After a few days relaxing and meeting up with old friends in Airlie Beach (which was certainly one great party town) it was time to head up the coast once again. This time I was in search of some more diving and a dive site that had been recommended to me by Gary and a number of other people was the SS Yongala.
This had been voted (by divers the world round) as one of the top 3 dive sites in the world. I decided to take my trip with Yongala Dive as they were situated just 30 mins from the dive site in Ayr. The alternative was to head up to Townsville and sit on a boat for 3 hours each way. I arrived in Ayr on a hazy and muggy afternoon in great anticipation after reading up on the Yongala on the 3 hour drive up to Ayr. I met up with some divers that had already dived the wreck and from their stories and expressions I was in for a treat. The small town we were staying in outside Ayr had only one shop (that closed a 8pm) so we all settled in the lodge with some fish and chips and a few beers and got to know everyone. One of the divers that I was with was on a amazing world trip – 365 dives in 365 days. What a mission he was on!!
The passenger ship, SS Yongala, sank off Cape Bowling Green, on 23 March 1911. En route from Melbourne to Cairns she steamed into a cyclone and sank without a trace south of Townsville. The actual cause of the wrecking remains a mystery.One hundred and twenty-two people perished in what was considered one of the most tragic incidents in Australian maritime history. There were no survivors. It was only in 1958 that the wreck of the Yongala was discovered and has since become renowned as an internationally regarded diving destination.SS Yongala was a steel passenger and freight steamer built in Newcastle upon Tyne and was launched on 29 April 1903. She and took up the busy passenger route linking the gold fields of Western Australia with the eastern ports of Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney at times when the route through the country was hard and slow. Following company tradition, the vessel was named after a word in the local Aboriginal language; `Yongala` (originally pronounced Yonggluh) meant “broad water”, or “broad wide watering place”.On the morning of 23 March, Yongala steamed up the coast holding 617 tons of freight and carrying 49 passengers and 73 crew, making a total of 122 people.
Yongala was still in sight of land when the signal station warned there was a warning of a cyclone. The lighthouse keeper on Dent Island on the Whitsunday Passage watched Yongala steam past into the worsening weather. It was its last known sighting. Unfortunately all lives perished at sea and all that remains is the vessel itself, it was found in 1958 by a survey ship sweeping for mines after the war. The wreck of the Yongala is 109 meters, at about 30 meters depth and had become an artificial reef providing a complex habitat for a diverse array of marine life as there is no coral near by. Giant Queensland gropers hang beneath the stern while schools of trevally and cobia congregate around the depths of the wreck. Queenfish, barracuda, turtles, sea snakes, eagle rays and clown fish are just some of the other incredible life inhabiting the coral encrusted structure.In fact there is so much marine life down there that you literally have to push fish out of the way to get to the wreck. It is also host to a huge diversity of pelagic and reef species found in the Coral Sea. You will see more fish in one dive on the wreck than ten on the reef. It’s certainly a dive experience I will never ever forget. My favourite dive to date.. sorry Manta Rays (from the Whitsundays), you were outclassed!!