Shipwreck find a big surprise

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Marc Payne with the shipwreck in the background.
Camera IconMarc Payne with the shipwreck in the background.

An abalone diver may have discovered the wreck of a steamship, believed to be more than 100 years old, in waters off Albany.

After 30 years of hunting abalone along WA’s south coast, Marc Payne said he first thought he had stumbled on an already identified wreck in King George Sound when diving last year.

In the last three decades, Mr Payne said he has come across many shipwrecks, each well known and recorded by the WA Museum.

However, when he discovered a large wreckage near King George Sound earlier last year, he said there was something unusual about it.

“I quite often contact the WA museum with things that I find underwater,” he said. “So I was quite surprised to find out that there was no wreck recorded in that area.

The ship that Mr Payne discovered is believed to be the wreckage of the Herschel, an iron sailing ship from the 19th century that mainly brought immigrants from Europe.

The Herschel was built in 1857 in Liverpool and Mr Payne said historical records indicated that the ship was converted into a hulk and was scuttled off the inner island in King George Sound in 1907.

Marc Payne with the shipwreck in the background.
Camera IconMarc Payne with the shipwreck in the background.

“It was amazing once I found out what it could possibly be,” he said.

“It’s quite a large wreck — around 50m and quite a substantial boat. It’s also in pieces and looks like it has been broken up on the rocks.”

Mr Payne said a group of maritime archaeologists from the WA Museum were coming to inspect the wreck and confirm its originality.

A WA Museum spokeswoman said they planned to undertake an inspection with Mr Payne sometime in the near future.

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