News from VARS

Recent announcements from VARS

Posted on Monday, 23 November 2009

ex HMAS Canberra Site Survey Dive

21 November 2009 — We are happy to report that on Saturday, 21 November 2009, a Dive Victoria technical dive team was contracted to do a site survey dive on the HMAS Canberra for the government contractor, the Birdon Group, to assess the readiness and safety of the site for recreational divers ahead of the sites public opening.

The site is in fantastic condition perfectly settled listing to her starboard side. She has already established some growth over her and many different schools of juvenile fish were seen through out the dive. The dive through her proved to be far beyond what we possibly imagined. There are still dozens of features in place making each and every room exciting to explore. We were extremely pleased with the way the ship has been prepared and the subsequent cleanup of the items that came loose or were damaged when she filled with water.

The dive showed that the site has been justified in remaining closed until the unstable and damaged items could be removed or made safe. We noted a couple of additional items that will need minor attention and should easily be completed by the commercial dive team during their next dives.

We surveyed depths of key points around the ship and are pleased to say that there is plenty of this wreck safely able to be explored by Open Water certification divers and then the Advanced divers will enjoy exploring down to her maximum depth on the sand of 29m. Penetrating the wreck showed that even seasoned wreck explorers will enjoy exploring this wreck as the maze of rooms each with different items to view means many dives will be needed to truly explore her end to end. Whilst the ship has been made very safe with multiple entry and exit points through out, there is still a true feeling of exploring a real wreck with many over head areas making this a true wreck to respect.

The mooring system appears to have been ideally placed being quite close to the ship and will allow for a good setup to facilitate efficient and safe access too and from the wreck.

Whilst the sea conditions were very good, we have no reason to believe the surge effects even in larger seas will be any worse than is currently experienced on many of the Victoria other open sea sites. It was evident that many areas inside the ship will be protected form surge giving great opportunity to plan a dive to suit the conditions of the day.

We conducted the survey dive using twin tanks and on Nitrox 32 gas and found that this site is perfectly suited to that sort of application giving us a long dive time and enabling us to work through the wreck upward deck by deck and still avoid decompression.

This ship is spectacular and all the team agreed that is without a doubt the best scuttled wreck site any of us have dived. We look forward to the final clean up dives being completed over the next week and then the official clearance and opening of the site hopefully very soon after.

A short video of the dive will be uploaded on various web sites once our report has been released from the contractor.

Regards,
 
Jason Salter
Managing Director, The Dive Victoria Group Pty Ltd
Treasurer, Victorian Artificial Reef Society Inc (VARS)

Posted on Sunday, 26 July 2009

ex HMAS Canberra Historic Sinking Ball

ex HMAS Canberra Historical Sinking Ball

When: Saturday, 17 October 2009, 7.00 p.m. – midnight
Where: Melbourne Aquarium — Coral Atoll Room
Tickets: $150 per person all inclusive (food, drinks, entertainment, GST)
Food: Gourmet three course meal
Drink: Premier sommelier's beverage package
Entertainment: Seven piece band with brass
Dress: Ladies, After 5 | Gents, Lounge/Dinner Suit

Bookings: Online Ticket Bookings
   or contact the Ticket Coordinator:
     by e-mail to tickets@vars.org.au
     or by phone on (03) 5988 5508 (8.30 a.m. – 8.30 p.m.)

Tickets are limited, so people wishing to attend this historic event should order their tickets without delay. Tables comfortably seat 10 people. There are a limited number of tables for 12 people available by special request.

Any special dietary requirements (vegetarian, coleliac etc.) will need to be conveyed to the ticket coordinator, preferably via the Online Ticket Booking Form or by e-mail.

Nearby Parking

Secure Parking - 474 Flinders Street
$10 after 6 p.m.
Secure Parking is open until:
   3.00 a.m. on Friday and Saturdays
   11.00 p.m. on Sundays – Thursdays.

Crown Casino
MULTI-LEVEL CARPARK RATES:
   Mon to Thurs $12.00 (6am-9.30am) $6.00 (9.30am-5pm)
   Friday $12.00 (6am-9.30am) $6.00 (9.30am-5pm)
   Saturday $6.00 (6am-9.30am) $6.00 (9.30am-5pm)
   Sunday $6.00 (6am-9.30am) $6.00 (9.30am-5pm)
 
BASEMENT CARPARK RATES:
   Mon to Thurs $20.00(6am-9.30am) $10.00(9.30am-5pm)
   Friday $20.00(6am-9.30am) $10.00(9.30am-5pm)
   Saturday $10.00(6am-9.30am) $10.00(9.30am-5pm)
   Sunday $10.00(6am-9.30am) $10.00(9.30am-5pm)
 
For all other times and details regarding the location of these car parks, please call Crown Information on 03 9292 5505 or visit www.crowncasino.com.au

Melbourne Aquarium - nearby parking and accommodation (Adobe PDF | 283.29 KB)

Nearby Accommodation

Crowne Plaza Melbourne
Across the Yarra River from the Melbourne Aquarium - 5 mins walk
Contact: Anthea Scerri
Phone: 03 9648 2652
Email: anthea.scerri@crowneplazamelbourne.com.au

Rendezvous - 328 Flinders St, Melbourne
Approximately 10 mins walk from the Melbourne Aquarium
Contact: Louise Osborne
Phone: 03 9250 1888
Email: res@melbourne.rendezvous.com.au

Clarion Suites Gateway - Cnr of Flinders & Williams Sts
Approximately 7 mins walk from the Melbourne Aquarium
Contact: Natalie Moutou
Phone: 03 9296 8853
Email: res@clarionsuitesgateway.com.au

The Langham Hotel - Southbank
Approximately 10 mins walk from the Melbourne Aquarium
Contact: Kylie Shorter
Phone: 03 8696 8041
Email: kylie.shorter@langhamhotels.com

Melbourne Aquarium - nearby parking and accommodation (Adobe PDF | 283.29 KB)

Posted on Friday, 17 July 2009

Target Date Set for ex HMAS Canberra Sinking

Wednesday, 15 July 2009: VARS News Update

In Brief

  • Site confirmed
  • Target Date of 15th August for scuttling
  • Ship preparation completed and looking magnificent
  • Site management process continues to advance
  • Historical Celebratory Ball being planned for 17th October
  • Promotional and marketing material well into development

Sub-Committee Reports

Ship Preparation - Convenor: Jason Salter
At last, the end is in sight! Whilst not yet confirmed, we are advised that a target date has been set for scuttling. This date is 15th August 2009 and is the date being worked to by all parties. This date is highly weather dependant. A satisfactory "window" of clear and calm weather is required in order to ensure that the scuttling goes well.

