Prince of Whales – Diving with Royalty

by Eric Simmons

Prince of Whales

Prince of Whales

Prince of Whales

Prince of Whales

Prince of Whales


It may be small and it may be shallow but don’t let that put you off exploring, it’s a great opportunity for photos and a taste of history.

Strangely enough one of the most significant vessels in New Zealand’s history lies on the bottom of the Marlborough Sounds in just four metres of water. The Prince of Wales was relegated to history in about 1941 and for some reason little is written about this vessel, in fact you can dredge the web for hours and only find a passing comment about the original immigrants who travelled on her. Despite the fact that she carried one of New Zealand’s first cargoes of frozen lamb to the home land, she lies all but forgotten in a sheltered bay peacefully rotting away after years of abuse. She was towed here as a hulk and stripped of anything of value then eventually blown up by commercial salvors.

If she was out in 20 metres of water I bet that it would be a popular dive site but I dare to say that very few people visit this wreck. Russell, Anne and I were out for a day’s diving and after a visit to Long Island Marine Reserve we decided it was a good opportunity to have a dive on her. The weather was still and frosty despite the forecast predicting it to deteriorate and the sea was like a sheet of glass. Surprisingly after all the storms of the previous weeks the visibility was around 15-20 metres, however I have always found that the viz is pretty good.

Thousands of spotted wrasse guard the bronze nails which once secured the planking together, a few conger eels have found themselves a safe haven amongst the remaining wooden decks and the odd small moki meanders through the wreckage. The three masts lie flat now but are still distinguishable from the rest of the debris. If you keep your eyes open there are usually a few stargazers in the sand. The more we fossicked around the more we found all her secrets hadn’t been divulged over the years that she has been raped and pillaged.

This is a great dive, it may be small and it may be shallow but don’t let that put you off exploring, it’s a great opportunity for photos and a taste of history.

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