The Centurion Plaque

David Nutley far right at the back and Andrew Refshauge talking to the URG crew. We failed in our efforts to sign him up as a member!

David Nutley far right at the back and Andrew Refshauge talking to the URG crew. We failed in our efforts to sign him up as a member!

On December 10th 2004, the URG was present when the then Deputy Premier of NSW Andrew Refshauge unveiled a plaque on the Centurion wreck, which lies just inside the North Head in Sydney Harbour in about 19m. As soon as the ‘official proceedings’ were concluded, we were the first divers to see what was the first, and only Underwater Heritage Plaque ever put in place in New South Wales.

We dived the site in early February this year, and as I always do, took a scourer with me to clean off the marine growth so that the words were at least legible. I haven’t been there for several years, and I reckon very few people ever bother to do that particular bit of housekeeping.

Colin & Graham at the plinth

Colin & Graham at the plinth

As you can see in the accompanying photos, the first taken moments after the plaque was lowered into place, concretion has pretty-well covered all the concrete and the metal ring on the top used in the lowering process. The heavy concrete block has also collapsed sideways somewhat, due possibly to tidal and sand movements as well as possible subsidence of any buried wreckage onto which the plinth might have been placed.

I sent the photo, (taken in shocking viz) to David Nutley, the Maritime Archaeologist who was originally involved in having the plaque put in place. He also took part in an extensive survey of the site in 2003, and for those wanting to pursue this further, this survey report can be found at:

centurion-plaque-03I have printed David’s response to my email, as well as the response of Brad Duncan, the current Maritime Archaeologist with the Heritage Office. It’s a good thing we do, keeping the plaque legible, and occasionally reporting its condition to the HO. We, the URG should adopt it as an on-going thing. Someone has to do it, and it’s hardly a chore. It might also be interesting in the coming months to dive the site with a view to getting plenty of photos in order to get a feel for how the site might have changed since the 2003 survey. I have included the site plan from the survey of which I have a laminated copy and will take it on the next dive to assist in orientation on the site, especially if the viz is as bad as it as last time. For some reason I forgot it last time.

centurion-plaque-04I dived this wreck once with my daughter Sally; it was her first dive on a wreck and we had fantastic conditions. The general shape of the site was visible from not far below the surface and the plaque was visible from nearly all the site, standing well proud of the bottom as it does. We spent lots of time fanning the sand away from the timber decking (see site plan), naturally, making sure to re-cover it before we left!

From David Nutley

Thanks Colin – and for the update on the Centurion. I visited 12 months after setting it down but had not heard of any ongoing condition report. It is fantastic that you guys are maintaining it. Tim of course in now in Victoria and I don’t have an email for him. Brad Duncan however would be very interested in your activity and your update on its condition.

Best regards,

From Brad Duncan

Hi Colin,

Many thanks for these shots and particularly for undertaking the cleanup of the plaque every time you visit it. We rely heaps on people like yourselves to undertake this type of work (with a current maritime staff of only one – ie me), we don’t get out to as many sites as I would like.

If you have any observations of how the site has changed, then I would be very interested to hear about them, so I can include it in our records. There was no email history attached to your email, but I assume it was David Nutley that you are referring to?

Anyway, many thanks for the photos and for the cleanup – it is much appreciated! Hope we cross paths in person sometime soon!


This article originally appeared in March 2014 bulletin – [ddownload id=”283″]