The ship preparation is now virtually complete with only minor details remaining. Preparation work has produced outstanding results. Substantial efforts have been made to retain the character of the vessel and not simply turn it into "Swiss cheese". There are numerous potential dives to many different areas of the ship. Many features have been retained, the most notable of which is a hand-painted mural located in the ship's mess. Some repairs have been required to the mural following an act of vandalism whilst the ship was at the Geelong Grain Pier. The mural has also been coated with clear lacquer in an attempt to preserve it.

All are in agreement that Canberra is the best prepared of all ships scuttled in Australia so far and will be very exciting to dive.

Site Management - Convenor: Alan Beckhurst
The site has been confirmed and signed off by the relevant parties. Canberra will be put to rest approximately 0.8 nautical miles from the J4 Submarine. Depth will be around 30 metres with the main deck at 18 metres. This is an ideal location and depth.

The site manager will be Parks Victoria. Four mooring buoys will be established around the wreck. Three will be for commercial operators with one for private boats. The system for bookings is still being worked on and will be advised in due course.

Scuttling Celebrations - Celebratory Ball - Convenor: Mick Jeacle
A Historical Sinking Ball will be held at the Coral Atoll Room at the Melbourne Aquarium on Saturday, 17th October 2009 to celebrate the scuttling of ex-HMAS Canberra. This ball promises to be "the" event of the year. Ticket prices will be $150 each, with numbers strictly limited. The ticket price includes meal, drinks and entertainment.

People wishing to attend this historic event should order their tickets without delay. Details on how to order and pay are on the website (www.hmascanberra.com.au) or via the ticket coordinator on 03 5988 5508.

Other events are also in planning for the scuttle date. It is anticipated that a large flotilla of boats will be in attendance. Enquiries are also being made for a possible attendance by an RAN vessel.

Marketing / Promotion - Convenor: Bryan McGoldrick
A 3D geospatial DVD is now in preparation. This has been put together with the kind assistance of Bill de Blasio from 360 South who took all the necessary 3D photographs.

A documentary on the ship is also well in progress. This will be released after the ship is finally at rest.

Communication - Convenor: Mike Reed
Following our previous concerns with communication between VARS and various government entities, VARS is now "back in the loop" and continues to liaise regularly. With a target scuttling date now being worked to, public and community interest in the project is heightening with John Lawler's phone now virtually in constant use fielding a variety of queries as well as liaising with the various agencies!

Fund Raising / Membership - Convenor: Warrick McDonald
No new activities. The T-shirts ordered by various members are now available for collection.

Posted on Friday, 01 May 2009

ex HMAS Canberra Site Concerns Appear Resolved

Thursday, 30 April 2009: VARS News Update

In Brief

  • Ship preparation is well advanced and looking great
  • Concerns regarding the proposed site appear to be resolved
  • Scuttling date is yet to be confirmed — however formal project timelines being worked to by Government agencies indicate mid-July
  • Site management process being worked through by Parks Victoria
  • VARS has expressed our strong concern about lack of consultation

Sub-Committee Reports

Communication - Convenor: Mike Reed
VARS expressed its strong concern over a lack of consultation with relevant government authorities over the past several months. We have previously reported a very good relationship with DSE who have been primarily responsible for the project so far. However, in these late stages of the project, other government departments (state and federal) have become involved and VARS has been distanced. A strongly worded letter was sent to relevant politicians and departmental managers reminding them of VARS ability to effectively represent the dive industry, to provide expert advice and of our need to be closely involved. We were particularly concerned given that the project appeared to be foundering due to lack of understanding of key issues related to the site and to standard safe diving practices applied in Victoria.

This situation now appears to have been remedied and VARS is once again meeting regularly with relevant parties and participating in workshops to find solutions to issues that are raised.

We will continue to be actively involved to ensure that the project maintains momentum.

Site Management - Convenor: Alan Beckhurst
In recent meetings with Parks Victoria, Tourism Victoria and Department of Sustainability and Environment VARS has been advised that the various concerns raised regarding the proposed site have now been resolved. The site has yet to be signed off by DEWHA and the Sea Dumping permit issued. However, there are no negatives at this stage.

VARS has provided Parks Victoria with assistance in developing a risk management plan for the site through provision of a draft discussion document. This will be further worked through by Parks Victoria with key stakeholders and then finalised within the overall management plan. It is expected that the final plan will include moorings and a booking system to ensure equitable and safe access to the site.

Ship Preparation - Convenor: Jason Salter
As previously reported, ship preparation is now all but complete. A proposal is still being worked through to retain the mast structure. This will need to be cut short and re-attached. Funding for this has been investigated. VARS regards this as a very important feature, both for safety purposes (better enable to conduct safety stops) and for aesthetics of the finished wreck.

Fund Raising / Membership - Convenor: Warrick McDonald
No new activities. The T-shirts ordered by various members are now available for collection.

Marketing / Promotion - Convenor: Bryan McGoldrick
No new activities.

Scuttling Celebration - Celebratory Ball - Convenor: Mick Jeacle
The Celebratory Ball is still planned to be held at the Coral Atoll Room at the Melbourne Aquarium. The Aquarium has been most understanding with the changes in dates and will do their best to accommodate us when we can confirm. A new date for this exciting event will be set once the Sea Dumping permit is signed off and the scuttling date known. Watch this space for information over the next month.

Posted on Sunday, 05 April 2009

New ex HMAS Canberra Site Concerns

Wednesday, 4 March 2009: VARS News Update

In Brief

  • Ship preparation will be completed within the next few weeks
  • New concerns regarding the proposed site
  • Scuttling date is yet to be confirmed — previously advised dates are now highly unlikely
  • Celebratory Ball currentl being planned for 18th April is likely to be moved out

Sub-Committee Reports

Site Management - Convenor: Alan Beckhurst
The situation regarding the proposed site has now become quite confusing. It was previously believed that all relevant parties had signed off on the intended site. However, there are now signals that the Department of Environment, Water and Heritage (DEWHA) is not happy with the site. DEWHA is the Commonwealth Department that has responsibility for the Sea Dumping Act and which must sign off before any permit to scuttle Canberra can be issued.

