Posts Tagged ‘HMAS Brisbane’

One of the lorries on the deck of the Zenobia Wreck

One of the lorries on the deck of the Zenobia Wreck

Wreck diving offers a unique twist to the sport – the opportunity to see manmade achievements superimposed on the underwater world.  Whether intentionally sunk or not, these structures provide a playground for ocean creatures and divers alike.  Below are some of our favorite wreck dives here at


The Thistlegorm, The Umbria, Mid-East Gulf Region Many novice divers visit Sharm-el-Sheikh in Egypt to enjoy some of the most colorful coral reefs in the world, but few are aware of the fascinating wreck diving that is also available here. The Thistlegorm, a British Merchant Navy ship that was sunk by German bombers in WWII, was bombed and sank here in 1941, forever destined to become a fascinating dive site rich in marine life. The 400ft long container ship filled with motorbikes, Bedford trucks and even Lee Enfield rifles sank when it was hit by a German bomb that blew a hole in the port side, igniting tank ammunition that was in the hold. The explosion ripped the roof of the ship backwards (rather like opening a tin of sardines) giving divers an inside display of the ships merchandise. This Red Sea dive site has got plenty to see both inside and out, with plenty of marine life around. Sightings of hammer-heads, jacks, trevallies and huge napoleon wrasses are reported here. The only drawback is the site’s busy nature, as it is not uncommon for 20 dive boats stationed above the wreck at a time. In neighboring Sudan, the Italian cargo ship Umbria was scuttled by its crew in 1940 at Wingate Reef after an attack by the British and hit the seabed along with its cargo of unexploded bombs, Fiat Lagunas and wine bottles. Both of these wrecks make up the most interesting dive sites to be found in the Gulf region.


The Blackjack, the SS President Coolidge, South PacificSome of the best kept secrets of World War Two lie immortalized beneath the Pacific Ocean. Off the shores of Papua New Guinea at Milne Bay lies the site of Blackjack, a former B17 Bomber aircraft and an intrepid former member of the US 5th Air Force. In 1943 the aircraft took off to attack the Japanese airstrip at Rabaul but crashed into the sea after hitting severe thunderstorms, leaving a relic which even today has remained almost intact. Papua New Guinea’s crystal clear waters and this mint condition aircraft wreck make it a topnotch spot to experience. At Vanuatu in the South Pacific, the SS President Coolidge offers several excellent dive sites of varying depths. Built originally as a luxury cruise liner, the vessel was being used to ferry reinforcements to nearby US bases during the second world war, before the explosion of two mines close to the island’s harbor heralded its final demise to the seabed.  This massive luxury liner, built in 1931 converted into a Second World War troop ship, is more than 600ft long.  Divers can explore it on both shallow and deep dives. To see the whole ship in its entire majestic splendor sitting at the bottom on the sea bed would require at least 10 dives. What you can expect to see other than the ship itself are heaps of military gear including howitzer cannons, a 10-wheel General Motors Corporation truck, jeeps, tracked vehicles, steering wheels and tires.


Fujikawa Maru, Truk, Micronesia – Yes, Micronesia is in the South Pacific, but Truk’s wreck diving so good it gets its own section.  Truk Lagoon, Micronesia is a definite must on any serious wreck divers list. It holds the remains of the almost an entire Japanese fleet including 60 shipwrecks and dozens of sunken air crafts destroyed in 1944. Of these many wrecks to choose from the 7,000 ton freighter Fujukawa Maru is notable as one of the best. This specific wreck stands upright in shallow water, making the 437ft wreck pretty accessible. The bridge area with sake bottles, the engine room and wings in the hold covered in soft coral and frequently circled by grey reef makes this an exciting wreck to dive.


The Zenobia, Mediterranean – Head for Larnaca Bay in Cyprus to see one of the world’s most interesting wrecks. The Zenobia, a Swedish built ferry, has been lying on the seabed here since it sank in 1980 on its maiden voyage to Syria, after the computerized pump system for the ballast developed faults. The fact that the vessel was carrying £200 million worth of cargo including over 100 articulated lorries makes this a truly fascinating undersea treasure trove.


