The Wreck of the SS Ozone

The Wreck of the SS Ozone

All that remains of the SS Ozone are some twisted bits of metal roughly 50 metres offshore. It’s difficult to imagine the Ozone as she was in the late 1800s, when she was called ‘the greyhound of Port Phillip’, offering excursions for Melbournites looking to escape for the day. Today, many scuba divers living in and around Melbourne, know the SS Ozone as an easy shore dive. Located such a short walk off the beach at Indented Head, it’s a site often used for open water training dives due to its easy access and shallow depth. But for about 30 years, the Ozone was well-known across Melbourne.

In the late 1800s and early into the next century, it was a popular past time to spend the day on a steam ship travelling around Port Phillip Bay. Melbourne’s rich elite loved to catch these ships across the bay for their holidays in Sorrento, Portsea or Rye and soon companies were hiring out these ships for their annual company picnics.

The Ozone was built in 1886 near Glasgow in Scotland and was sailed to Australia via the Mediterranean Sea, through the Suez canal across the Indian Ocean and then down the east coast of Australia. The journey took three months. Personally I’m not sure that I’d be brave enough to undertake the journey… a mild excursion across the usually calm and protected waters of Port Phillip Bay would be quite nice in a paddle steamer, crossing the open ocean would be a completely different kettle of fish altogether.

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The Ozone was an impressive sight. She was painted green and white with bright orange funnels and when the sun started to fade, she was lit up with the new electric light. She had three decks with a dining room, a ladies salon and several bars. And she was fast – relatively speaking – with a top speed of 20 knots. In fact in 1888, the rival excursion companies held a race to see who had the fastest ship. The two contestants were the propeller driven Courier and the Ozone. The Ozone won easily but I’m not convinced about the moral victory, since she was stripped and cleaned to make her as fast as possible.

But her glory years didn’t last, as is the way of technology, bigger and faster ships soon made her obsolete and she was officially retired in 1918. Her fittings were sold for scrap in 1925 and her hull was sunk as a breakwater at Indented Head.

Some 90 years after she was sunk, there’s not much to see of the Ozone anymore; underwater you can see remains of the boilers and the paddle wheels, nestled in the sand. There’s plenty of fish and occasionally seals come around to play but the Ozone is almost gone. The memories of her steaming around the bay, lit up with the new electric light, are also fading. It would have been nice to see her in her prime… but it’s also nice to get to visit her wreck and she still offers a nice day out on Port Phillip bay.

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