Sep 262011

Bow of the Canberra

About the site

I’ve previously discussed how the ex-HMAS Canberra came to rest as an artificial reef for divers, on the seafloor about 2 miles from Torquay. As time passes and the marine life moves in, the wreck becomes a more and more attractive dive site. One of the key features is its sheer size. This is especially so when many of the other wrecks dived out of Melbourne are of a similar size to the J class submarines – about 100m long.

The ex-HMAS Canberra is 138m long and in a whole dive spent swimming it’s impossible to explore the whole thing from end to end. Given her size, it takes multiple dives to explore all of the different aspects, particularly if you are going through the individual rooms inside.

About the diveTaking a swim

This dive happened in autumn, which I generally look forward to for favourable winds and gently improving visibility in Melbourne. With calm seas up top, we did a free descent onto the top deck, and moseyed through the aircraft hanger on the stern. A quick trip along the side walkway with a few stops for the photograph on the right brought us to the front end.

I was very keen to get a shot of the Canberra’s bow on this dive. I’d previously been stymied by a current running along the length of the ship from bow to stern. Being unable to fin backwards at the same speed as the current had led to some haphazard moving shots, and I was back for another attempt.

About this shot

The bow shot is a classic for any wreck dive with a few variations on the theme. One common angle is from above looking down and back on the wreck. The famous Leigh Bishop pioneered looking up at the wreck, partly because he was using a tripod to do available light photography on deep wrecks in the English Channel in the early 90s. Unless you’ve got a much taller tripod than you would want to take on a dive, this generally requires being right down on the sand.

Despite the excellent vis on this dive (for Melbourne), the first thing I discovered was that the bow was still way too big to fit in a single shot. Even with the 14mm lens allowing me to get really close to the pointy end, the steep incline on the front of the ship made the bow barely recognisable as such with no other part of the wreck emerging from the blue water. I breathed out and descended a little further, until I was almost directly under the very tip of the bow.

Shooting angled up like this allowed a little more of the wreck into the picture, and put my model in a good place to express the scale of this ship. While I would have preferred being able to see some background ship superstructure in the picture, I like the way the bow appears somewhat disembodied. And the dive has given me a great desire to go back with a tripod in good vis and see how much of this wreck can be captured in a single frame.

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