The Scottish Prince was a 64m long steel-masted iron barque operated by the Shire Line. On February 3rd 1887, after a four month journey from Glasgow, the ship ran aground on a sand bar off Main Beach, Southport. The ship was bound for Brisbane and it was hoped that her cargo, which included beer and whisky, could be salvaged and reach its destination. However, the local population had its own plans for the precious cargo, which was looted before a salvage attempt could be made. Several days later the ship became a total wreck when a storm hit, sending it to the bottom in 11m of water.
Today the Scottish Prince is a historic shipwreck and a haven for marine life. I first dived this shipwreck almost 30 years ago and it hasn’t changed much over that time, but recent storms have uncovered more of the hull. There is no penetration on this wreck, making it very safe for divers of all levels, and the hull is basically open for inspection. The most prominent features are the bow and stern.
The bow sits proud of the bottom and is twisted to the right. This is the highest part of the ship, rising about 5m off the bottom. The stern is also twisted to the right, while the rest of the hull sits on a level keel. The hull is heavily encrusted with algae, soft corals and other growth, but it is possible to identify bollards, a winch, a donkey boiler, ribbing and plating. Off the northern side of the ship rests the masts and crows nest. Some of the ship’s cargo is visible in the hull area, including pipes, and every now and then a whiskey or beer bottle materialises out of the sand. As a protected historic site you can look, but don’t remove anything.
While exploring the wreck is fun, the main reason that the Scottish Prince is a wonderful dive site is the marine life. Resting on a sandy plain the wreck attracts marine life like a magnet. This ship is always covered in a thick school of yellowtail scad – millions of them swarm over the wreck blocking out the sunlight at times. Mixing with these fish are schools of silver batfish, bream, bullseyes and batfish. These in turn attract predators like trevally, kingfish, mackerel and even shags. Sitting at 10m and having a shag swim by is always an unexpected experience.
The Scottish Prince is also home to dozens of wobbegongs. Both spotted and ornate wobbegongs rest on the hull, under plates, in the mast or out on the sand. Brown-banded bamboo sharks and blind sharks also like to shelter in the nooks and crannies of the hull. Numerous reef fish call this shipwreck home including morwongs, wrasse, porcupinefish, pufferfish, blennies, angelfish, butterflyfish, sweetlips, scorpionfish, stonefish, gropers and moray eels. A number of rays visit the wreck, including spotted eagle rays, shovelnose rays, blue-spotted maskrays and blotched fantail rays.
A wonderful range of invertebrates also reside on the shipwreck; look for nudibranchs, flatworms, boxer shrimps, hermit crabs, octopus, squid and cowries. But it is the unexpected surprises that always excite me, as I have found eastern toadfish, juvenile yellow boxfish and leaf scorpionfish.
Visibility on the Scottish Prince varies from 6m to 20m plus and is always best after southerly winds. Only 800m offshore, the site can be surgy if there is a ground swell. A great dive year round, the Scottish Prince is one of the dive sites regularly visited by Gold Coast Dive Adventures. They operate a fast and comfortable inflatable dive boat from Runaway Bay Marina, and can be over the Scottish Prince only 15 minutes after leaving the Marina. Each weekend they offer double dives to the wonderful dive sites off the Gold Coast, and have been doing exploration to find new dive sites. The Scottish Prince is one of their most popular dive sites, and while it is done as a second dive, with its shallow depth you get plenty of bottom time to explore this spectacular dive site.
This Blog Post was written by Nigel Marsh and published in Divelog edition September 2018, Issue 362 and republished here for the ease of access and reference. For more information on Divelog and Nigel, see their website links below.
Nigel Marsh: nigelmarshphotography.com
More Information about the Scottish Prince Shipwreck
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