Peter Taylor

Newport diver helps end maritime mystery

A Newport diver has helped solve one of Victoria’s most puzzling maritime mysteries by locating a long-lost shipwreck nearly 80 years after it sank.

Peter Taylor, who first started searching for the TSS Coramba almost 30 years ago, said the May 29 discovery was years ahead of schedule.

“It was a big surprise (and) I wasn’t expecting to find it for a few more years yet,” Mr Taylor said. “We were over the moon to ... find it ahead of schedule.”

The cargo vessel, found by Mr Taylor and a team from not-for-profit group Southern Ocean Exploration, sank en route to Williamstown on November 30, 1934, when it encountered wild weather in Bass Strait.

Seventeen crew members, including captain John Dowling, from The Strand, Williamstown, and two local men, perished in the disaster.

The Coramba was long thought to be resting off Seal Rocks near Phillip Island. Mr Taylor and his crew discovered the stricken vessel about nine nautical miles away, 60m under water. Mr Taylor said the ship was “reasonably intact” and divers would return to the wreck to survey its contents.

“There’s every possibility there’s still skeletal remains there,” he said. “It went down very quickly and only four (of the 17) crew were found.”

Maritime historian Des Williams, who wrote a book on the Coramba - titled The Ship that the Sea Swallowed - informed the crew’s families of the discovery.