DEWHA's reasons for not signing off on the site are not clear at this stage and VARS is working to try and gain an understanding. We believe that the subject will be discussed at Victorian State cabinet level later this month and we hope that the issue can be resolved in the near future.

This does mean that scuttling will not now happen in March 2009. At best, the new date is likely to be May or June. This is a very disappointing outcome with the result that the site is unlikely to start being dived regularly until summer 2009. There are also concerns with less stable weather patterns occurring during this period which could see further multiple delays.

Ship Preparation - Convenor: Jason Salter
Ship preparation is very nearly complete. A number of VARS Committee members visited the ship on 2nd March. At this time, the last of the cement infill was being poured — estimated to be around 50 to 70 tonnes. This will replace the 90 tonnes of lead ballast which has been removed and recycled.

The ship is looking fantastic! Birdon have done an outstanding job of preparing her for her "final voyage". There is no doubt that this will be the best purpose prepared wreck in Australia. Rather than strip out most rooms and open up gaping holes everywhere, Birdon have left many items in situ, carefully removing hazards and ensuring that all rooms have more than one exit. There are only a very small number of areas that have been barred off.

The galley remains virtually intact, most control panels are still in place throughout, all engines and compressors have been stripped and de-oiled, cables removed, sick bay left pretty much intact (including examination bed and safe), etc, etc (the list goes on). For the adventurous, there are lots of passages and corridors to explore. There are two elevator shafts, two funnels and two escape shafts — all accessible — plus some reasonably "squeezy bits"!

All the committee members who attended were very impressed and commented how they were looking forward to diving her, when she finally goes down. Canberra will have dives suitable for all ranges of divers — from Open Water through to "techies". We just have to get her sunk now!

Fund Raising / Membership - Convenor: Warrick McDonald
All VARS members are encouraged to purchase a T-shirt to support the activities of VARS between now and the scuttling date. This T-shirt is available on order either from VARS or via your local dive store (within Victoria).

Other fund-raising opportunities are also being pursued. These include a very generous offer of artworks from Reg Cox. Reg is a well-known Victorian water-colour artist. He has generously offered a number of limited edition prints as well as an original painting (yet to be painted) of Canberra entering the heads for use by VARS in fund-raising efforts. Watch the web site for further information on this.

Marketing / Promotion - Convenor: Bryan McGoldrick
The planned 3D interactive video is moving a step closer to completion. The ship has now been fully photographed using fish-eye lenses. Work now commences on converting these to video and other formats.

Scuttling Celebration - Celebratory Ball - Convenor: Mick Jeacle
A Celebratory Ball is still scheduled for 18th April. The ball will be held at the Coral Atoll Room at the Melbourne Aquarium and promises to be "THE" event of the year in the dive community. Given the delay in scuttling, it is likely that the date will change so watch this space for information over the next month.

Posted on Saturday, 21 February 2009

ex HMAS Canberra Ship Preparation Nearly Complete

Monday, 16 February 2009: VARS News Update

In Brief

  • Ship preparation is now nearly complete
  • Scuttling date is yet to be confirmed - however a date towards end-March 2009 seems likely
  • Celebratory Ball being planned for 18th April

Sub-Committee Reports

Site Management - Convenor: Alan Beckhurst
A public workshop was held on 3rd February at Barwon Heads to enable community input into aspects of site management and location. The workshop was conducted by the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) and Parks Victoria. Around 45 people attended the workshop representing dive charter operators, private divers, fishermen and other interested parties. Good discussion was had regarding site management and access plans. All input was collated by DSE and Parks and will be used to finalise the management plan.

Ship Preparation - Convenor: Jason Salter
Work on ship preparation is now nearly complete. Birdon estimate that this will be completed by end February or early March.

It is now understood that the Port of Melbourne have agreed to a 4 metre navigation clearance. This is an outstanding result meaning that we have the opportunity to retain substantial portions of the mast array. This will also mean that the site will have improved safety with divers able to complete safety stops using the mast.

However, it should be noted that work will be required in order to make the mast useable and set it up as part of the final prepared ship. This work has not been included in the original budget prepared by Birdon. Consequently, it will be up to VARS to find and secure the necessary funds to achieve this. VARS is now evaluating how this might be achieved and is expecting a positive outcome.

Fund Raising / Membership - Convenor: Warrick McDonald
All VARS members are encouraged to purchase a T-shirt to support the activities of VARS between now and the scuttling date. This T-shirt is available on order either from VARS or via your local dive store (within Victoria).

Other fund-raising opportunities are also being pursued. These include a very generous offer of artworks from Reg Cox. Reg is a well-known Victorian water-colour artist. He has generously offered a number of limited edition prints as well as an original painting (yet to be painted) of Canberra entering the heads for use by VARS in fund-raising efforts. Watch the website for further information on this.

Marketing / Promotion - Convenor: Bryan McGoldrick
A variety of marketing activities including the production of a 3D interactive video are currently being pursued. Some funding has been secured with more being investigated. Close contact has now been established with Geelong Otway Tourism and joint activities are being planned.

Scuttling Celebration - Celebratory Ball - Convenor: Mick Jeacle
A Celebratory Ball is being planned to celebrate the scuttling. This event is now being planned for 18th April and promises to be "THE" event of the year in the dive community. Watch this space for information over the next month. Numbers will be strictly limited - so be ready to book your ticket as soon as the final arrangements have been made.

Posted on Saturday, 22 November 2008

VARS Moves Forward With ex HMAS Canberra Project

22 November 2008: VARS News Update

In Brief

Lots of news this month!

  • Work continues with ship preparation with the project still on target for a likely scuttling date sometime in early 2009.
  • Sub-committee work is ramping up as the scuttle date approaches. Work has now started on planning for the Black Tie Ball. Access arrangements are being worked through. Marketing plans are well in development. Fund-raising continues.

Sub-Committee Reports

Site Management - Convenor: Alan Beckhurst
We are awaiting the results of the site survey commissioned by the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE). As reported last update, a potentially serious issue arose with questions being raised as to the depth of the agreed scuttling site. VARS was able to provide evidence that countered this concern. However, our survey was not able to establish details regarding the substrate. The consultants' report will cover this aspect. It will be important that the substrate does allow the ship to settle effectively - thus the need for a minimum depth of sand or similar.

