New Wreck Dived – MV Limerick
Descending rapidly to 107m, I found myself drifting further from the descent line and thought “I’m might not make this”, until of course the 140m long ship came into view beneath me for the first time in 70 years. With the keel on the upside down hull clearly visible, I thought I’ve finally succeeded after 12 months of planning and several failed attempts months earlier.
The site is that of the MV Limerick, a 9000 tonne cargo ship that was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in 1943. A very fast ship in the day, the Limerick struggled to slow down to the pace of the convoy and ultimately proved too big a target whilst she was zigzagging behind the slower ships. Two crewmembers lost their lives in the attack, including William Rush and John Willmott.
The upside down nature of the shipwreck makes it unusual, and although it obfuscates a significant amount of interest, the bow, stern and monstrous torpedo hole in the starboard site make for an extremely interesting dive. No penetration was done on the first dive, however a 360 degree exploration and GoPro video has been captured. Time on the bottom was 22 minutes, with a 3 hour drifting deco.
Rising up off the bottom 13m, the sides of the ship are now imposing vertical walls. The plating in parts is beginning to come off, revealing the inner structure and tween decks of the ship. I anticipate that future dives will include penetration of the the torpedo hole, engine rooms and bow and stern areas.
Facing North-East and exposed to the current, the stern of the ship is buzzing with life including Grey Nurse Sharks, Queensland grouper, king fish, trevally and all manner of smaller fish. A twin screw ship, only one propeller remains with the other presumably lost in the torpedo explosion. Just forward of the stern is the very large and destructive torpedo hole; a clear reminder that war was to blame in the demise of this great ship.
Located approximately 12 nautical miles offshore near the town of Ballina in NSW, the wreck site is plagued by extremely strong currents (typically 4-5 knots), which have thwarted all previous attempts to dive the shipwreck. Adapting to the conditions, we ultimately changed our techniques to accommodate the extreme current and have been successful with a modified hot drop or ‘slingshot’ style descent as we are now calling it.
Although I executed the dive solo, a larger team certainly made it possible and a special thanks goes out to Dave Wood and Warwick Jones (son of the Limerick radio officer) for crewing the boat on the day. My thanks also to crew members on previous attempts including Scott Willan, Max Gleeson and buddy Andreas Thimm.
Our project on the Limerick will continue for a few more weeks as we aim to explore the shipwreck further, acquire additional video and still photos with high quality cameras, and ultimately share the site with other divers. I’ve posted a view still images here which have been extracted from some GoPro footage, which I’ll also share in due course.
GPS marks for the shipwreck are:
28° 56.520′ S 153° 47.679′ E
28° 56.475′ S 153° 47.750′ E