17 February 2006

Australian wreck attracting record number of scuba divers

THE Sunshine Coast now has another tourism ace up its sleeve with the wreck of the former HMAS Brisbane attracting divers in record numbers.

Dive operators have reported significant boosts to their businesses since the ship was scuttled last July.

The prolific growth of the artificial reef around the wreck has taken everyone by surprise, attracting about 800 dives a month.

The wreck has found favour with international and interstate divers, with local operators reporting a huge increase in visitors heading to the Coast specifically to visit the ship.

Blue Water Dive employee and experienced dive instructor Rebecca Turner said she chose to look for work on the Sunshine Coast over more established dive destinations in north Queensland because of the HMAS Brisbane.

"I think where once you would get people from overseas who would fly into Brisbane and then head straight up to the Great Barrier Reef, now they're coming here first because it's a lot closer," she said.

"It's not as commercialised or sausage-factory-like down here either, and I think that's one of the big things going for it – divers can still get that personalised experience."

Mooloolaba's Scuba World employee Michael McKinnon said the wreck had been sunk in an ideal position that protected it from severe currents and tides, making it the ideal dive destination for experienced divers and those just starting out.

"We used to be going out most weekends and maybe once during the week if the weather conditions were right," he said.

"Over the summer we were going out six days a week.

"There are a few wrecks off Sydney but they're around 60 metres down and more for advanced divers.

"The Brisbane is a 20-minute trip from Mooloolaba and 27 metres down, so even people who have just done their course can still go down and at least hang around the deck level, which is about 18 metres down."

Sunreef Dive Centre co-owner Greg Riddell was also happy to report the boom in business had been "phenomenal".

He said he had taken a number of former crew members of the HMAS Brisbane on dives to visit their former ship and felt the wreck had finally delivered the underwater destination the local dive industry had needed.

"The corals and the colour on the Gneerings Shoals at the local reef was where most people used to go but there was no big icon like a cave or a sinkhole that draws divers to a location," he said.

"Just because you have a nice reef, it doesn't mean people will travel halfway round the world to see a coral, but they do come to see something like the Brisbane."

Source: www.sunshinecoastdaily.com.au


At 5:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has anyone come across a scuba diver called John Cottrell, if so could he get itn touch with e-mail supermum1@iprimus.com.au


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