TUI and WAIKATO dive
I recently went out with Dive Tutukaka on a weekday to dive the twin wrecks - The Tui and the Waikato.
First dive was the Tui. I havent dived the Tui in years and for me this was one of the best dives I have done in ages. I actually witnessed the Tui going down some years ago now. When she was sunk in the ship drifted over a reef and ended up on her port side. It is always a great sight to see a ship sinking ( as an avid wreck diver its the best sight!!!!!) I have always loved the Tui and had forgotten what a fantastic dive it is. Here is some history of the ship.
( all this information courtesy of phil bendle )
The Tui, after her colourful
career spanning more than 35 years with the American and New Zealand
Navies, lies 32 meters underwater, about 500 meters off the coast,
approx. 1 mile north of Tutukaka Harbour. The Tui was an oceanographic
research vessel with the navy. She became significant to the New Zealand
public when on one of her last missions which was as flag ship for the
protest fleet during the French militaries final series of nuclear tests
at Moruroa atoll giving her a link to the more famous but smaller
Rainbow Warrior now resting on the sea bed 50 miles north of the
proposed site for the Tui.
Thanks Phil for the detailed information about the Tui.
The day was another fantastic, calm mid week diving opportunity that only Aucklanders could dream of. We steamed out to the site in about 20 minutes and lines attached to the moorings. Coastal underwater visibility was being boasted at over 15 meters so we didnt need any prompting to get into the water! This time there was no exaggeration! Descending down the line the wreck came into view early on in the descent.
Armed with my breather and camera I made my way forward of the ship. I had forgotten forgotten after all these years the beauty of the ship. Even though it was completely on its port side and badly damaged, having slid down a rocky reef it was a magnificent dive. This was probably one of the most scenic artificial reef sites around. Massive schools of golden snapper just cruise round the ship and gargantuan porie just sitting on the bow. The bridge area, now collapsed in areas is still identifiable to an inexperienced diver lays host to encrusted life abounding.
Tui bridge (you can see where it slid down the reef on its starboard side)
Moving back towards the midships we noticed one of the stairwells on the ships starboard side. (photographed below)
Further aft of the bridge we came to the area where the Tui has received the most damage. Where the engine room and condensor used to live deep inside the ship is now open for all to observe. Cut in half as if with a can opener the heart of the ship lies exposed to the ocean floor. To some this is seen in a negative way. Personally, I see it as an awesome sight. The power of the ocean has made this site a wreck! and diving on it shows this. It enhances the feeling of diving on a sunken shipwreck, not just an empty shell sunk upright perfectly. This wreck has sole!
Tui midships where the condensor lives
The wreck lies in 34m of water and after 40 minutes of bottom time and 150 odd pictures we headed, contentedly back to the line. Andy, my patient buddy (and model) glanced back at me and said with his eyes "I wish I could stay longer but alas we have to go!" Obliging reluctantly we ascended, ready for dive #2 on the Waikato!
Tui swimming along starboard railings
I have completed over 150 dives on this wreck and it still never ceases to take my breath away. Today wasnt any differnt. After being fed and watered at Schnappa Rock for lunch we headed back out to dive the Waikato.
The frigate ex HMNZS Waikato was built by Harland and Wolff in Belfast, Ireland, launches on February 18, 1966, and commissioned into the Toyal New Zealand Navy on September 15, 1966. At 113.4m long, 12.5m bea and draft of 5.5m she was the first Leander Class frigate built for the navy. She had top speed of 30 knots, and was powered by twin steam turbines developing 30,000hp. She was armed with twin guns in the turrel, two 20mm Orlikeon machine guns on the wings, a quad Seacat anti-aircraft missile launcher, six 12.75in anti submarine torpedo tubes, one anti-submarine warefare Limbo mortar Mark 10 and a Wasp Helicopter capable of delivering depth charges and a Mark 46 anti-submarine torpedo.
She served the RNZ Navy until decommissioning in 1998. Tutukaka Coast won teh tender and prepared the ship for divers during 1999/2000. Finally the ship was sent to her final resting place on the 25th November 2000 in a world record time of 2 mins 40 secs. She now rests in 30m of water. She is the only purpose sunk frigate in the Southern Hemisphere with her turret and one propeller left on the ship.
Having completed a little over 100 hours on (and in) this wreck still takes my breath away. I dont know what it is about this wreck but time and time out it never ceases to deliver the goods. Todays dive was no different. Uncharacteristically I spent 98% of the dive outside the wreck. With my new camera in tow, wide angle lense, dome port and tripod I was out to do some damage!! Making a beeline for the bow I set up shop just off the port bow. It must have been an interesting sight to see someone purched on the sand with a camera and tripod! Anyway...... Right on cue Andrew and Scott turned up and hung around the bow section and let me rattle off a few shots. With all these dives on the wreck in the past I had never really looked and appreciated the beauty of the ship from this angle. It was quite exquisite!
Bow of the Waikato
Just moving round I noticed the sleek curves of her forward hull. Being able to do 30 knots is not surprising as her hull would cut through the water like a hot knife through butter!!
The next amazing sight was the bow gun. Now lying completely on its port side the gun sits there, waiting for action! It is amazing that every millimeter is covered by encrusting life!
Bow gun on the Waikato
Waikato starboard side
The next spectacular sight was her prop. Take a prop off a ship and it is like taking the horn off a rhino! Tutukaka Coast purposefully left one of the props on for this exact reason and its WOW effect still burns deep into the memory banks of all that venture to the sand at 30m. A memorable sight!
Another fantastic days giving with another 40 minute dive on the waikato. Till the next time!!!
Deco on the line!
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