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Wreck Dive Wreck Dive | Shore access Shore access

Ideal For Snorkelling Inside Port Phillip Marine Park - No Fishing Night Dive Site Open Water Rated Wreck Dive Site

Wooden Lighter | Max Depth: 4 m (13 ft)

Level: Open Water and beyond.

The Ester shipwreck, also known as the Yellow Peril, lies off the Williamstown Rifle Range in Port Phillip.

Ester Shipwreck History — Built in 1863

Ester with Geebung Tug
Ester with Geebung Tug
Source: State Library Victoria

The Ester was built in 1863 in Grimstad, Norway as a wooden sailing barque. She had an overall length of approximately 137.1 ft (42 m), beam 31 ft (9.45 m) and draught 16.8 ft (5.12 m).

The Ester was earlier owned by J. Jorgensen. The wooden barque arrived in Hobart from London in 1900. Purchased by Ester Shipping Co. presumably the source of her name. Only vessel out of Hobart fitted with a windmill pump — found to be very useful as the vessel leaked. One of her masters, Captain M.J. Phillips said he found it very handy as she required a lot of pumping to keep her from paying a visit to "Davey Jones".

Condemned and hulked in Melbourne. Licenced to operate as coal/wool lighter issued by Melbourne Harbour Trust 16 March 1912 — tonnage altered. Licence renewed 8 January 1918, last renewal 14 January 1935.

Ester Sinking — 10 February 1936

On Monday 10 February 1936 in what could only be described as a brazen act, the owners of the Carmen and Ester (having no further use for these vessels) decided as a means of disposal, and without any authority to do so, to run both lighters ashore off the Williamstown Rifle Range in Port Phillip, and set them on fire.

On Saturday 15 February 1936, the Williamstown Chronicle describes the end of the Carmen, and the Ester:

"Burning from stem to stern, two lighters, veterans of the days of sail, were burnt last Monday off the Williamstown rifle range. They are the Victorian Lighterage Co's Ester and Carmen. The manager of the company (Mr Treacy) set fire to the vessels on Monday afternoon. Formerly a three masted barque, the Ester was built in Scandinavia for shipping timber to Australia. Of 400 tons, she was 35 years old and had been trading between Melbourne and Geelong for 20 years. The Carmen, a brigantine, was built in Italy 55 years ago. As a Norwegian whaling relief ship in the Antarctic she brought oil to Melbourne and Hobart. For 20 years she traded in the Bay."

See also, Heritage Council Victoria: Ester, and
Australian National Shipwreck Database: Ester.

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

Jawbone Marine Sanctuary

Wreckage at Jawbone
Wreckage at Jawbone | © Phil Watson

This site is located within the Jawbone Marine Sanctuary, which is the most northern marine sanctuary in Port Phillip. Jawbone Marine Sanctuary, named after its shape, is located in Williamstown and protects 30ha of coastal waters. The little promontory, west of the beach at Williamstown, has been fenced off from the rest of the world for over 80 years by a coastal rifle range. This unspoiled place is now considered a haven for coastal and marine life right next to Melbourne. It is a great scenic place for children to play too.

The Jawbone Marine Sanctuary begins west of the fishing clubs in Bayview Street, Willamstown, and runs west 1.9 km along the foreshore around the Jawbone to wader beach south of McGuire Crescent. It abuts the Jawbone Flora and Fauna reserve and extends from the high water mark to a maximum of 300 metres offshore.

The sites for diving and snorkelling within the Jawbone Marine Sanctuary are:

Aboriginal tradition indicates that the sanctuary is part of Country of Boon Wurrung people.

More protected than many sites in the area, so a good site to dive instead when the wind is up a bit. There are many spots to dive here in all directions.

Jawbone Wrecks

The sanctuary was used as a scuttling ground for ships that had outlived their usefulness. The exposed location, rocky bottom, proximity to Williamstown and restricted public access made it an ideal place to scuttle wrecks.

Along the west edge of Jawbone are the remnants of some shipwrecks including: Agnes, Carmen, Ester, Macedon, and Salsette. The Kakariki, Orange Grove, and Baldrock also lie nearby, plus there are other unidentified wrecks.

Also not far from Jawbone are the remains of a Vultee Vengeance Aircraft.

Jawbone Bathymetry
Jawbone Bathymetry
Source: Parks Victoria

See also Park Note: Jawbone Marine Sanctuary,
Parks Victoria: Jawbone Marine Sanctuary,
Jawbone Marine Sanctuary Care Group,
Taxonomic Toolkit for the Marine Life of Port Phillip Bay, and
How To Assess Visibility Before Heading To Snorkel Sites In Port Phillip / Western Port — by Simon Mustoe, 20 January 2022.

Jawbone Marine Sanctuary Map
Jawbone Marine Sanctuary Map | Source: Parks Victoria
Jawbone Map
Jawbone Map | © Parks Victoria

You are not permitted to carry a spear gun while snorkelling or scuba diving in Jawbone Marine Sanctuary.

Boon Wurrung / Bunurong country
Boon Wurrung / Bunurong country

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.


Ester Location Map

Latitude: 37° 52.044′ S   (37.8674° S / 37° 52′ 2.64″ S)
Longitude: 144° 52.564′ E   (144.876067° E / 144° 52′ 33.84″ E)

Datum: WGS84 | Google Map | Get directions
Added: 2021-02-09 15:48:53 GMT, Last updated: 2022-05-02 06:38:11 GMT
Source: Peter Taylor
Nearest Neighbour: Carmen, 102 m, bearing 341°, NNW
Wooden Lighter.
Built: Grimstad, Norway 1886.
Sunk: 10 February 1936.
Jawbone Marine Sanctuary, Port Phillip.
Depth: 4 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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