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Wreck Dive Wreck Dive | Boat access Boat access

Deep Rated Outside Port Phillip Ships Graveyard Slack Water Subject to Shipping Technical Rated Wreck Dive Site

Steel Hulled Steam Ship | Max Depth: 42 m (138 ft) — Graveyard

© Unknown

The steel-hulled steamer Courier (aka SS Courier) spent 40 years carrying passengers on Port Phillip. She now lies in 42 m (138 ft) of water in the Bass Strait, upright on the sand, with her bow facing south. She is an accessible dive to deep-trained recreational divers.

Diving the Courier Shipwreck

As with many of the shipwrecks in the Victorian Ships' Graveyard, the hull of the Courier has mostly collapsed. The bow and stern sections are lying over to starboard and are the best-preserved parts of the hull. The foredeck still retains a considerable amount of planking, a few deck fittings and some railing on the starboard side. This deck area is quite large and is an impressive sight, standing approximately seven metres off the bottom.

Courier stern, Victoria, Australia
Courier stern, Victoria
© Mary Malloy & Allie Beckhurst

Immediately behind this, the hull has totally collapsed, leaving the main deck hatch coaming sitting on the bottom. Behind this are the two boilers sitting in line. On days with good visibility, the dark shape of the stern can just be seen in the distance, although to see this close up requires a separate dive.

The stem is also an impressive sight, but it is less structurally intact than the bow. The shape of the vessel's counter stern is still recognisable, and just forward of this, there is the remains of some superstructure.

The shipwreck of the Courier is an oasis in the middle of a sandy desert. She is exposed to strong nutrient-rich currents and has become an anchor point for much temperate water flora and fauna. Brightly coloured multi formed sponges, anemones, hydrozoans, ascidians and soft corals including masses of bright yellow zoanthids can be seen encrusting any exposed wreckage from bow to stern.

Schooling butterfly sea perch, common bullseye, pairs of old wives and the occasional blue devilfish have taken up residence and occasionally large crays can be seen at home under the massive boilers.

Courier Dive Site Plan
Courier Dive Site Plan | Source: Jim Anderson

The Courier shipwreck lies in the area of the ships pilot boarding zone, so is subject to shipping.

Dive charter boats regularly schedule dives on the Courier, heading out from Portsea and Queenscliff. Private dive boats usually launch at the Sorrento Boat Ramp or the Queenscliff Boat Ramp.

SS Courier Wreck from Allie Beckhurst on Vimeo.

Courier Shipwreck History — Built in 1887

New Year Cellebrations on the Courier
New Year Cellebrations on the Courier
© Allan Green Collection

The SS Courier was built by C.S. Swan and Hunter in Newcastle-on-Tyne, England, and launched in 1887. The SS Courier was built for Huddart Parker Ltd for the Port Phillip excursion trade. She arrived in Melbourne at the end of 1887 to begin running in the Melbourne-Geelong trade in January 1888. The Courier was later also used as an armed auxiliary of the Victorian Navy.

The overall length of the Courier was approximately 67.3 m (221 ft), beam 9.1 m (30 ft) and draught 3.8 m (12 ft) with a displacement weight of 660 t (728 s-ton).

Courier Sinking — Scuttled 29 March 1929

After lying idle in Melbourne for about a year, the steamship Courier was stripped of all fittings of any value. On Thursday 29 March 1928 the skeleton of the old Courier was towed by the tug Otter three miles outside The Heads into Bass Strait and sunk in 25 fathoms of water north-east of the Victorian Ships' Graveyard.

See also, MAAV: S.S. Courier 1887-1928,
Heritage Council Victoria: Courier, and
Australian National Shipwreck Database: Courier.

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 Courier

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

  • Book - Victoria's Ships' Graveyard GPS (verified)
    Latitude: 38° 19.488′ S   (38.324797° S / 38° 19′ 29.27″ S)
    Longitude: 144° 34.920′ E   (144.582008° E / 144° 34′ 55.23″ E)
  • Geoff Rodda:
    Latitude: 38° 19.494′ S   (38.3249° S / 38° 19′ 29.64″ S)
    Longitude: 144° 34.916′ E   (144.5819333° E / 144° 34′ 54.96″ E)

    13 m, bearing 209°, SSW
  • Dive Victoria:
    Latitude: 38° 22.612′ S   (38.376869° S / 38° 22′ 36.73″ S)
    Longitude: 144° 48.395′ E   (144.806583° E / 144° 48′ 23.7″ E)

    51 m, bearing 151°, SSE
  • John Lawler:
    Latitude: 38° 19.488′ S   (38.32480261° S / 38° 19′ 29.29″ S)
    Longitude: 144° 34.914′ E   (144.58190204° E / 144° 34′ 54.85″ E)

    9 m, bearing 266°, W
Wathaurong (Wadda-Warrung) country
Wathaurong (Wadda-Warrung) country

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.


Courier Location Map

Latitude: 38° 19.488′ S   (38.324797° S / 38° 19′ 29.27″ S)
Longitude: 144° 34.920′ E   (144.582008° E / 144° 34′ 55.23″ E)

Datum: WGS84 | Google Map
Added: 2012-07-22 09:00:00 GMT, Last updated: 2022-05-01 18:23:09 GMT
Source: Book - Victoria's Ships' Graveyard GPS (verified)
Nearest Neighbour: Lost Reef, 860 m, bearing 0°, N
Steel Hulled Steam Ship, 728 ton.
Built: Wallsend-on-Tyne, England, 1887.
Scuttled: 29 March 1929.
Victorian Ships' Graveyard, Bass Strait.
Depth: 37 to 42 m.
Dive only on: SWF, SWE.

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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