Season 1, Episode 22

Hervey Bay Dive

Take a breath as Benjamin Starr talks to Ed from Hervey Bay Dive Centre to find out how you can swim with whales, dive and explore the scuttled HMAS Tobruk to get up close and personal with sea life while you are Driving Your Own Adventure in Hervey Bay.

Hosts & Guests

Benjamin Starr


Read the transcript

Ben: Okay, we’re driving our own adventure today, we’ve driven down to the lovely little harbour here at Hervey Bay. We’ve got Ed with us from Hervey Bay Dive. Ed, you do some interesting stuff, I want to get to diving in a minute, but tell us some of the stuff that you get up to here.

Ed: Absolutely. Today we’ve just returned from swimming with the whales, so we’ve been out there. We took whole heap of folks and swam with some awesome humpback whales today and yeah. It’s just a really unbelievable product. After the whale swims, we then move into the scooter tours where we do the underwater scooter tours around all the reefs and the wrecks, the local wrecks.

Ben: And what’s a scooter tour? What does that involve? 

Ed: Basically, an underwater scooter, so the customer hangs on to the scooter. We do a bit of training with them first to teach them of course. It’s pretty safe and it’s a fun family outing.   

Ben: In terms of the people that come here, is it holiday makers, locals? 

Ed: Harvey Bay is a fantastic tourist destination with Fraser Island and also the fun activities around here. We’ve got our seasonal attractions with the whales of course and now we’ve got the Tubruk out there as well, so there’s lots of things going on to attract people to the Hervey Bay area.

Ben: Tell us about the ship, they sunk the ship about a year ago, how big is this ship?

Ed: Yeah look the ex-HMAS. Tubruk, fantastic ship. She’s just on a 127m long, ten thousand odd tonne, close to that, served the Australian public for well over thirty years as a military vessel and yeah, she’s just a fantastic  dive tourism wreck which the government has now has placed in our back door.

Ben: Now tell us, when they sink a ship like this, they’re got to take everything out of it I imagine, like what’s left inside there? 

Ed: Look everything’s still in the ship to be really honest.  All there’ve done is prepare the ship so it’s safe, so anything that was considered an obstacle, or a potential danger has been removed, including things like oils and fluids and things that can affect the environment have been removed. So, pretty well the ship is clean, and she’s got everything in there from the dining room chairs and tables, right through to the engines are all there, the laids? and all sorts of things.

Ben: Literally, when you go down there, it is as per what it would look like on the surface.

Ed: No, slightly different. They removed part of the funnel and some of the cranes and what have you off the ship, and that was purely because of the depth of water it’s in because the ship was so big. So, had to take some of the structure off so it didn’t stick out of the water basically and it was safe for people to navigate around, yeah. 

Ben: And what, does she sit about thirty meters deep? Yeah, the seabeds at thirty metres,  but when you dive on the ship as a recreational diver on one of our tours, we land on the ship at about eleven metres. So, you’re on the side of the ship at eleven metres and depending on your certification of course, determines what tour we take you on. Whether it’s a deep penetration tour or whether it’s just a surface tour around the ship and really two dives, you can’t see the whole ship in two dives anyway, just externally so.

Ben: It must be awesome though, to swim around that ship and get to the propellers and sort of, how big are the propellers compared to you?

Ed: Oh, massive! Look, there’re huge. There are two propellers and that’s probably one of the best photo opportunities a diver can get as around the propeller of any ship. These ones are pretty cool because you can actually stand on the rudder and just in front of the propeller get a fantastic photo from one of your partner divers. So, it’s a very must-see sort of situation when you go out there with a camera.

Ben: How long does it take to become qualified to do a dive?

Ed: Oh, if you are coming into Hervey Bay for holiday, most of the operators and the instructors here can put someone through in three days. It can be done in two days, but it’s a push to be really frank, but we take three days to try and someone correctly and probably. And that, generally their last dive we take them on the Tubruk as a bit of a special part of the course, so it’s a great way to finish the course.

Ben: Now when you get down there, it’s not just the ship, there’s other things that are taking place. What’s it like, the marine life, what’s happening down there?

Ed: Look, within a year that ship has turned into something that is just fantastic. The environment and the ecology that this happening on this ship is just second to none. We’ve seen soft corals develop which we didn’t think we would see for some time. It’s got hard corals developing on it now. The sea life around it, it’s got every known pelagic you can think of, schooling around the ship on a very regular basis, resident turtles are then now. There’s a turtle that’s becoming quite famous called Crush, one of the most interesting friendliest things I’ve ever seen in the ocean. We’ve got gropers on there, where’ve got rays, we’ve got everything on it and some beautiful sharks around it as well.

Ben: Now, when you are going for tour, you were mentioning before you do night tours, what happens at night there? Do you get startled by sharks?

Ed: Oh look, any purist diver loves night diving, you know to be honest, you don’t see many sharks at all in the ocean everyone, it’s a bit of a fallacy. There sharks out there, it’s their domain, but look we don’t see them at night dives. What we see at night is just an amazing environment that’s just evolving. We use UV lights on the wreck at night and you see those lights in the colours start glowing at night and it just takes you away to something like some of those movies that are done by James Cameron to be really honest like Avatar. That’s what it’s like, it’s amazing at night with those UV lights.

Ben: Given the success of the whole thing, do you think the government are now thinking about doing a few other ships out there, making it more like a sea wreckage area?

Ed: Look, I really commend the government for exploring the idea of having this dive trial throughout the coast of Queensland, if not the east coast of Australia to be really frank. There’s already some fantastic wrecks and dive sites around Australia and I commend the government to really consider strongly putting further wrecks out, prepared correctly of course for dive tourism, cause dive tourism is a massive new area for us to explore in particular for wreck diving. Australia’s never been known really as a wreck diving destination, but it’s something that I think we can do really well, and the number of really great operators we’ve got around Australia can really sort of foster that to become something special.

