January 13, 2020
People & Places

Historic SA shipwreck discovered near Admella site

After a years-long search, a young Mount Gambier diver has located the wreck of the Edith Haviland, which sank more than 140 years ago.

Carl von Stanke located the Edith Haviland wreck on Christmas Day 2019. Photograph Steve Saville/Ozdiverdown.

Divers have discovered a second wreck at the site of the Admella shipwreck, one of South Australia’s most infamous maritime disasters.

Cargo and anchors belonging to the Edith Haviland, which sunk in 1877 with the loss of five people, have been found on a submerged reef off the Carpenters Rocks coast, in South Australia’s Limestone Coast.

The Christmas day discovery was made by Mount Gambier’s Carl von Stanke and Whyalla’s Steve Saville with the help of retired Port MacDonnell diver Dwayne Kelly.

“It was exciting to finally see it and definitely made for a pretty nice Christmas present,” Carl says.

The Edith Haviland wreck was badly broken up and overgrown, making it hard to find. Photograph Steve Saville/Ozdiverdown.

Time and strong ocean currents have buried much of the remains and left the wreck virtually unrecognisable, says Carl.

“It was very broken up and overgrown and there’s not much of a recognisable structure left of her,” he says.

“But we know it’s the Edith as there were no other wrecks along here carrying that particular cargo.”

Carrying 25-tonnes of scrap metal and wire, the remains of the 264-tonne brig were found lying only 50 metres from the wreck of the Admella, which sunk in 1859 with the loss of 89 people.

It’s the fourth historic wreck discovered or rediscovered over the past few years by the 22-year-old diver, including the Iron Age, the Lotus, the Flying Cloud and the Hawthorn.

Dubbed the “shipwreck hunter” for his ability to track down South Australia’s lost ships, Carl’s two-year search to locate the wreck was documented in the February 2019 issue of SALIFE magazine.

A further clue as to the whereabouts of the wreck came from an old newspaper article published in the 1960s.

“They talked about a number of bells taken off the Admella, whereas divers probably took a bell from the Edith Haviland without realising it,” Carl says.

“The article also described a tabletop reef and we found it next to a tabletop reef.”

Carl says the divers will now pass on their findings to the Department for Environment and Water’s State Heritage Unit.

Any wreck over the age of 75 years is protected under the Underwater Cultural Heritage Act.

Notorious for its hidden reefs and treacherous swells, Carl said it was unsurprising to locate yet another wreck along the Carpenters Rocks coastline.

“The swell and current that goes through there pulls everything into the coastline,” he says.

“I know of four wrecks within just a few hundred metres, the Admella, the Edith Haviland, the Corio and there were also unconfirmed reports of a steam yacht that hit the Admella’s engines in 1882.

“It shows just how bad that stretch of coastline is.”

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