Michael McFadyen's Scuba Diving Web Site
Home Contact Me Sydney Reef Dive Sites Sydney Shipwrecks NSW Dive Sites Australian Dive Sites Overseas Dive Sites Dive Accidents and Incidents My Yachting Adventures 4WD Trips Weather Search 12 July 2024 20:48

About Me
My Diving
Web Links - Dive Clubs
St George Scuba Club
Some of my Best Photos
Contact Me

Dive Sites
Sydney Reef Dive Sites
Sydney Shipwrecks
Sydney Dive Visibility, Swell and Temps
Kelly Talking on ABC Sydney about Shipwrecks
NSW Dive Sites
Sydney Shipwreck Summary
NSW Shipwreck GPS/Marks
Australian Dive Sites
Overseas Dive Sites
Aircraft I have Dived
Old Bottles
Free Shipwreck Books

Dive Related Equipment
Shearwater Predator and Heinrichs Weikamp OSTC 2N
Uwatec Aladin Dive Computers
Apollo AV1 Underwater Scooter
Bauer Compressor
DIY Oxygen Stick - Nitrox
GoPro HD Hero Video Camera
My Camera Setup
Purchase of New Dive Boat
My Dive Boat - Mak Cat
My Old Dive Boat - Le Scat
My Dive Gear
GPS and Diving
Make Your Own Car Tank Rack

Marine Life
Rarer Sydney Marine Life
Bare Island Pygmy Pipe Horses
Bare Island Sea Horses
Bare Island Nudibranchs
Bare Island Marine Life
Encounter with Southern Right Whale and Calf

Other Dive Info
How Weather Affects Diving in Sydney
Visibility and Wave Averages in Sydney
Waves and Diving
Diving Weather and Sea Conditions
Tide Tables
Dive Accidents and Incidents
Dive Book Reviews
Site Map
Noel Hitchins 1951-2005
Lloyd Bridges - Mike Nelson in Sea Hunt
My Yachting Adventures
Below is a list of links to the main pages about my yacht, Catlypso and My Yachting Adventures:
  • Purchase of Catlypso
  • Details about Catlypso
  • Cleaning/Repairing Catlypso
  • My Yachting Adventures.
  • Login


    Forgotten your password?
    Request a new one here.
    Michael's 4WD Trips
    Click here for a list of my Four Wheel Drive and Camping Trips.
    Home Brewing
    Click here for an article about Home Brewing.
    Sydney Dive Site Hints
    "The Leap is a great place to find sea dragons"
    Beehive Casemate Tunnel - Sydney Harbour
    There are some very strange places I have dived over the years, inside the retaining wall for the Container Terminal in Botany Bay, exploring up the sewage treatment plant disposal pipes at North Head and Malabar being three of the strangest I can quickly recall. In June 2009 I did another very strange dive.

    In mid-2008 Peter Flockart, a member of our dive Club and someone I have known for almost 20 years, sent me a link to a YouTube video that was quite interesting to us as divers and to Peter as a fan of defence fortifications. This video showed a group of people diving into a crack in the reef and surfacing in a tunnel. What's more, this was in Sydney Harbour.

    From the video, we figured out the location of the tunnel and decided that on the next available opportunity, we would look for the tunnel and explore it ourselves.

    The shores of Sydney Harbour are covered in old fortifications, some dating back to 1800 (there are gun emplacements under the Sydney Harbour Bridge approaches on the south side) with most being built from the period after 1870. More were built during World War II. North Head, South Head, Middle Head are particularly "infested" with fortifications. In addition, Botany Bay has some great ones on the northern headland (I used to explore them as a child when access was easy).

    The tunnel shown in the video was on the southern side of Middle Head, between Obelisk Beach and Chowder Bay.

    After a dive at North Head in June 2009, we headed over to the location that we suspected housed the tunnel. We soon figured out the exact location as there was a concrete covered cut in the reef. For all intents and purposes, it looked like a drain that you see everywhere in the Harbour and around Sydney.

    We anchored a few dozen metres off the shore and Peter and I dropped into the water. We swam over towards the concrete and then descended. As we approached the rock platform, we saw a cutting in the reef. This was not natural, the walls were too perfect. There is a lot of kelp at the approach, I imagine that sometimes it could almost obscure the cutting.

    The EntranceTunnel
    The entrance to the tunnelInside the tunnel, the fins are of my buddy going around to the right

    This cutting is the entrance to the tunnel. The depth is only a few metres and there is a bit of surge as we move into the tunnel. The tunnel goes for about five metres in one direction and then turns about 30° to the right. It is a bit less than five metres before we are forced to surface. The tunnel is fairly dark near the bend, but before that and after it is relatively light.

    Once we have surfaced, we can see light streaming in from above. Ahead of us are a set of stairs that ascend up inside the cliff-face. At the top there appears to be a door and possibly a tunnel leading off from the stairs. We could not explore further as the jump from where we are standing to the next step above is far too high for us (at a low tide) to climb up wearing full scuba gear. In addition, it is too surgy to take off the gear and then climb up.

    The Tunnel
    The steps inside the tunnel

    I take a couple of photographs, but it is difficult getting the strobe to face upwards as it is too "limp" above water. They do not come out too good as you can see.

    We drop back into the water and swim out the entrance and back to the boat. A very different dive!

    In early 2017 I discover what this tunnel was actually used for. Both Peter and I had tried numerous times to find out more about the purpose of the tunnel and in January 2017 the tunnel was featured on a Sydney TV News report in a story that claimed it was a new discovery. Not really!!

    The EntranceTunnel
    A better shot of the steps
    Photo courtesy of Adam Were
    Looking up at the bottom
    Photo courtesy of Adam Were
    The EntranceTunnel
    At the top of the steps
    Photo courtesy of Adam Were
    Looking up from the top of the steps
    Photo courtesy of Adam Were

    Anyway, I was contacted by Tony Steinbeck who sent me photographs he took back in the 1980s (I think) of the inside of the tunnel and the casemate. He also provided me with the purpose of the tunnel! It turns out it was built in the 1800s so that cables could run from the shore to mines laid in the harbour. Whether these mines were actually laid or this was all preparation I still do not know. So now we know the purpose of the tunnel.

    Back in 2009 I said that we planned to return when the tide was high as we figured we would then be able to get up onto the first step and then take off our gear and explore the tunnel further. We still have not got around to doing this, maybe in a year or two.


  • Emails from Tony Steinbeck with photos and information - dated 22 February 2017
  • Facebook post by Adam Were
  • Copyright © Michael McFadyen 1990 to 2024
    Non-commercial use of an article or photograph is permitted with appropriate URL reference to this site.
    Dive shops, dive operators, publications and government departments cannot use anything without first seeking and receiving approval from Michael McFadyen.
    This web site has been wholly thought up, designed, constructed and funded for almost 30 years by Michael McFadyen without any help from the Australian Dive Industry.
    Website created 1996!