Michael McFadyen's Scuba Diving - The Vanished Fleet of the Sydney Coastline
When Max Gleeson told me some time ago that he was writing another book, it did not take Einstein to figure out that it was going to be on shipwrecks. Max is a person whose almost single aim in life is to dive wrecks. He absolutely lives and breathes shipwrecks and is a wealth of knowledge on the topic. Every weekend he seems to be out diving the various wrecks off the Sydney coastline. The number of times I have encountered him above the wrecks of the SS Tuggerah and SS Undola I could not even count.
Launched at the 1993 Scuba Expo, Max's new book is entitled The Vanished Fleet of the Sydney Coastline. It covers 15 of the better known shipwrecks that have occurred off the Sydney and nearby coast from 1882 to 1955. As well as the two ships mentioned earlier, the book includes the wrecking of the Woniora, Royal Shepherd, Kelloe, Annie M Miller, Bombo, Birchgrove Park and Malabar. Virtually all of the "real" wrecks of the Sydney coastline that can still be dived are included as well as two ships that had (at that time) never been found (Myola - since found and Nemesis - not yet found).
The book goes into great detail about each ship, with details of their building, voyage to Australia, service history, how they were wrecked and names of the lost crews. Max has included some great trivia about the ships and wrecks, some of which is very obscure. For example, the Duckenfield (1889) and Royal Shepherd (1890) were both captained by the same person, Thomas Hunter. Another great tale is that one of only two survivors of the Tuggerah (1919) was Thorvald Thomsen. He was a regular crew member of the Myola which sank only six weeks earlier (he was not on it as he was in quarantine) and who almost 30 years later would be one of only two survivors of the Bombo (1949). He includes little known facts that some ships were requisitioned for use by the Navy in WWII (Bombo and Birchgrove Park) and even records when ships had minor incidents (eg, running aground).
Some of the evidence of the Marine Board of Inquiries into the loss of each vessel is included and this makes very interesting reading. As well, Max has unearthed some excellent historical photographs of the ships, including actual shots of the wreckings. Photos of crew and wharves complement the text and ship photographs. I know that he went far afield to find these photographs and the effort was certainly worth it. Last but not least, Max has included brief descriptions of the wrecks today and some excellent colour underwater photographs of the better features of the wrecks (Max is a former Australasian Underwater Photographer of the Year). These give divers a good idea of what the ships now look like.
All in all, this is a classy publication, with quality paper, printing and, more importantly, excellent writing. The simple and easy to follow text makes reading the stories of the ships, their crews and their wrecking extremely interesting. There is no "jargon" used and where a technical matter is discussed, it is explained for all to understand.
I can certainly recommend the The Vanished Fleet of the Sydney Coastline for not only divers, but for all persons interested in maritime heritage and the sea. Even perons from outside the Sydney area will find the stories of the ships and their wrecking fascinating. Do yourself a favour, get a copy today.
The Vanished Fleet of the Sydney Coastline by Max Gleeson, 1993, First Edition, published by Max Gleeson (ISBN 0 646 13671 2). Softcover, 168 pages, 23 full colour and 50 black and white photographs. Available for $20 (postage paid) from 51 Northcote Avenue, Caringbah, NSW, 2229 Australia, phone 61 2 9524 8077.
Reviewed by Michael McFadyen