Whales, Wildlife & Wilderness                                                                                                                                                 Pam & Wayne Osborn

Back In The Day - Old Stuff

The Light of the Age


Discovery & Salvage of a Cannon from “The Light of The Age”.


The three masted wooden barque “Light of The Age” ran aground on a reef near Port Phillip Heads in Southern Australia on January 16 1868.   She was inbound from Liverpool with 45 passengers and a cargo of slates, crockery and liquors.  One life was lost and the Captain was relieved of command for being drunk in command of the vessel during the voyage.  A further six lives including those of two salvage divers were lost during recovery of cargo.


On May 3 1976, this group of shipwreck tragics discovered an iron  cannon on the wreck.  As the site was subject to shifting sands and the cannon could easily be lost, we undertook salvage on the following day.  The cannon was lifted by air bags and secured to a boat waiting outside the surf line.  We then towed the cannon 5NM to a river estuary where it could be safely beached.  The cannon was placed in the care of the Geelong Harbour Trust Maritime Museum for restoration and eventual display.


Wayne is on the left. Beards were a vital diving accessory in the day.

Source: Wrecks in Australian Waters, Jack Loney 1978

The Loch Ard


Exploration and Recovery of a Bower Anchor from the “Loch Ard.”


The Loch Ard was a steel three masted clipper of 1624 tons carrying 54 passengers and crew from Gravesend, England to Melbourne, Australia.  Aboard were 18 immigrants and cargo, which included metals for the colony’s mint.


In the early hours of June 1 1878 the lookout saw cliffs emerge from the mist as the vessel neared the SE coast.  Both wind and current were adverse and efforts to wear ship were unsuccessful. Her spars struck the sheer cliffs of Mutton Bird Island (150 NM West of her intended destination) and she broke her back on a shallow reef and sank.


The only survivors  (the cabin boy and an immigrant doctor’s daughter) were swept into a narrow gorge.  On an unforgiving shoreline of vertical cliffs, its small sandy beach was the only safe haven for many miles.


A local diver discovered the wreck in 1967 it was subsequently partially looted for the salvage value of metals destined for the mint.


From my reading of historical accounts, it appeared the ship struck close to the Western tip of the island.  This proved to be so and I was fortunate to descend directly to wreck during my first dive in 1976.  We were favoured with mild winters in 1976 and 1977 resulting in relatively calm conditions on this exposed site and I was able to return for a number of visits.


The wreck lies close to the base of the island in 55 to 80 feet of water.  It is necessary for support boats to drop divers quickly near the cliffs and then retreat beyond the backwash, which is relatively vigorous even in mild seas.


I was interested in how the hull had collapsed on itself and from a number of dives in 1976 and 1977 I was able to compile a sketch plan showing disposition of the wreck.  Sea conditions usually limit visibility within a range of 2 to 8 feet and the plan was a very useful aid to underwater navigation.


In 1978 The State of Victoria formed the “Loch Ard Centenary Commemoration Committee” under the aegis of the History Advisory Council of Victoria and appointed Sir John Holland as Chairman.


I was known for my interest in the history and exploration of colonial era shipwrecks.  As I had spoken on and provided copies of my fieldwork on the Loch Ard, I was asked to join the expedition to locate and recover a suitable anchor to be preserved.


There was a bit of a sea was running during the first recovery dive in March 1978.   We had zero visibility and aborted the dive as the surge made it difficult to move around the wreck.


Visibility improved to 3-4 feet the next day and, from my sketches, I was able to identify and buoy a suitable anchor.  Lift bags were then dropped on the site, secured to the anchor and filled with air from SCUBA tanks. At the time this was the deepest anchor salvage in Victorian waters and was complicated by the anchor being well integrated into the substrate.


Through a radio call to the local police station, we had a crowbar delivered to the same gorge that sheltered the survivors and we took a small runabout in to pick it up.  I had the satisfaction of providing the final leverage, breaking it free and the anchor began an enthusiastic journey to the surface after 100 years of immersion.


It was towed to the small fishing hamlet of Port Campbell and left underwater to await the centenary celebrations.  The expedition members reconvened on June 1 and raised the anchor above water for the first time in 100 years. It underwent preservation at the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum and is now on display in the Port Campbell National Park.

Above water after 100 years, Loch Ard Anchor, Port Campbell Jetty, 1978.

Sinkhole Diving


Piccaninnie ponds - 1970's.


A favourite and spectacular fresh water sinkhole dive in the Mount Gambier region, SE Australia. Pam freediving in the right image. This is the open area of the sinkhole known as 'The Chasm.'




Piccaninnie Ponds


Top: Glenn Osborn in 'The Cathedral'. I remember this dive well as I flooded my Nikonos V and 15mm lens.


Below: Warning sign at 36.5 metres - the entrance to a feature known as the dog leg. A number of divers had died after becoming lost or tangled in these depths.

