Bleak Scenes

Abandoned places, lesser-known attractions, and assorted oddities

HMAS Parramatta

HMAS Parramatta was the first ship to be launched for the Royal Australian Navy. She was a 'River' Class torpedo boat destroyer, built at Govan, Scotland and launched on 9 February 1910. You can read about the history of the ship here and here.

In 1934, when the hulk of the Parramatta was being towed down the Hawkesbury River to be scrapped, it broke free and ran aground on the north bank of the river, where it has remained ever since.

I visited the wreck several times in 2015. The shore behind the wreck is surrounded by steep sandstone cliffs and dense bushland, so it would be difficult to reach on foot, especially while carrying photographic equipment. Instead I drove to the boat ramp at Mooney Mooney Point, about four kilometres downriver, and paddled to the Parramatta in my kayak.

At high tide the water is deep enough to paddle a kayak all the way around the wreck, only slightly impeded by mangroves. At low tide the wreck is completely above water, but surrounded by a mudbank. The mud on the landward side was sufficiently firm for me to walk the length of the wreck without much difficulty. The mud on the starboard side on the other hand was so deep that I couldn't get far before the mud reached the top of my knee-length rubber boots.

On one of my first visits I arrived near high tide, paddled to the rocky shoreline near the wreck, and lifted my kayak onto the rocks so that it wouldn't float away. The tide went out as I explored the wreck, so when it was time to leave, a wide expanse of mud separated the kayak from the water. I could only push it a short distance before the mud got too deep for my boots, so I was forced to sit on top and push through the mud with my feed and paddle until I eventually reached the water. It's easier to go ashore away from the mudbank and walk to the wreck.

Most of the bow and stern of HMAS Parramatta were removed in the 1970's so that they could be used as memorials. Apart from the bow, the forward part of the ship is reasonably intact up to the original deck level. I didn't see a safe way to enter this part of the ship without a ladder, so unfortunately I couldn't explore the interior. I might have been able to climb up what was left of the side plating in front of the forward bulkhead, but considering the ghastly consequences of falling onto the jagged, rusting steel below, I didn't want to risk it.

Apart from the forward section, most of the hull has been cut down roughly to the original waterline. The steel was clearly cut with torches rather than simply corroding away. Most of the side plating is gone, but some pieces have been left lying loose on top of the remains of the hull. I have not been able to find any information about when this was done, or by whom. I can only guess that someone started scrapping the wreck, but never finished the job for some reason.

What remains of the hull is heavily corroded, especially around the waterline. The partially oxidized steel resembles colourful, brittle stone, and I thought it looked rather beautiful. At high tide the water flows freely through the wreck, so the interior is permanently covered in mud. The hull contained a lot of assorted junk and debris, most of which looked like it wasn't originally part of the ship's equipment.

I thoroughly explored and photographed the entire wreck, apart from the inaccessible forward section. Most of it wasn't particularly dangerous, as I could just walk along the bottom of the hull. In a few places I had to climb over the heavily corroded remains of what had once been internal decks. I did this with extreme care, staying above steel girders which were still in decent condition. I managed to complete my exploration without injury, but I would advise others to be very careful. The condition of the ship will only get worse with the passage of time.