Exhibition uncovers Australia’s shipwreck history

Australia’s coast is the final resting place of over 11,000 shipwrecks – roughly one wreck for every three kilometres of coastline. And Victoria’s City of Rayville is one of 14 wrecks whose stories will feature in the touring panel exhibition Submerged – Stories of Australia’s Shipwrecks uncovering Australia’s rich shipwreck history which will be available to view at selected libraries in coming months.

Submerged – Stories of Australia’s Shipwrecks is on display at:

  • Diamond Valley Library: 25 November - 10 December 2019
  • Watsonia Library: 11 December - 6 January 2020
  • Then later in the year at Thomastown Library: Tuesday 14 April 2020 - Tuesday 12 May 2020
  • Lalor Library: 14 May 2020 - 10 June 2020

Submerged - Stories of Australia's shipwrecks is presented by the Australian National Maritime Museum and the Australian Maritime Museums Council and is the result of a national project with workshops held across the country to develop the exhibition and to source shipwreck stories. 68 shipwreck stories were nominated by 46 maritime museums and heritage institutions from around Australia with 14 of the most compelling stories selected to feature in the exhibition. 

The City of Rayville is said to be the first American ship sunk during World War II. It was carrying a cargo of lead from Port Pirie to New York in 1940 when it struck a sea-mine off Cape Otway. All but one of its 38 crew members escaped.

The exhibition also features wrecks of merchant vessels, steamers, schooners, whalers and a submarine. The oldest wreck featured is WA’s Batavia. Its 1629 loss on Beacon Island, and subsequent mutiny, is one of the most dramatic events in Dutch and Australian history. 

Other wrecks include Sanyo Maru, a Japanese motor vessel lost in 1937 in Boucaut Bay NT, British merchant ship Sydney Cove lost in 1797 off Preservation Island, Tasmania and the Fijian fishing trawler Degei which struck rocks on Donington Reef, SA in 1974.

The exhibition also features one shipwreck from outside Australia – Australia’s second submarine HMAS AE2 which was lost in 1915 during the First World War in the Sea of Marmara, Turkey.
Australian National Maritime Museum director Kevin Sumption said “As an island nation, shipwrecks are a very important part of Australia’s rich maritime heritage. The Australian National Maritime Museum is delighted to be partnering with the Australian Maritime Museums Council to unlock these fascinating stories and remember everyone who lost their lives on our coast.”

Submerged – Stories of Australia’s Shipwrecks is on a two year national tour across regional Australia. All 68 submitted shipwreck stories are available now on the AMMC website in a digital archive.

Check out this reading list Submerged which inspires us to re-think what lies beneath.


Australia’s coast is the final resting place of over 11,000 shipwrecks – roughly one wreck for every three kilometres of coastline. Inspired by the exhibition now on: Submerged: stories of Australia's shipwrecks highlighting 14 compelling stories in Australia's maritime history, this list makes us re-think the stories of what may lay underneath.

The sea has been an endless source of fascination, at once both alluring and mysterious, a place of wonder and terror. The Sea Journal contains first-hand records by a great range of travellers of their encounters with strange creatures and new lands, full of dangers and delights, pleasures and perils. Illustrations from sea journals now preserved in collections all over the world.

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