We awoke early to roll down to the dive shop where would load up and embark upon what it supposed to be one of the most amazing wreck dives – and dive sites in general – in the world. The SS Yongala was a steamship built in England for £102,000 and used for linking the northern Australia gold fields with the ports of Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne. On 23rd March 1911 she rolled into a cyclone and sank just south of Townsville killing all 122 people on board. You really have to love Wikipedia.
Somewhat groggy as is common in the world of scuba we set about kitting ourselves up informed by a borderline panic-stricken staff member that, through no fault of our own, our window of opportunity to get out and back in line with the tides was microscopic. We threw ourselves onto the jeep and sped out onto the shore behind the towed catamaran before jumping aboard the hastily deposited vessel and taking the 30 minute ride out to site.
The limited wreck diving I’ve done follows a fairly standard approach and the rules vary dependent upon your location – here in Aus it was a hard line ‘touch the wreck and your dive is over’ whereas in Bali you could probably have moved in without the dive crew batting an eyelid. In terms of the afore-mentioned approach you basically float around it and the divemaster points out key areas of the ship for appropriate under water “oooh’s” and “aaahh’s”. For the first dive the scale of the ship was what hit me and in fairness wreck diving in general is interesting because what you’re swimming around is supposed to be on the water not under it. Lots of big fish and as the dive ended a couple of Marble Rays swam around us before we surfaced. The second dive was much of the same though as we neared the end of the dive frantic signalling pointed out a shark on the edge of our collective vision. My interest piqued, I swam as fast as I could in its general direction but aside from a hazy view in the distance it wasn’t long before the better swimmer of the two of us left me for dust and vanished out of sight. It was only upon exiting the water I was informed that the fella in question had been a Bull Shark which I’m consistently told is one of the only species of shark known to attack humans without provocation. There’s nothing like a little retrospective danger to add a little spark to a day’s events.
We made it back with barely enough time to avoid running aground though we were off the boat long before it reached the shore. We returned to the dive shop and had a nice barbeque lunch before hitting the road bound for Airlie Beach – the place my dear friends Dave and Charlotte named their first born after. We rolled into Flametree Park for the night and dined typically well while a few Possums pottered about the eves awaiting our departure so they could wolf down anything we left behind.