Ship Wrecks to Explore in Australia
Shipwrecks have always fascinated the public as well as explorers and scientists for the story it has to tell. Australia has many haunting shipwrecks to explore in and around its beautiful beaches. While many can be explored with flipflops like the SS Maheno on Fraser Island in Queensland, others require diving and snorkelling equipment.
Australia’s waters are home to over 8, 000 sunken ships with most of these declared as heritage sites. It is a treasure trove attracting millions of divers to the unique wildlife that range from clownfish to sea turtles and incredible coral.
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Sunken Ships To Explore Diving in Australia in 2023
1. SS Yongala
In the central part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park lies the wreck of SS Yongala which sunk in March 1911. The sunken ship is intact on the seabed at a depth of 30 meters and the ship’s upper section 16 meters below the surface. This sunken ship is one of Australia’s most popular diving site and a national significance. Approximately 122 fish species and extraordinary artificial reef attract both local and international divers. The Yongala was on her 99th journey with 122 passengers and crew on board when she wrecked.
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120 years after the ship’s carpenter deliberately sunk the largest wooden ship, the Gudrun, it was discovered in 1989. Of Cape Peron bay the Gudrun is six only six meters below the water surface. The wrecked vessel is home to extraordinary marine life like giant grouper, stingrays, turtles and an abundance of others.
3. Usat Meigs
On 19 February 1942, the 131-meter long USA transport ship, Usat Meigs was hit during the World War II Japanese air raid against the Australian mainland. The ship is in Darwin waters and one of the region’s greatest shipwrecking dive sites. Today it is home to outstanding marine life including angelfish, golden snappers, pigmy barracuda and large estuarine cod.
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4. SS Nord
Of Port Arthur in Tasmania is the intact shipwreck of the SS Nord. The unfortunate ship hit a pinnacle in 1915 and sank 40 meters. It is one of the few shipwrecks with a rather happy ending when you consider everyone on board survived. More than 100 years after it sunk the rudder can still move with the rest of the ship covered in vibrant coral. It is home to an abundant marine life, jewel anemones, sea dragons and giant kelp.
One of Australia’s most accessible dives which are only three miles from the Sunshine Coast is the Ex- HMAS Brisbane in Mooloolaba waters. It was once a missile destroyer that was purposely sunk and in 2003 turned into an artificial reef. It sits upright on the sea bottom 28 meters below the water. Divers can explore the engine room, control room and hull which are occupied by eagle rays, octopus and turtles.
6. SS Satara
The SS Satara sank after it struck a reef in NSW on April 20, 1910. Even though the passengers survived the sunken ship was only discovered in 1984. You will need to dive more than once if you want to explore this massive ship which lays on her port side. Here you can witness marine life and extraordinary coral. It is a site only for experienced divers due to the raging currents, distance from the shore and the depth.
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The Zanoni is one of the Adelaide Underwater Heritage Trails. It has been underwater since it sunk during a storm in 1867 when it was travelling between Port Wakefield and Port Adelaide. It is South Australia’s most intact 19th-century sailing vessel. Everybody on board survived but the wreck was only discovered in 1983. It lies on the sea-bed 18 meters from the water surface.
8. Lady Darling
The Lady Darling is a 58-metres long cargo steamer that struck a rock on November 10, 1881, south-west of Montague Island. The entire crew survived, however, it was only discovered in 1996 when a fishing trawler’s net entangled in the sunken ship. It is 30 metres below the water surface with a prolific marine life making it a prime diving spot in Australia.
9. SS Nord
After the SS Yongala, the SS Nord that is a couple of miles from Tasman Island has been rated as Australia’s second-best shipwreck diving site. It is a site only for experienced divers though with extraordinary marine life and living coral reef. The currents surrounding the sunken ship that is 42 metres down on the sea bottom is incredibly strong. The SS Nord is an 88-metre-long cargo steamer that struck a pinnacle on November 8, 1915. Fortunately, everybody onboard survived.
10. SS Orizaba
The SS Orizaba is one of the best sunken ships to explore in Australia in 2020 for beginner divers since it sits in only seven meters of water. It is a 140-metre-long steamer that was on its way to Fremantle after leaving England. It ran aground in shallow water in Rockingham’s waters on February 17 1905.
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Consider that there are more than 8000 sunken ships to explore in Australia in 2020 and you know you are in for the experience of a lifetime. These dives here should not be attempted on your own even when you are an experienced diver. Always go with a diving group or professional instructor as timing can often be tricky especially with tides which you are not familiar with.