Diving the S/S Yongala

The S/S Yongala is a wreck that lies off the coast near Townsville, North Queensland.

She is in about 30m of water and it is about 15m deep at her top deck. This is a must see dive, rumour says it’s one of the top 5 dive spots in the world!

The fish life is amazing, everything is big and I mean big. About the only fish that are normal size are the Maori Wrasse and they are a huge fish anyway. The diversity of fish life is stunning, the wreck lies halfway between the Great Barrier Reef and the coast and so it gets both estuarine and reef species.

On one dive you can see Eagle rays, Bull rays, GIANT Trivially “jacks” for the Northern Americans),Wrasse, HUGE Queensland grouper, schools of mangrove jacks and much more. Add to this the turtles, sea snakes, Nudibranchs and the odd Tiger or Bull shark and you have a great dive.

The wreck itself isn’t that interesting and penetration is not allowed the major item of interest is the toilets. Everybody wants to the see the toilets.

There is also a good variety of soft corals and some particularly nasty stinging hydroids.

It is also a great night dive. J.C.U. Dive-club is about the only one who makes trips that includes a night-dive on the wreck.

Be warned the wreck is in an area where there is no protection, so if it is windy you can’t dive it. Also the currents and visibility are highly variable and unpredictable but I have never seen the visibility less than 10m and a bit of current brings everything in close to the wreck.

Photos taken during trips to Yongala can be found below in the Photo Gallery.

S/S Yongala, The First Encounter!

The day was Thursday the 25th of March we had been at Uni. for 4 weeks and was dying to dive!

We meet another Swede on the campus with name of Johan, he told us that he was going out to the Yongala that weekend and that there might be room for us if we wanted to come along. I was not that well up the different dive sites but Martin had told me about this wreck a long time ago back home in Sweden called Yongala. He wondered if we would like to come with him to the Divedesk so he could pay his trip. When we got there I started to talk to a friendly guy called Jody Kreuger that was the secretary of the diveclub that I meet the week before when I bought my wetsuit from him. He said that there was two empty spots at this week’s trip, so if we wanted them we had to pay now…

After about 5 minutes discussion we decided to come along.

They told us to be at the Quarterdeck at 8pm so they could load up all the stuff, and give everybody somewhere to sleep. After everybody knew where they should sleep they where free to go, because the boat would not leave until midnight. Me, Martin and Johan stayed on the boat and around 10.30 pm we were in our beds sleeping. Hoping that we wouldn’t become seasick, I was so proud and said that ‘I will not get seasick, I have done my service in the Navy!’ guess how became most seasick? – Yepp, that me…

Around 3am I had hurled so many times that I lost count, I was up and asked the captain about pills but he said he couldn’t give me any. I sat on a chair leaning against the wall and every 20 minutes I ran out and hurled… when we finally got to the wreck half the boat was seasick and many asked if we couldn’t go to the reef instead…

Jody and the others believed that it would be calmer very soon and the diving would be great! He also gave the advice to jump into the water as soon as possible, then the seasickness would go away.

After laying down for a couple of hours and trying to get some food into my empty stomach and keep it there, I said to my self and later to Martin and Johan, that I have paid 250$ to dive so I wont just stay here and feel sick! So we agreed to jump in no matter the cost and the hurling! *Smile* rather funny when I look back and think about it!

The weather was beautiful, the sun was shining and as soon as I got into the water I felt a sense of peace in my stomach, when we got down to the wreck we understood why it was ranked one of the top 5 dive sites in the world. The amount of fish was enormous, absolutely stunning, not only the small fish but the big ones, and there was rays, a lot of rays, I found out they where called bullrays.

After four dives and one of them a night dive, I went to bed and slept like a baby and woke up the next morning by some sunbeams irritating my eyes. They time was about 7 and many was still sleeping, but I heard some people talking in the back so I went back there and they where just planing the days first dive, and wondered how I felt and if I liked to join them. I felt like a new person and I got dressed very quickly and jumped into the wonderful 27-degree water.

During these 8 dives I did on this trip I saw seaturtles, rays, coraltraut, tigershark, bullshark, more rays and turtles!

Conclusion about the first Yongala trip, a lot of fish and animals, and stunning!

S/S Yongala, The Disappointment!

After the first trip to Yongala I felt that I just had to go out there again, even if that meant that I would throw up the whole trip. The day was the 3rd of September and this time I was going as a staff / helping hand / Divemaster, and this time it was another boat and different crew, the boat was called The Running Free, but it has many names; The Rusting Free, The Rolling Free etc. -Why? – Because it’s a shitty boat that leaks and rusts in areas you don’t want it do so. And the reason we choose this boat was money and availability, the rumour said that there was whales out at the Yongala and the Diveclub members demanded a trip so we had no other choice to take this boat.

I knew this boat was worse than the Reef Lady we use to take so I prepared my self with seasickness tablets. They worked pretty well, I did not get seasick until I failed to take a pill in time, and the cost was a regurgitation of my precious food, but that was it.

