Handpainted illustration of the ship SS Nemesis with 2 masts a smoking chimney between and red and blue maritime flags in foreground.

SS Nemesis disappeared in 1904

Credit: State Library of Victoria

For 120 years, the SS Nemesis lay in an unknown location at the bottom of the ocean. In 1904, the 73-metre steamship disappeared in a storm with the tragic loss of 32 lives onboard. No one knew where SS Nemesis was until modern technology shone light – and sound – on the shipwreck.

All that changed in May 2022 when a surveying company called Subsea came across the shipwreck. Subsea searched the ship with a submarine drone but they could not identify it. That’s when the marine archaeologists with Heritage NSW reached out to CSIRO.

Enter CSIRO research vessel RV Investigator. In September 2023, RV Investigator was sailing right past the shipwreck, so they stopped to investigate. First, the CSIRO team used multibeam echosounders to map the site in high resolution. Much like an echolocating bat, this technology sends out sound waves and listens for echoes to map the seabed below.

Next, the CSIRO team lowered underwater cameras to take pictures of the site. “Our visual inspection of the wreck using the drop camera showed some key structures were still intact and identifiable, including two of the ship’s anchors lying on the seafloor,” says Phil Vandenbossche, a CSIRO hydrographic surveyor.

Using this information, marine archaeologists identified the wreck as SS Nemesis. Australia’s coast is dotted with shipwrecks, but there are still many ships that were lost without a trace. With new technology and cooperation, how many more will we discover?

This picture of the shipwreck was made from echoes bouncing off the ocean floor!

Credit: CSIRO

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