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Heritage NSW - Dionne Arthur

Buster shipwreck


The barquentine Buster was wrecked on Woolgoolga Beach (Mid North Coast) after a gale on 17 February 1893. After being caught on a lee shore during a gale, it tried to ride out the storm on the town buoys and then its own anchors.  After the chains on both devices snapped it was washed ashore stern first, and incredibly the crew were able to scramble ashore at low tide without any loss of life. After salvage efforts failed, the vessel became a total wreck, and gradually covered over with sand.

Search the Heritage NSW Maritime Heritage Database for more details about the Buster

The wreck is periodically exposed usually after large storms. Usually only the tips of the ship’s frames are visible above the sand marking the wreck’s location.

The Buster wreck site exposed 

Most of the Buster wreck became exposed in early April 2021 after extensive flooding and storms scoured the foreshore of the Woolgoolga region. This is not something you see every day! Naturally the exposed wreck attracted a lot of public and media interest.

Learn more about the exposed Buster shipwreck (April 2021) here:

Drone footage and photos (credit: ABC Mid North Coast/Facebook)

Live video footage (credit: David Greenhalgh)

ABC Radio interviews on Drive and Evenings with Tim Smith, Director Heritage Operations

ABC news article: Authorities warn of vandalism risk as 'time capsule' shipwreck re-emerges on NSW beach

Historic Shipwreck

The Buster is an Historic Shipwreck protected by legislation It is an offence to move, damage, disturb or destroy the wreck or anything associated with it, including ‘relics’ which derive from the ship. Severe penalties, including gaol terms, can be given for offences. The public are encouraged to visit and enjoy this unique site responsibly in ways that do not affect the integrity of the wreck. This will ensure that the site is preserved for the community into the future. 

The site is monitored by Heritage NSW and managed as part of the Solitary Islands Marine Park.

Protection of the wreck site

Heritage NSW urges members of the public to help protect these important and fascinating historical items when they become exposed. You are free to photograph and marvel at the wreck which will soon bury again as fast as it emerged.

We urge everyone not to disturb the remains, interfere with hull planks or climb into the exposed hull, which would reduce the site’s heritage values.

Anyone with information about damage to the Buster is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or email Heritage NSW

Heritage NSW is working with Solitary Islands Marine Park to post signage at the site, recover of timbers washed off the site, and respond to public enquiries regarding the wreck.

Heritage NSW has been monitoring the 1893 Buster shipwreck since 2000, in recent years commencing 3D mapping and plotting of the site.

Community members of the Heritage NSW Wreckspotters program are assisting in photographic and video recording of the site, which will be used to generate further photogrammetric models of the wreck to record and analyse change across the site compared with previous exposures and produce 3D models of the site.


Australasian Underwater Cultural Heritage Database entry about the Buster

Solitary Islands Shipwrecks Survey report (2000)