Abyss Scuba Diving

Exploring The Mighty Hmas Adelaide: The Royal Australian Navy


Exploring the Mighty HMAS Adelaide: A Modern Marvel of the Royal Australian Navy

HMAS Adelaide, once a stalwart of the Royal Australian Navy, now serves as an artificial reef and dive site. In this article, learn about its remarkable service, conversion to a reef, and the diving adventures it offers.

Key Takeaways

  • The HMAS Adelaide, commissioned in 1980, served the Royal Australian Navy as an amphibious assault ship with notable contributions to Australian naval history, including participating in peacekeeping and natural disaster relief operations.

  • Following its decommissioning in 2011, the HMAS Adelaide was converted into an artificial reef off the NSW Central Coast, enhancing marine biodiversity and offering safe diving experiences while symbolizing Australia’s commitment to the environment.

  • Diving the HMAS Adelaide wreck requires Advanced Diver certification and experience with wreck diving, providing encounters with diverse marine life and underwater challenges due to its depth and structure.

The Legacy of HMAS Adelaide

The HMAS Adelaide amphibious assault ship

The HMAS Adelaide, a distinguished member of the Royal Australian Navy, represented more than just an amphibious assault ship; it symbolized Australia’s naval strength. Commissioned in 1980, this mammoth vessel served as one of the most formidable Australian ships, including amphibious ships, expanding Australia’s naval expectations and setting new standards for future amphibious assault ships.

As the second Australian Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD), the HMAS Adelaide L01’s construction was a key part of the landing helicopter dock project designed to revitalize and update the Australian Defence Force. Adelaide arrived at the Navantia shipyard in Spain for its conception and later was fitted out at BAE Systems Australia, marking a significant milestone in Australian LHD taking shape. The flight deck on HMAS Adelaide L01, a heavy lift ship, plays a crucial role in facilitating helicopter dock operations, while the light vehicle deck serves as an additional support area for the ship’s operations.

During its tenure, the HMAS Adelaide took part in a multitude of operations, epitomizing Australia’s dedication to peace and security. These included:

  • the first Gulf War

  • peacekeeping missions in East Timor

  • Exercise Kakadu 2016

  • Exercise Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2017

  • Operation Bushfire Assist in 2020

  • disaster relief following the Hunga Tonga–Hunga Ha’apai eruption and tsunami in 2022

Serving Australia

The HMAS Adelaide’s contributions to Australia went beyond conventional naval operations. This Canberra-class vessel was involved in an operation that resulted in one of the largest drug hauls in Australian history, detaining the Kaiyo Maru No. 8, a former Japanese whaling vessel, in 2016.

Despite technical challenges, the HMAS Adelaide remained a reliable asset for the Australian Defence Force. When power failures occurred during its mission in Tonga in 2022, the ship continued its support operations, demonstrating the resilience and dedication of the Australian Navy.

Additionally, the HMAS Adelaide, stationed at fleet base east, had a significant part in fortifying Australia’s global relationships and expanding Australia’s naval expectations. In September 2022, it joined forces with the Singapore Armed Forces for Exercise Trident, a joint amphibious landing exercise at the Shoalwater Bay Training Area, reinforcing Australia’s commitment to regional security.

Decommissioning and Transformation

The HMAS Adelaide’s decommissioning signaled the start of a fresh phase. After years of distinguished service, the ship underwent a meticulous cleaning process to prepare for its transformation into an artificial reef. The process involved the removal of all potential toxic substances, including oil, hydraulic fluids, PCBs, lead, mercury, and others, to ensure the future dive site would be safe and environmentally friendly.

On March 13th, 2011, the decommissioned frigate was scuttled off the NSW Central Coast. This decision came after a tribunal concluded that the resulting artificial reef would benefit the community and provide a safe site for divers and residents alike.

Today, the HMAS Adelaide continues to serve Australia, not as a warship, but as a living reef, attracting marine life and offering divers a unique underwater experience. Despite the change in its role, the HMAS Adelaide remains a symbol of Australia’s naval history and commitment to the environment.

Environmental Impact: The Benefits of Artificial Reefs

Converting the HMAS Adelaide into an artificial reef yielded substantial advantages for the marine habitat. Offering a habitat for a range of marine species, the HMAS Adelaide has been instrumental in boosting marine biodiversity.

The ecosystem around the wreck supports a variety of organisms such as:

  • nudibranchs

  • sea stars

  • leatherjackets

  • frogfish

This contributes to the visual and biological diversity of the area, creating an underwater paradise for divers. Moreover, the artificial reef serves as a breeding ground that benefits local fisheries, demonstrating the symbiotic relationship between conservation efforts and commercial interests.

