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Wreck of the MV Fairwind

Found near South West Rocks

MV Fairwind 2010 from Damien Siviero on Vimeo.

ABC TV: MV Fairwind Feature from Damien Siviero on Vimeo.

SMH 28 JUNE 1950 – Page 3.

MISSING SHIP – Land, Air Search.

MV Fairwind

An Army “Duck” last night was searching rugged country in the Macleay estuary area for the missing motor-ship “Fairwind” after a report that a plane had sighted a 200 ton vessel in the estuary on Monday.

Late last night the duck had found no trace of the Fairwind along the 12 miles of coastline from Hat Head to Smokey Cape, but will continue the search today.

In the meantime more wreckage believed to be from the Fairwind has been washed up along the coast from north of Nambuccca Heads to South West Rocks.


An Air Force plane unsuccessfully searched the Smoky Cape-Trial Bay area yesterday. Today the plane and duck will search around Jerseyville where a private plane reported a ship was aground on Monday.

Among wreckage found by the Army duck in its search last night was a second life boat from the Fairwind. It was between South West Rocks and the Macleay Entrance. No bodies or personal property were found. Other wreckage was reported along the coast yesterday. Another Lifeboat from the Fairwind was found on Monday.

Fairwind, a Navy vessel of about 300 tones have been used by the Papua and New Guinea Administration for two years for a fisheries survey. It left Port Moresby at 12.30pm on June `5 to return to Sydney. A message from the Fairwind last Friday stated that she was then hove-to off North Solitary Island and wanted to call at Coff’s Harbour for fuel.

The Wreck
The Wreck


The Minister for external Territories, Mr P.C. Spender gave the following list of the crew.
Captain A Campbell, of Kareela Road Cremorne.
Mr J. E. Wilson, First Officer, of Kurnell Road Cronulla.
Mr L.T. Myers, Chief Engineer, of Dellview Street Bondi.
Mr D Connelly, Technician and Deck Hand, of c/o Kotara Post Office Newcastle.
Mr Brightwell, Technician and Deck Hand, of Sydney
Twelve native of the Territory of Papua

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SMH 29 JUNE 1950 – Page 4



KEMPSEY, Wednesday.
Members of an Army “Duck” crew searching for the missing Navy Motor-ship Fairwind today found another lifeboat from the ship. It was found at Scott’s Head eight miles north of Macleay River entrance. The search was called off before the lifeboat was found will now be continued tomorrow.

Fairwind, with a crew of 17, left Port Moresby on June 15 for Sydney. She reported last Friday that she was hove to off North Solitary Island and wanted to call at Coff’s Harbour for fuel. Wreckage believed to be from the vessel has been washed up along the coast from north of Nambucca Heads to South West Rocks.


CANBERRA. Wednesday.
The Minister for External Territories, Mr P C Spender, said tonight it must be concluded that the Fairwind had foundered with all hands. An extensive aerial search had been made by the R.A.A.F. and Army Ducks and the Police had searched all the likely places along the coast in the Macleay River area, but no trace of the ship had been found.

Mr Spender expressed the deepest sympathy with the relatives of the crew, who he said, had done splendid work in Papua and New Guinea.

Captain A Campbell of Cremorne, Sydney was well known in the Territory, had been engaged in the shipping service between Australia and New Guinea for many years and for the past four years had given valuable assistance to the Territory Administration.

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SMH 30 JUNE 1950 – Page 4


Spender Moves On Fairwind.
The Minister for External Affairs, Mr P.C. Spender, last night ordered the search for the 250 ton motor ship Fairwind to be resumed. The ship had been officially listed as lost.

The search will be continued along the coast from Smokey Cape to Cape Byron and 150 miles out to sea. The Fairwind, with a crew of 17, left Port Moresby on June 15 for Sydney. She reported last Friday night that she was hove-to off North Solitary Island and wanted to put into Coff’s Harbour for fuel.

Wreckage believed to have been from the vessel has been washed up along the coast from north of Nambuccca Heads to South West Rocks.

It was decided to continue the search when another lifeboat from the Fairwind was found early yesterday eight miles north of the Macleay River.


Two R.A.A.F. Lincoln bombers yesterday failed to find the Fairwind. The planes swept the coast from

 Smokey Cape to Byron Bay and out to sea for 150 miles without seeing any sign of the vessel.

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SMH 3 JULY 1950 – Page 3


KEMPSEY, Sunday.
Army “Duck” crews searching for wreckage or survivors of the motor ship Fairwind, today were recalled to Kempsey. Three crews joined in the search last Wednesday, when a second lifeboat from the ship was found at Scott’s Head, eight miles north of the Macleay River entrance.

Fairwind, with a crew of 17, left Port Moresby on June 15 for Sydney. The ship was last heard of last Friday week, when she reported that she was hove-to off the North Solitary Island. The “duck” crews found various pieces of wreckage identified as coming from the Fairwind.