Work continues to ensure that the final arrangements for site access take into account the needs of all stakeholders whilst enabling the best possible arrangements for diver access both by commercial operators and club and private divers. This work is likely to continue for the next few months. It should be noted that VARS role in this is to ensure maximum consultation and input and to act as a conduit to government. VARS does not formulate policy - all we can do is to try and influence government direction.

Ship Preparation - Convenor: Jason Salter
Work-to-date on the ship is progressing very well. All efforts are being made to produce a result which complies with all safety requirements yet delivers an outstanding dive experience. VARS is very happy with this work so far and believes that the finished product will be the best ship so far in terms of the dive experience.

VARS hopes to be able to arrange an open day closer to the scuttle date so that interested parties can view the finished result before Canberra goes to her final resting place.

We are hopeful that the Port of Melbourne will agree to a 4 metre navigation clearance. This will be an outstanding result meaning that we have the opportunity to retain substantial portions of the mast array. This will also mean that the site will have improved safety with divers able to complete safety stops using the mast.

However, it should be noted that work will be required in order to make the mast useable and set it up as part of the final prepared ship. This work has not been included in the original budget prepared by Birdon. Consequently, it will be up to VARS to find and secure the necessary funds to achieve this. VARS is now evaluating how this might be achieved.

Fund Raising / Membership - Convenor: Warrick McDonald
All VARS members are encouraged to purchase a T-shirt to support the activities of VARS between now and the scuttling date. This T-shirt is available on order either from VARS or via your local dive store (within Victoria).

Other fund-raising opportunities are also being pursued. These include a very generous offer of artworks from Reg Cox. Reg is a well-known Victorian water-colour artist. He has generously offered a number of limited edition prints as well as an original painting (yet to be painted) of Canberra entering the heads for use by VARS in fund-raising efforts. The VARS Committee is currently considering how best to take advantage of this offer.

Marketing / Promotion - Convenor: Bryan McGoldrick
A variety of marketing activities including the production of a 3D interactive video are currently being pursued. Some funding has been secured with more being investigated.

Close contact has now been established with Geelong Otway Tourism and joint activities are being planned.

Scuttling Celebration - Black Tie Ball - Convenor: Mick Jeacle
A Black Tie ball is being planned to celebrate the scuttling. This event will be held sometime in February and promises to be "THE" event of the year in the dive community. Watch this space for information over the next month. Numbers will be limited - so be ready to book your ticket as soon as the final arrangements have been made.

Posted on Thursday, 13 November 2008

VARS Annual Report 2008

The VARS Annual Report 2008, can now be viewed/downloaded from the VARS web site at http://www.vars.org.au/annual-reports.htm.

Posted on Sunday, 28 September 2008

ex HMAS Canberra Project Progress Report

28 September 2008: VARS News Update

In Brief

Lots of news this month!

  • Work continues with ship preparation with the project still on target for a likely scuttling date sometime in early 2009.
  • Information Forum was held to provide an update to the dive community and other interested parties.
  • Sub-committees are continuing with their work to support the scuttling and ensure that the final dive site and experience is the best possible for all.

Information Update Evening

VARS held an Information Forum on the evening of 8th September at Bells Hotel in South Melbourne. This forum was advertised through dive shops and dive clubs with invitations sent to other stakeholders including VRFish, DSE, Tourism Victoria and Birdon Group. The evening was very well attended with some 100 interested divers as well as representatives from VRFish and Birdon.

Attendees were brought up to date with progress on the Canberra project with presentations from all sub-committee convenors. Opportunities were provided for questions or concerns to be raised and answers were provided wherever possible. Where answers were not immediately available, it was undertaken to provide advice as soon as possible via the website.

Feedback from participants indicated that the evening was very well received.

Sub-Committee Reports

Site Management - Convenor: Alan Beckhurst
A potentially serious issue arose during the last month with questions being raised as to the depth of the agreed scuttling site. A consultant engaged to provide a report to government on the suitability of the site suggested that the site was of insufficient depth - based on Admiralty charts showing a depth of 21 to 24 metres. This concern necessitated a further site survey by VARS committee members. Four committee members conducted a survey on 27th September. This survey included a comprehensive surface review using depth soundings as well as a 300 metre underwater swim across the proposed dive site by two committee members. The survey results are as below.

The proposed scuttle site consists of an oval shaped sand bowl surrounded by a low reef. This sand bowl is located 0.85 nautical miles west of the J4 submarine. The oval is 0.15 nautical miles wide and 0.30 nautical miles long, with the long axis running from SW to NE. The bowl is almost flat with a pure sand bottom (no pebbles, rocks or outcrops). The depth of the bowl is between 30.0 metres and 28.5 metres (confirmed by two independent depth gauges with readings taken every 25 metres of a 300 metre bottom swim from south to north). These readings were used to calibrate the depth sounder on the surface vessel. At this stage no probings have been taken to confirm the depth of the sand. However, based on observations by the two divers and the depth confirmations, there is a strong belief that this represents an ideal location for scuttling.

It is suggested that the Admiralty charts relied on by the consultants do not include this sand bowl but rather are an indication of the surrounding reef, which does have depths of 21 to 24 metres in this vicinity.

A report will be provided to the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) outlining the survey results. Hopefully this will alleviate the concern raised.

Work continues to ensure that the final arrangements for site access take into account the needs of all stakeholders whilst enabling the best possible arrangements for diver access both by commercial operators and club and private divers. This work is likely to continue for the next few months. It should be noted that VARS role in this is to ensure maximum consultation and input and to act as a conduit to government. VARS does not formulate policy - all we can do is to try and influence government direction.

Ship Preparation - Convenor: Jason Salter
The Birdon group continues with the task of preparing the ship for scuttling. VARS is maintaining a close liaison with Birdon and with the consultants engaged by DMO (the project manager) who are providing advice to Birdon. Work-to-date on the ship is progressing well. All efforts are being made to produce a result which complies with all safety requirements yet delivers an outstanding dive experience. VARS is very happy with this work so far and believes that the finished product will be the best ship so far in terms of the dive experience.

VARS hopes to be able to arrange an open day closer to the scuttle date so that interested parties can view the finished result before Canberra goes to her final resting place.

