With the continuing journey along the coast of Port Phillip Bay, we heard about a Paddle Steamer wreck just off the coast called The Ozone at a place called Indented Head, not far from Point Lonsdale, so of course, we had to check it out. We were very lucky in the fact that the sun had just decided to come out of hiding and the wind had dropped off, made for a fantastic morning. Technically not a real ship wreck in the sense of crashing and loss of life, it was actually abandoned after a failed attempt to scuttle the boat just past Indented Head.
Built near Glasgow, Ozone was 260ft in length, 28ft in width and 11.2ft in depth and was 572 tons gross, 241 tons net. She had a green hull, white superstructure topped by two orange funnels, three decks which contained a dining room, bars, a ladies’ salon and many luxuries, all of which were lit with the new electric light. The Ozone’s power plant was her direct-acting diagonal compound engines which were fuelled by six navy-type boilers. These drove its 21ft l0in paddle wheels at a speed of 20 knots.
The Ozone left the United Kingdom on 25 August, 1886, for its delivery voyage to Australia, under the command of Capt. John McLean. The voyage took the Ozone through the Mediterranean Sea, the Suez Canal, the Indian Ocean to Thursday Island, where she was quarantined. The final run to Melbourne was made along the eastern Australian coast. The Ozone completed her voyage on Friday 26 November 1886 to an enthusiastic welcome.
Her first commercial voyage took place in December of the same year. Ozone earned the name ‘The Greyhound of Port Phillip’ because of her speed. The era of the bay steamers was also the era of the trade picnics. A firm would charter the Ozone, or one of the other bay steamers, and the employees would enjoy a day on the bay. For many, especially the children, this was the highlight of the year. There was also competition between the rival ships and the companies which owned them. In 1888, the famous race on Port Phillip took place between the Bay Steamers Ltd. propeller-driven Courier and the paddle-driven Ozone. The Ozone was stripped, cleaned and put back into racing trim by her owners and easily beat the Courier. The following year, the return bout took place – this time the Courier was put into racing trim. As the expected race was just getting started, the Ozone glided to a halt, as its captain followed his orders and did not re-race his rival. The debate as to who won still continues.
The Ozone was involved in three major incidents in her long career. These came before the Marine Board of Inquiry. In 1889, she collided with the schooner Elfin and in 1890 there was a near miss with the Coogee. In 1894 the Ozone ran down the fishing vessel May.
With the arrival of the Hygeia in 1890, and the large and fast Weeroona in 1910, the Ozone’s decline began. There was not enough patronage for three big excursion steamers, and in 1918, the Ozone was withdrawn from service. In 1925 her fittings were put up for auction and the hull was sold to the firm of George and Hill for breaking up. Stripped of everything but the paddle wheels and boilers, the hulk was finally sold to Capt. W.G. Forbes to be sunk as a breakwater at Indented Head. The plan to sink it end on to the shore came unstuck when a fierce north easterly wind caused her to slew parallel to the shore and she stuck fast in shallow water. A few years after her scuttling, fire broke out and destroyed what was left of her. For many years, all that could be seen above the water were the tops of her three after boilers and her paddle wheels. These were used by many holidaying children as jumping and diving platforms during the summer months. Below the surface, her rusting remains provide an artificial reef for the many and varied fish to find a home in.
The Ozone is now a reef and a diving spot run by Maritime Archaeological Association of Victoria (MAAV). One diver, Peter Fuller has some great dive photos of the SS Ozone on his website, here & here. Here are some fabulous photos from Peter Fuller’s Blog (I have desperately been trying to get in contact with him to get his permission, but no luck. I Hope he doesn’t mind);
The Dominion, which is the other wreck at Indented head was scuttled here in 1925, was built in Canada in 1875.
The Dominion was a wooden barque and was towed into Melbourne from Fremantle in 1902. Licence to operate as a coal/wool lighter issued by Melbourne Harbor Trust to owners, Howard Smith & Co. Ltd. Renewed 1 June 1916. New owner Australian Steamships Ltd 25 January 1917 – licence renewed 12 February 1918. Captain Forbes purchased the hulk in 1925, together with paddle steamer Ozone, to act as breakwater for small craft. Scheme failed when vandals set fire to Dominion, and Ozone did not settle in correct position. Register closed November 1921. Originally a wool ship, then Newcastle coal hulk. Measurements: 199.9 Feet / 37.1 Feet / 24.4 Feet (Length / Breadth / Depth).
Unfortunately I could not find any images of The Dominion, nor much more information. There is a little more information on the history of the Indented Head area to be found here.
Well that’s it for this post. We will move further down the coast in my next Post.