Seas sink wreck efforts

Uncovered shipwreck about 50 metres of Lighthouse Beach at Ballina.Jay Cronan


From Northern Star


Heavy seas have prevented any light been being shed on the mystery shipwreck that appeared at Ballina last month.

Tim Smith, deputy director of the Heritage Branch of the NSW Department of Planning, which runs the State’s shipwreck program, said a maritime archaeologist had been recruited to inspect the site at Lighthouse Beach recently.

“Unfortunately, unfavourable sea conditions meant that he could not undertake any survey fieldwork,” he said. “We will have to wait for another window of opportunity.

“There have also been reports of another wreck sighting that we’re keen to check out.”

Mr Smith suspects the first wreck spotted near the north wall is the ill-fated SS Tomki that met its demise on the northern side of the Richmond River entrance, before the current wall was built, on September 14, 1907, while being towed to sea by a tug. There was no loss of life with all passengers and crew rescued.

However, Clem McMahon, from the Ballina Naval Museum, disagrees. He suspects the Tomki is the second wreck, spotted further north along the beach; and the wreck nearer the wall is another, unknown ship.

“With these heavy seas it’s Murphy’s Law out there at the moment,” he said.

The NSW Department of Planning’s Heritage Branch has recorded about 87 wrecked vessels in or around the treacherous Richmond River entrance since the 19th Century.

Shipwrecks are protected under both the NSW Heritage Act and the Commonwealth Historic Shipwrecks Act, which stipulate penalties up to $1.1 million for any disturbance to a site, although divers and beach-goers are free to view any wrecks.



Heritage Branch NSW Department of Planning Tim Smith mystery shipwreck Ballina Richmond River