Fund Raising / Membership - Convenor: Warrick McDonald
All VARS members are encouraged to purchase a T-shirt to support the activities of VARS between now and the scuttling date. This T-shirt is available on order either from VARS or via your local dive store (within Victoria).

Marketing / Promotion - Convenor: Bryan McGoldrick
A variety of marketing activities including the production of a 3D interactive video are currently being pursued. Some funding has been secured with more being investigated.

Scuttling Celebration - Black Tie Ball - Convenor: Mick Jeacle
A Black Tie ball is being planned to celebrate the scuttling. This event will be held sometime in February and promises to be "THE" event of the year in the dive community. Watch this space for information over the next month. Numbers will be limited - so be ready to book your ticket as soon as the final arrangements have been made.

Posted on Saturday, 05 July 2008

ex HMAS Canberra Arrives - VARS Patron Announced

5 July 2008: VARS News Update

In Brief

Lots of news this month!

  • ex-HMAS Canberra is here in Melbourne.
  • We introduce our new patron.
  • The real work begins - planning and guiding the project towards a successful sinking sometime early in 2009.

'Canberra' Arrives!

It almost happened without anybody noticing. The Deed of Gift was finally signed in late May and the successful tenderer appointed (more on this below).

VARS was advised in the last week of May that a large seagoing tug was already on its way to Rockingham in Western Australia and would soon begin towing the 138 metre long decommissioned warship to Geelong in Victoria. At that time, it was expected that it would take two to three weeks.

In the first week of June we were advised that 'Canberra' had departed Fleet Base West under tow and was now on her way to her new home. Various ETAs through Port Phillip Heads were proposed - but of course these were all dependant on the speed of the tow vessel on route. At first we believed that it was possible she would transit the heads on the Monday of Queen's Birthday weekend. This got everybody pretty excited with the prospect of welcoming her with a large flotilla of boats. At this stage, we were coordinating on almost an hourly basis with State Government officials regarding media opportunities so that we could maximise the publicity opportunities.

As the time got closer, it became apparent that the Monday ETA was not going to happen. 'Karori' (the tug) and 'Canberra' finally arrived off Port Phillip Heads at around 2200 on the Monday, 9th June 2008. It was intended that the tow group cross the rip at 0630 on Tuesday, 10th June 2008, but problems with the tow line shortening delayed this. So all had to wait until the next tide at 1200 noon.

Two boats from the Dive Victoria Group ('Nemo' and the new 'Sea Dragon'), plus Henderson Dive's 'Jack' went out to the boarding grounds to greet Victoria's latest dive attraction. As well as this small welcoming flotilla, a handful of lucky sightseers at Point Lonsdale's Rip View lookout were treated to a fine day and a splendid view of the warship on its way to its final journey.

She entered the bay at noon on Tuesday and slowly made her way up the South Channel to lie at anchor that evening as the pilots would not attempt to berth a towed vessel after dark. TV Channels Seven and Nine News choppers covered the entrance, and Channel Seven landed to interview Dive Victoria's Jason Salter, VARS president John Lawler, and Alan Beckhurst.

The event was well reported on the Tuesday, 10th June 6 p.m. news by Channel Seven and Channel Nine. John Lawler crossed live from Dive Victoria's new dive boat 'Sea Dragon' to the Jon Faine morning show (ABC 774) and 3AW. On Wednesday John had a further 10 minute interview with Mark Bannerman on ABC Radio National at 6.30 a.m. On Thursday evening Mike Reed had a 15 minute interview on ABC Tasmania evening program.

This media coverage is aimed at a continual promotion of the ex HMAS Canberra as the centre piece to make "Victoria a world class temperate water diving destination."

VARS Announces Our Patron

We are very excited to announce that Lieutenant Commander (RAN retired) Mackenzie J. Gregory (Mac) has agreed to act as patron for VARS.

Mac joined the Royal Australian Naval College as a 13 year old Cadet Midshipman in January, 1936. His term was sent to sea in August 1939, as war was impending.

Mac, during WW2, served in our three 8inch cruisers, 'Australia', 'Canberra', and, 'Shropshire', plus in the light cruiser 'Adelaide'. He was the Officer of the Watch in 'Canberra' when the Battle of Savo Island commenced at 0143 on August 9, 1942, the night she was sunk. He was in 'Shropshire' for the Japanese surrender at Tokyo Bay on 2 September 1945.

Post war, Mac completed the first combined Torpedo Anti-Submarine Specialist Long course in UK Naval Schools. In his specialist capacity he served in the destroyers 'Warramunga' and 'Bataan', at Navy Office, and at the TAS school. From 1950 to 1953 he was appointed Aide de Camp to His Excellency the Governor General of Australia at Government House Canberra ("a quite fascinating time" according to Mac).

Finally, he was Fleet TAS Officer on the staff of the Flag Officer Commanding the Australian Fleet, in the Carrier 'Vengeance'.

Mac keeps himself busy with research and a bit of writing, finishing a trilogy about the German Armed Raiders of both World War I and World War II, and finally the Confederate Armed Raiders of the American Civil War. He recently finished a work on German Armed Merchant Ships of World War II 'Marauders of the Sea' and wants to round it off by covering their counterparts of World War I.

Mac is a fascinating character with a wealth of naval knowledge and a great store of tales to tell. His network of contacts in the naval world is second to none. His website (Ahoy - Mac's Weblog - http://ahoy.tk-jk.net/) is dedicated to all "Who went down to the sea in ships" in World War 2, in whatever capacity they may have served the cause of freedom, but especially to the Eighty Four Officers and Men who died in H.M.A.S. Canberra at the Battle of Savo Island, on the 9th of August, 1942.

We are very grateful to Mac for agreeing to act as our patron and look forward to working with him as this project progresses.

Preparation for Scuttling Begins

It was a long time coming - but things began to move a bit faster once the Deed of Gift was signed. Project responsibility for the preparation and scuttling of the ship responsibility was handed over to the Defence Material Organisation (DMO) in July 2007. DMO called for tenders to conduct this work in August 2007 with Birdon Marine announced as the successful tenderer in May 2008.

Birdon Marine is a family owned business which commenced operations in 1977. They have a diverse business which includes commercial, luxury, defence, new builds and marine construction. For more information visit their website at http://www.birdonmarine.com.au/.

