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The S.S Yongala has an amazing history. The ship sank in a cyclone in 1911, sadly killing 122 people. It lays at rest 22 kilometres off the coast of Ayr in Northern Queensland in the Great Barrier Reef, and is now a tomb to those that lost their lives that night. Fifty years later, the ship was rediscovered, and is now home to one of the best diving sites that Australia (and the world) has to offer.
As we entered the water and scurried over to the diving line, my friend yelled out -'look down Emma'. Just as I put my face in the water a whale shark swam underneath us. The sheer size and beauty of this creature is incredible. Unfortunately he didn't stick around for a second look. We descended to a depth of 28 meters. Visibility wasn't the best, but good enough to see the eagle rays lying in the sand, a green turtle, numerous other sea creatures, and a 100 year old bottle of champagne.
There is so much food in this one area for marine life, most animals never have to leave. The marine life can grow to enormous sizes here.
The two dives that we did that day were magnificent. We swam around the whole wreck and over the engine room. Our guide even took us over the hull, which is where all the people's remains are kept. Although you couldn't see anything, it was an eerie feeling. Imagine what they went through that treacherous night.
My advice is take the time to travel to Ayr and go diving from there. Although there isn't much to do around the tiny town, you will appreciate cutting three quarters of boat time off your trip out to the Yongala. The best way to get to Ayr (which is 88km south of Townsville) is by hire car, or bus.
Yongala Dive are a great crew to dive the Yongala with. They offer a very professional and experienced level of service. The company also offer accommodation if you wanted to stick around for a couple of extra days diving.
Many people ask about the effect that cyclone Yasi had on the Yongala and the area surrounding. The hull was apparently stripped from existing anemone which now exposes the name of the ship, but most other areas were remarkably untouched, along with the resident marine life.
The resilience of the environment around the Yongala makes this one of the best wreck dives in the world.