Ollie Pitcher – PADI IDC Staff Instructor
On the 13th of April 2011 the Australian dive community were all watching as the HMAS Adelaide was scuttled off Avoca beach on the central coast, creating the largest intentionally placed artificial reef on the countries east coast. To celebrate the first anniversary of this great occasion a crew of 9 Abyss divers made the trip up to see how the reef has developed over the last 12 months.
A 5am start saw me on the road heading towards Terrigal with a clear sky and near flawless weather and ocean conditions in mind.
Energy levels were high amongst all the divers when we met at the boat ramp with the anticipation and curiosity of what we would find once we got to the wreck. We were all kitted up in a flash, although we still had a little while to wait for the boat of very early morning divers to return so we could get our chance.
We clambered aboard the rib once it had returned, and “after a long and arduous journey” we were sat directly above the great ship, wondering how much she will have changed since the last visit, which for myself was about 10 months ago.
Conditions could not have been much better in any way. Once we had all rolled off the boat, we began our descent down the mooring line. Within seconds the top of the ship’s barnacle encrusted mast came in to sight, along with a large school of Mado and the occasional Kingfish. As the top deck was revealed, it was suddenly put in to context just how developed the reef has become in he time she has been down. What was a barren structure when I last had the chance to dive on it now has patches of thick kelp and many species of sponge and soft corral starting to grow, and hardly an inch of exposed metal to be seen anywhere.
A young Giant Cuttlefish, around 30cm in length patrolled the base of the mast, as if on look out duty.
We entered the wreck through an opening on the port side, 3 levels down just behind the mast to find a birthday cake on one of the cafeteria tables with a glow-stick ‘candle’ left in celebration by the first group of the day to visit.
After exploring the guts of the ship we slowly made our way back to the mast to begin our ascent. As we were making our first stop at 10 meters depth, a larger school of Kingfish came in to view, at least 30 strong, circling the mast and were with us for the rest of our ascent.
First dive: Max. 34 meters for 37 minutes. Visibility around 15 meters.
After a relaxing lunch and surface interval, and plenty of conversation about the volume and diversity of the marine life inhabiting the wreck, we were back on the rib and on our way out for our second dive.
We were in the water within minutes of the exact time of the ship going down 1 year ago, which gave us all an unusual energy and feeling about what we were doing.
Penetrating again on the port side, slightly closer to the bow then the first dive, we were confronted by another Giant Cuttlefish, much larger then the first, who seemed to be guarding the entry hole and did not want to get out of the way. After realizing that we were not going to back away, the majestic creature slowly backed away, seemingly vanishing like a ghost into the walls of the ship. After a visit to the engine room we made our way to the helicopter hanger, up through the wheelhouse, then spent the rest of the dive exploring the deck.
Second dive: Max. 36 meters for 32 minutes.
I was left with a privileged feeling to have been able to spend the HMAS Adelaide’s birthday with her. Everything came together and fell in to place to make this my best day of diving of 2012 so far, and it will take something pretty special to top it.
Thanks so much to everyone who I got to dive with, especially to Rachel Fallon for organizing the trip and extra special thanks to Bob Diaz for providing a fantastic service, as always, and going the extra mile to make our day unforgettable.
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