Preparation of the ship will take place in Geelong. This work is expected to take around six months. During this time the ship will be stripped of all environmental and safety hazards, including 25,000 kilometres of wiring, all insulation, oil, flooring and lead ballast. Access points will be cut through the vessel so that divers won't get trapped. Salvageable equipment and materials will be removed and memorabilia will be taken out and put aside for appropriate memorials. All toxic substances will be removed; unsafe access areas welded and barred, decks and doorways opened up, with warning and diver safety notices installed.

The nature of the work means that there are significant Occupational Health and Safety hazards that must be carefully controlled. As the contractor, Birdon has all appropriate measures in place to ensure management of these OH&S issues. However, this does mean that any work performed by volunteers will be very limited.

Many volunteers have said that they want to get in and help make the ship diver safe. It is important to note that Birdon is solely in charge of the ship until the hand over to the Victorian State Government for scuttling and therefore because of Worksafe issues access is strictly limited. Additionally, the ship is alongside a Customs Security wharf and access is off limits to the public.

Birdon has appointed several expert advisors to assist in making the ship "diver safe". These experts draw on personal experience with 8 previous scuttling around Australia to ensure that the best possible job is done in compliance with relevant Government legislation.

VARS will continue to play an active role over the next six to nine months leading up to the actual scuttling. Dive site access arrangements still have to be negotiated and agreed. Engineering plans and specifications must be drawn up for reef preparation, access and site management. The final layout of the ship must be such as to maximise the attractiveness of the wreck as a dive destination. A sub-committee has been established to work with DMO and Birdon on this aspect. This sub-committee is also planning to produce a 3D computer model of the wreck that will enable the viewer to take a "virtual tour". This 3D model will be produced using the latest in high-technology visualising equipment and will be a "first" for dive wrecks within Australia.

VARS and Birdon Marine have established a very good working relationship. The VARS committee is working with the Birdon appointed project manager and expert advisors as well as with DMO and other relevant government agencies. Birdon have ensured that appropriate access to the ship has been provided to committee members to allow them to continue to provide substantial input as preparation work continues.

Sub-Committee Reports

Site Management - Convenor: Alan Beckhurst
A white paper has now been prepared outlining a possible site management plan. Input was sought from across the dive industry in preparation of this white paper. Government authorities have now appointed a consultant to further investigate and provide a report. Further consultation is now planned with the objective of finalising details and preparing a proposal to Government over the next few months.

Ship Preparation - Convenor: Jason Salter
Ship preparation is now underway! As outlined above, it is important to note that public access is not possible due to the OH&S issues and the restrictions existing on the wharf. VARS has an excellent working relationship with Birdon and has been able to gain access as we need it. Various members of the VARS committee have visited the ship and the sub-committee is now actively liaising with Birdon to ensure the best possible outcome for divers and the dive community.

Fund Raising / Membership - Convenor: Warrick McDonald
VARS is now approaching the stage when volunteers will be able to become active. Additionally, it is also the time when further funds are likely to be required as the work ramps up. We are continuing to look for members and obtain financial support to enable work to continue over the coming months to ensure that the best possible outcome is obtained for the dive community.

Persons who can offer time for the following are requested to contact Warrick who will put you on to the right person who will be looking after this event.

  1. Fund raising
  2. Membership drive
  3. T shirt printing and purchase
  4. Celebration ball to be held just after the sinking
  5. Memorial monuments. Bellarine and Mornington peninsula

Anyone interested in becoming a member or otherwise offering support should make contact via the details in the website.

Marketing / Promotion - Convenor: Bryan McGoldrick
The groundwork for a marketing plan has been put together. Activities are now underway to secure appropriate funding to put the plan into action.

Posted on Thursday, 12 June 2008

ex HMAS Canberra Arrives

The ex HMAS Canberra arrived off Port Phillip Heads at around 2200 on the Monday, 9th June 2008. It was intended that it cross the RIP at 0630 on Tuesday, 10th June 2008, but problems with the tow line shortening delayed this. So it had to wait until the next tide at 1200 noon.

Two boats from the Dive Victoria Group (Nemo and the new Sea Dragon), plus Henderson Dive's cat went out to the boarding grounds to greet the ex HMAS Canberra.

She entered the bay at noon on Tuesday and slowly made her way up the South Channel. Unfortunately she will not complete her journey into Geelong until Wednesday, as the Pilots would not attempt to berth a towed vessel after dark. She will lie at anchor this evening.

Channel Nine and Seven News choppers covered the entrance, and Channel Seven landed to interview Dive Victoria's Jason Salter, VARS president John Lawler, and Alan Beckhurst.

The event was well reported on the Tuesday, 10th June 6 p.m. news by Channel 7 and Channel 9. John Lawler crossed live from Dive Victoria's new dive boat "Sea Dragon" to the Jon Faine morning show 774 and 3AW. On Wednesday he had a 10 minute interview with Mark Bannerman on Radio National at 6.30 a.m. The media coverage is aimed at a continual promotion of the ex HMAS Canberra as the centre piece to make "Victoria a world class temperate water diving destination."

Posted on Saturday, 07 June 2008

ex HMAS Canberra to arrive on Tuesday, 10th June 2008

Sorry to disappoint, but VARS has been advised by the Department of Innovation, Industry & Regional Development (DIIRD) that the ex HMAS Canberra will now not be coming through Port Phillip Heads on Monday 9th June 2008. It's new estimated time of arrival through the heads is Tuesday 10th June 2008 at 6:35 a.m., though this too is subject to possible change. We aill attempt to keep you all advised via this web site and the various online diving forums.

It is expected that there will be a media gathering and welcoming ceremony, probably at the Old Grain Wharf in Geelong, sometime after the ex HMAS Canberra has berthed.

You can track the progress of Karori, the tug towing the ex HMAS Canberra, using the following Google Map link: http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?hl=en&ie=UTF8&oe=UTF8&msa=0&msid=111840711548775414449.00044ea4df0a872c79403&ll=-33.94336,122.739258&spn=22.346441,34.892578&z=5

Posted on Tuesday, 03 June 2008

ex HMAS Canberra is on tow to Victoria

The Victorian Artificial Reef Society (VARS) has been advised that the ex HMAS Canberra has departed Rockingham WA and is on its way to Geelong.

The weather prediction is favourable for a good tow to Port Phillip Bay and the ship is expected to arrive around Monday 9th to Wednesday 11th June.

