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.
Wrecking And Her Watery Grave Until Today
After the fire, she was purchased and plans were made for her to be refitted as accommodation for tourists, or as a breakwater for a jetty in Picnic Bay by George Butler. He had the hull stripped and attempted to float the vessel to Magnetic Island’s Picnic Bay. But she was destined for neither of those, while en route she ran aground in Cockle Bay.
- Purchased: She Was Purchased To Be Accommodation For Tourists Or As A Breakwater for a Jetty
- Date: She Ran Aground in 1916
- Location: Cockle Bay
While she was no longer of any business interest, she did find a new use by the locals. They used her as a changing room when coming to swim around the wreck or collect the oysters that grew on her sides. She became something of a local tourist attraction in the 1920s
- Changing Room: She Became A Changing Room for Local Tourists
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.
"It is becoming less and less visible from the land as the mangroves encroach around the Cockle Bay area, so it is probably not even on a lot of people's radar, unfortunately."
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.
- 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.