About the wreck
The SS Coogee was built in the UK in 1887 and first known as the Lancashire Witch, possibly a more exciting name than she ended up with. In 1888 her owner went broke and she was bought by Melbourne ship owners Huddart Parker LTD to steam between Melbourne and Geelong. As the Coogee she had an interesting history, with several collisions with other ships and sandbars. In 1917 she was taken over by the Royal Australian Navy for use as a mine sweeper and in 1921, she was used to repair the telegraph cable that crosses under Bass Strait. By 1928 the ship was considered redundant and she was taken outside the Heads and scuttled.
It should be noted that this sinking occurred before the official Commonwealth Sea Dumping area was established. This means the wreck of the Coogee lies a short boat ride outside the Heads instead of closer to Torquay. Compared to the wrecks of the Ship’s Graveyard which start in a depth of 45m, the Coogee lies in approximately 32m. Her bow and stern are carpeted with yellow zooanthids and the dark zone under the wreckage is often crowded with bullseyes.
About the dive
This photo was taken back in March, when the seas were warm and the weather more reliable. After being foiled by big swell this weekend, I’m looking forward to the seasons swinging around again!
With just the right amount of time before a planned slack tide dive on the wall, we chucked a shotline in and descended to the Coogee. The shot landed between the boilers, and we decided to swim first down to the stern, before coming back to the bow.
Between the stern, boilers and bow the wreck is almost flat against the sand, and you follow the outline of the hull from one to the other if the vis is poor.
About the photo
I love the yellow coating of zooanthids on the Coogee because they stand out beautifully against the blue/green water. With superstructure sticking up well above the sand at both ends, she’s a good shape for wide angle photography. As you can see from the photo above, the challenge is finding a good angle to emphasise the shapes, while still getting close enough to light up the zooanthids.
The huge schools of fish hanging motionless around the wreck were a great bonus, and with a slight current keeping them all facing the same way they were a bit easier to wrangle. Of course, at 30m+ and with a limited bottom time there’s never as much time as you’d like, especially when trying to arrange a school of recalcitrant and shiny fish into a pleasing shape against an irregular wreck. But then, there’s always a reason to go back and have another go.