This area is now commonly known as the Shipwreck Coast, and although the seas are wild at times, many excellent dive sites can be explored in calm weather.
Shore dives access shallow rocky reefs, with sizeable populations of reef fish and invertebrates. The shipwrecks and reefs are all dived by boat, when conditions allow.
One of the most spectacular drives in Australia is along Victorias Great Ocean Road. The scenery along this stretch of coastline is breathtaking, towering cliffs, deep gorges, incredible rock pinnacles and weathered carved arches. This section of coastline was a danger to early mariners, and many a fine ship was lost after being driven into the cliffs by wild seas. Around Port Campbell are some of the areas most famous landmarks, such as the Twelve Apostles, the Arch, the Grotto and the London Bridge (now collapsed). ( photo: Neville Coleman)
This area is now commonly known as the Shipwreck Coast, and although the seas are wild at times, many excellent dive sites can be explored in calm weather. Shore dives access shallow rocky reefs, with sizeable populations of reef fish and invertebrates. The shipwrecks and reefs can be dived by boat, when conditions allow.
The southern Rock Lobster Jasus edwardsii seems to thrive in the most exposed and rough areas of the coast. ( photo: Neville Coleman)
Port Campbell is a popular holiday area, and offers a good range of accommodation. Visit the Loch Ard Shipwreck Museum, which displays many fascinating items salvaged from the shipwreck.
Loch Ard Shipwreck
Built in 1873, the iron barque Loch Ard was on her fifth voyage to Australia when she went aground on the rocky shore of Mutton Bird Island. The 80 m-long ship was discovered by divers in 1967, and has since been declared a historic shipwreck. The wreck is scattered in depths from 10-24 m. The bow can be identified, lying on its port side. Pressed up against a rock wall, the hull can be penetrated to see the remains of her cargo, lead ingots, copper rods, railway iron, bottles, tiles, cutlery, crockery, even the bilge pump and plenty of reef fish and rock lobsters.
A common inhabitant of the southern coastline the Moluccen Ascidian Clavelina moluccensis is found all around Australia and is also disributed throughout the Indo – Pacific. ( photo: Neville Coleman)
The Falls of Halladale Shipwreck
After running aground at full speed in 1908, The Falls of Halladale became quite a tourist attraction. Although abandoned, her sails were fully set for two months before she started to break up. Today the wreck is found in 12 m of water, and is a very interesting dive. The iron hull and the cargo of slate are distinguishable, and the bow and rudder still stand upright off the bottom. There is much to see around the kelp-covered site, and since this is an historic shipwreck, no items should be handled or removed.
Only seen out in the open on very overcast days , in the late afternoon, or at night, the red Snapper Centroberyx gerrardi can be seen around shallow water reefs and is trawled down to depths of 300 metres. It has very characteristic features and is easily recognised. ( photo: Neville Coleman)
The 83 m-long Schomberg was a wooden-hulled clipper ship that sank in 1855, on its maiden voyage from England to Australia. The remains lie scattered in 3-8 m of water, and although much of the wooden hull is gone, you will see hundreds of railway irons.
The White – striped Sea Anemone Anthothoe albocincta can often be darker in colour in Victorian waters. At the top of this image it can be seen why the name refers to its stripes.
( photo: Neville Coleman)
The scattered remains of the Fiji lie in only 3-6 m of water. After running aground at Moonlight Head in 1891, the Fiji quickly broke up in heavy seas. You can still see part of the hull, the rolls of wire that were her cargo, and other artefacts such as toys, porcelain and china.
Looking for all the world like a plastic 'make believe' sea star, the Southern Biscuit Star Tosia australis appears in an amazing number of colours and colour combinations. It inhabits both exosed and sheltered habitats and grows to 70 mm. ( photo: Neville Coleman)
Many other historic shipwrecks in the area can be dived if conditions allow. These include the Newfield, Lydia, Children, Antares and Napier. To dive protected shipwrecks such as Loch Ard and Schomberg, a permit is required, so contact the dive shops for details.
Peterborough, 15 km west of Port Campbell, probably has the best shore diving access. The shallow reefs and bays have a thick coverage of kelp and other seaweeds. The many small ledges and caves are lined with gorgonians, sponges and zoanthids, and are occupied by rock lobsters, sea stars and other invertebrates. Common fish life includes leatherjackets, boxfish, wrasse, morwong, perch, wobbegongs, Port Jackson sharks, blue devilfish and the occasional conger eel.
Common along the southern coast in Spring and Summer, Vercos Tambja Tambja verconis feeds on tufts of the Blue- green bryozoan Bugula dentata.
( photo: Neville Coleman)
Hundreds of hidden reefs are located off this section of coastline. Depths vary from 15-25 m, and the terrain consists of gutters, caves, ledges and pinnacles. Pretty sponge gardens and fields of kelp cover the bottom. Divers usually see Port Jackson sharks, pike, sweep, morwong, boarfish, rock lobsters, snapper, leatherjackets, perch, ling cod and an interesting variety of invertebrate life.
For those after something a little different, Lake Purrumbete lies 50 km north of Port Campbell. A variety of fish, eels, tortoises and yabbies (freshwater lobsters) are found in this clear, freshwater lake.
Neville Coleman's diving expeditions, fauna surveys, photographic fauna surveys and marine life identification courses include every major group of marine life.
Neville Coleman's expertise in marine life identification extends to the identification of Algae, Sea Grass, Forams, Sponges, Stony Corals, Soft Corals, Sea Anemones, Sea Jellies, Zoanthids, Corallimorphs, Black Corals, Flatworms, Segmented Worms, Crustaceans, Barnacles, Shrimps, Rock Lobsters, Hermit Crabs, Squat Lobsters, Molluscs, Chitons, Univalves, Bivalves, Cephalopods, Octopus, Cuttlefish, Squid, Opisthobranchs, Nudibranchs, Sea Slugs, Bryozoans, Sea Mosses, Echinoderms, Sea Stars, Feather Stars, Brittle Stars, Sea Urchins, Sea Cucumbers, Ascidians/Sea Squirts, Marine Fish, Sharks and Marine Mammals, all found in the waters around Port Campbell.
( Copyright Neville Coleman/Nigel Marsh)