SS Yongala shipwreck

SS Yongala: A Tale of Two Cyclones

In 1911, the 109m luxurious passenger ship SS Yongala is lost in a cyclone off Cape Bowling Green, North Queensland. Carrying 122 people, none are ever found. Its failure to arrive in Townsville on the morning of the 24th of March was cause for alarm as extensive searches and wreckage washed up on distant beaches give no clue as to the vessel’s whereabouts. It is not until 1958 that local Townsville divers, acting on a 1947 report from the Royal Australian Navy’s hydrographic vessel Lachlan investigate the site and the wreck was confirmed as Yongala.

These photographs of SS Yongala were taken shortly after cyclone Yasi swept across the North Queensland coast on 2 February 2011. They show the impact that the cyclone had on the wreck, stripping the hull of marine flora and exposing internal spaces through removal of steel plating. It is estimated that during the event, the generated troughs may have been as deep as 10m, leaving only 5m of water above the structure. It is likely that cyclone Althea had a similar impact on the wreck in 1971.

Today, the wreck is classed as one of the top 10 wreck dives in the world. Lying in 30m of water on a flat and sandy seafloor, it has attracted a myriad of colonising marine flora and fauna. Although the superstructure of the vessel has long since disappeared, the integrity of the hull remains, although with the passing of time its collapse is inevitable.

These images demonstrate the impact of cyclone Yasi after it sweeps across the coast in February 2011.

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