Why it’s far too late to save historic SS Dicky wreck

Exposed wreck of cargo ship SS Dicky which grounded at Dicky Beach in 1893.
Exposed wreck of cargo ship SS Dicky which grounded at Dicky Beach in 1893. Chris McCormack

THE iconic wreck of the SS Dicky will most likely be gone in a year, a Sunshine Coast expert has warned.

Paul Seto, who has studied the wreck's history and written a book about it, says it's too late to save the piece of Coast history.

And he puts the blame squarely on the council for allowing the removal of a "significant amount" of the rusting hull during attempts to clean it up and improve safety.

The changes had caused the wreck to lose its "ship shape", which had protected it from significant wave damage since it became stranded on the beach in 1893.

"They took away a trailer-load of stuff," Mr Seto said.

"During their rust proofing and stabilising exercise they broke the ship's shape making the flow of water uneven, which has a major impact on the wreck."

A visitor to the Coast for 50 years, Mr Seto moved to Kings Beach eight years ago and said he was disappointed and saddened by the imminent loss of the wreck, which held significant historical value.

Paul Seto believes it is too late to save the wreck of the SS Dicky.
Paul Seto believes it is too late to save the wreck of the SS Dicky. Brett Wortman

Dicky Beach is the only recreational beach in the world to be named after a shipwreck. "I care about the Dicky from a historical, artistic, atmospheric and engineering point of view because it is special," Mr Seto said. "I love observing the pleasure of visitors (who) take photographs with smiles on their faces and the kids love it too.

"The on-going battle between those elements in council who see the wreck as a safety hazard and those in council, and within the tourist industries, who see it as a major asset, will soon be just an academic argument as most of the wreck, I predict, will be gone by the end of this year.

"It's very sad, but it's too late to do anything now and it can't be saved.

What's your view on possibly losing the SS Dicky wreck?

This poll ended on 11 March 2013.

It's a tragedy for the area - 13%

It's sad but it had to happen - 26%

More should have been down to prevent it - 21%

It's a rusty old boat - get over it - 39%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

"With proper care, it could have been around for another hundred years."

Mr Seto said the council and the State Government had failed to have the SS Dicky placed on the Australian National Ship Wreck Database and the damage done to the structure meant it no longer qualified.

"At no point in the council budgets has there been, to the best of my knowledge, any economic value placed on the SS Dicky wreck.

"Go onto the Dicky beach on any day and there are people taking photographs of this atmospheric and artistic object.

"There would be hundreds and hundreds of thousands of photo albums around the world, with Dicky photos, all with people talking to their friends about the wreck."

He believed the only hope was for the council to dig up the remains of the wreck and preserve it on land.

Caloundra councillor Tim Dwyer said while he wasn't involved in council changes to the wreck, he believed they would have been done with the best of intentions.

"Mr Seto may be right in saying council's efforts to preserve the Dicky have shortened its life - I am certainly no expert in that field and I respect where he's coming from," he said.

1985: Stranded.
1985: Stranded.

"I would be more than happy to look into what we can do because this is an important part of our history and once it's gone, it's gone forever.

"To me, the wreck has never been forgotten - I walk my son up there often."

The SS Dicky was an iron steamboat which ran aground in heavy seas on February 4, 1893.

The ship sailed from Rockhampton and as it arrived to clear Caloundra Head it met lashing rain and cyclonic winds.

Captain James Beattie was forced to beach the ship to avoid hitting the rocks off Moffat Beach.

It was refloated, but heavy seas turned it about and back onto the sand where it remains to this day.

The Marine Board of Queensland tribunal concluded Captain Beattie showed a lack of judgment in not successfully weathering Caloundra Head, for which his licence was suspended for three months.

Topics:  beach editors picks history preservation ss dicky wreck

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