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The Forster/Seal Rocks region boasts several year-round Grey Nurse Aggregation sites, an ocean cave system, and two historic shipwrecks with fascinating histories.  The temperate waters support soft sponge growth and kelp beds.  Common large species at Forster Pinnacle are jewfish, bull rays, eagle rays and turtles. 
 
SS Satara, wrecked 1910, is a massive wreck on the edge of recreational depths.  The tall sides have collapsed but the bow and stern remain intact and often shelter Grey Nurse Sharks.
 
SS Caterthun, wrecked 1895 with 9,000 gold sovereigns aboard, is a genuine treasure hunting dive.

Dive Sites

Latitude Rock

Depth (18m | 59ft) |
An isolated rock reef covered in sponge growth, macro and big critters, grey nurse sharks and schooling pelagics.

An isolated rock reef feature teaming with life, Latitude Rock is a macro photographers dream.  The reef is an 8 meter tall sloped rock running east-west, on an otherwise sandy bottom. 

From any anchor location, you can head off along the reef on either the northern or southern side, largely determined which is calmer in the swell conditions on the day.  If conditions permit, this dive can be done as a loop, where you travel out along one side of the reef, then cross over to the other side for the return journey.  Otherwise, this dive can be done as an out and back wall dive on either side of the reef.

The southern side is flat rock sloping from the sand at 18 meters depth to a ridge at 10 meters depth.  Several gutters cut across the sloped rock face.  The flat surfaces of the southern side support kelp beds which in turn attract red morwong and schooling silvers. 

The northern side drops as a wall from the ridge down to several gutters, overhangs, cracks and sporadic bombora rocks.  This side is textured by shellfish and brown algae growth.  Since Latitude Rock is fairly shallow and received a lot of natural light, the northern side has plentiful of sponge growth in pink, orange and yellow to shelter all manner of macro life. 

Hunting around the various cracks and sheltered holes on the northern side will reveal octopus, cuttlefish, nudibranchs, lobster and three different species of eel (green moray eels and their brown juveniles, mosaic moray eels, and woodwards reef eels).  The gutters shelter grey nurse sharks, port jackson sharks, wobbygong sharks, fiddler rays, shovelnose rays, and turtles.  Eastern blue grouper will follow divers around the site.

Looking out away from the reef you can spot yellow tail kingfish, bull rays, eagle rays, and trumpetfish swimming in the water column.  On the sand are blue spotted sting rays.

The water temperature at Latitude Rock varies from 18 to 24 degrees, and visibility can range from 7 to 25 meters.  The popularity of Latitude Rock as a site for scuba diving, recreational fishing and spear fishing activities means divers should be wary of other boats in the area, although they will typically be pulling up to anchor or leaving from anchor rather than travelling overhead.

You will usually be able to do your safety stop on a shallow part of the reef.  This requires careful buoyancy control for the swim from the shallow ridge over any gap to the anchor line.  In low visibility conditions, it may be prudent to conduct your safety stop on the anchor line itself.

SS Catterthun

Depth (58m | 190ft) |
Another steamer trying to shortcut the 5 miles detour around the Seal Rocks complex. One of the most rewarding, yet difficult to actually dive wrecks on the east coast. Lost in just 15 minutes on 8 August 1895 with 9,000 gold sovereigns aboard, a genuine treasure hunting dive.

·                Constructed 1881 in Sunderland, United Kingdom.

·                Twin screw steamer, iron construction, compound engines.

·                Tonnage 1428.56 (metric), length 92.13 meters, width 3.39 meters, draft 2.2 meters.

·                Wrecked 8 August 1895 off Seal Rocks, on a voyage from Sydney to China.

The Catterthun is a big wreck about 3 km north east of Seal Rocks and is plagued by currents.  Visibility is highly variable, from brail to crystal clear and rarely in between.  The machinery is huge.  Two giant boilers feed the giant compound steam engine, itself large enough to penetrate. 

The Catterthun is blanketed by red sponge, gorgonian fans and black coral, which add to its beauty.  There are nearly always sharks of some type on the wreck along with schools of kingfish, jewfish and snapper.  It is common to see bronze whalers and hammerheads here.

There are loads of artefacts to discover but please don’t damage or remove any.  Of particular interest are horse bones in the bow, passenger jewellery, and three missing boxes of gold sovereigns.  The horses were intended as cavalry reinforcements.

