Shipwrecks of Homebush Bay


While browsing the internet recently, researching our August speaker, I came across an article by Cleo Braithwaite, who said:  There is a floating forest growing out of a shipwreck in Homebush Bay.  That was what the internet told me the other day.  I was perusing pictures of the Most Amazing Shipwrecks in the World, looking at the rust heaps in the rest of the world’s backyards, when it turned out wrecks can be found in our very own backyard.  Or at least in a heavy metal-tainted bend of the Parramatta River.

SS Mortlake Bank

The most impressive is the wreck of SS Ayrfield – now home to a healthy hull full of mangrove swamp (the “forest”). The inherent creepiness of shipwrecks is lessened a little here – knowing that they were retired, as opposed to the dramatic end scenes that play out in your head when you look at wrecks that happened out at sea. Also, it’s harder for something to seem too creepy when surrounded by legoland apartments and looking across the water to a monolithic IKEA.

Come stormy skies and dark water these scenes get moody and along with sunrise/sunset, with good reason it’s a popular location for photographers.

How many of we locals knew of this?

Gregory Blaxell's book, The River: Sydney Cove to Parramatta, tells us more about them.

There are a number of shipwrecks still visible in Homebush Bay, including the wrecks of colliers Ayrfield and Mortlake Bank, the tug Heroic, the steel boom defence vessel HMAS Karangi and several barges, dredges and lighters. These wrecks are the remnants of the former use of Homebush Bay as a ship-breaking yard. The wrecks can be viewed from the shore from Bennelong Road at Homebush Bay and Bicentennial Park.

HMAS Karangi was built at the Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Co.Ltd. and launched in 1941. It was one of the four boom working vessels, including the Kangaroo, Koala, Kookaburra and Karangi built at Cockatoo Island during WWII for the Royal Australian Navy.   All four ships assisted in laying defence of Darwin and were there for the first Japanese bombing raid on 19 February 1942. HMAS Karangi was stationed at Darwin until 1943 and in the 1950s it was present at the British atomic tests at the Monte Bello Island. The ship was partially scrapped in 1966 and the remains removed to Homebush Bay for breaking up.

The SS Heroic was a tugboat built in the UK in 1924 and brought to Australia in 1934 where it operated between Hexham and Mortlake, transporting coal to the Mortlake Gasworks of the AGL Company. The SS Ayrfield (originally the SS Corrimal) was built in the UK in 1911 and purchased by the Commonwealth Government and used to transport supplies to American troops stationed in the Pacific region during WWII

Make a note to come along to our museum on Saturday, 5th August at 2:00 pm. to hear Betty Candy tell us more of the history of these wrecks.  See Guest Speakers for full details

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