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Scuba Diving in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea
Dive Site: George's Wreck
Location: Rabaul, Papua New Guinea
Description: 2000 ton Japanese mine sweeper
Length: 70 metres (230 feet)
Depth: 15 - 60 metres (50 - 197 feet)
Visibility: 30 metres + (100 feet)
'Georges Wreck' is a Japanese mine sweeper which was converted from a cable laying vessel and is a good size vessel at 70 metres long and 2000 tons The actual name of the vessel is unknown and it has become known as Georges wreck, named after George Tyers, rumoured to be the first non-local diver to dive the wreck. Located just a few metres from shore at Nordup to the north of Korere Bay she lies upright on the near vertical reef slope with her bow at 15 metres, stern at 60 metres + and the bridge area intact at 35 metres. Rumours of her sinking included scuttling, bombing and torpedoing as well as her being deliberately run aground. What I do know about this wreck is that it is a truly stunning dive. The visibility was at least 30 metres and the water was a grey-blue azure, like nothing I have seen previously or since. I can only attribute this to the ash covered reef slopes and back-drop which seemed to make the water below seem almost ink-like.
Once in the water we swam a short distance at 12 metres along the lava and ash covered reef and I was amazed at the proliferation of fish life - so many different types of nudibranchs, small crocodilefish, pipefish, yellow boxfish and damselfish had made their homes here since the ash and lava had coated the reef. It took a while for me to realise what was so different and then it struck me that whilst there were so many different species of marine life here, it was all much smaller. There seemed to be either no adults or for some reason the fish simply do not grow to the usual proportions one might find elsewhere in the Pacific. I'm not sure why this is the case but I noticed this on all subsequent dives in the area. There was no current and once at the bow the wreck dropped away almost vertically meaning it was like diving a ship stood upright on its stern. Dropping down the port side the bridge was very intact at the 35 metre point and quite open for careful inspection. The propeller was clearly visible as we rounded the stern at 56 metres and the deeper parts of the wreck were home to some vibrantly coloured pink and blue soft coral which thrives under lesser light conditions than hard coral. On the ascent we came up the starboard side inspecting the holds where there are cables and metal containers. More soft coral has encrusted the cabling and reaching the reef at 15 metres we headed back along the steep reef slope towards our boat, the reef teeming with small fish life.
Rik Vercoe, BSAC Advanced Instructor
I dived this wreck with Geroge Tyers in the mid 1960's. George found it a few days before and then three of us went down to the wreck the next weekend. We used our snorkels and floated out inches above the coral. The bow as I recall it was about 50 feet below the surface and the bridge was at about 100 feet. The mines were in an open hatch in the stern, the bridge had been eaten away and there were uniforms lying all over the place. The gun sight was taken about three weeks later by a local, much to the dismay of George. I had many dives with George and in fact he taught the rudiments of deep (for us at any rate) diving. George was mechanic then and former skydiver who escaped with his life when the pilot hit a skydiver and the planet disintegrated. George actually worked with my father in Myers in Brisbane.
I dived this site regularly working as a dive guide with James Pataou at the Rhema Dive shop in the early 90's. James was a Tasman Islander and a great mate. I regret losing touch with him over the years. I was born and grew up in Rabaul and together (for a while) we ran the dive shop at the yacht club. I have a particular memory of George's because my dive watch blew a seal when I didnt tighten the cog sufficiently. I recall the deepest I went was around 130-150 feet on this wreck. I think at the time I was curious to see if the propellor was still there as many had been salvaged off wrecks for the metal. Fond memories.
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