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William Salthouse

Wreck Dive Wreck Dive | Boat access Boat access

Inside Port Phillip Marine Park - No Fishing Open Water Rated Slack Water Wreck Dive Site

Three-Masted Wooden Barque | Max Depth: 12 m (39 ft)

Historic shipwreck protected zone. Permit Required.
For more details please see vic-shipwreck-protection-zones.

Do not dive near the William Salthouse without a permit. The shipwreck lies in a 250 metre protection zone. If you enter this zone severe penalties apply. Stay clear!

William Salthouse
William Salthouse
© Unknown

Level: Open Water and beyond.

The William Salthouse is one of the oldest and most important shipwrecks to be discovered in Victoria. It sailed on trading voyages to the West Indies, Mauritius, India, Singapore and Batavia.

It was the first merchant vessel to sail between Canada and Port Phillip, just five years after the settlement at Port Phillip was established, and was flouting British Navigation Laws when it did so. It is archaeologically significant for its evidence of ship construction, cargo stowage and cargo types. It is educationally and recreationally significant as the wreck of an intact wooden merchant ship with its early cargo intact.

Diving the William Salthouse Shipwreck

Divers Peter Kennedy and Dennis Bolton discovered the William Salthouse wreck in 1982. She appears as a raised sand hill about 3 metres high. While the superstructure and upper hull have collapsed, the lower portion of the hull, along with much of the assorted cargo, lies preserved in the sand. Artificial seagrass mats have been laid around the dune to stabilise the site. This is a very fragile wreck site, and divers with permits to dive the wreck are urged to treat it gently. Extreme care must be taken not to disturb any part of the wreck.

William Salthouse Dive Site Map
William Salthouse Dive Site Map | © Victorian Archaeological Survey

The site of the William Salthouse is a historic shipwreck protected zone with a 250 metre radius from: Latitude: 38° 16.377′ S   (38.272943° S / 38° 16′ 22.59″ S)
Longitude: 144° 42.330′ E   (144.705493° E / 144° 42′ 19.77″ E)
A permit from Heritage Victoria is required to dive the William Salthouse. Anchoring is prohibited.

William Salthouse Shipwreck History — Built in 1824

William Salthouse was a three-mastered wooden barque of 251 tons, built in 1824, in Liverpool, England. The vessel measured 90 ft (27 m) in length, 27 ft (8.23 m) in width and had a depth in the hold of 16 ft (4.88 m)

William Salthouse was typical of the small British trading ships built in the early 19th century to carry cargo between Britain and its colonies. The ship's ribs were made of white oak. Its hull was constructed from an African timber resistant to marine borers and sheathed in yellow metal. William Salthouse had three masts and a single deck beneath where the crew slept and cargo was stowed.

William Salthouse was designed and built for trade by Salthouse & Co., of Liverpool, a prominent merchant. It served as a trading vessel delivering mixed cargoes from Britain to its colonies in the West Indies and India for 17 years before being sold to Green and Co. of Liverpool.

Green and Co. were aware of the colony at Melbourne's struggle to establish itself as self-sustaining and recognised it as a potentially profitable investment for trade. The economical incentives are most likely what prompted William Salthouse's change of trade destination to Montreal and onto Port Phillip. On 27 March 1841 William Salthouse departed London en route to Montreal, where it arrived safely on 26 May 1841.

William Salthouse picked up cargo for the young Australian settlement at Port Phillip. As William Salthouse was the first cargo vessel to sail between Canada and Australia and as, at the time, British law banned direct trade between its colonies, this was indeed a pioneering voyage. It was also an example of the mercantile spirit of the time which led to the British laws being changed in 1849.

William Salthouse Sinking — Wrecked 27 November 1841

After clearing Montreal, Canada customs on 17 June 1841, the William Salthouse set sail on open water for Melbourne under the command of Captain George Brown. William Salthouse was carrying a cargo valued at £12,000. It included 394 barrels of flour, 241 barrels of salted beef, 355 barrels of salted pork, six hog sheds of cider, 149 barrels of salted fish, ten casks of vinegar, a large quantity of pine boards, 20 wicker baskets of champagne, five cases of sauterne, 1,000 bars of iron as well as nails, whiskey, bottles of stout, snuff, crackers, cheese, corn, brooms, mustard and oars.

The voyage from Canada to Port Phillip took five long months. After arriving off Port Phillip on Saturday 27 November 1841 the William Salthouse entered Port Phillip. A strong south-westerly wind was blowing and as the ship steered through The Heads. Unfortunately, the essel was too far to the east of the channel near Corsair Rock, and it hit a submerged rock off Port Nepean. The rudder was damaged and within an hour there was eighteen inches of water in the hold.

