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Reef Report for Friday, September 19, 2003

The Yongala Wreck, Australia's Best Wreck Dive

A friend and l recently got to dive what has been described as the best wreck dive in Australia - the SS Yongala. Leaving from Townsville, about five hours drive south of Cairns; we traveled with local dive operator Adrenalin Dive. © Great Barrier Reef Enterprises

After a three-hour boat ride, we were ready to dive the wreck. The dive conditions were not that had, with only 15-knot winds and plenty of sun. For most of the dive, we had l5m visibility with very little current.

The SS Yongala sank in March 191I, while on a scheduled east coast run from Melbourne to Cairns. The passenger steamer was caught in a severe cyclone off Cape Bowling Green about 48 nautical miles southeast of Townsville. All 121 passengers and one horse went down with the ship.

The wreck lies in the middle of a flat, sandy shipping channel in about 30m of water and is the only solid structure to he found for miles. Because of this it is surrounded by an abundance of marine life and covered in brightly coloured soft corals. Despite this, you call still see the rudder, the aft and forward masts, the engine and steam rooms, toilets, portholes and most of the name; Yongala - even after almost 100 years in the water.

We saw schools of large barracuda and trevally, four inquisitive sea snakes, Green and Hawksbill Turtles, giant Maori wrasse and the largest school of unicorn fish 1 have ever seen. The coral trout were enormous, but were dwarfed by "V.W.", a 2.5m Queensland Grouper. V.W. is the largest of three groupers that reside on the wreck. We did not see any sharks or manta rays, which I am told frequently swim by the wreck.

Divers are no longer allowed to penetrate the wreck, as air bubbles produced by divers were causing corrosion of the wreck’s superstructure. On our way back, we were lucky enough to see a Humpback Whale mother and her calf. The curious calf swam right up to and along the side of the vessel, which was an amazing sight.

It was definitely a great day out on the water. I certainly highly recommend making the effort to get to Townsville to dive the Yongala Wreck.

This weekend the winds are predicted to be around I5-20 knots, which are not bad diving conditions. We are coming into some of our best months for being out on the water so get out and enjoy yourself.

As always. safe diving.

Steve Brady

(C) Pro Dive Cairns This weekly reef report was written by Steve Brady of Pro Dive Cairns, who compiles them from the dive trips he takes, as well as the many conversations he has with divers, dive instructors, captains, and others in the Cairns dive community. The report is published weekly in the Cairn Post, the local daily paper and appears here thanks to the courtesy of Pro Dive Cairns.

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