Wreck Dive | Shore access
Level: Advanced Open Water and beyond.
The Speculant was an iron, three-masted barquentine ship that was wrecked at Cape Patton, a few miles north-east of Cape Otway on 10th February 1911. While there was, fortunately, no loss of life, the Speculant's voyage and wrecking was nevertheless a perilous experience for the crew.
The location of the site for a long time was marked by two anchors on the shoreline until in 1970 the larger of the two anchors was recovered by the Underwater Explorers' Club and mounted on the foreshore at Apollo Bay. The bell from the wreck was also donated to the Apollo Bay Surf Lifesaving Club but is recorded to have been stolen (Loney: 1979).
Rusting remains of the wreck can still be found on the shoreline on the southern side of Cape Patton on the Otway Coast, along with more recent wrecks of car bodies that have suffered equally perilous voyages since the Great Ocean Road was built. However parts of the Speculant site have been buried by rubble from construction and maintenance works to the Great Ocean Road, as well as by naturally occurring landslides.
You can park at Orchard Creek and dive off the rock platforms on either side of Cobble Creek. Then make your way east towards the wreck site.
If you're a good climber, you can climb down from directly above the wreck site, about 200 metres west of Cape Patton Lookout car park. Then it's best to enter from the protected gutter just east of the wreck site.
You need to be strong, fit and a very experienced diver to safely dive the Speculant wreck site. It requires careful planning and perfect weather conditions.
See WillyWeather (Cape Patton) as a guide for the tide times and the height of the tide.
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 Speculant was an iron, flat-bottomed, three-masted barquentine vessel of 393 tons, built in 1895, by Cumming and Ellis at Inverkeithing, Scotland. The Speculant was 147 ft (45 m), with a 27 ft (8.23 m) beam and a draught of 11.4 ft (3.47 m).
The barquentine Speculant had previously been involved in the timber trade between the United Kingdom and Russia until sold to its Warrnambool owners Messrs. F.J. McGennan & Co. in 1906 for 3000 pounds. She was the largest vessel ever registered with Warrnambool as her home port and is believed to have been the largest barquentine to visit Melbourne. As timber merchants, McGennan & Co. operated the Speculant trading white pine from Kaipara, New Zealand to Warrnambool.
It was the second vessel to have been lost by McGennan & Co., who also owned the La Bella, tragically wrecked with the loss of seven lives after missing the entrance channel to Warrnambool harbour in 1905. It appears that the Speculant was bought to replace the La Bella, which had been employed in the same trade.
The Speculant had been attempting to depart Warrnambool for almost the entire month of January to undergo docking and overhaul in Melbourne. A month of easterly and south-easterly winds had forced the Speculant to remain sheltered in Lady Bay, Warrnambool with the exception of one morning of northerlies when an attempt was made to round Cape Otway, but it had to return and seek shelter in Portland after failing to make any headway.
With only 140 tons of sand ballast aboard, the ship would not have been easy to handle, but despite this Captain Jacobsen and his crew of mainly Swedes decided to make for Melbourne and left Portland Harbour on 5 February 1911. By the 9th they had reached Cape Otway and encountered a black night with no moon, constant heavy rain, and a heavy sea with a south-easterly wind blowing. After safely rounding Cape Otway the course was changed to the east, then north-east to take the vessel to a point six miles off Cape Patton following the orders of Captain Jacobsen, who told the crew to be very careful with the steering, as the wind and sea were running to leeward.
The patent log (used to measure speed) had been out of order for the last four months as no-one in Warrnambool was able to fix it, and it was intended to have it repaired in Melbourne. In the meantime, the crew used to measure the vessel's speed by looking over the side and estimating wind strength. This was to compound the difficulties experienced by the crew with the weather, heavy wet sails and imprecise positioning, as the strong crosswind and sea were acting on the lightly laden vessel to steadily drive it towards the shore.
At 3.30 am on Friday 10 February Captain Jacobsen and the first mate were looking over the side of the vessel when they heard the sound of breakers and suddenly struck the rocks – the crew immediately knew they were in a hopeless position with no chance of getting the Speculant off, and attempted to rescue themselves by launching the lifeboat, which was instantly smashed to pieces by a heavy sea.
