For all the Scuba Divers out there, the SS Yongala rates as one of the best wreck dives Queensland has to offer. Below is a short version of the story of the Yongala as well as some notes about diving the wreck.
The SS Yongala sank about 60km south of Townsville in Queensland (just off cape bowling green) in 1911 with all 122 passengers and crew lost.
The SS Yongala was a steamship built for the Adelaide Steamship Co of South Australia, but at the time was voyaging from Melbourne to Cairns on a regular run carrying passengers and cargo up and down the east coast of Australia.
As the story goes, the Yongala had not been equipped with a wireless at the time of the sinking (ironically one had been sent from England to be installed on the ship).
The last sighting of the Yongala was made by the lighthouse keeper on Dent Island in the Whitsunday Passage.
That same evening a Cyclone was known to be crossing the intended path of the Yongala and it was a few days until the alarm was raised and a search begun. No trace was found at the time and it wasn’t until 1958 that the wreck was found and positively identified as the Yongala. An investigation was conducted into the incident and no fault was found with the handling of the ship by Capt William Knight.
The maritime Board of Inquiry statement was such:
'The Board were confirmed in their opinion that the risk of navigating the Queensland coast is considerably enhanced during the hurricane months, or from December to April; and although with plenty of sea room and a well-found ship the observant master can, by heaving to on the right tack, or keeping out of the path of the storm, invariably avert disaster.
But when caught inside the Barrier Reef, with the number of islands and reefs intervening, the Board think it will be generally conceded that the only element of safety is to be found in securing the best anchorage available...'
Some notes on Diving the SS Yongala Wreck Site:
It’s important to know that diving the Yongala is subject to tides and currents as it sits in a shipping channel (at about 30 metres depth) without the protection of the reef, so timing is all important.
Rest assured all the local professional dive operators know the conditions very well and will make sure your dive is as safe and enjoyable as it can be.
Even though the wreck is almost 100 years old it is still in very good condition, entering of the wreck by divers is now strictly prohibited though; as it was found that the bubbles of divers inside the wreck caused corrosion on the inner hull.
But don’t let this deter you as most things can still be seen clearly from outside, the masts, rudder and portholes are all still visible as is most of the ship’s name.
The coral and other sea life that now inhabit the wreck is both varied and abundant, you’ll see everything from bait fish to sharks and even a huge Maori wrasse that goes by the name of V-W (mainly because he’s roughly the same size as a Volkswagen Car.