SS Yongala: Australia’s Greatest Wreck Dive Adventure
Dive Skill: Advanced to Expert
Australia, known for its stunning landscapes and diverse wildlife, is also home to some of the world’s best scuba diving experiences. While the Great Barrier Reef and Ningaloo Reef are renowned UNESCO World Heritage sites celebrated for their extraordinary dive sites, another hidden gem beneath the waves is the SS Yongala.
A Dive Site Unlike Any Other
The SS Yongala wreck dive is an exceptional experience in a country celebrated for its natural wonders. Surprisingly, Australia isn’t widely recognised as a wreck diving destination despite over 8,000 wrecks along its extensive coastline.
Explore the SS Yongala and embark on an unforgettable underwater journey that reveals a different side of Australia’s marine treasures. Whether you’re an experienced diver or new to wreck diving, this remarkable site promises adventure and discovery.
Join us as we delve into the depths of the SS Yongala, an Australian maritime marvel that has captured divers’ hearts worldwide.
. However, one wreck distinguishes itself within Australia and ranks among the top ten historical wreck dives worldwide: the SS Yongala.
Unveiling the SS Yongala Dive Experience
Sunk in the tumultuous cyclonic weather of March 1911, the SS Yongala has transformed into one of the most historically significant dive sites globally. It offers a unique glimpse into Australia’s Edwardian era, frozen in time beneath the ocean’s surface.
Remarkably, even after more than a century underwater, the SS Yongala remains remarkably intact, with over 70% of the wreck preserved.
Preserving the historical significance of the SS Yongala is paramount, making it a legally protected site where the rule is to “look but don’t touch.” While the site no longer allows penetration dives due to concerns about potential interior damage caused by exhaled air bubbles, there’s an interesting twist to this story. A storm in 2011 shook things up, unveiling more hidden secrets within the wreck.
Dive enthusiasts will appreciate the opportunity to explore the SS Yongala while respecting its historical value and enjoying a unique underwater adventure.
Diving into History
The SS Yongala rests approximately 16 metres below the surface, with a maximum depth of 30 metres. Unlike many other dive sites in Australia, the SS Yongala’s location is characterised by a mostly sandy bottom devoid of coral reefs in the immediate vicinity. This unique feature makes it a significant marine aggregation device, attracting diverse marine life to its hull.
Today, the SS Yongala is home to over 120 species of marine life, which have made their habitats in and around the wreck. It stands proudly on the seabed, listing to starboard at an angle of 60 to 70 degrees, adorned with colourful corals and teeming with marine life.
A Dive for the Experienced
While the allure of the SS Yongala may beckon beginner divers with its picturesque conditions and shallow top surface, it’s important to note that on-site conditions can change rapidly with the tides. The site can pose challenges even for the most seasoned divers during peak currents. Most dive operators require advanced open-water or deep-water diver certifications, although a select few do cater to open-water divers.
Diving the SS Yongala is a privilege granted by permit only, issued by the Museum of Tropical Queensland. It’s advisable for visiting divers to choose a local dive operator with the necessary permits. While some advertising may suggest exclusivity, divers have ample options to explore this historical wreck.
Plan Your Dive to SS Yongala
The SS Yongala, located approximately 12 miles east of Cape Bowling Green and 48 miles southeast of Townsville, awaits your exploration. The trip by boat from Townsville to the dive site takes about three hours. Many operators leave from Ayr, one hour’s drive from Townsville, and then take a beautiful 30-minute boat ride to the site.
Before diving, don’t miss the opportunity to immerse yourself in the rich history of the SS Yongala at the Maritime Museum of Townsville. The museum features a permanent exhibit showcasing items recovered from the ship and offers a video created by renowned underwater photographers Ron and Valerie Taylor, providing a unique perspective of the wreck as a dive site.
A Mystery Unveiled
The SS Yongala embarked on its 99th voyage on March 23, 1911, departing from Mackay in the Whitsunday area and heading north towards Townsville. With a length of 109 meters, the ship was unique for its time, capable of carrying passengers and cargo. Its final journey included 122 passengers and crew, along with a mixed cargo that included a prized bull and a racehorse named Moonshine.
Tragically, the SS Yongala encountered a storm shortly after leaving Mackay, and despite warning signals, it went missing. Search parties scoured the coast, finding cargo but no signs of the ship or human remains. It wasn’t until 1958 that a fisherman’s quest led to the wreck’s discovery.
Recovery of a Safe and Unsolved Mystery
Divers later recovered a safe from the wreck, shedding light on its history. However, the exact circumstances of its sinking and the absence of human remains remain a mystery. Marine experts believe that water crashing over the ship’s bow pushed it down, but the ultimate fate of the SS Yongala continues to intrigue.
Preserving a Historical Treasure
The management of the Yongala wreck site falls under the responsibility of the Queensland Government Department of Environment and Resource Management. To explore this exceptional wreck, you must be an advanced scuba diver. If you don’t already hold an advanced open water certificate, consider heading to Cairns and completing your course with Reef Encounter.
Embark on an underwater journey to uncover the secrets of the SS Yongala, a testament to Australia’s rich maritime history and a dive experience that will stay with you forever.