One of the crew then volunteered to take a line ashore, and the rest of the crew were all able to drag themselves to shore, some suffering hand lacerations from the rocks. Once ashore they began to walk along the coast towards Lorne, believing it was the nearest settlement. Realising their mistake as dawn broke they returned westwards to Cape Patton and found a farm belonging to Mr C. Ramsden, who took them in and gave them a change of clothes and food. After resting for a day and returning to the wreck to salvage some of their personal possessions, at 10 am on Saturday they set out for Apollo Bay, a voyage that took them six hours, sometimes wading through flooded creeks up to their necks. The Age described them as:
"...all well, and none the worse for their experience", while the wreck was "listed to starboard. All the cabin is gutted and the ballast gone. There is a big rock right through the bottom of her, and there is not the slightest hope of getting her off." (Age 13/2/1911).
A Board of Marine inquiry found that Captain Jacobson was guilty of careless navigation by not taking steps to accurately verify the position of the vessel with respect to Cape Otway when the light was visible and by not setting a safe and proper course with respect to the wind and sea. It suspended his certificate for 6 months and ordered him to pay &pond;6 costs. Meanwhile, McGennan and Co. were reported to have placed an order for another sailing vessel with their agents in Melbourne, Messrs. R. & D. Blair (Age 10/2/1911).
See also, west-coast-shipwreck-trail,
Heritage Council Victoria: Speculant,
Australian National Shipwreck Database: Speculant,
Shipwrecks of Apollo Bay and Surrounds, and
Cape Patton and Speculant Wreck plus The Speculant Wreck in "Shore Dives of Victoria" by Ian Lewis, 3rd edition pages 17–19.
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.
Divers have the opportunity to catch Abalone at this dive site. Remember your catch bag, legal abalone tool, current Victorian Recreational Fishing Licence, and abalone measure. Please abide by all current fishing regulations if you intend to catch abalone.
Divers have the opportunity to catch Southern Rock Lobster (aka Crayfish) at this dive site. Remember your catch bag, current Victorian Recreational Fishing Licence, rock lobster measure, and cray tags. Once you get back to the dive boat, or shore, make sure you clip the tail and tag your Crayfish as per Fisheries requirements. Please abide by all current fishing regulations if you intend to catch crays. See article-catching-crayfish for practical cray hunting advice from The Scuba Doctor, plus melbourne-cray-dives for a list of other crayfish dive sites near Melbourne. For tips on cooking your Crays, please see article-cooking-crayfish.
We've used a mark created from Google Earth based on the description of where the Speculant lies in the water by Ian Lewis in his book "Shore Dives of Victoria", 3rd edition pages 17–19. If you go there please let us know if the GPS mark is okay, and give us a better one if it's not.
Traditional Owners — This dive site is in the traditional Country of the Eastern Maar people of south-western Victoria between the Shaw and Eumerella Rivers and from Yambuk in the south to beyond Lake Linlithgow in the north. This truly ancient Country extends as far north as Ararat and encompasses the coastal townships of Port Fairy in the west, Warrnambool, Peterborough, Port Campbell, Apollo Bay, Lorne, and Airies Inlet in the east, including the Great Ocean Road area. It also stretches 100 metres out to sea from low tide and therefore includes the iconic Twelve Apostles. "Eastern Maar" is a name adopted by the people who identify as Maar, Eastern Gunditjmara, Tjap Wurrung, Peek Whurrong, Kirrae Whurrung, Kuurn Kopan Noot and/or Yarro waetch (Tooram Tribe) amongst others. We wish to acknowledge the Eastern Maar as Traditional Owners. We pay respect to their Ancestors and their Elders, past, present and emerging.
Speculant Location Map
Latitude: 38° 41.609′ S (38.693484° S / 38° 41′ 36.54″ S)
Longitude: 143° 49.719′ E (143.828649° E / 143° 49′ 43.14″ E)
Datum: WGS84 | Google Map | Get directions
Added: 2021-02-22 16:34:45 GMT, Last updated: 2022-04-27 21:26:26 GMT
Source: Shore Dives of Victoria (approximate location only)
Nearest Neighbour: Ramsden Cave, 520 m, bearing 79°, E
Three-Masted Iron Barquentine.
Built: Inverkeithing, Scotland, 1895.
Sunk: 10 February 1911.
Cape Patton, Otway Coast.
Depth: 4 to 6 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.