New ex HMAS Canberra Site Concerns

Wednesday, 4 March 2009: VARS News Update

Wednesday, 4 March 2009: VARS News Update

In Brief

  • Ship preparation will be completed within the next few weeks
  • New concerns regarding the proposed site
  • Scuttling date is yet to be confirmed — previously advised dates are now highly unlikely
  • Celebratory Ball currentl being planned for 18th April is likely to be moved out

Sub-Committee Reports

Site Management - Convenor: Alan Beckhurst
The situation regarding the proposed site has now become quite confusing. It was previously believed that all relevant parties had signed off on the intended site. However, there are now signals that the Department of Environment, Water and Heritage (DEWHA) is not happy with the site. DEWHA is the Commonwealth Department that has responsibility for the Sea Dumping Act and which must sign off before any permit to scuttle Canberra can be issued.

DEWHA's reasons for not signing off on the site are not clear at this stage and VARS is working to try and gain an understanding. We believe that the subject will be discussed at Victorian State cabinet level later this month and we hope that the issue can be resolved in the near future.

This does mean that scuttling will not now happen in March 2009. At best, the new date is likely to be May or June. This is a very disappointing outcome with the result that the site is unlikely to start being dived regularly until summer 2009. There are also concerns with less stable weather patterns occurring during this period which could see further multiple delays.

Ship Preparation - Convenor: Jason Salter
Ship preparation is very nearly complete. A number of VARS Committee members visited the ship on 2nd March. At this time, the last of the cement infill was being poured — estimated to be around 50 to 70 tonnes. This will replace the 90 tonnes of lead ballast which has been removed and recycled.

The ship is looking fantastic! Birdon have done an outstanding job of preparing her for her "final voyage". There is no doubt that this will be the best purpose prepared wreck in Australia. Rather than strip out most rooms and open up gaping holes everywhere, Birdon have left many items in situ, carefully removing hazards and ensuring that all rooms have more than one exit. There are only a very small number of areas that have been barred off.

The galley remains virtually intact, most control panels are still in place throughout, all engines and compressors have been stripped and de-oiled, cables removed, sick bay left pretty much intact (including examination bed and safe), etc, etc (the list goes on). For the adventurous, there are lots of passages and corridors to explore. There are two elevator shafts, two funnels and two escape shafts — all accessible — plus some reasonably "squeezy bits"!

All the committee members who attended were very impressed and commented how they were looking forward to diving her, when she finally goes down. Canberra will have dives suitable for all ranges of divers — from Open Water through to "techies". We just have to get her sunk now!

Fund Raising / Membership - Convenor: Warrick McDonald
All VARS members are encouraged to purchase a T-shirt to support the activities of VARS between now and the scuttling date. This T-shirt is available on order either from VARS or via your local dive store (within Victoria).

Other fund-raising opportunities are also being pursued. These include a very generous offer of artworks from Reg Cox. Reg is a well-known Victorian water-colour artist. He has generously offered a number of limited edition prints as well as an original painting (yet to be painted) of Canberra entering the heads for use by VARS in fund-raising efforts. Watch the web site for further information on this.

Marketing / Promotion - Convenor: Bryan McGoldrick
The planned 3D interactive video is moving a step closer to completion. The ship has now been fully photographed using fish-eye lenses. Work now commences on converting these to video and other formats.

Scuttling Celebration - Celebratory Ball - Convenor: Mick Jeacle
A Celebratory Ball is still scheduled for 18th April. The ball will be held at the Coral Atoll Room at the Melbourne Aquarium and promises to be "THE" event of the year in the dive community. Given the delay in scuttling, it is likely that the date will change so watch this space for information over the next month.

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