The biggest hazard for a dive on the Catterthun is the strong current.  With a long decompression time a diver who loses the anchor line can surface kilometers away from the boat.  All divers must have at least one surface marker buoy (SMB) with a 50 meter line for subsurface deployment.  Divers should also carry a jon line to fix to the anchor line, and two forms of signalling device such as a whistle and a mirror.

The boat crew must be fully briefed on procedures on seeing an SMB.  Common practice is to tie a float to the anchor line for any remaining divers, before cutting away to follow the SMB and watching for any other SMBs.  On closing with an SMB the boat should cut power and drift with it.  When the errant divers have been recovered, the boat can return to the dive site, where any divers who ascended the anchor line should be waiting impatiently at the surface.

 

Water temperature at the Catterthun ranges from 14 to 24 degrees, while visibility is usually pretty good, and can be up to a clear 30 meters.

 

History

The Catterthun was intended to expand the Eastern and Australian Steamship Company's trade lines between Australia and China. She sailed between Shanghai and Adelaide, via Japan, and the East Coast cities of Australia.  The risk of pirate attacks in South East Asian waters meant the Catterthun carried small arms and was designed with two small cannon as armament.

On her final voyage, the Catterthun left Sydney at 4.30 pm on 7 August 1895, carrying mail, passengers, general cargo, horses, and 8,915 gold sovereigns.  The gold sovereigns were in ten boxes, placed in a large iron tank known as a specie chamber which could only be entered by a small manhole located on the chartroom floor.

Around 2.00 am the Catterthun was four miles south of Sugarloaf Point.  Captain Shannon had set a course of N 30 E at 11 knots.  Second Officer Lanfear became concerned about how close the Catterthun was to the shore, and raised this issue with the Captain who in turn gave orders to adjust the course to N 40 E.  Captain Shannon then returned to the chart room.

As the Catterthun came round to the new course, Lanfear saw water breaking over the Big Seal Rock ahead of the ship.  Without consulting with Captain Shannon, Lanfear ordered the course changed to N 80 E, which took the Catterthun on a collision course with a reef on the south east corner of the Little Seal Rock.

At 2:30 am, the Catterthun struck the reef at full speed.  Water poured into her hull. 

Captain Shannon gave orders to head at full steam for Seal Rocks Bay and not to launch boats as they were going to "beach her".

A crashing wave swept the Captain, the First Officer, and Torres Strait pilot Fawkes from the bridge into the ocean, leaving the Catterthun without a command staff. 

The Catterthun sank within 15 minutes, at 2.45 am.

The only lifeboat successfully launched collected 26 survivors and headed north to the more sheltered beach at Cape Hawke.  At around 9.00am the lifeboat came uncross the Olga, a fishing vessel, anchored just north of Charlotte Head.  The Olga collected the survivors and headed for Forster.

 

Discovery

With nearly 9,000 gold sovereigns aboard when she sank, the insurers had a lot of motivation to salvage the Catterthun wreck.

The Sydney Underwriters Association had been formed in 1876 as a risk mitigation measure and consisted of Captain Hall and his two divers Arthur Briggs and William May.  Together, at the direction of insurers, they had conducted salvage operations on 70 ships between 1876 and 1889, mostly in the protected and shallow waters of rivers and harbours.

The wreck of the Catterthun, lying in 55 meter of water and subject to fierce offshore currents was to severely test Captain Hall's team.

The Catterthun was located using a sweep consisting of "one hundred and thirty fathoms of three and a half inch wire hawser, to which was attached one hundred fathoms of four inch manilla rope".  The ends of the rope were tied to the two steamers, the Sterling and the Mermaid, which dragged the wire hawser along the seabed.

On 23 August 1985, the wire hawser caught on the Catterthun and the two divers were sent to investigate.  On the first attempt, Arthur Briggs was caught by the current and completely missed the ship.  On the second attempt, William May also missed the ship.  The third attempt was successful, and Arthur Briggs sighted the Catterthun.

The team decided that they could not conduct salvage operations using the equipment available to them at the time.  The insurers were informed that they would require the best diving suits Heinke's in the UK could produce.  The new suits were ordered, and arrived in early 1896.

The first attempt at salvage started on 4 May 1896 when the steamers Sophia Ann and Mermaid left Sydney for Seal Rocks.  They spent 9 unsuccessful days waiting for favourable weather conditions before returning to Sydney.

