Michael McFadyen - Devilfish Diving Services

The TSS Hall Caine was built in 1912 at Coopernook on the Manning River on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales. The new timber ship was almost 40 metres long and displaced 214 tons. Built by D. Sullivan, the Hall Caine was a coal powered steamship with twin engines.

A Photograph of
Sir Thomas Hall Caine

I presume that the ship was named after the famous English author, Sir Thomas Henry Hall Caine. Sir Thomas was born in 1853 in Runcorn, Cheshire, UK. He was trained as an architectural draughtsman, but became a journalist and gradually took up literary work. His novels, some of which were set in the Isle of Man, sold by the million, were made into plays and films, and were translated into many languages, It is surprising that today he is hardly known and that none of his books are currently in print. He wrote the famous novels The Manxman, The Christian (the first of his books to sell over a million copies, it was staged and twice filmed. ) and The Prodigal Son amongst many others. A number of other things were named after him, including the Hall Caine Airfield in West Ramsey.

He moved his residence permanently to the Isle of Man in 1895 and was elected to the Manx House of Keys in 1903. He was made a Knight of the British Empire in 1918, a Companion of Honour in 1922 and granted the Freedom of the Borough of Douglas in 1929. He was created an Officer of the Order of Leopold by the Belgian King in 1917. He died in his home at Greeba Castle in the Isle of Man on 31 August 1931.

It is not known why the ship was named after Sir Thomas.

The ship was used as a collier but at the moment I do not know any more.

The ship sank on 17 March 1937 off the northern side of Broken Bay but again, I am yet to find out more details.

The wreck was apparently known to fishers but was not revealed to scuba divers until 1976 when a fisher told Les Graham, owner of Terrigal Diving Centre. The fisher told Les that he pulled the bell to the surface one day when fishing (a bit hard to see how a fisher could catch the bell!). Corrosion had eaten away part of the name and the fisher called it the "alcaine" wreck. When Les later asked him what became of the bell, he said it lay around in his garage for a while and then he took it to the tip! When Les dived on the wreck the same year, he said that the timber had already rotted away. However, all the engine room gauges were still in place in front of the engines and on either side of the boiler there were pressure gauges galore. They all sat on the ends of copper piping and brass fittings, swaying in the surge. Because of the lack of actually seeing the bell, it was a while before the name of the wreck was known/worked out. Apparently the wreck became known to quite a number of divers on the Central Coast but for about five years, not one piece of the brass or one gauge was removed from the wreck. Then, the wreck was plundered and every gauge and "stealable" item was removed as was a great deal of the copper and brass.

Today the TSS Hall Caine lies in 45 metres of water off Bouddi National Park on the Central Coast. A GPS Reading of 33 32' 49'S 151 25' 20"E will put you near the wreck. There is normally a buoy on the wreck to make it easier to find. For more details, see GPS Page.

As you drop down the mooring to the wreck, the first part you see is the huge boiler which reaches up to 38 metres. The top of the boiler has some very nice sea fans of many different colours as well as some sponges and sea squirts. The mooring is attached to the port engine. The twin engines are quite large and there is a considerable amount of copper and brass in the area between the engines. The prop shafts can sometimes be seen but in October 1997 they were both under the sand. The large props have three blades, two of which can be seen. There is a good deal of fishing netting and ropes in this area.

Returning to the engine area, the boiler is a very interesting part to examine. You can see under the boiler which sits clear of the sand. There are some conger eels and large flatheads in this area. The front of the boiler has two large fireboxes. These are also home to some conger eels, at least three on my dive here. There are more in the boiler pipes. From here, swim forward and you will see a small winch and some unidentified circular ring-like objects which are also home to conger eels.

In front of here there are a couple of steel girders (possibly parts of a crane system?) but there is not much else.

This is a very compact wreck site, not even as big as the wreck of the TSS Wandra which it resembles in a number of ways. It is quite easy to explore the whole wreck in detail in one dive of about 14 or 15 minutes. Worth a dive every year or two.

As with other deep wrecks, you must be experienced and properly equipped before attempting to dive the TSS Hall Caine.

References:
 

  • Personal conversation with Les Graham, owner Terrigal Diving Centre, 11 October 1997
  • E-mail from Les Graham, owner Terrigal Diving Centre, 23 October 2000
  • Short Web Biography of Sir Thomas Hall Caine