A report on the MAAV and MHU
Port Albert field trip

20 - 21 October 2001 and April 2019

By the 'Major' Harvey Sowerby 2001 and Justin McCarthy 2019
Further reflections from Harvs

pproximately fifteen MAAV members and three MHU officers visited Port Albert to inspect several historic shipwrecks beyond the channel markers.

Port Albert jetty and moorings

Friday 19 th October.

Gathering of the group commenced at the Yarram Club Hotel at 7.00pm and gradually grew to a crescendo at 2.00am Saturday morning. Withstanding loud strains of "Brown Eyed Girl" the group crashed and slept the few hours remaining before meeting on the pier at 9.30am Saturday.

Saturday 20 th October.

Following an exploratory trip through the channel to the Clonmel a decision was made to dive the wreck. Poor visibility and rough conditions provided little to report. It seems that the superstructure has tilted and the wreck is well covered in sand, see Malcolm's comments below.
Left to right, early birds prepare to check out the conditions on the Clonmel, Port Albert Maritime Museum, and chatting to the locals

Aborting further diving the group returned to Port Albert. Family groups and others decided to return to their respective camp sites, while others visited the Maritime Museum at Port Albert. The museum is very interesting and well set out providing good natural lighting and displaying many articles retrieved from local wreck sites such as the Clonmel and the Blackbird.
Clonmel cannon on display in the Port Albert Museum
Other displays included apparatus used for the rescue of passengers from wrecks, early radio sets, MHU promotional material with photographs of MAAV members examining and measuring retrieved objects from the very same wrecks that we hope to dive at the earliest opportunity. Outside of the museum building original anchors, fishing vessels, channel marker buoys and whaler vats are pleasantly displayed in well kept surroundings.

Of interest was Wayne Caldow's efforts in restoring a Commercial Inn dated 1854. The Inn is located in the township of Tarraville. Original building techniques are being used by Wayne and we wish him every success in his adventure.

Saturday night found many of the group enjoying a red wine soaked pizza before returning to the Club Hotel to offer intellectual solutions to the worlds problems of "Terrorism" and the looming federal elections on 10 November, 2001.
The open fire place and vast quantities of wine added to the congeniality of the group. Discussions proceeded until 3.00am Sunday morning.

Sunday 21st October

Left, Scott gives us his technicolor description of the Clonmel wrecksite. Photo MAAV. Right, the funnel above the boiler of the Clonmel. The photo was taken on a previous field trip. The funnel has since collapsed. Photo Maritime Heritage Unit.Post scipt as of April 2019 the vessel is now on dry land due to shifting sands.The 2019 visit to the area dived some unknown wreck sites and wrecks at Wilsons Promontory
A noticeably slow start to the day saw various bodies struggling to consume breakfast at the local bakery.
A sunny day was beckoning and all boats launched at 10.00am. headed out to the Clonmel and Blackbird wreck sites. Slightly better conditions allowed diving on the wrecks. Reports indicate that the Blackbird is quickly deteriorating and has collected a considerable amount of debris including whale bones and other flotsam. Time and tide is taking its toll due to its position in the wave breaking and undertow zone. The bow is in a reasonable condition as reported, with the remainder of the vessel under sand.

Further information:

Clonmel : Wrecked in 1841 the Clonmel is one of the earliest steamship wrecks available for study in Australian waters. The paddle steamer Clonmel, built 1836, came to grief on a sandbar at the entrance to what is now known as Port Albert. Reference: Clonmel, Disaster To Discovery. Heritage Council Victoria 1999

SS Blackbird : The iron screw steamer Blackbird was built at Newcastle on Tyne in 1863 expressly for the Australian coastal trade in which she was engaged until wrecked on the Ninety Mile Beach in 1878.
Web: http://home.vicnet.net.au/~maav/blackbird.htm

Other sites were examined by the MHU using the "Mag". Alas no findings were evident even though a significant grid pattern was traversed.

All returned safely to the "port" gathered and sorted gear and finally headed for home at 5.00pm.

Many thanks to Lyall Mills, Mick Whitmore and the MHU for providing the water transport in 2001.Thanks to Mal and Felix Venturoni for use of thier boat "Jazz" and the MAAV for use of the 22ft Stessil/B>

Wreck site comments: Malcolm Venturoni

The wreck of the Clonmel has largely disappeared beneath the shifting sands again, between 3 - 5 metres of sand has been deposited on the site since extensive surveys were conducted on the site during March 1997. All that is now visible of the site is part of the engine on top of the huge hull timbers and the boiler that has partly collapsed. The funnel, which was visible as a mark for mariners for the last 160 years has now disappeared beneath the waves making locating the site a little bit more difficult. Still visible around the main part of the wreck were sections of copper sheathing, broken glass and ceramic fragments and plenty of sand.

SS Blackbird
The SS Blackbird is a fantastic wreck and with its intact bow and stern is definitely one of the best wrecks in the state. The site however is showing signs of deterioration and like the Clonmel has partly sanded up since last inspection. Approximately half a metre of sand has been deposited on the site since the last inspection eighteen months ago. Several hull plates have popped off along the port side and areas of fresh corrosion were evident on many parts of the wreck site. The visibility on site was poor, approximately two metres, unfortunately this seems to be the norm for the site.

Left, Resting up on the MHU devilcat. Photo Malcolm Venturoni. Middle, Priya waiting for that tell tail signal from the magnetometer. Still waiting! Right, post Clonmel debrief aboard Mick's Stresspoint II.
Script by: Harvey J Sowerby 2001 Justin McCarthy 2019
Wreck site Comments: Malcolm Venturoni
Photos & Photo Editor: Eric Langenberg
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Last modified: September 2019