Beyond supporting marine life, the HMAS Adelaide contributes to the ecological rehabilitation of the marine area. The establishment of hard and soft corals on the vessel’s structure is a testament to nature’s resilience and adaptability. Moreover, by providing an alternative site for tourism and fishing activities, the artificial reef helps reduce the impact on natural reefs, demonstrating how decommissioned vessels can contribute to sustainable tourism and marine conservation.

Dive into Adventure: Exploring the HMAS Adelaide Wreck Site

Divers exploring the HMAS Adelaide wreck site

Exploring the HMAS Adelaide wreck offers divers:

  • A voyage into history

  • A chance to see marine biodiversity

  • An opportunity to explore an amphibious assault ship

  • A unique underwater experience

The wreck site is located off Sydney’s Central Coast and is teeming with marine life.

Location and Accessibility

The HMAS Adelaide wreck is situated approximately 1.8 kilometers from Avoca Beach, close to Terrigal. Divers typically access the site by boat, embarking from the Terrigal Boat Ramp, which provides free parking and is about 2km from the dive site.

The wreck site’s easy accessibility enhances its appeal, turning it into a favorite spot for divers.

Marine Life Encounters

Upon submersion, divers encounter a multitude of marine species that have claimed the HMAS Adelaide as their home. From Eastern fortesque and kingfish to cuttlefish and blue gropers, the wreck site offers a diverse marine life encounter. The artificial reef structure of the HMAS Adelaide also attracts larger marine life such as:

This offers divers a unique undersea spectacle.

Diving Requirements

While exploring the HMAS Adelaide is exhilarating, it necessitates an Advanced Diver certification along with substantial diving experience. It is recommended that divers have completed the PADI Wreck Diver Specialty course or possess experience with multiple wreck dives.

Due to the wreck’s depth, ranging from 15m to 37m, divers can benefit from completing a nitrox course. The HMAS Adelaide wreck offers multiple entry and exit points for exploration, but divers should be cautious of potential surges affecting visibility and making navigation more challenging.

Safety First: Precautions for Diving the HMAS Adelaide Wreck

While the exploration of the HMAS Adelaide wreck is exhilarating, safety remains paramount. Divers must adhere to guidelines provided by dive operators, which include:

  • Having an entry permit

  • Booking for a mooring

  • Avoiding inaccessible areas

  • Taking special precautions near the damaged structure of the ex-HMAS Adelaide.

Strategically cut access holes on either side of the wreck’s hull facilitate safe ingress and egress for divers. However, penetration below a depth of 30 meters is prohibited for safety reasons. Divers are advised to bring a dive light, wreck reel, and dive slate with a pencil to safely navigate and document their exploration.

Potential hazards include poor visibility due to surges and risks of decompression illness and hyperbaric injuries from diving with compressed air. By adhering to safety guidelines and being aware of potential hazards, divers can ensure a safe and enjoyable exploration of the HMAS Adelaide wreck.


The HMAS Adelaide represents a unique fusion of history, environmental conservation, and adventure. From its service in the Royal Australian Navy to its transformation into an artificial reef, this formidable warship continues to serve Australia in a different capacity. Today, it offers divers a unique underwater experience, teeming with marine life and steeped in naval history.

As we’ve seen, artificial reefs like HMAS Adelaide play a crucial role in enhancing marine biodiversity, supporting fisheries, and contributing to ecological rehabilitation. They also offer alternative sites for tourism and fishing activities, reducing the impact on natural reefs and contributing to sustainable tourism.

Whether you’re a history enthusiast, an environmentalist, or an adventurer, diving the HMAS Adelaide offers a unique experience. As you explore the depths of this former warship, remember the legacy it carries and the environmental benefits it offers. So, gear up and dive into an adventure that combines the thrill of exploration, the wonder of marine biodiversity, and a sense of history.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the HMAS Adelaide?

The HMAS Adelaide is a former Australian naval warship that has been transformed into an artificial dive reef, offering a unique underwater experience.

What certifications and experience are necessary to dive the HMAS Adelaide?

To dive the HMAS Adelaide, you need an Advanced Diver certification, significant advanced diving experience, and preferably the PADI Wreck Diver Specialty course or equivalent experience in wreck diving. These qualifications are essential for ensuring safety and competence when exploring the wreck.

What marine life can I encounter at the HMAS Adelaide dive site?

At the HMAS Adelaide dive site, you can encounter a diverse range of marine species such as Eastern fortesque, kingfish, cuttlefish, and blue gropers. Enjoy the underwater experience!

Where is the HMAS Adelaide dive site located?

The HMAS Adelaide dive site is located off Sydney's Central Coast, near Terrigal in Australia, offering a unique diving experience.

What safety precautions should be taken when diving the HMAS Adelaide wreck?

When diving the HMAS Adelaide wreck, it is essential to adhere to safety guidelines, familiarize oneself with the wreck layout, and be vigilant about potential hazards like severe pitting or water discoloration. Always dive with caution and follow the instructions provided by dive operators.

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