Ben: When you go through this ship, do to get up to the bridge?

Ed: Absolutely, oh my word, it’s one of the best places to go on the ship. It’s huge! We go into the bridge, actually just behind the bridge is the Captain’s cabin and we all take our customers into the Captain’s cabin because unfortunately just below the Captain’s cabin on the floor there, there is a deceased turtle, which somehow got stuck in there and died and the turtle skeleton is still in there. It’s a large loggerhead turtle which is a protected species. It’s really sad that it happened, but it’s, there’s things to see all through the ship that are just inspiring it’s amazing.

Ben: So, like all the instrumentation still pretty much an intact?

Ed: No, negative. There’s a lot of things have been taken off the ship that the Navy obviously were recycling, because a lot of recycling went on with the ship. Things like instruments were taken and obviously they’re used on other ships as spares and things like that, so and that’s only logical that’d be the case, but certainly there is a lot of structure there that was part of the ships systems and such in the electrical boards and electrical motors. There is so much on there, but now it’s all starting to show the signs of being encrusted by the sea life. 

Ben: Isn’t that amazing in one year that’s taken place, but it must be pretty awesome to be up front there, you say you can’t swim the whole thing in a day. So, you’re up the front and you must get an awesome look down the side of it and see this thing is massive.

Ed: Yeah, look one of the, we get really good visibility out there, so one of the great things we do do, is take a customers out of the bow and you can look back from the, look back down the ship from the bow and that’s when you really see the size of the thing. You know, when you get twenty or thirty metre vis out there and you think my goodness me, how big is this thing, and when you see then the sea life and the actual hundreds of thousands of bait fish that are just spawning around the fish around the ship sorry, that’s encouraging all these larger pelagic to come in and become a create a new home there for them. It’s amazing. 

Ben: You’ve got Fraser Island next door, so if people are coming up for a holiday and a family, you   can’t do everything, that’s the reality. What, what’s a couple of things that you would recommend that they must do when they are here?

Ed: Oh look, I think Fraser Island if you’re in the area do Fraser Island, it’s a sensational destination you know it’s, you cannot talk too much about Fraser Island with the fresh water lakes, this thing, just everything. The rainforest, it’s amazing the western side of Fraser is as great as the eastern side of Fraser.  Two different environments either side, surf one side calm water the other and there are some fantastic tour operators up there doing some really great things.

Ben: What about if you’ve never done diving before what do you what do you recommend?

Ed: Oh look, geez where do you start? There’s kayaking, there’s snorkelling, there is some guys on Fraser Island doing some great four-wheel drive adventures, there is skydiving, there is so much to do in Harvey Bay. You know, from go karting through to the things you’d typically find in a tourist town, you’ll find here, but there is so much more on our doorstep that offers so many other things as well.

Ben: Okay, so if people would like to find out about the tours that you run, what’s the best way to do that and what else do they need to do if they want to go scuba diving and haven’t done scuba diving before, what can they prepare for before they get here?

Ed: You don’t need to prepare as long as you are medically fit, and we guide people through every single day. We’re doing students every single day through here. It’s not hard, it’s for everyone. We’ve had an 84-year old come through and do the scuba courses, you’re never too old to scuba dive, it’s providing you get the right medical and we assist everyone through that process. Just   contact the shop at Hervey Bay Dive Centre and you just contact us and we look after you and take everything from there.

Ben: Fantastic. Well we look forward to going out on one of your boats one day. Roughly, what sort of cost are people up for?

Ed: Yeah, look if you are swimming with the whales we’re $195 to go out with the whales and that’s purely because we do a full day exercise out there with lunch and morning tea and afternoon tea,   get you in the water with whales, that’s including all your wet suits your mask, your fins and a really good commentary  by a very funny crew to be really frank.

Ben: You look like the Captain off the Titanic.

Ed: Thank you very much, I’m really quite young.  No, it’s all part of the game you know, we try to sort of be a bit theatrical on the boats, so you know, growing the grey beard it’s all part of the look and part of the fun.

Ben: I imagine the you must have servicemen and women that served on that ship that come out here and go down and there must be a sentimental feeling for them seeing that this ship that they used to sail on is underwater.

Ed: Absolutely, and we’ve taken a lot of ex-sailors through the ship that are now divers and they’ve said there’s my bunk and that’s where I used to sit and have tea and geez, this is where use to sit and work and that was a radio operator or whatever I was and you know they specifically want to get to a spot on that ship where that was part of their life and we’ve done that many a time over and over again and you see these guys come up and you see the tear in the eye and you think yeah, you nailed it, it’s really good.

Ben: What respect do you need to have when you’re swimming through wrecks like that? What is it that you’ve got to have in your mind? 

Ed: Look, your safety conscious the whole time, you know you’ve got to remember that everyone does a dive course is trained and everyone is certified. So, they’re at a level where there’ve got a high level of consciousness about their ability, so you do have a sixth sense and you do respect that sixth sense. So, if you don’t feel right about something, you’ve got to think about what you’re doing and we’re always doing that.

Ben: Fantastic. Thank you very much for your time. The website again, where do we  go?     

Ed: or just ring the shop Hervey Bay Dive Centre.    

Ben: And Ed will even do the entertainment for you when you’re out there at sea.

Ed: Absolutely. We have the best jokes on the planet, there’re seriously the worst Dad jokes, but there yeah, you’re guaranteed a lot of fun, it’s really good fun.

Ben: Thanks very much for your time.

Ed: Good on you, thank you very much.

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