Geelong Advertiser, 5 October 2009

HMAS Canberra scuttled off Ocean Grove

HMAS Canberra scuttled off Ocean Grove

By Jane Harper, Geelong Advertiser

It may have been with more of a fizzle than a bang, but the HMAS Canberra has finally been successfully scuttled.

Monday, 5 October 2009 — High winds and a problem with a lost anchor meant the highly-anticipated sinking of the navy frigate off Ocean Grove took place five hours after the expected 9.15am start, much to the disappointment of thousands of onlookers.

More than 4000 people and hundreds of spectator boats flocked to Ocean Grove and Barwon Heads yesterday morning, hoping to catch a glimpse of what promised to be a rare visual spectacle.

But as the minutes ticked into long hours, the crowds thinned dramatically, leaving just a few hundred people to watch the eventual scuttling at 2pm.

The scheduled start time first fell into jeopardy late on Saturday, when high winds forced the contractors to move the vessel away from the sinking site, two nautical miles from Ocean Grove, and out to sea for safety.

Poor weather saw the scuttling postponed twice last month.

Favourable conditions yesterday morning meant the ship could be moved back to the site, but then a lost anchor put a further spanner in the works.

Time marched on as two tug boats struggled to keep the 4100-tonne ship within the designated sinking zone.

Once in place, a warning flare was fired, followed by a few puffs of steam as the charges below the waterline cut through the ship's hull.

With permission for a pyrotechnics display refused, the view from the shore was limited to a haze of smoke accompanied by several small bangs.

During preparations for the scuttling, 17 explosives were positioned around the hull of the ship, with charge wires fed through the stern, tightly tied and let out onto polystyrene floats.

The device cut a hole through the wall of the ship, sending thousands of litres of water inside.

The HMAS Canberra took two minutes and 20 seconds to fully sink horizontally, but for those on the shore, the ship was gone from view in less than a minute.

Now settled on the ocean floor, the HMAS Canberra will be used as a dive site.

Corangamite MP Darren Cheeseman said the scuttling was still a fantastic coup for the region.

"It was a massive logistical exercise so it is understandable there were delays," he said.

"But a vessel like this will be a real draw card and make this a diving destination known worldwide.

"The HMAS Canberra has served the navy proudly and will continue serving its country through tourism."

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