This Australian ship vanished 120 years ago. Its wreck has just been found by accident

This Australian ship vanished 120 years ago. Its wreck has just been found by accident

Key Points
  • The Nemesis left Newcastle for Melbourne on 8 July 1904.
  • It’s thought the ship was hit by a large wave and sank too quickly for life boats to be deployed.
  • A remote sensing company stumbled across the wreck off the Sydney coast.

The wreckage of a doomed Australian coal ship

with 32 crew on board off the NSW coast in a storm.

The Nemesis left Newcastle for Melbourne with her hold full of coal on 8 July 1904. But a southerly gale battered the ship almost immediately after departure.

An old photograph of a ship.

The Nemesis was built in 1881 and registered in Melbourne to concentrate on the coal trade from Newcastle but also operated in Western Australia during the 1890s gold rush. Source: AAP / Supplied

For days and weeks following the ship’s disappearance, a grisly sight littered Cronulla Beach in Sydney’s south as bodies of crew members washed ashore.

More than a century later, a remote sensing company stumbled across the wreck while trying to locate cargo containers lost off the Sydney coast.

The ship was undisturbed, 26 kilometres offshore and 160 metres underwater.

But identifying the long-lost ship in such deep waters so far from shore proved a challenge for NSW Heritage experts surveying the ocean floor.

On Sunday, NSW Heritage Minister Penny Sharpe said underwater imagery captured by the CSIRO provided the additional evidence needed to confirm the ship’s distinctive features aligned with historical photographs and sketches.

Images show the iron wreck resting upright on a broad sand plain, with significant damage to its bow and stern.

It is thought the engine became overwhelmed in the storm, and when the Nemesis was hit by a large wave she sank too quickly for life boats to be deployed.

Sharpe appealed for relatives of lost crew members to come forward. “Around 40 children lost their parents in this wreck,” she told reporters on Sunday.

“I hope this discovery brings closure to families and friends connected to the ship who have never known its fate.”

Describing the loss of Nemesis as one of Sydney’s most enduring maritime mysteries,

Sharpe said its discovery would write the final chapter of its story.

Lost crew came from Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada.

The 73.4-metre vessel was built at Whitby in the UK in 1881.

Reaching speeds of 12 knots, it was registered in Melbourne to concentrate on the coal trade from Newcastle but also operated in Western Australia during the 1890s gold rush.

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