Australia’s Best Wreck Dive
Wrecks on the Reef: a short history:
You’d think that with thousands of miles of Coral Reefs, Australia’s
coast would be littered with shipwrecks begging for the diver’s
attention. After all, getting wrecked on the reef is a longstanding tradition,
starting with the very first English ship to explore the Australian coastline:
The Endeavor, led by Captain Cook, struck the Great Barrier Reef just
north of Cairns and nearly sank.
While there are wrecks to dive on along the Australia’s Great Barrier
Reef, one of the most outstanding wreck dives is that of the S.S. Yongala.
This steel and timber steamship sank during a cyclone about 48 nautical
miles from Townsville, taking the lives of all 121 passengers.
The S.S. Yongala; An old wreck in great condition:
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. Despite
this, you call still see the rudder, the aft and forward masts, engine
and steam rooms, toilets, port-holes and most of the name – Yongala
- even after almost 100 years in the water. This historic wreck is a cultural
landmark, and is totally protected. Divers are no longer allowed to go
into the wreck, as the air bubbles trapped inside would corrode the wreck.
Lots of coral, and great big fish:
The wreck covered in brightly colored soft and hard corals, hydroids and
Due to it being the only hard structure over a large expanse of sandy
bottom, it’s quite an attraction to large pelagics like barracuda,
sharks, and other such fish that have taken home in and around the wreck.
One resident Maori wrasse is named “VW” as that’s about
how big it is!
Townsville departure details:
Dive trips to the wreck vary in length from 1-7 days, with the longer
trips also visiting the Great Barrier Reef that lies further offshore,
or heading out into the Coral Sea. Yongala Wreck dive trips depart from
the city of Townsville and it’s resort island, Magnetic Island.
Townsville is a short flight from either Sydney or Cairns.
Wind, tides and weather limit access:
The timing of the dive is important, as the tides and currents can make
the dive too difficult, or even dangerous. The professional dive operators
that visit the wreck are well aware of the conditions, and will time your
visit accordingly. Keep in mind that this dive can be canceled by windy
or bumpy sea conditions, for the wreck’s location in a shipping
channel is well away from the protection of the Great Barrier Reef. In
these instances the alternate plan is to dive the Great Barrier Reef,
not a bad plan B!