The distinctive superstructure
The distinctive superstructure

MSV 251

Type: Motor Store Lighter
Length: 120 feet
Beam: 24 feet
Draught: 9 feet
Launched: 19th February 1946
Builders: Tulloch’s Pty Ltd, Sydney
Machinery: Diesel


The order for the construction of MSL 251 and MSL 252 (later HMAS PALUMA) was first placed with Structural Engineering Company, WA, and subsequently transferred to the Newcastle State

 Dockyard. However, before completion the order was cancelled and the registered numbers were transferred to two similar lighters then under construction by Tulloch’s Pty Ltd for the Australian Army. The Army numbers of the vessel

s were AV 2074 and AV 2073. They were completed as MSL 251 and MSL 252 respectively.

MSL 251 was completed on 5th September 1946 and was placed in Reserve in October 1946. The vessel remained in Reserve until she was loaned free of charge to the Department of External Territories, as from 10th March 1948, for use in Papua New Guinea waters as a fisheries survey vessel. Before going into service in this role MSL 251 was converted for her new duties at the expense of the Department of External Territories.

The Department of External Territories named the vessel FAIRWIND. On 15th June 1950 FAIRWIND sailed from Port Moresby to Sydney. At the time it was under consideration to return the vessel to the RAN. She had a compliment of five Australian and twelve Papua New Guineans. A radio message on the 23rd June 1950 reported that the vessel has hove to off North Solitary Island, NSW, in very bad weather. Nothing further was heard from

 the FAIRWIND, which was lost with all hands, apparently in the area south of Smoky Cape, NSW. Wreckage was washed up at Nambucca Heads, but no bodies were recovered.

In accordance with one of the conditions of the loan, compensation for the loss of the vessel was paid to the Department of the Navy by the Department of External Territories.

From ADS Library

Title: Discovering the Fairwind

Like a red flag to a bull, it all started with Jon saying “We’ve got a wreck…but it’s deep!”. A few months later we were back at Fishrock Diver Centre with all the gear necessary to do 80-90m-ish dive on what was then just his word and a few lines on a depth sounder. After loading the boat and an anxious ride out, Al Deaderer (our skipper) dropped the pick and within seconds claimed we were locked in. Skeptical, we looked at each other and began

 to gear up.

Merv Maher (Nipper) and I jumped in first and were welcomed by crystal clear water, mild current and a clear run to the bottom. Little did we know that it would be the only time thus far that we’d get such perfect conditions. As I moved down the line and my eyes adjusted to the drop in light, I could just make out the forward and rear king posts that rise up from the bottom like footy goal posts. With some excitement I turned around at Nipper to acknowledge that we had indeed found a wreck and not a rusted fish trap or shipping container. His only response was “keep f%$king moving”, as by that stage the time was ticking and we were eating into our limited bottom time.

Once on the bottom it was straight into photo mode for me. With camera out I began taking

 stills of anything that could possibly identify the wreck. The bow and king posts were perfectly in tact, as were the twin props and rudder. The rear bridge and super structure has completely collapsed inwards leaving a mess of jumbled artifacts, including cooking implements and port holes. We found a stack of car-like batteries which gave us some indication of age, as did the absence of a boiler which meant she was likely powered by diesel engines.

Merv’s time was spent on the initial video efforts of the wreck but lighting issues meant we had to try that one again. After one lap of the wreck I got the signal that we were leaving so I packed things up and we began the 3 hour ascent back to the surface. On the way up we passed Tony Kean and Fil Gray, who we eagerly motioned to head on down.

With the first dive complete things got much harder; the weather took a turn for the worse and a decision was made to return to Sydney. With some photos of the wreck, a rough size and some indicators of age our trusty wreck expect Geoff Cook was able to provide us with the name MV Fairwind. Later photos of the vessel and additional information about location, structure and size is what have led us to the conclusion that the wreck is indeed that of the MV Fairwind. The identification was bitter sweet as with it came the news that 17 people had indeed lost their lives when the vessel sank in 1950.

Months passed before we could organise another trip to South West Rocks. Once we got back th

ere, “that damn current” proved it was in charge and forced us to call one dive after the descent was unmanageable. Over the following months repeated attempts to dive the wreck resulted in a blown gear box, lost anchors, more current and a lovely bounce dive to bottom on one or two attempts.

With some pressure to finalise the video and still photos for the project (I think I was the idiot to invite the ABC), we eventually got down for a second time gathering more still photos. Video proved the most difficult, but in the end persistent triumphed and we were able to capture a reasonably good initial video record of the wreck.

It goes without saying that the project would never have happened without the assistance and support of Jon at Fishrock Dive Centre. Both he and Al’s dedication of professionalism were tested on more than one occasion as we took over his shop and boats with our tec diving gear. For me, all that’s left now is to dive the wreck without a camera as I want to soak in the detail and get a good look at the site. Each time we dive it, something new appears and that next piece of information is uncovered. The ultimate prize still remains, as something that absolutely identifies the wreck as MV Fairwind is yet to be found.

Wreck Details:

Inspecting the wreck
Inspecting the wreck

Name: MV Fairwind (formerly MSL251)
Length: 120ft
Beam: 24ft
Draught: 9ft
Depth: 87m
Sunk: 1950

Damien Siviero


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