Michael McFadyen's Scuba Diving - Manly Gasworks
One of the reasons Sydney has so many shipwrecks from the late 1800s and early to mid-1900s is because a lot ships were needed to carry coal to Sydney for a very important process - creating gas. Until the late 1900s, gas in Sydney was manufactured (rather than mined as natural gas is now). As such, there were a number of gasworks established, most of which were on the foreshores of Sydney Harbour. One of these was the Manly Gasworks, established in (I think) 1880. Until 1964, it manufactured gas for home and commercial use from coal.
Manly Gasworks was built on Little Manly Point which is located just inside North Harbour between Spring Cove and Little Manly Cove. The gasworks took up all of the point and on the Spring Cove side, small coast colliers berthed at a wharf and unloaded their load of coal from the Illawarra or Newcastle coalfields. In 1970, the buildings and plant were still in existence but I do not know when they were removed.
Little Many Point is now a very nice council park (which strangely, they do not charge to use or charge to park in or near!). Anyway, if you head to Manly Wharf and then follow East Esplanade to its end and then right into Stuart Street till the very end, you will find this park. You can either park in the small carparks within the reserve, or at the bottom of Stuart Street.
Before entering the water, check out the entry and exit sites. The entry site is found by going under the white fence at the very end of the street and walking down the rough track that heads a little off to your left. This has one ledge to go down that may require assistance from your buddy but from there there are steps right to the water's edge. It is an easy giant stride into the water and you can also exit the water here, but the walk up the slope may be difficult. The exit is either the entry site or another location as I will describe. At the end of Stuart Street, there is a walkway running off to the right. This leads right to the main part of the gasworks site, following the water's edge. Walk down the pathway and once you are right on the water, you will notice that there is a sort of bridge that connects two concreted sections. Under this bridge there is a bit of concrete from some part of the manufacturing plant that slopes right down into the water. This provides a very easy entry and exit point. It is a short scramble across some rocks to the grassy area and then the pathway.
Gear up, go down to the entry site and enter the water. The depth here is about 4 to 5 metres. Head to the south-west, following the edge of the water. The bottom is composed of a sandy/silty mixture with some small rocks and in places, larger boulders. There is some kelp, with a sort of long seagrass in spots. There are lots of beer bottles, some new and some quite old, as far back as the 1940s. There is plenty of broken china, probably thrown overboard from the colliers unloading their cargo. More about the fishlife later.
As you go along, you can go further away from the land and the depth will drop a bit, but even if you go 15 to 20 metres, you will not get deeper than six or seven metres. The best bet here is to zig-zag as you go. Around the shoreline and the boulders, there are some nice fish. Things like small old wives, small bream, luderick, small cuttlefish, octopus and other fish. On the sand you will see heaps of small rays. The shoreline has lots of small overhangs and there are interesting fish to be seen if you look carefully.
After 10 minutes you will notice that there is a lot of black stuff on the bottom. This is, of course, coal. There are some large pieces (as big as a watermelon) and lots of crushed bits. This is where the largest concentration of broken china and beer bottles is to be found.
You should keep going till you have used half of your air. This may may let you go a little way around the point. Once you have turned around and you are back around the point and heading back along the seawall, keep an eye out for the break in the wall. This is where the bridge is located and where you will exit the water. Go between the boulders and surface and you will see the exit slope. Crawl up and return to your car.
Visibility here is not normally fantastic. You are likely to average four of five metres, but it could get as bad as a metre or, I am sure, as good as 15 metres in unusual circumstances.
This is a dive to do every now and again, and is probably a better night dive.