At Fraser Island, visitors will never run out of sights or attractions to behold with the abundant gifts of nature found on the island. Whether you find the lush green trees and plant life comforting, or the beautiful unique bodies of water relaxing, Fraser Island definitely offers something for every traveller.

Nevertheless, Fraser Island is not only popular for its scenic and picturesque natural attractions. The mysterious waters of the island has also been notorious for claiming a number of shipping vessels over the years, some of which have become tourist spots on the island, unconventional as it may seem. And one of these shipwrecks is the SS Maheno.

Here, we explore some little-known facts about the Maheno Shipwreck and discover the beauty that lies behind its ruins.

The Origins

According to Tour Fraser Island, “The word Maheno means ‘island’ in Maori, which is the native language of New Zealand.” It was originally an ocean liner constructed in Scotland in the year 1905, and is recognised today as the first turbine driven steamer in the world. SS Maheno belonged to New Zealand’s Union Company, operating in the Tasman Tea, which traversed through New Zealand and Australia.

The 5000-ton ship had a passenger capacity of 420 – “240 in 1st class, 120 in 2nd and 60 in 3rd,” as featured on Wikipedia. Passengers in the first class enjoyed what could be considered as luxurious amenities then, such as smoking room, dining room, and music room that featured a classic Bechstein grand piano.

The Transformation

When World War I broke, SS Maheno was called in to service and was converted into a hospital ship. What once was a vessel that regularly voyaged in the Tasman Sea to collect and transport passengers eventually carried the sick, dying, wounded soldiers and casualties of war. “She was fitted with eight wards and two operating theatres, and had a medical team consisting of five doctors and 61 orderlies from the Army Medical Corps, a matron, thirteen nursing sisters, and chaplains,” a Wikipedia entry read.

The Tragedy

At the end of the war, SS Maheno was returned to its owners to continue its commercial services. But after several years, on July 1935, the owners decided to sell the ship as scrap, along with Oonah, a former Tasmanian ferry, to a Japanese shipbreaker. Unfortunately, SS Maheno would never dock on its new home because of a brewing, fierce cyclone.

According to Atlas Obscura, “About 50 miles out from the coast, a severe cyclone whipped itself around the Maheno and the ship towing her, the 1,756-ton Oonah.” The crew attempted to reattach the vessel’s towline but failed because of the heavy seas. The Maheno and its crew of eight men drifted helplessly, while the Oonah struggled to send a broadcast message via radio, requesting help for the Maheno.

After three days, the ship and its crew were finally located washed ashore on Fraser Island. The owners spent various attempts trying to re-float the ship and selling it to other buyers, but no luck. Thus, SS Maheno, the ocean liner that transported a fleet of sick and wounded troops, was finally stripped off its fittings and abandoned on the shores of Fraser Island.

What’s Become of It

Peter Carey of Travel and Leisure says, “In a landscape with few signs of human history, the Maheno is now a picturesque, emotionally uncomplicated ruin.” The Maheno is now heavily rusted, with bones tilting and the harsh saltwater slowly deteriorating what’s left of it. But stands as a great reminder to everyone that behind a wreck or a ruin there lies genuine stories that history and nature can only be a witness of.

Come and explore this amazing landmark with us here at Dropbear Adventures. We can make your Fraser Island travel a truly memorable and unforgettable experience as we take you to the various scenic spots on the island, including the SS Maheno Shipwreck. Give us a call today and plan your Fraser Island Tours and experience an adventure with us!