Not Just Another Duckpond


Piccaninnie ponds was closed to divers in 1985 and re-opened again in late 1988. Sportdiving published my article celebrating the re-opening in its April/May 1989 edition.

Shark Diving - Rangiroa 1989


A not very sucessful 'selfie' with grey reef sharks at Rangiroa in the Tuamotu Archipelago. The camera of the day was a Nikonos V with 15mm lens.

Shark Diving - Rangiroa 1989


I thought this young lady was tempting fate diving with sharks and a 'Fatal Attraction' t-shirt however all ended well. It became my opening paragraph for an article published in the travel section of the Weekend Australian in 1992.

Shark Diving - Rangiroa 1989


I can't recommend diving in a group like this. The sharks were much more polite than the gaggle of divers I had to contend with.

The Ghost Fleet of Chuuk Lagoon


Back in the day, 1990, we called it Truk Lagoon. It was the major base for the Japanese Navy in the South Pacific - Japan's 'Pacific Gilbraltar'. US forces sank 60 ships during 'Operation Hailstone' in February 1944.


The Age published my article on Truk in the travel section in November 1990.


The trip was memorable for another reason. I didn't take Pam. A mistake I have not repeated since.

The Gosei Maru

The Rio de Janeiro Maru

Kiyosumi Maru

A push bike in the hold of the Kiyosumi Maru.

Shinkoko Maru

Ship's telegraphs on the bridge. At 10,020 tons, the Shinkoko Maru was an oil tanker and the second largest vessel sunk.

Shinkoko Maru

Creature comforts, officers washroom.

Shinkoko Maru

Tiled bath

Shinkoko Maru

Operating theatre

Sankisan Maru

Not sure if this was a Toyoto or Isuzu but this truck never made it out of the hold when a bomb blew away the stern of the Sankisan Maru. A few miles still left on  the tyres though.

Sankisan Maru

Bullets that were never fired in anger. Sankisan Maru hold.

Left: Nippo Maru bridge

Right: Climbing the anchor line

Yamagiri Maru

Large callibre munitions in the hold.

I169 Submarine - Shinohara


One of the more poignant dives at Chuuk, this 105 metre submarine lies at 42 metres. With about 100 souls on board she crash dived during an air raid alarm. An air vent valve was either faulty or not secured and the control room was flooded.


Tapping was heard from inside the submarine for three days during rescue attempts. The submarine back brought to the surface but crashed back again and recovery was abandoned. All aboard perished.

I169 Submarine - Shinohara

A diver inspects the open aft hatchway on the Shinohara. The structure on the left is a support for the radio antenna.

I169 Submarine - Shinohara

A closed forward hatch near the conning tower.

Fujikawa Maru

Forward deck gun (4.7 inch).

The J Class Submarines

In 1919 mother England's generosity seemingly knew no bounds and colonial Australia was gifted 6 slightly used submarines. Unfortunately they were built under emergency conditions during WWI and whilst they had an unprecedented turn of speed with triple screws, reliability was an issue.


They were scrapped in 1923 and subsequently 5 were scuttled off Port Phillip Heads (Victoria,Australia) in 27 to 38 metres of water.


By the 1970's they were a mecca for SCUBA divers.

The J Class Submarines

Laying the anchor on the J1 submarine.

The J1 lies in 38 metres. Back in the day there were no funds for fancy gear like echo sounders and GPS hadn't arrived.


Our technique was to carefully line up shore transits and then grapple for the wreck. We occasionally missed but it's amazing  how effecient this was. Some mornings we had to wait for the fog to burn off to see the shoreline marks. Sometimes important trees would be cut down.


All this intelligence lived in a very important water-stained hand-written notebook. Now I could do it all on my iPad.

The J Class Submarines

Glenn Osborn poking around inside one of  the submarines. The left image shows the forward topedo tubes from inside the hull.

The J Class Submarines

The stern section is a little squeezy in parts. There have been diver fatalities in the submarines and caution should be used when penetrating the hulls. Even though the submarines are quite deep, rolling swells from Bass Strait can push you around and silting can be a problem.


We always tried to be out early and the first to dive.

The J Class Submarines

Paul Stewart on the bow and at the topedo tubes of one of the submarines. Water visibility was rarely kind in Bass Strait as can been seen from the green tinge.


Dacor torches were big back in the day. They had a sealed beam and took 'Big Jim' batteries. We have come a long way with LEDS.

Back in the Day 1974

Aqua Lung 72 CF steel tank, J Valve (no contents gauge), US Divers Aquarius regulator, capillary depth gauge, rudimentary buoyancy compensator (late addition), Voit mask and most importantly, full foot Turnbull Giant fins (I was told Ron Taylor used them). Unfortunately the suit was 3mm - my old surfing steamer - a bit cold for Bass Strait.