Great Circle Route Sailing

greatcircleroute.jpg The wrecks along these shores (with the exception of the Napier) are all of long haul passages some of which had yet to sight land on the Australian continent. Speed at sea in this era was a common denominator for economic return. The captains of the day were bestowed celebrity status for carving days and weeks off the average 90 day passage.

The great circle route swung some 500 miles south of Cape Town and into the latitudes of the 50's and 60's. In an effort to shave off distance and time needed to approach the narrow 90km entrance to Bass Strait on a sharp NE bearing.

Ships masters were always wary of the low lying wreck magnet of King Island (55 wrecks) lying 90km off the mainland to the south east: favoring to orientate themselves with the taller coastal profile of the mainland and Cape Otway. They would often over compensate their navigation to the north to avoid its dangerous west facing coast.

The 90km gap between King Island and Cape Otway became known as the ‘eye of the needle.' Charging out of the depths of the Southern Ocean aiming for this gap given the navigational tools of the day was the most treacherous part of the 2 - 3 month voyage.