SS Oakland Wreck

The Oakland lies in 27meters of water north of Cabbage Tree Island and therefore is for Advanced Certified Divers only. The wreck of the Oakland has prolific fish life. Along the hull you can find squid eggs, eels colourful sponges, resident Blind, Wobbegong and Port Jackson Sharks as well as schools of Pomfrets and Squirrel Fish. Eel Catfish and Fortesque cover the surrounding sand with the odd Shovel Nosed and Fiddler Rayso Shark. Most times there are big schools of yellow tail scat above with visiting King Fish, Bonito, Taylor and Australian Salmon.


The SS Oakland was a coastal trader operating on the NSW coast. On the 26th May 1903, it was loaded in Newcastle with 300 tons of coal, 9 tons of flour and 10 tons of headstones to be transported north to the Clarence and Richmond Rivers. The headstones were the property of the only passenger on board – Thomas Gaites, monumental Mason of Newcastle. The wind was a moderate to strong southerly with a rising following sea. Jacobson had come on watch at 3 am, passing the Port Stephens Light at 3.15am. Shortly after this the vessel appeared to be listing to the port. Was it his imagination? His concern quickly amplified as the list became dramatically more apparent. Captain Slater had already woken and was discussing the problem with the First Mate in the cargo hold. Had the Cargo shifted causing the boat to lie dangerously on its side? The Captain ordered the vessel to be steered in the lee of Cabbage Tree Island, (the side sheltered from the weather). It was then decided to head for the safety of Port Stephens but it was too late. The vessel’s list was increasing at a dangerous rate. With the funnel almost in the sea, Olsen yelled “Are you going to leave her Captain?” He Replied “Yes, my lad save yourself, do the best you can.”Moments later it sank. The crew abandoned ship into a single life raft. Of the 18 persons on board only seven could fit. The others clung to the side in the Winter waters as they drifted towards Broughton Island. By the early morning the seas and winds strengthened and hypothermia began to take its toll. Seven survivors including Olsen were rescued the next morning by the “Bellinger” from Esmeralda Cove. (ref: "Shipwrecks, Storms and seamen of the NSW Coats", Max Gleeson)