 

On 30 May 1896 the steamers again left Sydney for the second salvage attempt. This attempt was also unsuccessful due to bad weather conditions, and on 8 June 1896 the steamers left Seal Rocks to return to Sydney.

On 29 June 1896 the steamers left Sydney for the third salvage attempt.  They would remain at Seal Rocks for two months while bad weather and equipment problems plagued the expedition.

Eventually between 17 and 20 August 1896, the divers would recover 7 out of 10 boxes containing 7900 gold sovereigns, and pronounced the remainder unsalvageable.

There are rumours that more gold sovereigns had been recovered, and were shared amount the salvage team, although this has not been substantiated.

The next salvage operation would not be until 1990, when despite spending 6 weeks on the wreck no further gold was recovered.

The possibility that 775 gold sovereigns, the contents of the three remaining boxes, remain on the wreck only serves to increase the attraction for scuba divers.

 

Catterthun Curse

The Catterthun is well worth pushing through despite many inevitable cancelations due to weather, currents or other reasons.  Dive trips to the Catterthun are cancelled so often that a superstition has grown about it.

Divers planning a trip to the Catterthun should never mention they are going to dive her until the day of the planned dive, instead you should say you are "going to dive the Satara with a 60m mix", or that you are going to "dive a wreck near the Satara".  Whatever you do, just don't say the name of the wreck.

 

 

References

Max Gleeson (1996) “Shipwrecks, Storms and Seamen”. [This book can be purchased at http://maxgleeson.com].

Australian Government - Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities; "Australian National Shipwreck Database", available at <https://apps5a.ris.environment.gov.au/shipwreck/public/initiate-mch-search.do?mchTypeCode=MCT_SHWR>.

State Library of Victoria, "Loss of the Catterthun" (1985) available at <http://www.slv.vic.gov.au>.

South Australian Register, "The Wreck of the Catterthun" (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900), Monday 26 August 1895, page 6, available at National Library of Australia <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article54572337>.

Clarence and Richmond Examiner (Grafton, NSW : 1889 - 1915), Tuesday 13 August 1895, page 4, available at National Library of Australia <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article61272437>.

State Library of Queensland, "Catterthun (ship)", available at <http://bishop.slq.qld.gov.au>.

SS Satara

Depth (45m | 148ft) |
Large steal steamer wrecked off Seal Rocks on 20 April 1910. At 125 meters length this is a big shipwreck. The tall sides have collapsed, but the bow and stern remain intact and often shelter grey nurse sharks.

·                Constructed 1901 in Dumbarton, United Kingdom.

·                Twin screw steamer, steel construction, triple expansion boilers.

·                Tonnage 3380 (metric), length 125.2 meters, width 15.45 meters, draft 8.86 meters.

·                Wrecked 20 April 1910 off Seal Rocks, on a voyage from Sydney to Calcutta.

The Satara was "discovered" just north east of Edith Breaker in the 1980s, when a group of divers from Sydney located it at the bottom of a fixed mooring line.  Discrete local divers had been there before.

At 45 meters depth the Satara is outside the limits of a recreational diver, but very accessible with technical qualifications.  The Satara can be done on air, however it is much more enjoyable on a light trimix blend with accelerated decompression gasses.  Open circuit technical divers should aim to do the wreck over two dives.  Rebreather divers can plan to spend a long comfortable dive on the wreck.

This is a big wreck requiring a minimum of 30 minutes to complete a circumnavigation.  Attempting to see the whole wreck in less time requires a high level of exertion and inevitably causes a carbon dioxide headache both during and after the dive.

The Satara rests on a sandy bottom with a scattering of bommies within 30 meters around the wreck.  The bow is relatively intact, and hides a number of interesting artefacts for those with the patience to hunt for them.  The Satara lies on a generally north-east line.

There are some limited penetration opportunities on the Satara, however the sides have mostly collapsed.  The large engine has fallen over, but the two huge boilers are fascinating landmarks.  One boiler has rolled some distance out onto the sand to port.

The most prominent area of the wreck is the stern.  The big, four bladed, bronze propeller is still upright and is great for photography.  The stern provides some limited penetration opportunities and an intact porcelain hand basin.  One or two grey nurse sharks can often be found patrolling the Satara.

Visibility on the Satara can reach 30 meters on a good day.  Current is usually light near the bottom but stronger in the water column.  Temperature ranges from 14 to 24 degrees.  There is no boat traffic over this dive site.