When I woke up in the morning I found my self not on the Yongala but on Little Broadhurst Reef, and was a little confused though I was so convinced that I wake up at the Yongala and didn’t understand why because the weather forecasts had been the best ever…

I found out that the skipper decided for him self that the Advanced students was not good enough to dive on the Yongala! This might be true but it’s still not up him to decide! We had 1 instructor and 2 Divemasters onboard so even if the students really sucked we could handle them without putting anybody in danger.

After 4 dives on the reef, with comments like ‘this is much more beautiful than Kelso and other reefs I have seen before’ made it a little bit better but we all where pretty pist of at the skipper. We convinced him to take us to the Yongala during the night so we could another 2-3 dives at the wreck before we went home to Townsville again. He agreed. He said he would go at 3 am and listen to the weather report and if it’s good, he would pick up the anchor and go. We all knew that he was full shit and would not take us if we did not kick his butt, luckily Jody woke up around 3 am and saw the skipper sleeping and realised that he didn’t give a shit where he spended the next day. Jody woke him up and said to him that he should take us to Yongala! So he did and I made another 3 dives on the wreck.

Two of the dives was putting down the line and take it up again, but the third was excellent though we saw huge Moray eel, a huge and very beautiful eagleray and of cause all the other “usual” stuff such as the tons of fish.

After this I felt like I did not ever want to dive anymore and felt little disappointed on everything until…

S/S Yongala, The Resurrection!

I did not even think about diving after the last Yongala trip, but when the 11th of November and third Yongala trip was around the corner I was keen again to go. I was worried that I would get seasick as usually but this time I bought two types of seasickness tablets and took maximum doze and exactly as prescribed and did not feel a thing! When we got out there, it was beautiful and Jody and me made the first dive to anchor the buoy so everybody could go safely up and down to the wreck. We took a little swim and came after 30 minutes after we had seen sea snakes, bullfish, scorpionfish or lionfish as they also are called.

My second dive was with a Norwegian guy called Erik, and this dive I took a whole film of photos and some quite good ones as well, one with a turtle and a lionfish in the same picture. Of cause some on them separately, we saw some more sea snakes and heaps of bullfish that also got some flashes on them.

My third dive was with an American guy that I meet on a rescue course I Divemastered, didn’t see anything special more than the SUPER HUGE Grouper that inhabits the wreck.

The fourth dive was supposed to be the nightdive, but when Sarah the instructor got into the water and some of her students had problems with the strong current she decided to abort the dive and that meant that there was no dive for anybody, due to the current. The plan was that we was suppose to do the nightdive and then head off to the reef and do two dives there the day after, so we had a problem. The buoy was still in the water and had to be picked up! That’s the Divemasters’ job and Jody had been over to Mike Balls vessel and had a beer so he couldn’t dive and Sarah was still unsure about the current. So I volunteered and got a buddy called Russell down with me and when we got half way in the zodiac to the buoy, Russell broke his fin so we had to head back to the boat and get a new pair of fins. Said and done, halfway out again, Russell switched on his torch and we saw that we where about 30 cm from a giant sea turtle so we had to turn of the engine and wait for it to go a way.

Finally there we got into the water and Russell said to me;

– Shit, I forgot the weight belt!

– I answered him little chilly: I don’t have any either, and you wont need it.

– Can we go down without them?

– Sure we can just pull your self down along the rope!

After a couple seconds we were down at the wreck and Russell started to untie the rope, but did not seem to get it off, so I continued. After a minute or so I saw something in the corner of my eye, and I turned around and saw this Barracuda ATTACKING ME from behind and I took my torch and swung it towards the big fish and felt that I hit it and saw it swam away. I continued with me rope and was soon finished and we where on our way up again. On the way up I can promise you that a lot of images of dangerous marine creatures was going through my mind and my adrenaline was pumping straight out into my veins… talk about rush!

Russell as not late telling me how cool it was with that Barracuda and telling everybody about it! I agree that it was pretty awesome!!

The during the night the skipper took us to Big Broadhurst Reef as planned, not far away from Little Broadhurst reef we dove on the last Yongala. A drift dive was planned and this time on a wall, but when Jody and Minolo found out that there was no current we all went for a ordinary dive and Jody, me and Minolo went for wall, because we wanted to find depth. After 20 minutes after we encountered a white tipped reefshark, we decided to head in a different direction to look for this wall and after 10 minutes swim we found it. It was like a highway down to the abyss it was EXCELLENT, we passed 20 meters, 30 and the highway just continued down and I followed it. 40 meter and I could see it levelling off, so I went down to the bottom of that level and took a good look at my divecomputer which said 45.9 meters! According to the computer I could stay there for 3 minutes but I had no intentions to do so, and I was already on my way up, so Jody and Minolo could go down…

When we reached the surface we burst out in joyful scream and could not believe that we had done it!!!

