Porpoise & Cato Survey

Wreck Reef, 2009

In December 2009 the Foundation sponsored an expedition to Wreck Reef in the Coral Sea. Wreck Reef is a very remote and pristine series of reefs and sand cays some 450km off the Queensland coast where Matthew Flinders was wrecked in 1803 with his two ships the Porpoise and the Cato.

Led by maritime archaeologists from the National Maritime Museum supported by the Foundation’s volunteer diving team, the principle objectives of the Expedition were to:

  • Locate and identify all shipwreck sites on Porpoise Cay and its surrounding reefs.
  • Survey and assess any associated land sites – with an emphasis on geological and botanical features (possible remnants of Flinders’ lost geological and botanical collection)
  • Survey and assess the lagoon to the north of Porpoise Cay for associated shipwreck material possible associated with a pre-1803 shipwreck found by Flinders’ men in 1803.
  • Survey and assess Bird Islet land and its associated underwater sites.
  • Survey, locate and if possible identify the shipwreck material located on the southern and northern edges of Hope Cay and
  • Carry out a coral bleaching and marine biota assessment of Wreck Reefs with the assistance of marine biologists from the Sydney Institute of Marine Science.

The expedition was a great success with the original wreck of the Porpoise being visited, the location of the wreck of the Cato being confirmed, a visit to the site of the wreck of the Mahaica, originally misidentified as the Cato, and a general survey of most of the other reefs in the Wreck Reef system.