Swallowed by his passion
AT 69, Graeme Henderson is still diving in pursuit of longlost shipwrecks.
In fact, his latest book Swallowed by the Sea details Australia’s most famous shipwrecks, featuring images and documents from the National Library and includes his diving experiences at wrecks like the Pandora and the Batavia.
Henderson discovered his first shipwreck by accident when spear-fishing as a 16year-old with his dad and brother near Ledge Point.
“I jumped in and I saw bricks on the seabed so I put one into my wetsuit and carried on because I didn’t want to miss the fish,” he said.
“Then I saw all these elephant tusks –I didn’t immediately recognise them so I got the others to come and we took one back and realised it was from the Gilt Dragon, a Dutch ship from 1656.”
Henderson said the discovery gained him local notoriety, and when his university lecturer years later asked him what he wanted to do in life, he said he had no idea but he had found a shipwreck.
The lecturer suggested he approach the WA Museum for a job, which he did.
He secured a job as a temporary diver, eventually going on to develop a colonial shipwrecks program.
Henderson became the first director of the Maritime Museum, a position he held for 13 years before retiring in 2009.
Now he is part of not-forprofit group called Wreck Check which is looking for wrecks related to Australia that are not on the immediate shoreline.
“It’s a wonderful way to spend one’s life,” Henderson said.
The maritime archaeologist and 2002 WA Citizen of the Year said diving was a great passion he shared with his late father, who covered shipwrecks as part of his job as a journalist.
Swallowed by the Sea is available from all good bookstores and the Maritime Museum.
Author Graeme Henderson with his book.