Broughton's Good, But There's More to Diving Than Broughton
The Oakland was a 398 ton, 47 metre coastal steamer owned by the North Coast Steam Navigation Co. It was built in 1890 by Murdoch & Murray of Glasgow.
The Oakland had a checkered history running aground on Balina's southern breakwater on 23 December 1891. On 24 June 1893 it collides with the Sydney off Bird Island near Budgewoi. In June 1895 on the Sydney to Ballina run a seasick passenger fell overboard and drowned. Te Oakland ran aground on Ballina Bar on 31st August 1896, 14th August 1897 (breaking two blades off the propeller) and again on the 9th August 1897, 22nd August and 21st December 1898 and in the Richmond River in July 1899. On 11th February 1901 was damaged when it hit rock twice between North Evans Reef and Evans Head and then on 27th July 1901 collided with the Sarah L Hixson on the Richmond River near Ballina. On the 26th August 1901 ran aground on the Richmon River
entrance and was considered a total wreck. Despite this the Oakland was refloated a little over a month later and returned to service on 16th February 1902.
On the 27th May 1903 in huge seas off Cabbage Tree Island the Oakland foundered and sank. There were 11 lives lost including the captain, William Slater. 7 survivors in a partially flooded lifeboat were rescued by the SS Bellingen 8 hours later. Shifting cargo was thought to be the cause of the sinking.
The Oakland lies upright on sand in 26 metres just north of Cabbage Tree Island. The entire wreck is visible; covered in colourful growth. The sand around the wreck is carpeted with fortescue. Wobbegongs, fiddler rays, rock cod, schooling scad and a resident blue wrasse are always around. Always a fun dive.
The SS Macleay was built in 1883 by Forest & Sons at Millwall on the Thames River. The boat was 47 metres long and 398 tons. Originally named the SS Woodburn it arrived in Sydney in March 1884. In about 1889 due to company mergers to form the North Coast Steam Navigation Company the ship's name was changed to the Macleay.
On the 11th October 1911 the Macleay was travelling from Newcastle to the Clarence River with a cargo of coal. Due to what appears to be a steerage error after passing Fingal Light the ship altered course and struck Boondelbah Island. It eventually drifted to the north and sank with 15 of the 17 crew perishing.
The wreck lies in a sand gutter between rocky reef in about 43 metres of water off Little Island. Because of its proximity to reef the Macleay does not tend to have the abundant fish-life of other local wrecks but does have black coral and other growth. An interesting wreck to explore.
Uralla Pinnacle was a dive site first dived by Tony in the 1990s. It has only ever been dived by related dive boats. We are the only ones who can take you to this incredible site.
We meet at Boat Harbour Beach near the boat ramp for the short trip out to Uralla Pinnacle. Several kilometres off-shore it rises from 30+ metres in every direction to just 6 metres at its small peak.
Wall diving at it's best! Colourful sponges, schooling fish, pelagics and sharks. An amazing dive!
Port Stephens Pinnacle
The PS Pinnacle is just south of Boondelbah Island and soars from 35 metres to within 11 metres of the surface. It used to be only 6 metres to the peak but the Australian Navy blew off the top as it was a navigation hazard in the approach to Port Stephens Heads. The summit is covered with jewel anemones and it is a fish magnet. The lower rocky slopes are crowded with Spotted Wobbegong - Orectolobus maculatus
Cabbage Tree Island Bay
Cabbage Tree Island is named after the cabbage tree palms found in two gullies on the western side of the island. An important nature reserve it is a nesting site for the endangered Gould's Petrel. The protected bay on the western side of the island is a useful dive site; comfortable in southerly and north-easterly swells. The shallow bay with its hard corals in about 4 metres drops down a boulder slope to about 9 metres. Here the sand slopes away and features extensive sea-grass beds.
The dive site is made more interesting due to a number of small wrecks including a large barge, small cabin cruiser and old trawler. Another feature of the site is that it is one of the few sites where the Donut Nembrotha (Nembrotha rosannulata) a large nudibranch can regularly be found.
This is an easy dive that often surprises; sea turtles, grey nurse sharks, shovelnose rays, banjo sharks, angel sharks as well as local regulars friendly blue wrasse.
On the north and eastern side of Cabbage Tree Island is rugged terrain dropping from the cliffs of the island down to 18 metres. Narrow canyons, walls, colourful growth and the occasional grey nurse shark.
One feature of this area is the presence of a small group of Australian fur seals over the winter months that has been steadily growing in number over the last few years. They sometimes join us underwater.
A small bay on the southern side of Boondelbah Island; protected from northerly swells. The rocky bay drops down to colourful marine growth in 24 metres. Plenty to explore and lots of macrolife to find.
A deep, steep dive on the south-eastern side of Little Island. Black coral, wobbegongs and plenty of big fish. Lots of exploring to be done at this site.
Govt Wharf was a purpose build for bringing construction material to Fingal Island during the construction of Fingal Lighthouse in 1872. Remains of the wharf can be found in the small bay on the northwest of the island.
The site is protected from southerly swells and offers plenty of exploration on the rocky slope of the island down to about 15 metres.
From July to August each year the whole area becomes crowded with port jackson sharks which congregate in shallow water for mating.
Black Coral Pinnacle
This pinnacle lies just north of Fingal Light. The peak is kelp covered an lies in 13 metres; the sides slope to 25 metres. The rocky slopes of the Black Coral Pinnacle are covered in colourful sponge, soft coral and ascidian growth. One of the best areas is a narrow fissure on the northern slope which has a number of black corals.