SS. Yongala - North Queensland 2005
In August of 2005 Ron and I decided to do a trip
up to Far North Queensland and in particular to
dive the wreck of the Yongala. The 109m long
steel hulled Yongala sunk off the coast of
Queensland near Ayre in March 1911 when she
steamed directly into a tropical cyclone. All of
the 122 crew and passengers on board perished
and their remains are still scattered inside the
wreck.
Since this is a historical shipwreck no penetration
diving is allowed including diving under any part
of the wreck that allows your bubbles to come
into contact with the wreck. We decided to do
all our diving with
Yongala Dive situated at Alva Beach, not far from the sugar town of Ayre where we stayed in motel
accommodation. The people at Yongala Dive have got themselves set up pretty good with a fantastic 10m
rigid inflatable boat that they tow down to the beach for launching with a tractor while you get a ride in
the back of their 4WD. Upon arrival at the launch site we all climbed on board while they backed the boat
into the water and then we sat back and enjoyed the short 35min trip out to the dive site. On the way out
we encountered Whales breaching so we stopped for a brief look and then continued on. Moorings on the
wreck are provided and depending on current direction the appropriate one is picked. A short briefing of the
site is given and off we go. The descent is made down the mooring lines to the stern of the wreck (take
note of which line you descend on as there are a few and it would be easy to come up the wrong line) and
then you meander along the leeward side of the wreck until reaching the bow. The amount of marine life
at this site is amazing with huge schools of pelagic fish everywhere as well as large Groper, Potato Cod
and, we have been told, the occasional manta ray. The amount of Sea Snakes on this wreck is astounding,
they are just about everywhere but as long as you stay away from them they will leave you alone.
Another thing I enjoyed on this site was the amount of Sea Turtles, which had no problem in posing for the
camera. I think this was due to the amount of divers that they encounter here making them less skittish
than at other sites. The day consists of two dives with a bit of a lunch break in between followed by a
quick run back to the beach.
On return to the shop we had the opportunity to wash our gear in the water tanks they have there and then enjoy a barbeque and chat
about the days activities. We initially intended to do just two days and then head up to Cairns for a day trip out to the reef but decided
that a third day would be on the cards. Heather who runs the show checked their bookings and managed to squeeze us in much to our
delight. There are other options to look at if you want to dive this world-renowned site including live aboards and day trips out of
Townsville but I feel that the 35-minute trip from Alva Beach is the way to go. I have only got a few photo’s on this web site (At the end
of the Northern Australia pre 2009 gallery) from our trip here because I was new to the camera system I had but I am anxious to return
here one day for some more of the SS Yongala.
On another note we did manage to get up to Cairns and go out to the reef with an operator I prefer not to name but I suggest that you
do some research prior to your visit to this region. We found the operator we used was more orientated to non return business and took us
out to dead reef, treated non English speaking people with contempt and most of the crew were only interested in their own social life. I
would normally not comment on bad operators but it annoys me to see tourists taken for a ride and told this is the Great Barrier Reef.
(Rant over)