Project Long Shot campaign about to go live

This is one of our most exciting projects yet – to film the discovery of the first shot fired in World War 1

(We plan to launch the fund-raising campaign on April 10, but here is what the campaign looks like)

Few people are aware that the first shot of the Great War was fired from Point Nepean, south of Melbourne.

On August 5th 1914,  Australian forces attempted to stop the German cargo ship, the SS Pfalz, from leaving Melbourne.

War had just been declared and all German activity in the Commonwealth was now considered hostile.

Despite numerous warnings to cut her engines, Pfalz Captain Kuhiken ordered full steam ahead and a dangerous game of chicken ensued.

From Point Nepean Coastal Fort, the Australians signalled the Pfalz to stop.

When they received an order to either ‘stop her of sink her’ they fired the first shot of the Great War across the Pfalz’ bow, missing the ship by metres.

The Pfalz  eventually  surrendered to Australian forces who boarded her at 1.00pm. The German crew was interned in Melbourne for the duration of the war.

The ship itself was soon refitted as a troop carrier for the war effort and was used in the Gallipoli landings under the name HMT Boorara.

She had a busy time in the Dardanelles: transporting Australian soldiers onto the battle arena, being twice torpedoed, and housing Turkish prisoners of war. She was eventually shipwrecked off the Vancouver coast in 1926 when she was operating as a Greek trade vessel.

We hope to find the shell

Southern Ocean Exploration, Australia’s most successful shipwreck discovery team, will volunteer all of its resources to find the shell: divers, boats, fuel and insurances – but we need this equipment if we are to have any chance of finding the shell.

Whitewater Documentaries will provide a film crew to document the event, with a view to telling the fascinating story of the Pfalz in a one-hour television documentary.

The catch: the magnetometer we need will cost $130,000.

Whitewater and SOE have set up an Indiegogo fundraising campaign to enable SOE to buy the necessary equipment. SOE will be able to use this equipment to find the shell, as well as other elusive shipwrecks. Whitewater gets to film it all. So it’s all very exciting.

We will be launching the campaign in April and expect a lot of interest.

As you can imagine, this is a ‘Long Shot’, but just think  how exciting it would be to participate in the making of Australian and international history.

Most of the credit for making this project a reality goes to author Keith Quinton whose recent book, Stop the Pfalz,painstakingly and accurately recreates the Pfalz’ last moments. His information and assistance has helped SOE narrow the search grid to a practical area.

Terry Cantwell


Herald Sun, March 8, 2014.  “Hunt for first shell fired in World War 1 steps up”

Ghost Divers update

We are pleased to report that our pilot episode – A Drop in the Ocean: The Story of the SS Glenelg – is now finished.

Over the next few months we will be organising screenings and will be in touch.

We have uploaded the first three minutes to whet the appetite.

This video doesn’t exist

The film is currently 39 minutes in duration, which will allow us to edit up for a one hour show, or down for a 30 minute episode.

We would like to thank everyone involved with this project. It has taken a lot longer than expected and we hope everyone will be pleased with the final product.

A Drop in the Ocean will be the second episode in the six-part series, Ghost Divers, about Southern Ocean Exploration’s endeavours to discover as many of the 600 shipwrecks that lie undiscovered off our coast as possible.

Series synopsis

Episode 1  “Plenty more wrecks in the sea”
The story of the SS Cumberland, SS Queensland and SOE’s formation
Mark Ryan’s first wreck discovery teaches him a valuable lesson: his real enemy is not the sea, but bureaucracy.

Episode 2 “A Drop in the Ocean”
The Story of the SS Glenelg (Pilot)
Southern Ocean Exploration’s (SOE) discovery of the 19th century steamer SS Glenelg uncovers a series of harrowing stories of bravery, tragedy and survival. However, the ramifications of their discovery threatens to destroy the team.

