Mini Maritime Adventure

Indiana Sarah - Sarah Ward inspecting a shipwreck at Pittwater, Australia

Sometimes life can be crazy! We are all so busy that it is often hard to juggle work and play. A while back, I was in exactly that situation. Packing up my life in preparation for the move to China, was a hard slog, and as a result, most of my time has been spent dealing with life admin – much of it behind a desk. Not ideal for someone with a keen sense of adventure. Something had to be done, and fast!

With that in mind, I charted a vessel, grabbed a buddy and off we went on a mini maritime adventure. I arranged the charter with Matt Hopkins from Scubamunkies, a dive centre on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. My buddy, photographer Michaela Skovranova, and I met Matt and dive boat, Munkie Magic, at the Careel Bay Marina. From there, it was just a short run out to the Valiant, our dive for the day.


The wreck of the Valiant is approximately one-kilometre off Palm Beach, in Sydney’s Northern Beaches. Originally a tug, Valiant was commissioned in 1945 by the then Ministry of Munitions. The ship was 22.5 metres long, 5.4 metres wide and had a displacement of 72 tons. Today, the wreck sits almost upright – with an increasing list to port – on a sandy seabed in 27 meters of water.

Valiant is not an historic shipwreck, and therefore not protected by the Historic Shipwrecks Act. The interesting thing however, for me at least, is the mystery that surrounds her whereabouts in the lead up to her loss. How and why she came to be where she is, is a captivating question that still needs an answer.

There are various reports about the ships whereabouts in the years leading up to that final tragic event. One report states that she was bought by a Sydney company and taken to Pittwater where she failed to pass survey and sank. A second report suggests she that she was instead sold in 1980.  During her passage to the new owner in Sydney, there was apparently a fire on board. Repairing the vessel was beyond the owner’s capabilities, so the ship was stripped and sunk. A third report says that in 1981, after a complicated series of events, Valiant was under tow to be scuttled, when the tow ropes broke and the it sank, approximately one-kilometre east of Barrenjoey Head. A fourth reports says Valiant sank in 1982 about half a kilometre off Palm Beach, while being towed to a burial at sea, whilst a fifth and final report says that when an explosive device was used to remove the prop, the ship started coming apart at the seams.


Regardless of how she came to be there (and there is clearly an opportunity for a burgeoning shipwreck detective to try to solve the mystery), Valiant is a nice, easy dive that’s light, bright and full of fish. If you wish, there is access in and around the engine room, cabins and crew quarters, however the usual warnings, disclaimers and safety measures apply for penetration dives.

I’ve certainly done some interesting things in my time, but I’ve always done them safely. The aim of any dive is always to come home safe and well, with you and your buddy in good working order, your camera and strobes still attached, with a head full of memories from a very special day. Thankfully, we did just that.

Sarah Ward Marine Archaeologist by Michaela Skovranova

If you would like to read more about the wreck, visit NSW Wrecks. Scott Willan generously shared his side-scan image of the site which I used above, and you can see more of those on his website.

If you want to see the wreck for yourself, you will have to go there! We didn’t have great viz, so there is much much to see here! Besides, it is an excuse to get wet, right?!

Photographs by Mishku.

About Sarah Ward

I’m Sarah Ward, a maritime archaeologist, commercial diver and factual presenter with 16 years experience, both in and out of the water. I’ve investigated sites ranging from the Bronze Age to the modern, across more than 20 countries. A Visiting Professor at Dalian Maritime University and MIT Ocean Discovery Fellow, I am on a mission to bring archaeology to a broader audience, helping people to connect with the past in a meaningful way.

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(c) Indiana Sarah 2019