Snorkelling the Omeo Shipwreck

Camouflaging octopus

small group of Nats Club members gathered on a clear but breezy
Sunday morning to explore one of Perth’s most popular dive spots,
the Omeo shipwreck in Coogee.

The remains of the bow of the Omeo jutting above the water.

The Omeo had quite a varied service history, serving as an iron steamship, a passenger and cargo carrier, transporting materials for telegraph lines and as a coal hulk. In 1905, after it was considered redundant it broke free of its moorings and ran aground, beyond the point of recovery. The wreck now sits approximately 40m off the coast in water 2-4m deep and is the focal point of an easily accessible dive trail.

What is left of the bow of the Omeo. Photo J. Keeble.

Personally, I haven’t been snorkelling since I was a child (and even then, mostly just playing in a swimming pool) so I didn’t really know what, if anything, I was going to see. I was surprised and delighted to immediately see many fish darting about the sea grass as soon as I put my face into the water. Approaching the wreck, I could see it was covered in many forms of invertebrate creatures and algae which provided shelter and food for fish of many shapes, colours and sizes. One keen-eyed member of the group spotted an octopus well camouflaged amongst the reef, only giving away its position by the flash of orange as it repositioned its tentacles anytime someone dived nearby. Several small schools of Western Striped Grunters (Pelates octolineatus) were visibly nibbling at the patches of kelp as other species stayed close to sheltered area of the artificial reef structures.

Western Striped Grunter
Western Striped Grunter or Trumpeteer (Pelates octolineatus). Photo J. Keeble

As someone experiencing this world for the first time, I couldn’t identify much of what I was seeing. However, after we’d all exited the water and dried off, the group reconvened at a nearby café to discuss what had been seen and to look through the guidebooks. Some of the identified sightings include Old Wives (Enoplosus armatus), a school of glassfish, wrasses, tube worms, sea stars, sea tulips.

Overall it was a successful dive and, as a novice, I appreciated having some more experienced hands nearby to help me to appreciate what I was seeing. If anyone is interested in trying snorkelling then I strongly encourage you to keep an eye out for the next Naturalists’ snorkelling excursion and join in.

Steve Lofthouse

Bivalves covered in sponges
Sponges growing over bivalves, possibly scallops. Photo J. Keeble