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Diving Feature - HMAS Brisbane QLD

September 7th 2007 01:43
H.M.A.S Brisbane
Surface Sillouhette
The H.M.A.S. Brisbane

At approximately 10.16am on Sunday July 31st 2005 the grand old warship HMAS Brisbane, given her final marching orders, bid farewell to the sunlit world and slid majestically beneath the waves amidst a roar of smoke and onboard pyrotechnics accompanied by an earth shattering resonance of explosive underwater aftershocks.

Encircled by a flotilla of well over one thousand marine-craft of all shapes and sizes and over a dozen aircraft overhead, this icon of the Royal Australian Navy was proudly displayed in full view of thousands more shore-based onlookers.

Her sides were perforated with numerous cutout sections strategically placed to allow for the necessary influx of water that would allow her to sink bottom first to the ocean floor beneath. Amazingly, it took only two minutes and three seconds for this magnificent ship to disappear and everyone present who was privileged to witness this historic event was somehow affected by what they saw.

This included the crew from Blue Water Dive in Mooloolaba who were amongst the cheering crowds for this memorable occasion but amidst the champers, congratulations and frivolity they also felt humbled by the honor of being chosen as one of only 3 operators granted a license to dive on this incredible ship.

Thursday August 4th 2005 was a day of high anticipation as the team headed off to commence their first orientation dives on the wreck. Actually the word "wreck" at the moment is a misnomer as this magnificent vessel entombed in her watery grave some three kilometers off the coast of Mooloolaba is intact and in perfect condition lying in the soft white sands of the Coral Sea.

The excitement was palpable as we approached our destination mooring located at the northern amidships. We could see the hulking gray outline of the enormous vessel lying just beneath the surface like a giant sleeping whale.

No time was wasted picking up the tagline and tying it securely to their vessel. It was with solemn reverence that the team descended the initial 5m below the buoy to access the transit line. Using the line as a guide across a 25m expanse south of the mooring to the main structure of the ship, the HMAS Brisbane quickly crystallized from a foggy mass into sharp focus in the crystal clear 20m visibility.

The team could not get over the sheer size of her underwater and their first 50 bar of air must have disappeared quickly in the excitement of reaching the end of the transit line behind the bridge that lies in about 12 meters of water.

The remainder of the dive was spent gliding wide-eyed along the port side in amongst the multi-tiered superstructure and along the bow where it had come to rest on the sand in 26.6m. Following along the keel line they cruised up the starboard side towards the stern rudder and were thrilled to discover several varieties of starfish, flathead and flounder happily co-existing on the seabed beneath them. With a few precious minutes left to admire the huge rear gun turret as they ascended onto the aft deck it was time to complete their first memorable dive and return to the surface.

Back on board the vessel surface interval passed quickly as everyone compared underwater digital shots and enthused about what a sensational multi-level dive they had enjoyed for 45 minutes without even approaching decompression limits.

The great news too was that the whole of the main deck was sitting at around 18m making the external exploration of the upper levels easily accessible to diving customers with only an Open Water Certification.

The second dive was spent doing an exploratory cruise inside the belly of the ship that revealed an awesome range of rooms and corridors to investigate and all in pristine condition. Especially magic were the engine and boiler rooms, the galley areas, the missile launch control area and descending the funnel.

It would be impossible to do justice to the HMAS Brisbane after just one penetration dive and try to describe how thrilling this adventure is and how incomprehensible the variety of rooms and recesses are available to dive on, all with ample access and natural lighting to explore the inner workings of this amazing “wreck”.

I can certainly understand why the HMAS Brisbane Conservation Park, has now been earmarked by the Queensland Government as Australia’s premier wreck dive destination for years to come.

The accessibility of the site, the warm water, good visibility and rapidly developing marine life, enhanced by the rich naval history associated with this ship combine to make this particular location a must see for any diver visiting Mooloolaba.

I encourage Divers of all levels to come and visit this living monument to the men and women of the Royal Australian Navy who served aboard the HMAS Brisbane as recently as the Gulf War while she is still in her virgin state so that you can be equally impressed by her raw beauty before the fertile life of the South Pacific paints its magic over her façade.

Text by Andy McCutcheon
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