanced deep dive.

Diving The Coogee

SS Coogee bow, Victoria, Australia
SS Coogee bow, Victoria
© Mary Malloy & Alan Beckhurst

The Coogee shipwreck lies approximately 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) offshore between Point Lonsdale and Barwon Heads with its bow pointed towards shore (facing north) on a flat limestone and sand seabed. The bow rests on the sand at 33 metres (108 feet) and the stern is at 35 metres (115 feet) depth. The bow and stern are the most complete structures of the wreck as most of the midships section is flattened or missing — most likely due to the use of explosives to scuttle the ship.

The Coogee is a truly beautiful wreck, parts of which are blanketed by yellow zoathids, adding to its appeal and making it much loved by photographers. There are plenty of nooks and crannies to explore as you head from one end of the wreck to the other. Fish life abounds on the wreck and underneath the collapsed hull critters such as cuttle fish or even varied catsharks can be found. The three main areas of interest are the bow, the boilers, and the stern.

Coogee Dive Site Map
Coogee Dive Site Map | © Victorian Archaeological Survey

The bow of the Coogee is delightful with lovely, colorful growth, sponges and nice whips. It's easily recognisable, despite being on its side, and you can still see some of the original ships railings. There always seems to be a prolific amount of life around this section of the wreck.

The boilers are imposing and you can swim in between them for a bit of fun. Their sheer size is impressive and justifies a look.

The stern is very photogenic with the rudder gear protruding and everything thoroughly blanketed by yellow zoanthids. The steering quadrant, used to steer the rudder, is particularly popular with the photographers. There's even a little bit of penetration to be found and you can go under the stern and check out the rudder. There are some nice fans under the stern section to check out and usually a large-toothed beardy. In this area divers will also be able to see the remains of the two decks.

Coogee Wreck from Alan Beckhurst on Vimeo.

Coogee History

Coogee at Launceston
Coogee at Launceston
© Unknown

The Coogee was a three masted iron screw steam shipp originally built by J.L. Thompson and Sons, Sunderland as the Lancashire Witch for the New Isle of Man Steam Navigation Company for service between Liverpool and the Isle of Man.

The overall length of the Coogee was approximately 225 feet (69 metres), beam 9.2 metres (30 feet) and draught 4.1 metres (13 feet) with a displacement weight of 691 tonne (762 short tons).

She was purchased by Huddart Parker in 1888 and renamed SS Coogee to operate in the Melbourne to Geelong trade. After a brief period on this run, she was placed in the Bass Strait passenger service, where in 1903, the Coogee was involved in a collision with the Italian barque Fortunato Figari. The sailing ship's bowsprit raked the Coogee's deck, flattening the mast, bridge and funnel. The captain and one of the crewmen who were on the bridge were killed. After repairs, the Coogee returned briefly to the Bass Strait passenger service before returning to the Melbourne to Geelong excursion route.

Coogee Painting
Coogee Painting
© Unknown

She was requisitioned by the Royal Australian Navy converted to be an armed patrol vessel and minesweeper, then commissioned by the Royal Australian Navy on 20 May 1918 as HMAS Coogee. She served during the later stages of the First World War as a minesweeper and armed patrol vessel in Bass Strait.

She was returned as the SS Coogee to her owners in 1919, before being chartered by the Telegraph Department in 1921 to repair damage to the Bass Strait cable. The Coogee returned to the Port Phillip excursion trade but was eventually laid up.

Coogee Sinking

Coogee Scuttling
Coogee Scuttling, 27 February 1928
© Unknown

The Coogee was sold for scrap in 1927, her engines removed, and she was scuttled outside Port Phillip on 27 February 1928 using explosive charges. However the engine bed and intact boilers can be seen amidships. Hatches can be seen in the middle of the ship on the centre line.

See also Wikipedia: HMAS Coogee,
Heritage Council Victoria: SS Coogee,
Heritage Victoria slide collection on flickr: Coogee,
Australian National Shipwreck Database: Coogee, and
Dive Information Sheet: SS Coogee (1887-1928) (Adobe PDF | 276.15 KB).

Finding the Coogee

Over the years we've been provided with many GPS marks for the Coogee. The GPS marks we know of in circulation for the Coogee are:

  • Victoria's Ships' Graveyard (dark blue):
    Latitude: 38° 18.421′ S   (38.307022° S / 38° 18′ 25.28″ S)
    Longitude: 144° 34.306′ E   (144.571767° E / 144° 34′ 18.36″ E)
  • Rowan Stevens (pink):
    Latitude: 38° 18.429′ S   (38.30715° S / 38° 18′ 25.74″ S)
    Longitude: 144° 34.300′ E   (144.57166667° E / 144° 34′ 18″ E)
  • BSAC list 2014 (green):
    Latitude: 38° 18.423′ S   (38.30705° S / 38° 18′ 25.38″ S)
    Longitude: 144° 34.320′ E   (144.572° E / 144° 34′ 19.2″ E)
  • Getunder 2005 (brown):
    Latitude: 38° 18.400′ S   (38.30666667° S / 38° 18′ 24″ S)
    Longitude: 144° 34.310′ E   (144.57183333° E / 144° 34′ 18.6″ E)
  • Packo Boilers (red):
    Latitude: 38° 18.411′ S   (38.30685° S / 38° 18′ 24.66″ S)
    Longitude: 144° 34.306′ E   (144.57176667° E / 144° 34′ 18.36″ E)
  • Alan Beckhurst stern (sky blue):
    Latitude: 38° 18.428′ S   (38.30713333° S / 38° 18′ 25.68″ S)
    Longitude: 144° 34.295′ E   (144.57158333° E / 144° 34′ 17.7″ E)
  • eChart 2019 (orange):
    Latitude: 38° 18.422′ S   (38.30703333° S / 38° 18′ 25.32″ S)
    Longitude: 144° 34.306′ E   (144.57176667° E / 144° 34′ 18.36″ E)

This GPS coordinate plot by Packo shows the spread of the GPS marks from the different sources.

Coogee Plot
Coogee Plot, © Packo

The rough 'wreck outline' by Packo for the Coogee in the plot above is not 'gospel', but gives you a rough indication of how the wreck lies in relation to the various GPS marks.

In May 2019 we decided to adopt Packo's Boilers mark as the GPS mark we'd use here, because the boiler area is less vulnerable to anchor damage and also less prone to line entanglements. Using this GPS mark Packo typically finds the anchor either in the gap between the twin boilers, or draped over one of them, or occasionally just slipping off the outer edge. However, all of the GPS marks listed above would be good enough to find the Coogee shipwreck with a bit of sensible echo sounding around each mark.

Latitude: 38° 18.411′ S   (38.30685° S / 38° 18′ 24.66″ S)
Longitude: 144° 34.306′ E   (144.571767° E / 144° 34′ 18.36″ E)

Datum: WGS84 | Google Map
Added: 2012-07-22 01:00:00 GMT, Last updated: 2019-05-09 23:57:17 GMT
Source: Packo GPS (verified)
Nearest Neighbour: J5 Yellow Submarine, 520 m, bearing 211°, SSW
SS Coogee, Steam ship, 762 ton.
Built: Sunderland, UK, 1887.
Scuttled: 27 February 1928.
Depth: 28 to 34 m.
Dive only on: SWF, SWE, Ebb, Flood.

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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