Henrietta

Wreck DiveWreck Dive | Shore access

Ideal For Snorkelling Inside Port Phillip Open Water Rated Wreck Dive Site

Two Masted Wooden Sailing Schooner

Henrietta's location was lost until the 1960s when it was relocated by abalone divers. The vessel's rudder was removed, an anchor and other portions of the vessel were removed once it was discovered. The location of many of these artefacts has now been lost.

Today there isn't much left of Henrietta, the weather and shallow water have taken their toll. There is a large 8 metre by 5 metre mound of pig iron ballast, rising 1.5 metres off the seabed in 3 metres of water about 150 metres east of shallow basalt reef, 1 km off shore at Point Cook. Four star pickets mark the site. All timber relating to vessel is gone. Some small fittings identified.

Henrietta Shipwreck History

The Henrietta had a colourful career. Built in 1915 by Arthur Dana Story in Gloucester, Massachusetts, USA, the Henrietta was an elegant two masted schooner built for the cod fishing industry. There are also rumours the boat was used in the film Captain Courageous starring Spencer Tracey, but this has never been confirmed. She measured 114 feet (35 metres) long, 22.1 feet (6.7 metres) wide and 10.9 feet (3.3 metres) deep.

After a fishing career lasting 20 years, Henrietta was bought by American Bailey (Peter) Sawyer and his Australian-born wife Dorota and they left America for Sydney. After arriving in Australia, they quickly became involved in scientific and research trips. The Royal Australian Navy were concerned that the Japanese pearl luggers operating in the Great Barrier Reef area had discovered previously uncharted navigable channels. These could prove a problem if the Japanese invaded during the war so Henrietta was employed to chart as many of these channels as possible. In all, they managed to navigate and chart ten new channels.

At the beginning of 1940, Sawyer enrolled in the RAAF and quickly became a pilot-officer, thanks in no small part to his skill in celestial navigation learnt on the water. Meanwhile, Henrietta lay at anchor in Geelong.

The Port Phillip Sea Pilots were considering using Henrietta as a pilot vessel and the navigation charts were removed from the vessel to update them for pilot duty. Unfortunately, there weren't returned in time for Henrietta's last voyage.

Henrietta's end was somewhat ignominious for such an elegant yet adventurous vessel. Sawyer and three friends from his RAAF base in Laverton decided to take Henrietta to Williamstown for dry-docking and an overhaul.

Leaving Geelong before dawn on the morning of 28 September 1940, the weather was squally and deteriorating. When the crew went looking for the Port Phillip navigation chart, they discovered it was missing.

Henrietta ran into the reef that extends out more than a mile from Point Cook. The weather had hidden the danger mooring buoy from view. The Ports and Harbours tug, Victory, was sent to help drag Henrietta into deep water — unsuccessfully. The crew decided to wait overnight for the flood tide and try again. It was an unpleasant experience. High winds and huge seas swept Henrietta's lifeboats away and their emergency flares weren't seen in the bad weather.

The crew (and the ship's cat) had to wait until 12.30 pm the next day before they could be rescued.

Peter Sawyer was killed in an air crash in the Blue Mountains a few months after the wreck... coincidentally the same weekend an enormous storm finally smashed Henrietta to pieces. Sawyer's ashes were scattered over the site and when Dorota died, her ashes were scattered nearby.

Henrietta, in its short time in Australia became very much a part of Australia's maritime history and now what's left is protected under the Heritage Act 1995.

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

Point Cook Map
Point Cook Map | © Parks Victoria

Latitude: 37° 55.800′ S   (37.93° S / 37° 55′ 48″ S)
Longitude: 144° 48.600′ E   (144.81° E / 144° 48′ 36″ E)

Datum: WGS84 | Google Map
Added: 2018-01-26 18:38:46 GMT, Last updated: 2019-05-27 04:47:39 GMT
Source: Australian National Shipwreck Database
Nearest Neighbour: Diana, Point Cooke, 1,754 m, bearing 270°, W
Two Masted Wooden Sailing Schooner.
Built: 1915.
Lost: 29 Sep 1940.



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