Sunday, November 22, 2009

Wreck of the Bombo 22 November 2009

The twenty second day of February 1949 had been a typical late summer's day on the NSW South Coast. At about 3 o'clock a southerly buster had passed the Wollongong area and the sea conditions had dramatically changed for the worse. Since then the SS Bombo had battled the deteriorating seas, first in an attempt to reach Sydney and then in a battle to make the safety of Port Kembla. By 10.00 pm it was only four kilometers away from safety when suddenly the list on the ship worsened. Within minutes the ship had "turned turtle" and sank, taking four crew to their immediate death.

SS Bombo going up Sydney Harbour

HMAS Bombo just after it was commissioned - 26 October 1939

When the Bombo sank, a great deal of its cargo of blue metal dropped out of the holds and fell to the sea floor (remember the ship turned turtle). This pile of metal is now located about 50 metres to the east of the wreck. As the ship went down it ploughed into the sandy bottom bow first. This caused some damage to the bow area. Soon after, the bridge hit the bottom and then the great weight and momentum caused the ship's back to break and the Bombo buckled right across the hull almost in the middle of the ship. At the same time the weight squashed the bridge beyond identification. As she sank, some pieces fell and ended up on the sand next to the remains of the ship. This includes a hopper used to load coal/gravel and parts of the masts. Lying roughly north-south, the Bombo was now in water 32 metres deep and upside down almost in the middle of the shipping channel.  Reference: Michael McFadyens Website

Getting ready for adventure

We set off on the Vengeance from Port Kembla Harbour at about 9:20 am in search of the wreck of the Bombo,. Our Dive master was Emma and my buddy was Ashley.

Ashley and Leigh on the Vengeance

We descended to the wreck and with only 20 mins max bottom time we started to investigate. There was a thermal current that we went through at about 20m and the temperature dropped to about 14 degrees. I took a few photos but the depth and my red filter has taken out most of the light leaving a slow exposure time on automatic, resulting in blurred images.
After a short investigation of the wreck, we returned to the anchor line and I was intrigued to see the anchor dancing off towards the south west across the sand. I decided to chase the anchor and caught it a few metres away from the bow of the wreck. I was definitely feeling the effect of nitrogen narcosis as I realised once I got hold of the anchor there was absolutely nothing I could do to secure it.

We found a moray eel in the wreck, here is a video of where the anchor was and the moray eel hiding.

We surfaced without incident and returned to shore, where another Abyss crew were waiting to go out for their first dive.  We had  a delicious lunch of Tomato soup (& Tabasco) with peanut butter roll, topped off with a pleasant desert of jelly snakes. We waited around for the boat to return for our second dive.

After lunch waiting for the boat to come in

Our Second trip out was a lot "bouncier" and a wetsuit was the best thing to be wearing. We made it out to the wreck and entered the water. Emma took pictures of everyone so i took one of Emma and The Vengeance.

Emma and The Vengeance above the wreck site

We descended the anchor line and this time we had even less bottom time. With a planned maximum bottom time of 18 mins  we set off to investigate. The visibility had deteriorated somewhat and there were thousands of fish in the vicinity. Ashley and I investigated the wreck , looking inside all the holes in the upturned hull. It was amazing how many fish were inside the upturned hull.

Ash and I entered a huge gaping hole in the hull that made a sort of overhang, but all too soon it was time to turnaround and head back to the anchor line.
 The red light is filtered out at this depth and my camera did not have its own light, so everything appears really green. It wasn't this colour in real life but just the effect of the sea filtering the light.We found the boiler of the ship which is now an encrusted reef on its own..
The dead ship now is a swarm of life

We returned to the surface and the shore without incident. All up 2 very good dives but maybe next time I will dive this wreck on Nitrox to get a bit longer bottom time. I had a great day in the ocean and would recommend this dive to all advanced and above certified divers..

View Bombo in a larger map

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