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.