Shipwreck hunter’s hunch on identity of mystery vessel

A SHIP that sank off the coast of Cairns may be a long-lost clipper that had been sailing to China.

Shipwreck hunter Ben Cropp has revealed what he strongly suspects to be the identity of the mystery vessel he discovered at Sudbury Reef, about 45km off Cairns, last week.

The Wonga Beach based undersea explorer believes the vessel to be the SS Undine, a British clipper that set sail from Brisbane in 1873, bound for China, but was never seen again.

Shipwreck hunter Ben Cropp with anchor from mystery sailing vessel found at Sudbury Reef, off Cairns. Photo: Adam Cropp
Shipwreck hunter Ben Cropp with anchor from mystery sailing vessel found at Sudbury Reef, off Cairns. Photo: Adam Cropp

RELATED: BEN CROPP DISCOVERS NAPOLEON'S ESCAPE SHIP

 

Mr Cropp suspects the 800-tonne ship have become stricken at Sudbury Reef on its northbound journey along the Great Barrier Reef en route to the Orient.

"I initially did not consider the Undine, because of the size of the anchor," he said.

"But it just hit me, that there are no other anchors on the wreck, which means it was flipped.

"Wreckers may have come out from Cairns and grabbed all the other anchors, the bigger ones, but didn't take the smaller one because it was underwater.

"I would say this is a strong possibility it is the Undine."

Iron frame from mystery sailing vessel found at Sudbury Reef, off Cairns at a depth of 4m. Photo: Ben Cropp
Iron frame from mystery sailing vessel found at Sudbury Reef, off Cairns at a depth of 4m. Photo: Ben Cropp

 

Part of the iron frame, keel and anchor from the ship were located by Mr Cropp and his son Adam in about 3m of water.

The find has been reported to the Department of Environment and Science.

To confirm the true identity of the vessel, the remains of the ship will need to be surveyed, with any physical evidence from the boat compared with known maritime records.

Film maker and underwater explorer Ben Cropp. PICTURE: ANNA ROGERS
Film maker and underwater explorer Ben Cropp. PICTURE: ANNA ROGERS

Mr Cropp has laid claim to discovering more than 100 shipwrecks, including the HMS Pandora.

The former operator of the Port Douglas Shipwreck Museum, which shut down in the early-2000s, said his latest find off the Far North Queensland coastline showed there was a clear need for a maritime museum in the region.

"It needs to be in Cairns, because you need somewhere that is easily accessible for people," he said.

"The council has bought three properties, all in the CBD, for the arts.

"One of those would be perfect for a maritime museum."



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