Ballina Naval Museum
By Dominic Feain - Northern Star
The mystery shipwreck discovered at Lighthouse Beach in Ballina last week may be one of five steamships that came to grief in the area, experts say.
News of the discovery has spread, exciting more than just local shipwreck spotters. Experts from Sydney plan to inspect the site next week if conditions are favourable.
Heavy seas expected this weekend may scuttle hopes of identifying the wreck before it is reclaimed by the ever shifting sea floor.
Tim Smith, deputy director of the Heritage branch of the NSW Department of Planning, which runs NSW's shipwreck program, said he had put his money on itbeing the ill-fated Tomki that met its demise on the northern side of the Richmond River entrance on September 14, 1907.
But Clem McMahon, from the Ballina Naval Museum, was keeping an open mind as divers had spotted remnants of the Tomki further north along the beach.
“These sightings provide rare glimpses into the past,” Mr Smith said. “It's a really exciting story and follows on from the seven coastal shipwrecks that became exposed on NSW coastal beaches for a short period last year.”
Mr Smith said parts of the Tomki had been exposed before in the same general location, making it the likely candidate.
“But we can't rule out that itrepresents another local wreck site at this stage,” he said, adding he wouldn't ever rule out anunknown discovery.
“Many wrecks lie buried under the adjacent beaches and some 87 vessels were wrecked in or around the dangerous Richmond River entrance from the 1900s.”
Mr Smith said that the wreck was likely to be protected, attracting penalties up to $1.1 million for any disturbance to the site, although divers and beach-goers were free to view the wreck.
Culloden 1872, Francis Hixson 1883, Lady Musgrave 1904, Waimea 1872, Tomki 1907