My first dives on the Yongala were in October 1984, while aboard Coralita with Captain Wally Muller. This was the era pre GPS so finding the wreck might take some time using radar fixes and the echo sounder. The other factor to help ID the location was a resident school of Batfish, so numerous on the surface they could be spotted a hundred meters away.
On my return dives with Ben Cropp in 2002 the wreck was noticeably changed. One morning while doing a solo dive on the wreck I heard the sounds of the approaching – and anchoring tourist dive boat run by my friend Mike Ball. A rare experience no doubt.
What a racket of sound underwater. Zodiac’s positioning buoys, the rattle of heavy anchor chain and the thumping drone of big boat engines. Do fish get accustomed to this noise and ‘put up with it’ or do some clear-out?
The Batfish were gone - perhaps that’s a seasonal thing? So were the stingray, giant groper and black kingfish.
Since 2002 I’d expect that ‘marine parks’ have placed permanent moorings in place. If not then these are long overdue. These prevent anchor damage from continual boat arrivals.
Yongala is still a worthwhile dive if only a fraction as exciting as in 1984 – which is to be expected.
Ron Taylor made a 50 minute film of the wreck in the late 1970′s when it was in it’s prime. JHH