Mooloolaba, Sunshine Coast, December 2006

The plan had been to do the HMAS Brisbane with Sunreef, but by the time I'd reached the shop, they'd cancelled it because of the bad weather. However, there was a reef dive available. So I agreed to go on that instead and we headed down to the harbour. It was a bit swelly and there was a fair bit of chop, so they decided the only site we could really do was Old Woman Island because there was some shelter there.

Jumping in the water, it was obvious the viz wasn't going to be great. It was about 5m, but the water was a comparatively warm 23°C and there was some coral, quite a lot of fish life including bulleyes and scorpion fish. There was also some crabs and quite a lot of photogenic nudibranchs down there. My maximum depth was 15m and there really wasn't any point in going deeper, as the coral was restricted to the top 10m or so.

The second dive was much the same in a different spot on the island. Again there were nudibranchs, some small morays, lots of stripeys, plenty of hard coral and some soft corals too. The highlight was probably the wobbegong shark. Maxium depth was 10.4m and we stayed down for 44 mins. I must admit that I was getting a bit cold in a 3mm suit by then, so was glad to get out.

It wasn't the greatest couple of dives in the world, and I know there are better sites locally such as Hanging Rock, which I've done before. However, given the weather, it wasn't a bad day out. I personally would have been happy to do the HMAS Brisbane in those conditions, but I suspect the three people who threw up on the boat wouldn't have been.

A couple of days later and I got my chance to do the Brisbane again. It meant getting up ridiculously early and being at the shop for 7am. This isn't my idea of the best way to spend the holiday, but I thought it would be the only chance I got. This time the weather wasn't a problem as we headed out to the dive site. The HMAS Brisbane was a 4526 tons guided missile destroyer launched in 1966. She was sunk on 31st July 2005 for recreational divers.

This being Queensland, there are of course loads of regulations associated with diving her. You have to fill in extra paperwork and you're not allowed to penetrate the wreck on your first dive. I'd dived the wreck in December 2005, so I was allowed to go in on the first dive. Now I'm not sure quite what sense this makes, as there was no way I could remember anything about it, and it's a pretty easy wreck dive. It's been designed to be easy. A lot of the internal bulkheads have been removed. So it's not exactly a tight squeeze and there are very few places that you actually need a torch.

The amount of life on her had improved since my previous visit. The wreck is now covered in barnacles, so you may want to wear gloves, especially as there was a bit of a current running, so holding onto doorways every now and then was necessary. On the first dive, we went into the front section and on the second into the rear section. There are loads of bait fish inside in places. At one point I couldn't really see where I was going because of all the fish. There are also some bigger fish starting to take up residence. There were some quite big puffer fish and a big grouper inside.

On the outside, the railings are still there and the guns are still on deck. There's also various mast bits to swim around and of course there's the prop and rudder down at the bottom. It was a nice couple of dives. Both of them were around the 25m mark, though you can get 31m on it, and came in at just under 38 mins including the safety stop. They do nitrox at Sunreef, so this would be worth considering if you can get a similarly equipped buddy.

Diving the HMAS Brisbane