VARS has met with the Victorian Government agencies to plan the programme for the media coverage into bay on the day.

A further update will be advised when a definite arrival date is available.

You can track the progress of Karori, the tug towing the ex HMAS Canberra, using the following Google Map link: http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?hl=en&ie=UTF8&oe=UTF8&msa=0&msid=111840711548775414449.00044ea4df0a872c79403&ll=-33.94336,122.739258&spn=22.346441,34.892578&z=5

Posted on Monday, 26 May 2008

VARS Announces the Canberra is Coming!

27 May 2008: VARS Media Release
The ex HMAS Canberra warship will soon be in Victoria to be prepared for sinking as an artificial reef and dive site

See the full media release here.

Posted on Saturday, 29 March 2008

Sinking Site Agreed On for the ex HMAS Canberra

29 March 2008: VARS News Update

In Brief

The Deed of Gift is moving closer to signature by both State and Federal Governments. A major milestone has now been achieved with the site position now agreed between all parties. This agreement was required prior to the signing of the Deed document. It is expected that this second major milestone is now only weeks from being completed.

Sub-Committee Reports

Site Management - Convenor: Alan Beckhurst
A white paper has now been prepared outlining a possible site management plan. Input was sought from across the dive industry in preparation of this white paper. Government authorities have now appointed a consultant to further investigate and provide a report.

Ship Preparation - Convenor: Jason Salter
As outline in the last update the bulk of this work will occur once the tenderer has been formally announced. At this stage the key tasks will be to coordinate with the successful tenderer to ensure that ship is correctly prepared to maximise diving enjoyment and safety.

Fund Raising / Membership - Convenor: Warrick McDonald
VARS is now approaching the stage when volunteers will be able to become active. Additionally, it is also the time when further funds are likely to be required as the work ramps up.

Marketing / Promotion - Convenor: Bryan McGoldrick
The groundwork for a marketing plan has been put together. Activities are now underway to secure appropriate funding to put the plan into action.

Site Location

Agreement on a resting place for the ex HMAS Canberra has now been reached between all stakeholders. The agreed site is in an area about 1 nautical mile WNW of the J4. Average depth is 28 metres. This will mean that the wreck will be able to be accessed by all levels of divers as the main deck will be in 18 metres.

Posted on Wednesday, 16 January 2008

ex HMAS Canberra Project Progress

16 January 2008: VARS News Update

In Brief

The ex HMAS Canberra project continues to move forward. The recent federal election slowed down the finalisation of the Deed of Gift and formal letting of the contract for preparation and scuttling. These two items are now firmly back on the agendas of the relevant government departments and should be finalised soon.

The VARS committee remains very active and is maintaining close liaison with all relevant parties. Work is continuing on key elements such as ship preparation plans, site management plans and marketing strategy. It should be noted that previous dive wreck projects around Australia have typically taken 5 years from inception to final sinking. We are now 2 years into the ex HMAS Canberra project and look like beating these previous timelines quite substantially.

Formalisation of Deed Document

A major milestone in this project is the completion of the Deed of Gift. This is the agreement between the State and Commonwealth Governments that allows the formal handing over of the Canberra. Until this document is signed, no actual work can commence in moving or preparing the ship.

VARS understands that this document is now in the final stages of preparation. Agreements have been reached regarding issues such as funding and it is now a case of "putting the ink to paper". Current indications are that this will be completed by end January.

Tender Process

The tender process has now been completed. VARS understands that a successful tenderer has been selected. However, the formal letting of the contract cannot occur until the Deed of Gift has been signed. We are maintaining close contact with relevant parties so that we are able to move quickly once the contracts are finalised.

Sub-Committee Reports

Site Management - Convenor: Alan Beckhurst
This has been the most active of the sub-committees in the past month or so. The main task is to prepare a submission to Government on appropriate site management including access provisions and ongoing monitoring and management.

A discussion paper has been circulated to relevant parties in the commercial and private dive community. Comments and discussion points have been received and the submission paper to Government is close to completion. The sub-committee is working hard to ensure that access fees and rights are determined in such a fashion as to allow fair and equitable access whilst recognising that ongoing management costs must be recovered and that commercial viability of the site is ensured.

Ship Preparation - Convenor: Jason Salter
Work has started on preparation of a plan for diving the wreck. However, the bulk of this work will occur once the tenderer has been formally announced. At this stage the key tasks will be to coordinate with the successful tenderer to ensure that ship is correctly prepared to maximise diving enjoyment and safety.

Fund Raising / Membership - Convenor: Warrick McDonald
This committee has been active in finding ways to expand VARS membership and secure funds to enable VARS to continue to operate. A number of people have signed up as possible volunteers to assist with the work of the various sub-committees. The committee is grateful for this display of interest and support. Letters will be forwarded to the various volunteers to thank them and (where applicable) invite them to join VARS. As sub-committees become more active, those volunteers will be further contacted and invited to assist in particular ways.

Marketing / Promotion - Convenor: Bryan McGoldrick
Initial work has commenced on prepare of a marketing plan to successfully market the Canberra as the centrepiece of Victoria - World Class Temperate Water Dive Destination. At this stage the key issue is to seek appropriate funding to allow a marketing drive. It is envisaged that the majority of this drive will be in the first year or so. It will be designed to attract interstate and overseas divers and hence expand our overall diver base.

Site Location

VARS continues to lobby Government to ensure that the vessel will be scuttled in the most appropriate location to maximise its value as the centrepiece of Victoria - World Class Temperate Water Dive Destination and to ensure access to a broad range of divers.

Posted on Friday, 19 October 2007

VARS Moves Forward With ex HMAS Canberra Project

19 October 2007: VARS News Update

Key Sub-Committees Established

The newly expanded committee elected at the September Annual General meeting has been active in setting up key sub-committees to tackle the work required in the forthcoming months.

Ship Preparation - Convenor: Jason Salter
Key Tasks — Prepare a plan for diving the wreck. Coordinate with successful tenderer to ensure that ship is correctly prepared to maximise diving enjoyment and safety.

Fund Raising / Membership - Convenor: Warrick McDonald
Key Tasks — Expand VARS membership. Secure funds to enable VARS to continue to operate.

Marketing / Promotion - Convenor: Bryan McGoldrick
Key Tasks — Prepare a marketing plan to successfully market the Canberra as the centrepiece of Victoria - World Class Temperate Water Dive Destination. Liaise with Government and Tourism industry bodies.

