Mystery, exploration and just being in a whole new world where few dare to venture – sums up my reasons for scuba diving and more so if you are drawn to wreck diving. In the 20 years of diving all over the world I speak from experience when saying wreck diving is an absolute rush. From gearing up, listening with great enthusiasm to the dive brief or giving an enthusiastic brief (if I am the guide) before throwing myself and my gear aboard the boat that will take us out to sea, to our descent line. For many divers – it first involves a flight and cab ride from the airport to their holiday destination before they have even got their dive bag sorted. So living on the Central Coast, new home to the Ex-HMS Adelaide is truly a gift.
The Ex-HMS Adelaide was sunk a couple of years ago after a pod of dolphins finally let the explosives blokes, blow a hole in its side. The dolphins kept us 18000 odd locals on the beach waiting for 2 hours before the fuse were lit, as they played beneath the ship as if, on purpose. Finally the frigate bomber found it’s new home in 30 meters of sea bed off the very popular Avoca Beach. Central Coast dive shops started their marketing campaigns, instantly drawing divers to our shores to explore this gift we’d been given. We can roll out of bed and dive a Australian wreck, a ship that was instrumental in the 1990/91 Gulf War, in the Peace keeping operations in East Timor (99-06) and was deployed to the Arabian Gulf (2001-04). In 1997, Queen Elizabeth II personally congratulated HMS Adelaide and the Australian Defense Force for the two dramatic rescues in the Southern Ocean. Adelaide’s Sea King helicopter was launched to conduct the rescue of the round-the-world yachtsmen Theirry Dubois and Tony Bullimore.
Researching the wreck prior to diving it is all part of the excitement, as you imagine life aboard this vessel in its heyday, study its deck plans before descending down the bow or stern lines. You have a picture in your mind, an idea of what life aboard this vessel would have been like with its 200+ crew. The helicopter hangers that housed the Sea King are vast and based at the Stern.
I love that 15 meter “WOW!” that you get every time you descend as Adelaide comes into view. If you are new to the sport then exploring the upper deck, bridge and masts is excitement enough – there’s plenty to see on one cylinder of air. If you are more experienced Nitrox or better still you have a rebreather then take your time and do some exploring of the hangers & lower decks or find the ammunition stall. And we haven’t even made it to the engine room yet – this is one big ship stretched out on our sea floor. Divers simply must sit in the captain’s chair, chat on the phone, check out the console and chart tables from the bridge and enjoy the amenities in the crew’s cafeteria. Get a photo taken of the crew’s bunk beds or just float on down to the huge hole where the missile launcher used to be. It’s VAST !!! Before the Adelaide was sunk it was prepared for us scuba divers with holes cut into it on all the decks to ensure it’s a comfortable dive for new divers and has plenty of exits for those experienced divers who love to penetrate and go deep into the ship. Scuba Diving has its risks – we know that, the Adelaide has been stripped of obstacles (except the toilets on lower decks) and has plenty of openings to minimize the stress – at 30+ meters there’s enough to keep us entertained without worry about finding a way out.
Adelaide, now retired from the Australian Navy is thriving in its new career as artificial reef and scuba divers playground. Beautiful sea life have taken up residence on board. Keeping an eye on divers at 20 meters whilst circling the tops of the communication towers are giant bat fish, and just below there are plenty of bream under the communication masts – I’m talking hundreds of them circling inside the comms tower. Wobbegongs have been spotted snoozing on the top deck and schools of yellow tails patrol the flight decks. Take a closer look and you will find a nudibranch or two tucked away and the corals are flourishing. Ensure your torch batteries are well charged as you will see so many colours in the majestic plants and corals on board. Pink sponges have sprouted on board too, elegant purple Jewel Anemone dance and sway with the surge – you will have to look carefully for these little gems. On my most recent dive I ascended with a friendly crab hanging onto my right arm – unbeknown to me of course – my buddy pointed him out. There’s a great variety of plant and sea life that have settled on Adelaide in such a short time.
Divers who have not yet dived the HMS Adelaide – are, in a word – CRAZY. It’s a gift – easy to get to just an hour north of Sydney and our school just up the road with everything you need to ensure a superb day diving. The visibility is by far better in winter than in summer so don your drysuit and join us exploring this icon from the Australian Maritime archives.
It is certainly worth the $18 fee we pay to the Central Coast Tourism for the day of diving the ExHMS Adelaide – a thank you from us divers for giving us such an awesome wreck to explore.