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The iron steamship Tasman was built by the firm of Blackwall and Gordon at Glasgow, Scotland, in 1873. The vessel was 720.74 tons gross and 490.1 tons nett and measured 209.7' x 27' x 19.2'. The Tasman was powered by two compound steam engines and rigged as a two masted schooner. It was first registered at Hobart in October 1873, Official No. 57539, and was owned by the Tasmanian Steam Navigation Company.


The steamship Tasman
(Mitchell Library)

The Tasman served exclusively on the Sydney to Hobart run carrying passengers, mails and cargo. On 27 November 1883 the steamship departed from Sydney and after loading cattle at Twofold Bay proceeded onwards to Hobart. The vessel was under the command of Captain J. Evans and carried 26 crew and 12 passengers.

On the evening of the 29th the vessel was approaching the Tasman Peninsula. Before going off his watch the captain set a course that would go to seaward of the highly visible Hippolyte Rocks. Subsequently, in the belief that it would save time, the first mate altered the course to steer between the rocks where deep water was indicated on the charts. At around 6.00 am on the following day the Tasman struck heavily on an uncharted reef and began to immediately founder.

Although the vessel sank within 15 minutes of hitting the reef, those on board were able to take to the ship's boats without loss of life. The survivors made for nearby Fortescue Bay where they were picked up by local fishing boats. At a subsequent Court of Inquiry the mates certificate was suspended for 12 months and the captain was censured for not keeping closer control of the Tasman near a known navigational hazard.

The Site

Boilers of the Tasman

Boilers of the Tasman
(Photography by Mark Spencer)

The deep water around the Hippolyte Rocks prevented the relocation of the Tasman until January 1998 when a team of divers led by John Riley found the wreck in 70 metres of water. The team used using a boat towed magnetometer to detect the 'signature' of the iron hull. The remains of the Tasman were found lying across the undulating surface of a ledge of rock. Due to the disintegration of the hull the engine and boilers were exposed and other artefacts were also found strewn across the sea floor.

With limited dive times on the site the team recorded the remains with video footage, stills photography and sketches. Further survey work to document the site of the Tasman was carried out in 1999. Due to its exposed location and extreme depth diving on the wreck is hazardous and requires specialised training. The wreck site is protected under the Commonwealth Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976.

Interactive View of Wreck Site

Place your cursor over the red text to see that component of the wreck.

Further Reading

Sport Diving, No. 69 August/September 1998.

A Survey of the Steamship Tasman (1873-1883). [PDF - 656 KB]. In Nash, Michael (2002). A Survey of the Steamship Tasman (1873-1883). Bulletin of the Australian Institute for Maritime Archaeology, 26:83-90.