- Work continues with ship preparation with the project still on target for a likely scuttling date sometime in early 2009.
- An 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.
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.