Shipwrecks – suspicious or scuttled?
Magnetic Island is home to at least 20 shipwrecks, many of which now form part of a ‘Shipwreck Trail’ that avid tourists can take around the island by boat or view the history of at the Magnetic Island History & Craft Centre & Magnetic Museum.
While pirates and treasure chests are yet to be spotted, some of the shipwrecks can be seen when snorkelling and scuba diving, but can also be viewed when the tide is low. However, some remain lost to the legend – if you’d care to believe it.
While some wrecks were true disasters, some were purposely ‘scuttled’ around the island to assist in providing breakwaters in the surrounding bays.
Many of the shipwrecks date back to the 1800s, such as 1863's SS City of Adelaide, a passenger ship making its way from Glasgow, Scotland.
In 1912, after being converted into a cargo vessel, it was gutted by fire and was set to be scuttled in Magnetic Island’s Picnic Bay. However, it ran aground off the Island’s Cockle Bay, where it has since laid.
In 1942, it was used as target practice for the Royal Australian Air Force, where three officers and a US Navy Officer lost their lives after their aircraft struck a mast of the ship wreckage.
These days, the SS City of Adelaide is a tourist hotspot, and has been used as everything from a snorkeller’s haven or sunbaker’s bathhouse to a trekker’s and tourist's paradise.
That said, there are many other stories aboard the shipwreck trail, whether cursed or simply conspiracy.
In 1891, the SS Motke ran aground, not once, but twice, again in 1895. By 1911, it was purchased to be used as breakwater, but more mishaps were afoot, from a hole blown in the side to US Air Force injuries. It is now submerged, lost at sea without a paddle, and is only accessible by experienced divers off the coast of Magnetic Island’s Geoffrey Bay.
In 1896, the Presto sank after Cyclone Sigma smashed her into the Townsville Breakwater, while the Lavinia got dragged ashore to Hawking Point, killing a member of the crew.
Were magnetic forces at work? Or was this simply a run of bad luck?