Geelong Advertiser, 24 May 2008

Canberra's last port of call a real dive

Canberra's last port of call a real dive

By Peter Begg, Geelong Advertiser

The once pride of the Australian fleet HMAS Canberra will be towed into Geelong in the next fortnight to prepare to meet its watery grave.

Saturday, 24 May 2008 — The former HMAS Canberra will berth at Geelong's grain pier for six months while it is stripped of any valuable gear.

It will then be towed out through Port Phillip Heads and sunk off Barwon Heads to form an artificial reef and a boon for the dive industry.

Toll GeelongPort general manager Lindsay Ward said the Canberra berth at the grain pier would not be open to the public, but its presence would provide local jobs.

"It's undergone a partial strip prior to coming to Geelong and the final strip and preparation for it to become a dive wreck will be completed over a six-month period," he said. "The economic benefits to the Geelong economy will be significant and it again confirms GeelongPort as a driver of the local economy."

Classed as a frigate, the Canberra joined the RAN in 1981 and was decommissioned in 2005.

In 2007 then defence minister Brendan Nelson announced the Federal Government would contribute $7 million towards the cost of sinking the Canberra as a dive site for Victoria. The Victorian Government also pledged $1 million.

A large seagoing tug will be employed to tow the Canberra from Rockingham in Western Australia to Victoria.

Geelong Mayor Bruce Harwood said getting the Canberra here as a diving site was a coup for the region.

"It's a bit of a coup really in light of what's occurring with the bay dredging and the issues that has brought," Cr Harwood said.

"Even though it appears that everything is above board to date, this will add value to that industry."

The Victorian Artificial Reef Society vice-president Mike Reed said he understood the target for sinking the Canberra was still about mid-2009.

The society's website said the Canberra would eventually be holed by a series of carefully placed explosive charges and sunk outside Port Phillip Heads.

The society said that within days of the sinking, it expected to have divers reporting schools of small fish sheltering in her cavernous hull.

"And after just a few weeks, her grey war paint will be mottled with the seedlings of an undersea garden as the warship starts to become a living reef."

Geelong Advertiser, Online

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