Episode 3 “The Deep End”
The story of THE TSS Kanowna
SOE finds a Gallipoli Hospital ship and uncovers a story of alleged insurance fraud. The ship is intact in 260ft of water, but is it too deep to penetrate? What treasures lie within?

Episode 4 “Wreckless”
The story of THE TSS Coramba
SOE’s discovery of the depression-era steamship Coramba unearths a story of incredible bravery and heartbreaking tragedy.

Episode 5 “Losing the Plot”
The story of the SS Alert
A lone sailor speaks from the past to rectify a great injustice.

Episode 6 “Out of sight, out of mind”
The story of the SS Paringa
SOE has discovered something deep in Bass Strait, but is it  the Paringa, a steamer that disappeared into a storm taking 31 men with it? It’s extremely difficult to find shipwrecks, it can be even harder trying to identify them. If this isn’t the Paringa, what is it?

(Concept and scripts registered with Writers Guild America West)

Terry Cantwell

The Wandering Soul


Are you a migrant? Are you interested in telling your story?

Migration is sometimes adventurous, sometimes heroic,  sometimes dangerous.

It is always life-changing.

We have all come from somewhere and perhaps we are still heading somewhere.

Whitewater Documentaries wants to explore that journey.

We are currently conducting interviews with Australian migrants, in the Melbourne area, for a potential documentary.

We’d love to hear your tale Please email if you are keen to discuss your story.


Divers Discover the “Ship that the Sea Swallowed”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

By Terry Cantwell


One of Victoria’s most searched-for shipwrecks has finally been discovered.

Last Sunday (May 29) archaeological divers Southern Ocean Exploration (SOE) discovered the wreck of the TSS Coramba, which sank in Bass Strait in 1934.

The Coramba was en-route from Warnambool to Williamstown with a cargo of condensed milk and wool, when Captain John Dowling attempted to find shelter in Westernport.

The ship was no match for the huge seas that also swamped much of the mainland on Novemebr 30, 1934.

17 men drowned in what was one of Victoria’s worst hurricanes and the wreck’s  whereabouts has remained a mystery until now.

The Coramba’s sinking was a huge blow to a state already reeling from a crippling depression. Relatives received little compensation and many children grew up in poverty after losing their family breadwinner.

Divers have been searching for the wreck for over 70 years. In 1935, legendary salvage diver John Johnstone claimed to have found the wreck near Seal Rocks, Phillip Island: a claim that was accepted by a marine inquiry at the time. However, last week’s discovery places the wreck many miles to the west of Johnstone’s coordinates.

Fairfax/Whitewater video report

The Ship that the Sea Swallowed author and maritime historian, Des Williams has been searching for the Coramba since the 1980s.  “The Coramba has been a big part of my life for the past 35 years. I’ve searched for it on many occasions, written a book about it and have become very close to the families of those who drowned,” he said.

Southern Ocean Exploration has been searching for the wreck for eight years and has surveyed almost 15 square kilometres of Bass Strait. The team’s chief researcher, Peter Taylor, has painstakingly researched all available data. He recently decided to change the search grid on a hunch that team may have been looking in the wrong area. “It’s a great relief. There have many days when we’ve returned from a Coramba search very despondent. This is absolutely wonderful,” Mr Taylor said.

SOE Team Leader Mark Ryan says that the Coramba find is one of SOE’s finest moments. “This is the sweetest find of all. We have discovered nearly a dozen wrecks now, but this one required a special resilience. There were many occasions when we were about to write her off,” he said.

Other Media:

Sunday Age report

Sydney Morning Herald video report

WA Today report

Westernport News Report (pp 18-19)


Mornington Leader report

Hobsons Bay Leader feature about Peter Taylor

Guardian Mildura

Frankston Leader

Hobsons Bay Leader follow-up interview with Norma Dowling.

Brisbane Times Video

Canberra Times Video

Ayrshire Post Scotland

Sunday Business Post Ireland

photos by Brenden Stevenson, Vikki Ryan, Des Williams, Mark Ryan, and Whitewater Documentaries.