Historical information

This photograph was taken close to the time of the wreck of the "Edinburgh Castle".

The “Edinburgh Castle”, three-masted iron barque, was built in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1863 by J.G. Lawrie. She was 53.7 meters long and weighed 627 tons. She was owned by shipping company T Skinner and Co and registered at Liverpool, England. She sailed from 1863 to 1885 along the trade route between Scotland, China, and Singapore.

In 1887 the Master, Captain J.B. Darling, sailed the “Edinburgh Castle” for its new owners Gifford & Nicholson from London to Warrnambool. Her cargo was 4,900 casks of cement for the construction of the new Warrnambool Breakwater. Over the three month journey, the ship met with rough weather and even a hurricane.

On January 15th 1888 the “Edinburgh Castle” approached Lady Bay where a welcoming crowd gathered. The Port’s relief Harbour Master, Pilot Carless took over to complete the docking. As he tried to guide her, the Lighthouse Keeper signalled that the ship was too close to shore. The pilot continued on his course, causing her to ‘miss stays’ (make an incorrect tack). The crew dropped anchors and tried to lighten the load by throwing some of the casks of cement overboard but this was to no avail, and she drifted sideways in calm waters, lodging in the sand. A distress signal was sent to the coastal steamer “Julia Percy”, which spent several hours trying to pull the stranded ship away, but it would not budge.

Those involved hoped to re-float the ship but efforts to save the vessel were useless. The captain and some crew stayed on board. When the weather became rough the rocket crew brought its lifesaving gear to the shore, ready to launch a line to the ship. The three men on board sent those onshore a message in a bottle to assure the on-lookers that they were quite comfortable to stay aboard. After a night of bad weather, the crew were glad to accept the rocket crew’s help and were in turn safely hauled to shore in a breeches buoy.

The ship broke up quickly. Very little of the cargo could be saved. A week later all that could be seen of her was the bow and some of the stern. The beach was littered with wreckage, including cement cask fragments, for weeks.

Ironically, on the morning after the ship ran aground, the very same “Edinburgh Castle” was offered for sale at an auction in Melbourne, billed as “a sound ship with all the fittings and in the best order.” The sale was completed before they heard the news that the ship was totally wrecked!

Over the decades the shifting sands concealed the wreck of “Edinburgh Castle”. However, in October 1985 two local divers, Peter Ronald and Colin Goodall discovered her near the Hopkins River mouth. Peter said in his book ‘Exploring Shipwrecks of Western Victoria’, “In the midst of this sand-cloud I could clearly see row after row of neatly stacked barrels”. He remarked, “I am privileged to have had at least a glimpse of one of Warrnambool's most significant wrecks.”

Some 15 – 17 ships are believed to have sunk in Lady Bay, but only two have been discovered on the seafloor; the “Edinburgh Castle” and the “La Bella”. Both wrecks are popular diving sites and are preserved as significant historical marine and marine archaeological sites.


The sailing ship “Edinburgh Castle” is of local and state and national significance. It is one of the only two shipwrecks discovered in Lady Bay, Warrnambool, out of the 15-17 shipwrecks in the bay.
The “Edinburgh Castle” is significant for being one of the largest vessels lost in the bay.
The significance of the wreck of the “Edinburgh Castle” was recognised by being listed on the Victorian Heritage Database VHR S209.
She was declared an Historic Shipwreck on 17th January 1989 under the Commonwealth Historic Shipwrecks Act (1976).
The “Edinburgh Castle” wreck is also significant for the connection of its cargo with the building of the Warrnambool Breakwater, also listed on the Victorian Heritage Database VHR H2024.
The “Edinburgh Castle” is included as one of the shipwrecks in Heritage Victoria’s Historic Shipwreck Trail on Victoria’s West Coast.

Physical description

Black and white photograph of the iron barque 'Edinburgh Castle' on breaking waves, land in the background. The ship was stranded and wrecked in Lady Bay, Warrnambool, on January 15th 1888. Figures are standing on deck. The masts are free from sails.