Matt Carter has made one very clear vow - he wants to return to Hawke's Bay and enter the waters off Mahia Peninsula, as there is wreckage below that he wants to see for himself.

Mr Carter, who is in the second year of a three-year PhD in marine archaeology, visited the site last year for the making of the documentary Coast, which screens tonight on TV1, but the one thing he had looked forward to doing during his time there eluded him.

"It was just unfortunate timing," he said.

"Mahia is a beautiful place at most times of the year but we hit it at the wrong time and the weather cut up."


So his scuba diving equipment and determination to see the wreck of the SS Tasmania, which sunk off the peninsula in July 1897, had to be put to one side.

"It was pretty disappointing because I was definitely going to dive to it - but I'm keen to come back over and dive there some time in the future," he said from his Melbourne base where he is studying.

He was approached by the producers of the series and was keen to journey to the East Cape.

Mr Carter was especially keen to learn more about the SS Tasmania, which is still a popular diving site not far from shore and among the rocks which claimed it.

The ship, carrying about 70 passengers and cargo, with about 42 crew, had left Auckland and became caught in a violent squall as it was rounding the peninsula on the run into Napier.

It struck rocks and after taking on water the order to abandon ship was made. And while people got to the boats, two of them capsized as they approached the shore and 13 drowned.

What has long fascinated marine archaeologists like Mr Carter is the history involved - the people aboard and the cargoes carried, which in this case included several hundred thousand dollars worth of jewellery belonging to the Rothschild family.

Most of it was recovered over nine years by diving legend Kelly Tarlton and his team, but Mr Carter said there was still likely to be some bits and pieces left.

And in terms of knowing and locating all the ships wrecked around the New Zealand coastline we have a long way to go.

"There are a lot of shipwrecks waiting to be found," he said, adding there were something like 1500 ships recorded as going down before 1900 - and the whereabouts of only about 150 are known.

"I can't wait to find one that no one has seen before."

Mr Carter said he was also intrigued at the story of the Montmorency, which burned and sank just off Hardinge Rd about 150 years ago.

He would likely call by and also check it out next time he visits the bay.

Born and raised in Southbridge southwest of Christchurch, and the cousin of former All Black Dan Carter, he has long had a love of the sea because his father was a keen scuba diver and that, accompanied by a love of history, saw him eye up a career in marine archaeology.

"I asked one of my lecturers at university who does marine archaeology in New Zealand and he said 'no one' - so I thought 'aha' - that's me."

However, there is no opportunity to pursue it fully in New Zealand at this time, due to funding requirements, so it is Australia for now but he hopes to one day get himself into a position where he can delve more deeply into New Zealand's maritime history.

"I want to get something off the ground and get that history out there through books and journals."

And in the case on television tonight as he walks the Mahia beachfront, and the sea he is determined to dive into "next time".

- Coast, TV1 at 8.30pm tonight - featuring the shipwreck of the SS Tasmania off Mahia Peninsula.