Tauranga Harbour

Hostile Bay fishermen ruin survey wreck-dive

By John Cousins - Bay of Plenty Times

An archeological survey of a 130-year-old shipwreck off the Western Bay of Plenty turned sour for a team of divers on Saturday after they encountered a hostile reception from fishermen.

The divers managed to map the stern half of the steamship, which sank in 1881, but not before the expedition suffered abuse from recreational fishers and had its seabed survey baselines hooked and dragged up.

The team, which underwent specialist archeological training for the mapping of the SS Taupo, was not expecting a hostile reception when the weather conditions finally improved enough to allow them to dive on the wreck.

SS Taupo settled on the sandy bottom of the Bay, 11km out from Tauranga Harbour's northern Bowentown entrance, after a patch to its hull failed to hold and it sank under tow between Tauranga and Auckland.

A member of the dive team and Tauranga photojournalist, Shane Wasik, said the day began badly when they arrived to find two boats on the wreck site.

After telling the fishermen they were there to perform a marine archeological project and would be putting down a number of divers on to the wreck, Mr Wasik said they were told where to go "in not so many words".

A number of other boats then turned up and started motoring around where the team was trying to set up the archeological grid, with two getting their anchors entwined before leaving soon after.

"Later in the day, one boat anchored right over the top of the divers and fished directly under their ascent line - despite our warnings.

"In the end, our baseline tape measure, which we were using to survey was caught by the fisherman's lines, pulled up, and so ruined one pair of divers' data.