Centurion | NSW Environment & Heritage

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The Centurion forms one of the most interesting shipwreck dives in Sydney Harbour. 

The vessel, owned by George Thompson was departing Sydney under tow for Honolulu when it got into difficulties at the Heads.   Another steamer was moored in the channel, and in the attempt to pass around it, Centurion bumped against the rocks at The Old Mans Hat on North Head.  Recovering from the shore, Centurion drifted back into the harbour and sank in 18 meters of water.  Today the remains include a substantial portion of the hull (buried), deck frames, sections of the masts, anchor chain and other fastenings.

The Centurion was built as a magnificent timber clipper ship, later transformed to a barque rig, square-rigged on two masts.  With a length of 63 meters and tonnage of 1004 tons gross, the vessel had been built in Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1869 for the Aberdeen White Star Line.  Centurion was built in the famous Aberdeen shipyard of Walter Hood & Sons, that also built the Fame, Queen of Nations and Walter Hood, all wrecked in NSW.  Towards the end of its life, the passenger and cargo carrier served as a collier. 

Depth of site ~19m.

Download NSW Heritage Office Information Sheet (427kb PDF file)

Download NSW Heritage Office archaeological survey report. (1.25mb PDF file)

photo: Lithograph showing the initial grounding on
Lithograph showing the initial grounding on "the Old Mans Hat". Courtesy: State Reference Library, State Library of New South Wales.
photo: Fish gathering around part of a mast. Photographer: Mark Spencer.
Fish gathering around part of a mast. Photographer: Mark Spencer.

File:Archaeological report 2004 including significance assessment and management recommendations.


Site information

Site ID: 1933
Type: Barque Construction: Composite
Primary industry: Transport Sub-industry: cargo - international
Gross tonnage: 1004 Net tonnage: 965
Length (mtrs): 63.42 Beam (mtrs): 10.66
Draft (mtrs): 6.400 Cargo: Coal, 400 tons
Engine: NA
Country built: UNITED KINGDOM State built:
Port built: Aberdeen builder: Walter Hood & Sons
Port registered: Aberdeen When built: 1869
Registration number: Official number: 60692
Sources: Lloyds Survey Report 1869 SMH 17/1/1887
Comments: The site lies in 18-19 metres of water.

Lost event

When lost: 1887/01/16 Where lost: Sydney Harbour, North Head, Cannae Point inside
Wrecked/Refloated: Wrecked Sinking: Avoiding collision
From port: Sydney To port: Honolulu
Master: Captain Taylor Owner: George Thompson & Co
Crew: Passengers:
Crew deaths: 0 Passenger deaths: 0
Total deaths: 0


Maximum latitude: 33.81761111 Minimum latitude:
Maximum longitude: 151.2810556 Minimum longitude:
Datum used: WGS84
  Datum    Latitude    Longitude    Zone    Easting    Northing


Found: Yes Inspected: Yes
Protected: NSW Heritage Act 1977 Jurisdiction: State
Protection notes:
Signage: Underwater interpretive plaque on site. Web address: