Yongala!

Ayr Travel Blog

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Morning arrives too quickly.  We all silently eat breakfast.  Building our energy for the day we have ahead.  We get our gear organized, hop in the truck to go to the beach.  Our boat is waiting for us on the beach.  The beach is deserted, another perk of diving out of Ayr.  It’s an amazing site driving up a deserted beach to our boat.  The only other thing to tell me human even live here is the giant tractor they’ve used to get the boat out here.  It will take us 30 mins to get to the wreck.  We push the pontoon style boat into the water, getting it out to deeper waters.  The water is hot.  I swear it is the warmest ocean water I’ve ever been in.

Deserted beach
  We hop in, the engine starts and we’re off.  Bouncing along the waves, keeping our limbs in the boat despite the jumping about!  We arrive.  We are the only boat!!  Yipee!!  What a glorious day! 

The visibility can be bad at this site.  We are lucky, today it’s about 10 metres.  We get assigned our buddies and dive in.  My buddy is on Nitrox and I’m a star on air.  We are well matched.  We tease each other about being amazing on air and that we better not make the other come up too early.

Initial thoughts, the visibility is terrible compared to the Coral Sea, Osprey Reef and in Malaysia.

Me pushing those fish out the way!
  That said this dive is fascinating.  As soon as we drop I see a huge marble ray on the ocean floor.  Then I find the wreck.  There are fish EVERYWHERE.  O.k. there is everywhere and then EVERYWHERE.  I’m telling you I had to push them out of my way there was so many.  When the Yongala came to rest it tipped on its one side, masts rested along the ocean floor.  On the underside of the ship the current is moving fast and the water is literally full of fish riding that current.  It’s like watching salmon go upstream in Canadian rivers.  These fish love it here!  They’re all facing the same way, faces into the current, bodies swimming as one group.  In all my dives I’ve never witnessed this many fish in such concentration.
Told you there were a lot of them!
 

I like swimming along the side of the ship, peering into the now windowless windows along the one side.  Inside the ship giant potatoe cods look up at me, olive snakes (good god) swim everywhere, maori wrasse and massive schools of fusilier swim around.  A queensland grouper goes by.  We swim the length of the ship, then turn moving with the current observing the deck of the ship.  You can see inside, to rooms under the deck, we swim around the masts that now lay broken on the ocean floor.  Man I want to go into the ship!  We can’t though.  The site is too fragile and it’s a sacred place.  122 people died on this ship when it sunk.  The site is considered a grave yard, and out of respect for those who lost their lives there they ask that we don’t go into the ship.

Me
  The ship has also been buried at sea for nearly 100 years.  There are concerns that pieces will fall away while divers are inside, and to avoid anyone being hurt, divers stay clear of going in.  You can get a good view though.   

Coral grows everywhere on the ship.  Sunlight dances deep into the water, bouncing off the fish, boat, coral, and lighting up the inside, showing me this underwater world I love.  I have seen many things while diving, but this wreck will go down in history for me because of one amazing site.  I swam up the face of the deck to go back to the underside of the ship.  I didn’t know it but I was swimming up to an opening in the ship’s floor, where part of the side had broken away.  When I saw the opening I looked into the ship, the sun flowed in, bright coral danced back and forth in the current, tiny fish swam in and out of the long opening and in the middle is a beautiful potatoe cod silently looking my me.

  My breath is gone.  I am stunned.  The beauty of this wreck, the home that these species have made and the gift I’ve been given to see it at this moment.  I fight the current staying as long as possible in this place.  When I’m pushed away, I circle and return again and again, seeing this potatoe cod’s home over and over.  Life doesn’t get better than this for me.

Highlights you might like include: On our way back from dive one we see a moss covered turtle munching away on the coral, and too many olive sea snakes to feel comfortable in this water (yikes they are dangerous!).  Then on the way to the surface to take our safety stop we see a school of chevron barracuda circling beside us!  We stay with them as long as out air will let us.  Yow!  Another amazing find was at the end of dive two.

Moray eel
I was swimming again over the windows along the one side of the ship.  I’m very close to the ship, peering in at the insides when out of the dark comes a moray eel snapping his big mouth at me!  YIKES!  I jump back in the water, getting out of the way of those teeth.  I swim away and circle back around to get another look.  My heart rate is pumping but I can’t resist another good look!  I get my buddy and we watch the eel for a long time.  What a site! 

After the dives we bring the boat into shore, wading through the hot shallow water..  We’re all animated talking excitedly about the day.  We then drive 4x4 style on our truck along the deserted beach. Riding over the sand dunes, the engine revs to get through the thick sand.  We hit the dirt path to home, dry deserted lands are on all sides.  Everything glows orange it’s so dry.  Hello Australia!

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Deserted beach
Deserted beach
Me pushing those fish out the way!
Me pushing those fish out the way!
Told you there were a lot of them!
Told you there were a lot of them!
Me
Me
Moray eel
Moray eel
Our boat
Our boat
Getting my gear
Getting my gear
The divers
The divers
On our way
On our way
Moi
Moi
Me again
Me again
Barracuda!
Barracuda!
Potatoe cod
Potatoe cod
Olive sea snake
Olive sea snake
And me again
And me again
Ayr
photo by: 16weeks