Shipwrecks of famous shipping lines


1855-1858, Sri Lanka



Ava was built for P&O by Tod & McGregor, Glasgow, and launched on 3 May 1855. Iron construction with a single screw powered by trunk-geared steam engines. Capacity for 97 first-class and 30 second-class passengers.

After a year operating on the Southampton–Alexandria service, the Ava sailed for Calcutta, from where the ship began regular sailings to Suez.

At 7.55pm on 16 February 1858 the Ava struck a rock near the Pigeon Islands, 12 miles north of Trincomalee. No lives were lost, but there was little chance of saving the ship, which soon broke in two and sank, taking the valuable cargo with her. The Ava was the first P&O screw steamer to be lost.


Dimensions81.6 x 10.7 m (267.8 x 35.2 ft)
Speed12 knots


Although not yet conclusively identified, all evidence would suggest that the popular wreck known locally as the 'Irrakandy Shipwreck' is that of the Ava. Despite the shallow depth, a significant amount of the hull remains intact, standing several metres proud of the seabed in places and exposing a latticework of iron frames. The propeller and remnants of the engines are consistent with a coal-fired steamer of British origin. The wreck is covered in colourful coral and has become home to an abundance of marine life, including batfish, grouper, shoals of snapper, trevally and glassfish, moray eels and octopus.


Dive Data
Position8.716667, 81.2
Depth12m (39ft)

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