HMAS Canberra II finally scuttled at 1400 on Sunday 4th. October 2009
The 138 metre guided missile Frigate HMAS Canberra 11, laid down in the US at Todd Pacific shipyard in Seattle Washington on March 1 1978, to be commissioned on March 21 1981.
On November 12 in 2005 the ship was decommissioned at the fleet base Rockingham, some miles south of Perth in Western Australia, my wife Denise and I were invited as guests of the Federal Government to be present for that impressive ceremony.
It is always sad to see a Ship's Company march off their ship for the last time, sailors have a particular affinity for ships that have been their home, they will recall both difficult and happy times and those with whom they served.
My relationship with this ship was that I had been sunk in her predecessor HMAS Canberra 1, an 8 inch gunned heavy cruiser sunk at the Battle of Savo Island on August 8, 1942 with 84 crew dead and another 110 wounded that fateful night.
Canberra 11 had served in the Middle East after the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq in 1992, and also evacuated Australians from Jakarta in 1998 during the riots that found President Suharto deposed.
In 2006 the newly formed Victorian Artifical Reef Society with its President John Lawler and his Committee acquired the ship with plans to convert her into a World Class artifical reef and dive site, with her resting place to be off Barwon Heads just outside the entrance to Port Phillip Bay.
The cost to prepare the ship for her new role a staggering $7 million, the then minister for Defence, Doctor Brendon Nelson agreed that the Federal Liberal Government would supply the bulk of this finance, topped up by the Victorian Labor Government. Then a Federal election saw the defeat of the Howard Government and the Rudd Labor Government installed.
To their credit, the Labor Government agreed to honour the financial undertaking of their predessors.
The decommissioned Canberra was towed from WA to the Grain Wharf at Geelong Victoria to be prepared for her final journey.
It was a painstaking and costly task, removing hundreds of
kilometres of wiring, glass, mercury, and any items of
President John Lawler invited me to become Patron of VARS, and I was happy to be involved and accepted this new role.
Now a scuttling date was fixed for Saturday September 12, 2009, but the old GIRL was not yet ready to go, she called up high winds to blow and negate this planned scuttling date, and it was postponed.
Throughout September, the weather was unsuitable, now into October, and Sunday October 4, at 0915 or 9.15 AM was selected as the new time to scuttle the old frigate.
The ship was towed by two tugs from Geelong to exit the RIP on Saturday the 3rd. of October and wait until the next day on the scuttling site, but the ship was still unwilling to go, high winds forced the tugs to seek the safety of the open ocean.
On Sunday the planned scuttling time of 9.15 AM came and went, the stern anchor of Canberra was lost, further delaying the scuttling. It was 1400 or 2 PM before all was in readiness for setting off the 16 explosive charges set on board, 300 tons of concrete and tons of seawater in her tanks were the ballast provided to ensure she went down as planned.
I am sure the ship uttered up a huge sigh! to say " At last, I am ready for my new role, set off your charges now, and scuttle me."
Puffs of smoke were observed to mark the firing of all the demolition charges, the ship gracefully slipped below the waves, no fuss, in but two minutes she was gone. Four concrete blocks will anchor her by the bow and stern, and over the coming weeks the ex HMAS Canberra will be inspected, and I would anticipate will be declared safe for diving.
This new artificial reef will attract diving enthusiasts
from around the world as the old ship embarks on her new
President of VARS John Lawler and his Committee are to be congratulated for their hard work and persistence in bringing to fruition this wonderful new temperate water DIVE SITE.
EX HMAS Canberra 11 we SALUTE YOU!