One of the most unusual wrecks in the world must be the SS City of Adelaide just off the coast of Magnetic Island by Townsville in northern Queensland. She is perhaps the most striking of the shipwrecks in the region (there are around 20 shipwrecks clustered around the island). She is located just 300 meters (yards) offshore and at low tide, it is even possible to wade out to the decaying wreck.

She is a wreck that everyone can get to see - unlike some wrecks like the ghost fleet that was sunken in nuclear testing at Bikini Atoll (it is possible to dive them today). The SS City of Adelaide is also located close to Australia's world-famous Great Barrier Reef - one of the great natural wonders of the world that everyone really must see.


The History and Service of The SS City of Adelaide

She was a steamship built for the Australasian Steam Navigation Company (she was built before Australia existed as a united country - like the 13 Colonies before Federation).

She ran a regular passenger service to several destinations. The destinations included Melbourne, Sydney, Honolulu, and San Francisco. She served in her role as a passenger ship for many years before she was eventually converted to a coal storage vessel in 1902.

  • Length: 80 Meters
  • Built: In 1864 In Glasgow, Scotland
  • Role: Passenger Ship Later Converted For Coal Storage
  • Caught Fire: She Caught Fire And Burned For a Couple Days

She was reconfigured and her boilers were removed. She was given a four-masted barque in 1890. When she was under sail, she was likened to a graceful bird in flight - although that may be hard to picture looking at her tree-covered wreckage today.

But disaster struck in 1912 when her coal caught fire and she burned for two days. Incredibly the fire didn't completely destroy the ship.

Related: A Shocking Comparison: 5 Photos Of The Great Barrier Reef 10 Years Ago & 5 Of It Today

Wrecking And Her Watery Grave Until Today

During World War Two a fighter plane somehow crashed into her rear mast on a training exercise. Four servicemen were killed in the incident (three were Australians and one American). They were participating in a coordinated mock torpedo attack on Townsville Harbour in 1942.

  • Fighter Plane Crash: A WW2 Plane Crash Into The Wreck In WW2

She suffered extensive damage to her hull in 1971 during Cyclone Althea. The Cyclone caused the partial collapse of part of the wreck’s iron hull.

  • Cyclone Althea: Significantly Damaged Her in 1971

When she was wrecked it wasn't a big news story. She was already stricken and there was no loss of like (unlike the more famous Yongala). As time goes on she is becoming even less visible from the land.

Visiting And Other Shipwrecks Around Magnetic Island

Today she has become an artificial island and hosts a variety of plant and birdlife. She is one of the most unique and unusual attractions in Australia.

  • Coordinates: 19.174842°S 146.825471°E
  • Cluster of Wrecks: The SS City of Adelaide Is One of A Cluster of Wrecks Around The Island

The SS City of Adelaide is located around 70 kilometers (40 miles) north of the wreck of the Yongala (one of the world's top dive sites). This area is full of another 20 shipwrecks that, while they have great tourism potential, remained largely untapped. Today more effort is being taken to advertise these wrecks and boost tourism.

Several of the wrecks around Magnetic Island are so close to the shore, that one doesn't even need to be a diver to see them. This part of Australia has been infamous for its shallow water and its cyclone-prone weather.

Next: Japan's Truk Lagoon is Home To An Extraordinary Number Of Wartime Wrecks, Still Visible Today