We all agreed to do it again the next trip!

S/S Yongala, A Short Visit.

Six month after the resurrection it was time for the fourth time go out diving at the famous wreck again. This time Jody wanted to get some dives in though we hadn’t been diving in year 2000 yet. Jody ask around among some friends and filled soon the small boat. 14th of May it was time again to visit the old wreck.

I was paired up with Johan another Swedish guy, that studies marine biology as well. As usual we saw heaps of marine animals like, fish, turtles, lionfish and heaps of olive green seasnakes that are famous for the most lethal venom among all snakes, terrestrial and marine!

It was little bit shoppy waves but I managed not to throw up, but I can tell you I am not made to be out on the ocean! I am a true landcrab! 🙂 The waves brought with them some current, so we used this and float with the current on the bottom side of the old vessel and swam against the current on the other side.

It was a remarkable day, with clear blue skies and a shiny sun, which made it quite nice and bright down on 28-30 meters.

The second dive I buddied with Johan again that felt the seasickness coming… we spotted a triggerfish, a huge shell, a bullray that I haven’t seen since my first visit at the Yongala (the 25th of March, a year and two month ago). We also spotted many olive green seasnakes again and of cause all the fish, fish and more fish!

As a conclusion again for the S/S Yongala: 2 Super dives!

On the way home from the S/S Yongala we cruised with the waves so it was REALLY nice, when the sun set over Magnetic Island the day was to an end and we all felt that this was another successful Yongala trip!

After have done 17 dives at the S/S Yongala, I think I am in a position to say that S/S Yongala is something special and I feel very privileged and sometimes spoiled to be able to do dives on this remarkable divesite.

If you have any chance to go for a dive at this popular site, I can only say: GO FOR IT!

S/S Yongala, The Best Dive of My Life!

5th of November 2000 it was planned for JCU Diveclub to go out to the spectacular wreck named S/S Yongala.

When reading through these stories about the Yongala I feel that I am just repeating my self over and over again about how spectacular and how much fish and marine fauna there are out there. As you might understand this site has been talk about and written about a lot in dive magazines all over the world. Years before I came to Australia I had been told and read about the mysterious wreck outside Townsville, Australia called S/S Yongala.

The Magazine I read about it in rated Yongala as a Top 5 dive spot in the World! When reading my pages about this wreck you might get a glimpse of how it is diving at such a spot. The feeling of weightlessness around this majestic wreck with large amounts of marine mega fauna like, huge Queensland Groupers, cods, seasnakes, green seaturtles, school of barracudas, occasional whales, sharks, rays, moray eels add to this all the invertebrates like seastars, featherstars, nudibraches, softcorals and hardcorals of cause.

For me as a marine biologist / zoologist and diver I cannot imagine any better dive experience than the S/S Yongala.

I dove with Geoff Sutcliff who is an instructor and also a very cool dive buddy. Our first dive this very calm overcast day began with a greeting by a 3-3.5 meter wide Mantaray! This was SO cool and I, that never seen Mantas before, was totally exited seeing such a large animal so close (20-50cm). In the later half of the dive a second Manta came along and stated playing with the first one, perhaps a male and a female doing the things male and female Mantarays do. After almost three-quarters of an hour it was time to ascend to the surface.

The huge Manta Rays cruise into protected channels that penetrate the Great Barrier Reef. They come to “Cleaning Stations” where small specialized reef fishes called cleaners pick off tiny parasites that the Mantas pick up in blue water while feeding. At the S/S Yongala the Mantas slowly circled the cleaning station (the wreck) and frequently passed within inches of the observing diver’s heads. Small Mantas are generally about 2.5 meters from wingtip to wingtip. The larger rays are up to 4.5 meters across. The rays we had the great opportunity to watch was 3-3.5 meters. After a very nice lunch provided by our skipper and decky, me and Geoff went back into the deep blue ocean, re-charged with a new tank and excitement of being greeted by the Mantas again. It didn’t take long before the divers from the other diveboat finished their dive and me and Geoff was alone on the wreck with the two curious Mantas.

It didn’t take long before both of them circled around us and I had many opportunities to reach out and touch the rays, their skin was very rough and there was some kind of mucus layer around them. The Mantas didn’t seem to be bothered by me touching them, more the opposite, they came back time and time again.

We also encountered a large bullray (1.5-2meter wide), but it decided not to stay for that long and we say turtles both on the surface and in the water. Other marine creature encountered belonging to the mega-fauna were the 3meter long shovel-nosed ray, with a long pointy dorsal fin.

When arriving in the Townsville Harbour, people were saying; ” MY BEST DIVE EVER!!! ” and ” WOW!!! ” .

What can I say?

Another two EXTRAORDINARY dives at this magnificent wreck; S/S Yongala.

Do YOU want to experience this fascinating dive site?

-Email the JCU Diveclub at Diveclub@jcu.edu.au

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