Felipe Xicotencatl, Laguna Mandinga, Patzcuaro, CozumelIt’s best known for drift diving on sheer vertical walls, but you can enjoy wrecks in Cozumel, too. Take the Felipe Xicotencatl, for example, better known as the C-53. It was originally built as a U.S. Navy minesweeper, measuring 184 feet long with a 33-foot beam. In 1962, she was sold to the Mexican Navy for a dollar, converted to a gun boat and renamed the Felipe Xicotencatl C-53. She patrolled the Mexican Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico until 1999, when she was decommissioned, donated to the Cozumel Marine Park and laid to rest in 82 feet of water off Chankanaab. The marine park has recently restricted access there, so you dive it at your own risk, but it’s generally believed to be safe and she remains one of Cozumel’s most popular dives. Hurricane Wilma spun the C-53 around and broke her in two, and her average depth of 65 feet makes her a perfect second dive. Also upping the ante for wreck divers are two naval patrol vessels intentionally sunk just outside the marine park: the 85-foot Laguna Mandinga and the 42-foot Patzcuaro. At less than 40 feet, divers and snorkelers alike can enjoy them.


SS Yongala, Gothenberg, HMAS Brisbane, GBR - The SS Yongala is a 350-foot-plus luxury passenger ship and freighter that sits smack dab on the world’s largest reef. She went down in a cyclone and sat undisturbed in 50 to 100 feet of water 50 miles off Townsville for almost 50 years, until it was discovered in 1958. Today, it’s arguably one of the GBR’s most popular dive spots, an artificial reef sitting in the midst of the world’s largest real one, clouded by yellowtail demoiselles and Maori wrasse, sea snakes, turtles, grouper and the occasional tiger shark. A protected historic wreck, the Gothenberg isn’t intact but offers shallow depths (maximum 60 feet) for beginning wreck divers.  Reef sharks are often seen in the area. Another popular Queensland wreck is the 440-foot U.S.-built, Australian guided missile destroyer HMAS Brisbane, which served in Vietnam and the first Gulf War, and now rests in 115 feet of water off the Gold Coast. Large holes have been strategically cut along the entire length of both sides of the ship to allow divers easy entry and exit. It is virtually impossible to get lost inside the ship or become entangled.  Green wrasse, octopi, turtles, scorpion fish and many other interesting sea creatures can be found here.


USS Oriskany, Florida – If the idea of exploring the largest artificial reef in the world inspires you, head to the Gulf of Mexico and dive the USS Oriskany at Pensacola, which was scuttled here in May 2006. A former US navy aircraft carrier, the ‘Mighty-O’ enjoyed a naval career that began in 1950, serving in the Korean War as well as Vietnam. Much can be seen at shallow depths here including the vessel’s gun platforms. But, for a more close encounter with the wreck, the Oriskany dive is a deep dive.


More Wrecks than You can Count, Bahamas – The Bahamas-assembled from more than 700 sandy spits of land sprinkled over an ocean area the size of Wyoming-forms the bottom leg of the Bermuda Triangle. It’s no wonder the islands offer some of the region’s best wreck diving. Off New Providence-home to Nassau and two-thirds of the Bahamas’ population-there are a handful of interesting wrecks tended by a rather sizeable population of reef sharks. Offerings here include the Willaurie, the “Bond” wrecks (movie props including the Tears of Allah from Never Say Never Again and Vulcan bomber from Thunderball), Caribe Breeze, Bahama Mama, Steel Forest (actually three wrecks-the Captain Fox, Fenwick Stirrup and the Manana) and Ray of Hope. The Hope is both a wreck and a big animal encounter-Stuart Cove’s does a very enthusiastic shark feed on it. Other greats include Bimini’s Sapona and Bimini Barge and Grand Bahama’s Theo’s Wreck and Sugar Wreck.


HMCS Yukon, John C. Butler, The Delphy, Chauncey II, Fuller, Woodbury III, S.P. Lee, Nicholas and the Young, CaliforniaThe sinking of the 366-foot Canadian destroyer HMCS Yukon to create an artificial reef in 2000-the West Coast’s biggest-may have shined new light on the Golden State’s wreck offerings, but local divers have been enjoying dozens of submerged boats for decades. Not too far from the Yukon is the S-37, a 219-foot steel submarine that saw some action in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Her infamously cramped quarters and leaking engine made her despised by her crew. She was ultimately depth-charged by her foes and, as a final insult, used for aerial target practice in 1945, sinking in 30 feet of water off Imperial Beach. The 306-foot destroyer escort John C. Butler sits off San Clemente Island in 60 to 80 feet of water, another war veteran that fought in famed battles including those in Palau, Peleliu, Leyte Gulf, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Another interesting dive is the 100-foot El Rey, which harvested kelp off Southern California and logged more than 800,000 miles. Near Lompoc, in what is generally considered to be the worst peacetime disaster in U.S. Naval history, seven destroyers wrecked on the rocky reefs at Point Pedernales. The Delphy, Chauncey II, Fuller, Woodbury III, S.P. Lee, Nicholas and the Young are all 314-foot steel destroyers lying in depths above 40 feet with visibility ranging from nil to 50 feet.