September on the Great Barrier Reef 2013
The Jaws of Coral
By Captain Trevor Jackson
One of the real eye openers from the Torres Straits expeditions last summer were the smaller and less known wrecks that turned out to be genuine highlights. The wreck of the Pandora for example offered little in terms of structure and marine life but in terms of history and its significance to our country, it was the diver’s version of Anzac Cove. We visited the Pandora on a glassy New Year’s day this year and it left all on board with a sense of having a tangible connection with the greatest maritime story ever told; the Mutiny on the Bounty. On the site of the Pandora lay the remains of the ship that captured the mutineers and was attempting to bring them to front the cruel and often unjust 18th century British court system. That connection with history can sometimes massively enhance a dive, especially when the opportunity only comes around so rarely. Skip forward to May 2104 and jump 600 miles down the coast…….. We get to touch history once again…..the SS Gothenburg.
In February 1875 the SS Gothenburg smashed into the unforgiving jaws of coral at Old Reef to the east of Townsville. The sea soon had its way with her and she condemned every women and child aboard to a watery demise. At the time it was a disaster of unparalleled proportions. All of the ships officers died and many of Australia’s highest profile dignitaries were also amongst those who perished. Barely 20 made it ashore to nearby Holbourne Island and they found themselves so destitute that they decided to carve their names into a turtle shell in the hope someone might one day know they at least made it off the wreck. One poor soul lost his wife and all six of his children, fate handed him the double edged sword of survival.
The remnants of the terror on that fateful February night now lay in about 15 metres on the calm side of Old Reef, just a few hours steam to the east of the mighty SS Yongala. We have 4 trips scheduled to visit Yongala in May 2014 and each adds something unique and inviting to its itinerary. Wreck buffs and historians should circle May 18th, a trip leaving and returning to Townsville, for the chance to not only dive the SS Yongala, but also the opportunity, a once in a decade opportunity, to touch a real piece of Australian history and pay homage to those lives that were so dramatically , lost in the jaws of coral.
Photos of the Month