SS Yongala

Also known as Yongala Wreck

Sea (Salt water)
Wreck, Clay
22.1 m (avg)
30 m (max)
Diver Level
Advanced Only

The SS Yongala sank in a cyclone off the coast of Queensland near Cape Bowling Green around the 23rd of March, 1911. All 122 people on board died in what is one of the worst tragedies in Australian maritime history.


It took 50 years for the the wreck of the Yongala to be found and positively identified. In 1943 a minesweeper fouled on what was thought to be a shoal in what would turn out years later to be the location of the Yongala. The captain of the vessel noted it on his chart but no further investigation was made until 1947.

At that time the HMAS Lachlan using echo sounders and anti-submarine technology made the determination that the object was approximately 90m/300ft long and was probably the wreck of a fair sized steamer. The navy did not do any further investigation.

In 1958 two divers from Townsville, Don Macmillan and Noel Cook located the wreck and retrieved a steel safe from one of the cabins. The safe had no identifying contents but did have a serial number. In 1961, the manufacturer in London was able to confirm that it was a Chubb strongbox supplied to the purser's cabin of the SS Yongala during construction in 1903.

Best Time to Dive

You can dive the Yongala year round. From June thru August (Australian Winter) the water temps are lower (21-25C) but visibility is usually a little better (15-20M). From September thru December (Australian Summer) the water temperatures go up (25-30C) but visibility drops a bit to 10-15M.
January thru April is the wet season (cyclone season). The Yongala sits relatively close to shore and so sea conditions can affect dive trips. Cancellations are more common during these months but there is a lot of baitfish activity on the wreck which can be a treat to see.

Getting There

The Yongala is most often dived from Townsville or by Liveaboard. There is also an operator that dives the Yongala from Alva Beach.

What You Can See

The Yongala is like an oasis in the open sea. You can see Grey Nurse Sharks, Rays, Cobia, abundant reef fish, grouper and much more. There is a particularly famous grouper that can often be found at the bow of the ship nicknamed VW because of its enormous size.

Dive Navigation

The bow points in a northerly direction (347º), and although it lies listing to starboard at an angle of between 60º and 70º, the vessel's structural integrity has been retained. The depth of water to the sea floor is approximately 30m/100 ft, with the upper sections of the wreck 16m/52ft below the surface. Penetration of the wreck is illegal and very costly.

Murder & Intrigue

In October 2003, American Tina Watson died while diving the Yongala. Her husband of 11 days, Gabe Watson, was her dive buddy and was convicted of manslaughter in Australia.

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From Townsville Aero, 90 km away.