Wreck Dive | Boat access
Level: Open Water and beyond.
The screw steamer SS Cheviot (aka Cheviot), was a typical coastal trading passenger and cargo steamship. On her way to Sydney on 19 October 1887, she had barely cleared Port Phillip Heads when her propeller became disabled which left her floundering. The efforts of the captain and crew to regain control failed in the heavy seas.
The SS Cheviot was washed onto rocks in what is now known as Cheviot Bay, on the back beaches of the Mornington Peninsula. She broke up rapidly in the rough seas, and out of her 69 passengers and crew, 35 were saved, and 34 lost their lives. It's the worst shipwreck to have occurred at Port Phillip Heads in terms of loss of life.
On 17 December 1967, Cheviot Bay became famous as the site of the disappearance of the serving Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt.
The wreck site is highly prone to surge and turbulence. The wreckage is widely scattered as a result of the terrible beating it gets from the weather, plus from blasting operations undertaken in the 1960s by divers obtaining scrap metal.
Much of the wreck is in very shallow water and wreckage can be seen at low tide. The area is close to 'The Rip' and can experience occasional cross currents, big swells and turbulence. This shipwreck can only be dived on exceptionally calm days.
See WillyWeather (Cheviot Beach) as a guide for the tide times and the height of the tide.
Back Beach Warning: Always keep an eye on sea conditions throughout any dive on the Back Beaches of the Mornington Peninsula. Please read the warnings on the web page diving-the-back-beaches before diving or snorkelling this site.
Bass Strait Warning: Always keep an eye on sea conditions throughout any shore or boat dive in Bass Strait on Victoria's coastline. Please read the warnings on the web page diving-in-bass-strait before diving or snorkelling this site.
The Cheviot was a schooner rigged, iron screw steamer of 1,226 gross tons (764 net tons), built in 1870, by Charles Mitchell and Co., at Low Walker, Newcastle upon Tyne, England. The vessel was built on a length of 230.2 ft (70 m), a beam of 32.2 ft (9.81 m) and a depth of 17.5 ft (5.33 m). What the hull was clincher built, with a double bottom under and aft of the engine room, four bulkheads dividing the ship, and an elliptical stern.
On completion the steamer was first registered in London, but this was later transferred to Melbourne, when it was purchased in 1876 by W. Howard Smith, for the inter-colonial passenger and coal carrying trade. The Cheviot had considerable alterations made to it after being added to the Howard Smith & Co. fleet. And additional boiler was added, the saloon extended and the second class accommodation improved.
On its final voyage from Melbourne to Sydney, the Cheviot was carrying a general cargo, consisting mainly of farm produce, grocery items and numerous small packages, plus 33 passengers, and a crew of 36, under the command of Captain Thomas R Richardson. On the night of Wednesday 19 October 1887, it preceded to sea.
At 8 p.m. and with a south-westerly gale blowing, the SS Cheviot reached the open sea and the propeller became disabled. As a result, the unpowered ship drifted helplessly towards the shore. As the seas were too rough, it was decided not to launch lifeboats. Sails were set and anchors put out but to no avail as the ship struck the shore at 9 p.m. Rockets were sent up, and help arrived by boat within a few hours, but due to the rough seas the Queenscliff lifeboat was unable to get through the heads.
At 4 a.m. the next morning rescuers were able to get a rocket-propelled lifeline to the ship and rescued 24 passengers and crew by this means, however during this operation the ship broke up and sank with many people trapped in the fore-cabin.
Of the 69 passengers and crew, thirty-five survived, and thirty-four souls perished in this tragety. Most of them trapped while seeking refuge in the forecastle of the vessel before it parted from the stern and quickly sank. Many of the victims who tried swimming for their lives, suffered horrific injuries as they were battered to death on the jagged rocks that lined the shore on this section of the coast.
The rescued passengers and crew were taken back to Melbourne by the Edina from the Portsea Jetty later in the day. With them, also went the remains of seven of their unlucky shipmates, whose bodies have been recovered by the rescuers after they had been washed ashore. Other badly battered bodies were recovered in the weeks to follow and eight were buried in the Quarantine Station cemetery.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
This site lies in the Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park. The park is made up of six separate marine areas around the southern end of Port Phillip: Swan Bay, Mud Islands, Point Lonsdale, Point Nepean, Popes Eye, and Portsea Hole.
Thirty-one of the 120 shipwrecks known to have occurred within a 10 nautical mile radius of Port Phillip Heads are thought to be within the Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park in Point Lonsdale and Point Nepean.
Aboriginal tradition indicates that the Bellarine Peninsula side of the Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park is part of Country of the Wathaurung people, and the Mornington Peninsula side, including Mud Islands, is part of Country of the Boon Wurrung people.
See also, Parks Victoria: Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park,
Park Note: Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park,
Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park - Map,
Divers Guide - Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park,
Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park Identification Booklet, and
Taxonomic Toolkit for the Marine Life of Port Phillip Bay.
You are not permitted to carry a spear gun while snorkelling or scuba diving in Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park.
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.
If you're looking for the Cheviot wreck in Waterloo Bay at Wilsons Promontory, please see Cheviot.
SS Cheviot Location Map
Latitude: 38° 18.840′ S (38.314° S / 38° 18′ 50.4″ S)
Longitude: 144° 39.850′ E (144.664167° E / 144° 39′ 51″ E)
Datum: WGS84 | Google Map
Added: 2012-07-22 09:00:00 GMT, Last updated: 2022-04-30 05:59:58 GMT
Source: Book - Shipwrecks Around Port Phillip Heads GPS (verified)
Nearest Neighbour: Petriana, 838 m, bearing 297°, WNW
Schooner Rigged Iron Screw Steamer.
Built: Tyne, England, 1870.
Sunk: 20 October 1887.
Cheviot Bay, Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park.
Depth: 1 to 7 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.