After being built in Scotland in 1877 for Huddart Paker, the SS Alert sailed to Australia as a three-masted schooner with her funnel and propeller stowed in the hold . The Alert was used primarily for carrying passengers and cargo between Melbourne and Geelong and provided 16 years of reliable service. Replacing the SS Despatch on the Gippsland to Melbourne run, the ship foundered in stormy seas near Cape Schanck on the 28th December 1893 with fifteen lives lost.
The ships cook, Robert Ponting, was the only survivor when he grasped portion of a cabin door and clung to it for sixteen hours before staggering on to the beach about 15 km from where the Alert foundered. That morning he was found unconscious and half buried in the sand on the back beach of Sorrento by four young ladies. They sheltered him as best they could with their cloaks and umbrellas until a man, Austin Stanton and his St. Bernard dog, Victor Hugo, appeared and rendered first aid. The dog nestled close to Ponting keeping him warm while further assistance was sought. The loss of the vessel saw not only a Court of Marine Inquiry but also civil action against owners Huddart Parker by the wife of the second engineer who had been lost in the disaster. She eventually won her case.
The wreck of the SS Alert was discovered by Southern Ocean Exploration on the 27th June 2007 after many years of research. The ship lies 75m deep approximately 10kms south of Cape Schank Victoria.