Mutton Bird Island, Loch Ard Gorge, east of Port Campbell

VHR Number


Date lost

01 Jun 1878

Year of construction


Official number



Statement of Significance

The Loch Ard is historically significant as one of Victoria and Australia's worst shipwreck tragedies. It is archaeologically significant for its remains of a large international passenger and cargo ship. It is highly educationally and recreationally significant as one of Victoria's most spectacular diving sites, and popular tourist sites in Port Campbell National Park.

Physical Description  
Construction Material Iron
Hull Details One bulkhead, cemented 1873, two decks
Propulsion Sail
Number of Masts 3
Length / Breadth / Depth 263.7 Feet / 38.3 Feet / 23.0 Feet
Builder Charles Connell and Co./ Barclay, Curdle & Co.
Built Date 1873
Built Port / Country Scotstoun, Glasgow / Scotland
Registration Number 101 of 1873
Registration Port / Country Glasgow / Scotland
The wreck of the 1693 ton iron clipper Loch Ard is one of Victoria's best known and tragic shipwrecks. Nearing the end of a voyage from Gravesend to Melbourne, the Loch Ard sank after striking Mutton Bird Island near Port Campbell in calm foggy weather and 52 of the 54 crew and passengers were lost. A nearby gorge into which the only two survivors, 18 year olds Tom Pearce and Eva Carmichael were able to get ashore is named Loch Ard Gorge. The Loch Ard's cargo included 2375 tons general cargo including copper and lead, building materials, bottled goods, marble fireplaces, gaslight fittings, railway iron, and exhibits destined for the 1880 International Exhibition, to mark the official opening of the Melbourne Exhibition Buildings in 1880. The famous majolica ware Minton Peacock which was to be the main exhibit was found floating in its packing case at the time of the wreck, and is currently on display in Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum. Contemporary salvage and pilfering of washed up cargo on beaches occurred, and one major salvage effort ended when the 90 ton PS Napier sank after striking rocks inside Port Campbell Bay. At the time of the Loch Ard's rediscovery in 1967 there was neither a maritime heritage agency nor historic shipwreck legislation in Victoria, and it fell to the Receiver of Wreck to manage the site under the provisions of the Commonwealth Navigation Act 1912. Legal issues were raised over ownership of the site as the great-great-granddaughter of Miller who bought the rights to the wreck in 1878, its finder, and salvaging divers competed for ownership rights and the saleable metal cargo. It was finally decided that all material recovered from the wreck should be lodged with the Receiver of Wreck until the legal owner(s) could be found. In 1969 the wreck was illegally blasted and a large quantity of material recovered. The Commonwealth Police became involved following friction between divers and reports of illegally salvaged goods being sold, and carried out raids resulting in fines. However over the next twenty years recreational divers continued to raise large quantities of cargo and ship's fittings. One of two located anchors was raised for the Loch Ard centenary year in 1978 by a consortium of dive groups. Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum divers recovered artefacts from the wreck to safeguard them from looters in 1980, with a permit from the Receiver of Wreck. In 1982 the site was gazetted as an historic shipwreck under the Commonwealth Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976, and the newly formed Maritime Archaeology Unit conducted rescue archaeology to recover loose artefact material. Between December 1985 and May 1988 fieldwork and a detailed site survey took place. Management issues included the dynamic and unstable nature of the large site, looting by divers and ongoing monitoring and enforcement of the site. In 1990 the site was again gazetted as an historic shipwreck as the 1982 gazettal was found to be invalid, the site declaration having preceded the actual declaration of Commonwealth Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976 in Victoria by four days. The result was that cases being prosecuted against looters were forced to be dropped. The Loch Ard site lies in 18-24 metres depth on the south-east tip of Mutton Bird Island, and is part of Victoria's Underwater Shipwreck Discovery Trail.
Voyage Details  
Date Lost 01 Jun 1878
Voyage from Gravesend to Melbourne
2375 tons general cargo, miscellaneous items including straw hats, umbrellas, perfumery, clay pipes, pianos, clocks confectionary, linen, candles; also industrial cargo including railway iron, cemebt, iron, lead and copper. Special cargo items: Minton porcelain peacock, Cremona violin in a brass case.
Owner General Shipping Co, managed by Aitkin, Lilburn and Co.
Master of Vessel Capt. George Gibb
Weather conditions
night, calm, mist
Cause of Loss
Ran into coastal cliffs after fog prevented navigational fixes being made
Further Details  
Number of Passengers 17
Comments on Passenger
conflicting data in newspaper sources, one source says 15 passengers
Number of Crew Members 37
Comments on Crew Members
conflicting data in newspaper sources, one source has 40 crew

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