The Tasman Story

On June 16th 1951 whilst taxing for take off VH-EBW manoeuvred to avoid a collision with a dug out canoe and hit an unmarked mooring buoy or coral head ripping a hole in the front compartment under the waterline. The aircraft came to rest in shallow water close to the shore next to Iririki Island. There were twenty passengers on board at the time and all were uninjured. VH-EBW was deemed unsalvageable and was stripped of all her engines & usable parts. VH-EBW was abandoned on Iririki Island for several years and then taken to the corner of the harbour in her current resting place.     Printable p.d.f file

The Shorts Sandringham aircraft was derived from the Shorts Sunderland Military aircraft manufactured by the Short Brothers in the UK. Towards the end of WW2 a demand was created for a long range commercial passenger float plane. The Modifications for the Sandringham included the reconfiguration of the aircraft nose including the removal of the gun Turret. All other armament was removed, with gun positions being faired over, and simple seating fitted. By minor modifications to the engine and flight angles, a significant increase in the cruise speed, a relatively unimportant issue for the combat Sunderlands, was achieved.

The Shorts Sandringham was used by various commercial operators including BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation). TEAL (Tasman Empire Airways Limited) on the Aukland-Sydney & Pacific Island flights. QANTAS for the Pacific Island flights.

Short Brothers Manufactured the Tasman in the Uk in 1946. It was purchased by Teal and was delivered to Auckland in July 1946. During its service with Teal it was used on the Auckland/Sydney flights and was a record holder with a fully loaded flight time of 8 hours. QANTAS purchased the Tasman in April 1950 with a new rego VH-EBW and used it to service such destinations as Suva, Lord Howe Island and Vanuatu.

The Tasman Dive Site

Situated five minutes south of Naulitus Scuba Centre in the corner of Port Vila Harbour the Tasman rests upright in 41 mts. of water. The cockpit is @ 36 mts. And the top of the tail plane is @ 32 mts. The aircraft condition is relatively stable lying flat on the muddy/silty bottom facing the heading of 030 degrees. The Port side wing is still attached but has fallen down (due to a mooring mishap by a local fishing boat) and the wing tip rests in the sand/silt @ 40.5 mts. The Cockpit is highly visible with only a small amount of Perspex remaining; there is a large hole at the rear of the aircraft (a great entry/exit point for penetration dives) and there are numerous other entry/exit points.

Points of Interest

• Tail plane/rudder

• Huge wings (34 mts. Wing span)

• Side windows upper & Lower decks (seats, stairs, cargo area)

• Engine Housing’s x 4 (engines removed before sinking)

• Cockpit/gauges/control levers / pilot & co-pilot seats

• Engineers panel & communication / navigation equipment behind cockpit seats

• Front port side entry door (under cockpit)

• Forward mooring attachment bollard & anchor storage

• Fuel tanks removed from the starboard wing

• Fuselage top hatches

• Fish: Habitat in starboard wing & schooling long fin batfish on assent/decent

Dugong (one time nomo)

• Various doors

Story and P.D.F File by Pete Wallace

Nautilus Watersports run dives to the Tasman on demand. Due to its location in Vila harbor visibility is normally very low. The plane is in 40m so this dive is limited to the very experienced.

For more information on this great wreck we have a printable P.D.F file available here. Tasman Float Plane


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