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The Age, 4 October 2009
Old Warship sunk off Victoria's coast
By Michelle Draper, The Age
Sunday, 4 October 2009 — There was a barely audible explosion, a puff of grey smoke and in about two minutes the decommissioned Australian naval warship HMAS Canberra sank beneath the waters off Victoria's coast.
The 138 metre guided-missile frigate acquired by Victoria in 2006 will now become a much sought-after dive site 30 metres below the surface.
The ship's sinking on Sunday was a long time coming for scuba diving enthusiast John Lawler, who established the Victorian Artificial Reef Society in 2006 to lobby for the navy frigate to be sunk in the state's waters.
"As a scuba diver, I'm extremely excited about diving on a wreck like this," the 66-year-old told AAP after watching the ship go down about 3km off Barwon Heads on the Bellarine peninsula.
"From a scuba diver's point of view, it's like Christmas," he said.
He said the wreck would soon be teeming with fish as it began its transformation into an artificial reef.
Mr Lawler, from Beaumaris in Melbourne's southeast, said he couldn't wait to inspect the underwater playground.
"As soon as it's open, if the weather's fine, myself and some of my diving buddies will be out on the site as quick as we can."
About 16 charges located in the ship's hull were detonated about 2pm (AEST) on Sunday, creating a soft popping noise and a puff of grey smoke.
Water flowed through pre-made holes in the ship and it sank in about two minutes.
The 4100 tonne frigate went down in an area of Bass Strait inhabited by about 46 other wrecks, known as the Ship's Graveyard.
The HMAS Canberra was originally scheduled to be scuttled on September 12 but the event was postponed because of poor weather conditions.
On Sunday the ship was expected to be sunk about 9am, but difficulty towing it to its destination slowed the process.
Commercial clearance divers were expected to survey the wreck once it had settled later on Sunday to ensure all the charges had detonated.
Moorings will then be installed by Parks Victoria before the government opens the site for divers, in about a month's time.
Built in 1978 and launched two years later, the frigate served Australia for 24 years before it was decommissioned in 2005.
It served in the Middle East following the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq in 1992 and helped evacuate Australians from Jakarta in 1998 during the student riots that deposed Indonesian president Suharto.