Wreck Diving Australia – SS Yongala

YouTube Preview ImageAustralia’s coast has thousands of miles of Coral Reefs scattered along it. This makes the continent an ideal location for a vacation if you are into diving. The vast area of coral reefs would often mean the presence of shipwrecks that would make for a spectacular wreck dive and very few are more stunning than that of the S.S. Yongala.  You need to earmark this as part of your wreck diving Australia to-do list.

On the 23rd of March 1911, the S.S. Yongala sank in a cyclone 12 nautical miles off the coast of Cape Bowling Green in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. All 122 passengers on board perished and the vessel remained where it sank without being discovered for more than 40 years and wasn’t positively identified until 1958. We will probably never know the exact circumstances behind its sinking but it can be said that the tragedy that unfolded on the S.S. Yongala was sudden due to the fact that no life rafts were ever found.

The wreck lies at the center of a flat, sandy shipping channel in about 30 meters of water and is the only solid structure to be found for miles. Even after almost 100 years in the water, most of the structure of the vessel and even most of the name – Yongala still remain intact. This wreck has been declared a cultural landmark, and is totally protected.

It now lies on its starboard side and at 109m long, is the largest and most intact, historic shipwreck in Australian waters.

The Beautiful Coral Wreck

The Great Barrier Reef is the most bio-diverse ecosystem on the planet including over 1500 species of fish and 350 different types of coral. The Yongala wreck has now become an artificial reef with more varieties of coral growing on it than most natural reef systems. The wreck also plays host to a huge variety of pelagic and reef species found in the Coral Sea.

Due to its prolific variety of marine life, the Yongala wreck is one of Australia’s best dive sites and it also has become one of the premier wreck dives in the world. Schools of trevally and cobia gather together around the depths of the wreck while giant Queensland gropers hang beneath the stern. Some of the other incredible marine life that inhabits the coral encrusted structure includes barracudas, turtles, queenfish, eagle rays, clown fish and sea snakes.

The wreck is enveloped in brightly colored soft and hard corals, hydroids and sea fans. It is quite an attraction to large pelagics like sharks, barracudas and other such fish that have made their habitat in and around the wreck due to it being the only hard structure over a large area of sandy bottom. You will encounter more fish in one dive on the wreck than ten on the reef. This is certainly a dive experience you will always remember.

Yongala Wreck Dive Tours

Yongala wreck dive trips set out from the city of Townsville and its resort island, Magnetic Island. You can get to Townsville via a short flight from Cairns.  The length of dive trips to the wreck may vary from 1 to 7 days, with the longer trips also visiting the Great Barrier Reef that lies further offshore, or heading out into the Coral Sea.

The location of the wreck is away from the protection provided by the Great Barrier Reef. Therefore the weather and sea conditions need to be taken into consideration when planning the timing of your dive. Professional dive operators often time your visit accordingly as they are well aware of the conditions. If the dive happens to be canceled because of weather or sea conditions, than the alternate plan would be to dive on the Great Barrier Reef which is not a bad dive in itself. So if you are diving in Australia or are intending to, be sure to check out the Yongala wreck as it is sure to provide all the thrill and adventure you are looking for in a wreck dive.