Regarded as one of the greatest wreck dives in the world, the 110-meter S.S. Yongala once lay undiscovered on the ocean floor for over half a century after its untimely demise in 1911. Situated between the towns of Townsville and Ayr off the coast of Queensland, Australia, the S.S. Yongala is one of the largest and most intact historic shipwrecks that can be explored under the sea. Being the only reef formation in the region, the ship attracts and hosts a higher density of marine life than you might believe possible. An array of technicolor corals have found refuge on the ship and set the building blocks for the unbelievable self-sustaining microcosm that the ship is today. See giant trevally, marble rays, sea snakes, sea turtles, giant Queensland groupers, and schools of barracuda circle the ship as you gaze at the wonders that lie beneath the surface around the wreck. Listen for the songs of humpback whales as they make their way north through this migration corridor to the warmer waters of the Great Barrier Reef.
The S.S. Yongala encountered a cyclone on March 23, 1911, and sank with all 122 passengers on board. The exact happenings on this tragic day in Australian maritime history are unknown, though research supports that the ship was sunk suddenly as no life rafts were deployed and the steamship was still en route. After a failed 7-day search for the vessel, the ship lay on the ocean floor until 1958. It has remained mostly untouched over the years, first protected by its remote location, then formally under the Historic Shipwreck Act in 1976.
Site: S.S. Yongala Shipwreck (two-tank dive)
Depth: 15 meters (top of the wreck); 29 meters (on the sand)
Necessary experience: Open Water certified, have at least six logged dives
Spotted eagle ray (Aetobatus narinari)
Marble or ribbontail ray (Taeniura meyeni)
Manta ray (Manta alfredi)
Moray eel (Muraenidae sp.)
Giant trevally (Caranx ignobilis)
Maori or Napoleon wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus)
Giant Queensland grouper (Epinephelus lanceolatus)
Banded sea snake (Laticauda colubrina)
Barracuda (Sphyraena putnamiae)
Loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta)
Hawksbill sea turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata)
Green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas)
Bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas)
Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae)
Close to the dive site at Alva Beach in Ayr, Yongala Dive runs daily trips to the S.S. Yongala for a two-tank dive. Adrenalin Snorkel & Dive runs full-day tours from Townsville and Magnetic Island to the wreck on Wednesdays and Saturdays (weather depending).
Any scuba diver interested in seeing one of the most incredible shipwrecks on the planet should make the effort to dive the S.S. Yongala. Not only do you get to explore a nearly intact historic shipwreck that sunk a year before the Titanic, but the density of marine life that rivals that of the most lush tropical rainforest will awe even the most experienced of scuba divers. This bucket-list dive is one for the books.
Featured in Outdoor Project.