Michael McFadyen's Scuba Diving - Sir John Young Banks
The word "awesome" is possibly the most over used word by scuba divers. People often use it to describe their most recent dive (or their deepest) dive. I too, am guilty of using this word, although I think that I have only ever this word in relation to dives or dive sites that do live up to these expectations. This is one of those dive sites that I will call awesome.
In late June 1997 I finally had the opportunity to dive a site that a friend, Martin Atkins, had been diving for the past year or two. As far as I am aware, he is the only person to have taken people diving at this site in recent years, although I stand to be corrected.
The Sir John Young Banks is a series of reefs that comes up from well over 70 metres to a shallow 16 metres. Located 16 kilometres off the coast straight out east from Crookhaven Heads at the mouth of the Shoalhaven River on NSW's South Coast, this is a site only for those excellent sea condition days. The Banks (as it is called) is visited mostly by fishers but Barry Andrewartha (Editor of DIVE Log and Sportdiving) told me that he speared out there twice many (many) years ago. The big attraction here for both fishers and spearfishers is pegic fish, including sharks.
The 18 kilometre trip from the boat ramp normally takes a while (at least 30 to 35 minutes) but on the day I dived it we only took just over 25 minutes to get there and less than 20 to get back. This is because the seas, especially in the afternoon, were so flat you could have water-skied all the way without any problems.
The site is particularly difficult to find and you definately need a GPS (there are various readings depending on where you want to dive - see next paragraph) due to the extreme distance from shore and the difficulties in finding suitable marks. As I indicated above, the depth starts at less than 18 metres and drops in a couple of steps to more than 50 metres before sloping to 60 and then deeper. You can do this dive (really a series of dives) in many ways, depending on the conditions. As you would expect from a dive site so far from land, this reef is plagued with currents and this needs to be taken into account when planning a dive.
|18 metre reef||34° 57' 01"S||150° 55' 40"E|
|33 metre reef||34° 57' 02"S||150° 55' 42"E|
|40 metre plus reef||34° 57' 03"S||150° 55' 43"E|
|Northern Reef||34° 56' 59.1"S||150° 55' 41.6"E|
NOTE: All marks taken using AUS66 - if you use another, see my GPS Page for what this means).
The best dive here is to anchor on the 33 metre reef level (use GPS and depth sounder, the wall runs roughly north-south). After descending to the reef top, you can see the bottom at 50 metres. Drop over the the wall and you immediately go to a narrow shelf at 42 metres and then another wall drops to 50 metres. The reef top is covered in kelp, much taller than the normal kelp we encounter in Sydney. The shelf and sea floor has heaps of sea whips, sea squirts, sponges and colourful fixed sealife. There are huge cuttlefish off the walls, many colourful leatherjackets (six-spinned, yellow-tailed and black reef) as well as other species. The northern reef site was given to me by Jeremy Weinman from ANU Scuba Club in Canberra.
The sea floor and walls are also covered with starfish and nudibranches and the sea whips have many sea stars on them. The colours on this dive are unlike many other dives you will ever see. Even coral reefs do not have the range or intensity of the colours that this dive site has. Everywhere you look you can see colour, brilliant!
This dive also is famous for big things, sharks and pelagics. As well as tuna and yellowtail kingfish, this dive site has seen hammerhead sharks, oceanic whitetip sharks as well as grey and bronze whalers. This is definately not for the faint-hearted.
As I indicated earlier, the site is more often than not plagued by currents from the north. Therfore a great deal of care needs to be taken. A possibly alternative way to dive here would be to drop in on a line connected to a float and drift along the wall, exiting when you have run low on air or accumulated too much deco time.
This is an excellent dive site, amazing in fact. Worth doing if you ever get the chance.
As far as I know, there is no dive operator visiting this dive site.