WATCH: Divers discover Spirit of 1770 underwater wreck

DIVERS have found the wreck of the Spirit of 1770 and captured incredible underwater footage showing the extent of the fire that sunk the tourist vessel.

The footage shows how the intense heat of the blaze burnt massive holes in the catamaran and melted metal which caused roofs and decks to collapse.

The aluminium vessel caught fire at 4pm on May 11 on its way home from Lady Musgrave Island.
Initial reports said the fire started in the engine room.

There were 42 tourists on board, mostly Chinese, who had to abandon ship and swim to life rafts before they could be rescued by nearby fishing boats.

Divers in the Spirit of 1770 wreck.
Divers in the Spirit of 1770 wreck.

He and his wife Katrina were concerned for the safety of boaties in the area and the marine environment if the boat was left unsalvaged.

After having no luck getting information on the whereabouts of the boat from the insurance company and authorities, they decided to do it themselves.

The pair spoke to locals about the rough position of the boat when it sunk, and the weather conditions, to get an idea of where it might be.

He also enlisted the help of Captain Brett Divine and experienced salvage experts as well.

On Saturday Mr Mergard took two local divers with him in an attempt to find the Spirit of 1770.

DIVING DEEP: The sonar reading of the wreck's location.
DIVING DEEP: The sonar reading of the wreck's location. Contributed

After an hour-long search they saw what looked like a vessel on the ocean floor on sonar about 14 nautical miles from Seventeen Seventy.

They said it was unbelievable, all of a sudden this big thing appeared in front of them

The trio anchored up and the divers went to investigate.

Mr Mergard spent about 40 minutes on the boat waiting for an answer.

Finally when the divers resurfaced he learnt it was the Spirit of 1770.

Mr Mergard said his two divers, Macca and Isaac, were full of adrenaline after the dive.

He said at first they couldn't see anything but as they swam deeper they saw a massive structure sitting on the sandy ocean floor at a depth of 38m.

"They said it was unbelievable, all of a sudden this big thing appeared in front of them," Mr Mergard said. "We were lucky to find it.

"It's a big ocean out there."

The good news for the reef and tourism is that there is very little environmental damage.

Mr Mergard said there was some oil floating on the water at the surface but it was minimal.

He said his big concern was there was still oil on the Spirit of 1770 that could be released in the future if the vessel isn't salvaged.


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