24 Aug 2013
Boaties are being asked to brush up on their knowledge of the location of South Australian shipwrecks after recreational divers reported serious damage to the wreck of the Zanoni.
Lying in 18m of water off Ardrossan, the 135-year-old wreck is the most complete 19th-century merchant vessel in South Australia, and possibly the country.
Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources Maritime Heritage Officer Amer Khan said when he inspected the wreck last week, he found broken timbers and the whole site strewn with fishing debris despite the existence of a 550m boating exclusion zone.
“The sad truth is that they’re slowly destroying this beautiful old ship,” he said.
“All the frames along the elevated edge of the starboard side have been snapped off, probably by an anchor chain being dragged along it,” Amer said.
“Copper sheathing has been torn off and timbers pulled away by snagged rope. Someone has even dropped a makeshift cement mooring right into the bow section, where it’s crushed part of the portside bow and the deck planking.
Every boat that enters the exclusion zone has the potential to cause more damage.
All shipwrecks more than 75 years old are automatically protected under the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1981, but the Zanoni has the extra protection of an exclusion zone because of her historical significance.
The 550m protection zone bans all water activities without a special permit – even simply steering a boat through the area.
Amer said it was very important for all water users to make themselves familiar with the location of historic shipwrecks and protected zones.
“Shipwrecks are a fascinating part of our heritage, so taking care of a historic wreck is just as important as protecting a heritage building.
“They are an irreplaceable part of our history and if they break up, they are gone forever.
The department hopes to return soon to finish cleaning up the Zanoni and removing the fouling material.
The penalties for damaging a wreck are serious: up to $5000 or five years in prison. There are also penalties of up to $1250 or a year in gaol for entering a protected zone without a permit.
Mystery of the Zanoni
For many years, the final resting place of the Zanoni was one of South Australia’s great maritime mysteries.
Built in 1865 in Liverpool, the cargo ship weighed 330 tonnes and was 44m long. In 1867, after just three voyages, her captain was preparing to return to England with a load of wheat and bark when the ship hit rough weather on the way from Port Wakefield to Port Adelaide.
The 16 crew were all rescued, but the Zanoni sank without trace and remained lost for close to 120 years, despite extensive searches at the time of the accident.
The hull was finally found in 1983, when a retired fisherman responded to a call for information on her whereabouts by a local abalone diver.
The Zanoni’s GPS coordinates are latitude 34° 30’ 43.8” S and longitude 138° 03’ 48.4” E.
Navigation charts for St Vincent Gulf and a sign at the Ardrossan boat ramp both provide details of location of the wreck and the exclusion zone.
For more information on shipwrecks off the South Australian coast, including safe ways to anchor near wrecks, please visit the department's website.
For more photos see the story on the ABC's website