Pilot Edwin Toby boarded the vessel and managed to sail it into Port Phillip. But the ship became unmanageable as the water level rose in the hold. An anchor was thrown overboard, but the anchor chain snapped. The ship then ran ashore on Popes Eye sandbar. The Captain and crew managed to salvage the ship's sails, papers and some of their personal belongings and row to shore in lifeboats.

The following morning, William Salthouse settled on the seabed with six feet of water over its deck. The ship's agent inspected the wreck but stormy weather made it impossible to salvage the ship's cargo. The wreck was quickly sold for £275. Several early salvage attempts were unsuccessful, however some cargo was recovered in late December 1841.

See also Wikipedia: William Salthouse (ship),
Heritage Council Victoria: William Salthouse,
Australian National Shipwreck Database: William Salthouse, and
Dive Information Sheet: William Salthouse (1824-1841).

This vessel is one of the many historic shipwrecks included in Victoria's shipwreck-discovery-trail. Qualified divers can explore the wrecks of old wooden clippers, iron steamships and cargo and passenger vessels located along the coast and in Port Phillip. Some of these wreck dives are suitable for beginners, even snorkellers, while other wrecks require the skills and experience of advanced divers.

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 William Salthouse Shipwreck

Over the years we've been provided with many GPS marks for the William Salthouse shipwreck. Most people think the shipwreck would be at the centre of the 250 metre protected zone, but it's actually located about 100 metres north-east. The GPS marks we know of in circulation for the William Salthouse are:

  • Packo GPS 2013 (dark red):
    Latitude: 38° 16.334′ S   (38.27223333° S / 38° 16′ 20.04″ S)
    Longitude: 144° 42.387′ E   (144.70645° E / 144° 42′ 23.22″ E)
  • Centre of 250 metre radius Victorian Shipwreck Protected Zone (blue):
    Latitude: 38° 16.377′ S   (38.272943° S / 38° 16′ 22.59″ S)
    Longitude: 144° 42.330′ E   (144.705493° E / 144° 42′ 19.77″ E)

    115 m, bearing 226°, SW
  • BSAC list 2014 (green):
    Latitude: 38° 16.316′ S   (38.27193333° S / 38° 16′ 18.96″ S)
    Longitude: 144° 42.427′ E   (144.70711667° E / 144° 42′ 25.62″ E)

    67 m, bearing 60°, ENE
  • Getunder 2005 (brown):
    Latitude: 38° 16.322′ S   (38.27203333° S / 38° 16′ 19.32″ S)
    Longitude: 144° 42.404′ E   (144.70673333° E / 144° 42′ 24.24″ E)

    33 m, bearing 48°, NE
  • Heritage Vic 2016 (pink):
    Latitude: 38° 16.342′ S   (38.27236667° S / 38° 16′ 20.52″ S)
    Longitude: 144° 42.392′ E   (144.70653333° E / 144° 42′ 23.52″ E)

    17 m, bearing 153°, SSE
  • PoMC Map 2004 (sky blue):
    Latitude: 38° 16.340′ S   (38.27233333° S / 38° 16′ 20.4″ S)
    Longitude: 144° 42.383′ E   (144.70638333° E / 144° 42′ 22.98″ E)

    13 m, bearing 207°, SSW
  • eChart 2018 (orange):
    Latitude: 38° 16.337′ S   (38.27228333° S / 38° 16′ 20.22″ S)
    Longitude: 144° 42.396′ E   (144.7066° E / 144° 42′ 23.76″ E)

    14 m, bearing 113°, ESE

This GPS coordinate plot by Packo shows the spread of the GPS marks from the different sources.

William Salthouse Plot
William Salthouse Plot, © Packo

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.


William Salthouse Location Map

Latitude: 38° 16.334′ S   (38.272233° S / 38° 16′ 20.04″ S)
Longitude: 144° 42.387′ E   (144.70645° E / 144° 42′ 23.22″ E)

Datum: WGS84 | Google Map
Added: 2012-07-22 09:00:00 GMT, Last updated: 2022-05-08 22:46:37 GMT
Source: Packo GPS 2013
Nearest Neighbour: Popes Eye Anchor Farm, 798 m, bearing 239°, WSW
Historic shipwreck protected zone.
Permit Required.
Three-Masted Wooden Barque, 251 ton.
Sunk: 27 November 1841.
Popes Eye, Port Phillip.
Depth: 8 to 12 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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