Terrigal’s Hidden Underwater Spectacle

If you make the short drive fromGosford to the nearby coastal town ofTerrigal, you’ll likely find yourself strolling down to the beautiful Avoca Beach. You might be lucky enough to spot a boat heading out to sea and dropping off a crew of scuba divers into the water just under 2km from the shore. It would be fair to assume they are exploring a coral reef, but it’s much more than that. What they really seek is the sunken skeleton of the Ex-HMAS Adelaide, a former vessel of the Royal Australian Navy that is now a ghostly underwater wreckage sitting 32metres under the surface of the ocean.

History of the Ex-HMAS Adelaide

Originally known as the HMAS Adelaide II, the Ex-HMAS Adelaide was one of six Adelaide Class long-range escort frigates built in USA and added to the fleet of the Royal Australian Navy. It was officially launched in 1978, commissioned in 1980 and decommissioned in 2008. The ship performed many roles including surveillance, reconnaissance, anti-submarine warfare, area air defence and interdiction. It could accommodate two Seahawk helicopters and was equipped with Mk 32 triple torpedo tubes as a weapon against enemy submarines. It was scuttled, or intentionally sunk, roughly 1.8km from Avoca Beach in 2011 in front of around 18,000 onlookers.

The Ex-HMAS Adelaide today

Since sinking to the bottom of the ocean, the Ex-HMAS Adelaide has become a world-renowned dive site and a major driver of tourism in the region. The 138-metre, 4,100-tonne vessel has become a prominent artificial reef and houses an abundance of beautiful aquatic life. Residents include octopuses, yellowtail, giant eastern cuttlefish, kingfish, eastern blue groper, banner fish, blennies, bat fish and many more.

The ship itself if conveniently dotted with access holes, allowing divers to explore the labyrinthine network of passages between the encrusted structures of the vessel. Swimming through the interior of the ship, one can spot the bridge – complete with the captain’s chair, chart table and console – along with the cafeteria, sleeping quarters and helicopter hangars. The operations room even contains empty shells which serve as remnants of the vessel’s former firepower.

Exploring the wreckage

It’s worth noting that this dive is only suitable for experienced divers – if you aren’t quite ready to tackle it yourself, you can still browse the many photos available online and read more about the history of the Ex-HMAS Adelaide.