A rusting ship which has became a landmark along Fraser Island’s picture-perfect beach.

Fraser Island is the world’s largest sand island, which means that it has been home to a number of shipwrecks that have beached on its shores. The Maheno Shipwreck is the most famous of the wrecks on the island after it was driven ashore during a cyclone back in 1935.

How the Ship became Wrecked

This 5,000 tonne steel ship was constructed by William Dennay and Borthers of Dumberton in Scoutland. The Ship is known as SS Maheno, beginning its life as a hospital ship during World War I in 1905. After the War’s end in 1918, the ship was released from military service and returned to her business owner. It was then later it was bought by a company based in Sydney to travel between Australia and New Zealand. It wasn’t until 1935 that the ship was sold to a Japanese company for scrap metal, and it began its perilous journey to Osaka that same year before it was struck down by a storm.

The ship was heading for a Japanese wrecking year just before she met her end, and today, the hull is slowly deteriorating thanks to the harsh, salty environment. You can find the wreck about 10 kilometres north of Happy Valley, one of the most visited parts of the island.

Fun Facts About the Maheno Shipwreck

  • The ship was named Maheno after the native New Zealand Maori word for island, and it was built in Scotland back in 1904. At the time, it was the world’s first triple screw steamer.
  • This ship could carry up to 430 passengers at once, but luckily, there was only a small crew on board at the time it beached, but stories of the survivors soon started to circulate the newspaper headlines. One of the most popular stories is that the Japanese crew members were too scared to come off the boat as they feared the Indigenous community were cannibals.
  • Other stories suggest that 8 of the survivors camped up on the shores of the Island for 3 days before they were saved by a plane
  • In fact, crew members tried to fix the ship, but it was abandoned after their efforts went unrewarded. Over time, the Maheno Shipwreck became an important and sacred site for the native Aboriginals. There, men would gather together and play the didgeridoo, while the women would venture out to the site to give birth.
  • These days, the boat remains a popular tourist attraction on Fraser Island’s well-loved 75 Mile Beach. It’s well worth a visit if you want to see a surreal scene and learn more about the fascinating stories that have imbued the ship and its surroundings for many decades.
  • Not only is it now an important part of Aboriginal life, but it has remained a prominent part of Fraser Island’s history ever since it was beached during the storm in 1935. Learn all about this and more at the site, and see it in all its glory for yourself.
  • The ship was the world’s first-ever triple screw steamer

Explore the Fraser Island Tours

Cameron Ward
Cameron Ward
Managing Director at Sightseeing Tours Australia

Cameron Ward began with a passion for travel and turned it into a thriving tourism business. He co-founded Sightseeing Tours Australia after starting out as a tour guide in Melbourne. Cameron delights in helping visitors get the most from their trip to Australia. Whether he's leading tours or writing about his favourite places, Cameron loves sharing his local insight with fellow travellers.

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