CURTIN ARTIFICIAL REEF
Moreton Island, Queensland
Type of dive: Wreck
Access: Boat (60 minutes)
Minimum qualification: Open Water (Advanced recommended)
Depth: 12-35 metres (40-115’)
Visibility: 8-25 metres (25-80’)
Water temperature: 20°C (68°F) – 26°C (79°F)
Best time to visit: All year
Snorkelling: No, too deep.
Brisbane divers were truly ahead of their time!
In 1968, the Underwater Research Group of Queensland embarked on a visionary project, the Curtin Artificial Reef, just off Moreton Island near Brisbane. The project was named after the late John Curtin, a member of the group who had the insight for what, in its day, was an extraordinary concept.
Morton Island is a short boat ride across Moreton Bay from Brisbane. It is the world’s third largest sand island, after Fraser Island to the north, followed by North Stradbroke to the south. The only rocky outcrop on the island is Cape Moreton, the site of Queensland’s oldest lighthouse.
Over the years, the island has been the location of a pilot station, used as Queensland’s only whaling station from 1952 to 1962, responsible for the harvesting around 600 whales per season, and limited mineral sand mining. It is now a resort island.
Tangalooma, on the western side of the island, has a breakwater made by 15 wrecks scuttled in shallow water, a fantastic snorkelling spot!
Curtin Artificial Reef is on the western end of Moreton Island and covers an area of over 40,000 square metres (500,000 square feet). The first vessel prepared and sunk on the sand bottom was the 18 metre (60’) barge, Amsterdam, and there are now over 30 wrecks.
The sunken potpourri includes tugs, barges, a yacht, a car ferry, over 2000 concrete pipes, over 60 car bodies, navigation buoys, a dry dock gate and an even an old Brisbane tram.
The largest vessel is the Bremer (50m/164‘), and the last vessel to be scuttled was the tug, Hustler, in 1998.
Now the artificial reef boasts an extraordinary array of marine life. Structures have become a substrate for corals and support a host of other invertebrates including nudibranchs, sea stars and sea urchins. A keen eye will also spot pipefish and sea horses.
The broken bottom created by the wrecks attracts huge schools of fish, including colourful tropical reef fish.
Massive Queensland groper hover around the wrecks while wobbegongs and bull rays are ever present on the sandy bottom. Massive schools barracuda, turrum, bat fish and trevally adorn the wrecks while sharks and pelagics such as kingfish, mackerel and cobia are regular visitors encountered by scuba divers.
Lucky divers might even encounter a dugong on the boat trip out
Copyright C 2015 Steve Sinclair
Great dive sites to visit while you are there:
Flinders Reef, Tangalooma Wrecks, Lighthouse Bommie, Three Pyramids and Encounters.