Site Management - Convenor: Alan Beckhurst
Key Tasks — Prepare a submission to Government on appropriate site management including access provisions and ongoing monitoring and management.

Tender Process

The tender process is continuing - being managed by the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO). It is expected that the successful tenderer will be announced in the next few weeks.

Site Location

VARS continues to lobby Government to ensure that the vessel will be scuttled in the most appropriate location to maximise its value as the centrepiece of Victoria - World Class Temperate Water Dive Destination and to ensure access to a broad range of divers.

Volunteers

Names of potential volunteers continue to be collected. As work progresses these volunteers will be called upon to assist as required.

Posted on Friday, 12 October 2007

ex HMAS Canberra Reef

12 October 2007: VARS Media Release
In 2008, the ex HMAS Canberra warship will be sunk in Victoria to create a major new temperate water dive site. The Victorian Artificial Reef Society (VARS) is now calling for volunteers to help with this exciting project.

See the full media release here.

Posted on Tuesday, 28 August 2007

VARS Annual Report 2007

The VARS Annual Report 2007, can now be viewed/downloaded from the VARS web site at http://www.vars.org.au/annual-reports.htm.

Posted on Monday, 23 July 2007

Federal Government Offers to Fund and Sink the ex-HMAS Canberra

23 July 2007: VARS News Update
Today, the Federal Government offered to fund and sink the ex-HMAS Canberra as an artificial reef and wreck dive site in Victoria.

Dr Brendon Nelson, Minister for Defence, announced that the Federal Government is prepared to take Project Management responsibility for the ex HMAS Canberra project and make $7 million in funding available.

See the full announcement here.

Posted on Friday, 20 July 2007

VARS Meets With Tourism Minister

20 July 2007: VARS News Update
Today, VARS members John Lawler, Alan Beckhurst and Lloyd Borrett met with Tim Holding, Victorian Minister of Tourism, at his Springvale office to continue discussions about the ex HMAS Canberra project.

VARS also put out a Media Release titled "Warship Still In Limbo" which you can either read online or download the Adobe PDF version (Adobe PDF | 26.73 KB)

VARS will be having its Annual General Meeting at 8 pm on Tuesday the 11th September 2007 at Bells Hotel, corner of Moray and Coventry Streets, South Melbourne (Melway 1D L12). Anyone interested in the ex HMAS Canberra project is welcome to attend.

Posted on Saturday, 26 May 2007

Update from VARS President, John Lawler

25 May 2007: VARS News Update
John Lawler provides an update as to what VARS has been doing in recent months with the ex HMAS Canberra project.

Please view/download the Update from John Lawler (Adobe PDF | 33.2 KB)

Posted on Monday, 21 May 2007

Dive hopes sink

21 May 2007: The Independet newspaper report
On Friday 11th May 2007, The Bellarine Peninsula Independent newspaper carried a page one feature story with the above headline. It is an interview with John Lawler about progress of the ex HMAS Canberra project.

Please read the full story online, or view/download the Adobe PDF version (Adobe PDF | 552.87 KB)

Posted on Tuesday, 08 May 2007

MPs Respond to VARS Concerns

8 May 2007: VARS News Update
MPs Lisa Neville and Martin Hunt have responded to VARS concerns with the ongoing delays in securing the ex HMAS Canberra and subsequent preparation and sinking of this vessel as a dive wreck.

Please view/download the reply from Lisa Neville MP (Adobe PDF | 97.26 KB)

Please view/download the reply from Martin Dixon MP (Adobe PDF | 91.6 KB)

Posted on Monday, 23 April 2007

VARS puts delay concerns to the Minister of Defence

23 April 2007: VARS News Update
VARS writes to Dr Brandan Nelson, Minister of Defence, about its concerns with the ongoing delays in securing the ex HMAS Canberra and subsequent preparation and sinking of this vessel as a dive wreck.

Please view/download the Adobe PDF version (Adobe PDF | 25.86 KB)

Posted on Friday, 20 April 2007

Delay strikes divers

20 April 2007: The Independet newspaper report
On Friday 20th April 2007, The Bellarine Peninsula Independent newspaper carried a page one feature story with the above headline. The story highlights how the Victorian State Government is way behind schedule with the ex HMAS Canberra project.

Please read the full story online, or view/download the Adobe PDF version (Adobe PDF | 434.27 KB)

Posted on Thursday, 29 March 2007

Red tape ties up ship for peninsula dive site

29 March 2007: VARS News Update
VARS circulates a story with the above headline from The Independent, Friday March 16, 2007 on page 3 of the Bellarine Edition.

Please read the full story online, or view/download the Adobe PDF version (Adobe PDF | 366.06 KB)

Posted on Tuesday, 27 March 2007

VARS Launches ex HMAS Canberra Web Site

28 March 2007: VARS News Update
Well its about that time folks. VARS has now released a web site designed to keep you up-to-date with the progress of the "Let's Sink the ex HMAS Canberra" project.

Eventually we hope this web site will become the place to go for information about diving the ex HMAS Canberra and other dive sites in Victoria.

We hope everyone is as excited as we are to be entering this new era as we prepare to have the ex HMAS Canberra in Victoria as an artificial reef and wreck dive site.

And we are not done just yet. There are exciting new additions planned for the web site over the coming months. So please keep coming back and checking us out.

Posted on Tuesday, 13 March 2007

VARS Meets With Minister of Defence

VARS Meets With Minister of Defence 14 March 2007: VARS News Update:
Members of the VARS Committee met with Dr Brendan Nelson (Minister of Defence) and Steward McArthur (Federal Member for Corangamite) to further discuss the sinking of the ex HMAS Canberra in Victoria as an artificial reef and wreck dive site.

Those present at the meeting were: Stewart McArthur (Federal Member for Corangamite), Graham Harris (Ex Navy), Alan Beckhurst (VARS), Mick Jeacle (VARS), Lieutenant Daniel Fankhauser (Aide-de-Comp To Dr Nelson), John Lawler (VARS), Tom Wende (VARS), Rubens Monaco (VARS), The Hon Dr Brendan Nelson MP (Minister for Defence).

To be kept fully up-to-date with the ex HMAS Canberra project and what VARS is doing, please Subscribe to our Newsletter.

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