SS Yon­gala

AUSTRALIA

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READ­ERS SURVE Y COM­MENT S “The Yon­gala was my first wreck dive ever, and still my best one to this day. We saw a huge log­ger­head sea tur­tle swim into the wreck. We could see it from above, through a hole in the wreck. It stopped in­side and was im­me­di­ately mobbed by all kinds of cleaner wrasse. We also saw banded sea snakes and huge mar­ble rays the size of din­ner ta­bles hov­er­ing over the wreck.”

Sto­ries be­hind the most cel­e­brated wreck dives of­ten be­gin with tragedy. In March 1911, the SS Yon­gala steamed un­awares into an ap­proach­ing cy­clone off Australia’s east­ern coast. All 122 peo­ple on board per­ished when the 360-foot ship suf­fered the storm’s wrath and sank to a sandy bot­tom 95 feet be­low, 50 miles south­east of Townsville. Since then, an ex­tra­or­di­nary as­sem­blage of ma­rine life has vis­ited the site to pay trib­ute and build a liv­ing shrine. Shoals of snap­per and bar­racuda and squadrons of mar­ble rays and ea­gle rays are joined by sea tur­tles and sea snakes. Beefy bull sharks, over­size mo­ray eels and gi­ant trevally are all in at­ten­dance too. Soft corals, cup corals, sponges and oys­ters see to the bright dec­o­ra­tion of the hull. Thou­sands of an­nual awestruck vis­i­tors prove Yon­gala is to ship­wrecks what Great Bar­rier Reef is to reefs.

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