History

The Satara belonged to the British India Steam Navigation Company (BI), and operated the route between Sydney and Calcutta.  Vessels belonging to BI were marked with distinctive twin white bands around black funnels.

On her final voyage, the Satara left Newcastle on the morning of 20 April 1910, carrying 4500 tons of coal as cargo, and 1200 tons of coal for her bunkers.  There were 91 people aboard, including 10 officers and 2 passengers.  Torres Strait Pilot, Captain Frank Binstead, was aboard to pilot the Satara in the waters of Queensland.

Once the Satara had left Newcastle, Captain Hugill allowed Pilot Binstead, who had navigated vessels through the area years before, to take charge of the navigation of the ship.  Pilot Binstead set a course that would take the Satara between Sugarloaf Point and the two Seal Rocks, his intention was to avoid the strong southern current further offshore, and save 5 miles off the trip.

At 12.15 pm, the Satara stuck Edith Breaker, a small reef south west of the Big Seal Rock.  Captain Hugill directed the Satara towards the nearby shore, but the Satara was rapidly taking on water at the bow, raising the stern and making the ship unnavigable.

Another ship, the Orara passed the Satara, before realising she was in trouble and returning to assist by rescuing crew from the lifeboats.

The last five crew members aboard ended up in the water when the Satara sank below the surface at 1.10 pm.

A third ship, the Dorrigo, arrived on the scene and rescued these five crew members, including Captain Hugill.  The Orara transferred the rest of the crew to the south-bound Dorrigo to be taken back to Sydney.

The Court of Marine Inquiry held  the wreck of the Satara was caused by striking Edith Breaker, and that the course set by Pilot Binstead was reckless.  However, the Court held that ultimate responsibility rested with Captian Hugill who had left Pilot Binstead in charge of the Satara.  Captian Hugill's master's certificate was suspended for six months.

References

State Library of Western Australia, "Satara (ship) - Photographs" (1905) available at <http://www.slwa.wa.gov.au>.

Max Gleeson (1996) “Shipwrecks, Storms and Seamen”. [This book can be purchased at http://maxgleeson.com].

Australian Government - Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities; "Australian National Shipwreck Database", available at <https://apps5a.ris.environment.gov.au/shipwreck/public/initiate-mch-search.do?mchTypeCode=MCT_SHWR>.

Home Wharf

Depth (4m | 13ft) |
Shallow training dive site under the wharf at Forster Dive Centre, and a surprisingly good structural or night dive.
 The old wooden wharf makes for an interesting structural dive with a sand and sea grass bottom at 4 meters depth and plenty of estuary fish.

At night you find crabs, shrimp and other critters crawling about on the wooden pylons and support structure.  Go for a night dive right under the dive shop, then down the street for a steak and beers.

In winter the estuary is colder than the ocean, generally you can expect water temperatures between 15 and 18 degrees.  In summer, especially at low tide, the shallow water can be heated by the sun and may range up to 24 degrees.

Visibility ranges from your hand in front of your face, to an easy 8 meters. Given the nature of the site, anything between 3 to 8 meters visibility is quite diveable.

Divers swimming in and around the structure should always be aware that there will be boat traffic close overhead, and should therefore stay beneath the wharf itself.

Edith Breaker and Jimmy’s Cave

Depth (30m | 98ft) |
An extensive reef system covering over 200 square meters, responsible for sinking the SS Satara on 20 April 1910. Jimmys cave is a substantial and mostly fully enclosed cave penetration dive.
 Located South East of the headland at Seal Rocks, Edith Breaker is a rock reef covering over 200 square meters.  There is no problem catching an anchor on this site.  Depth ranges from 10 meters at the top of the underwater ridge, to 34 meters inside the cave system.

Edith Breaker is an extensive rock reef covering over 200 square meters and riddled with pits, gutters, swim throughs, and an extensive cave system.  Patches of soft coral growth alternate with waving kelp gardens, and occasional black coral.

The rocks and reefs off Seal Rocks, including Edith Breaker, have been known as a deadly shipping hazard since Australia's earliest days.  At 12.15pm on 20 April 1910 the S.S. Satara stuck Edith Breaker and sank below the surface at 1.10pm despite the efforts by Captain Hugill and his crew to reach the nearby shore.

Now, Edith Breaker is known as an amazing dive site, with enormous black cod, dozens of lobsters resident in its extensive cave system, and has been identified as a grey nurse shark aggregation site.  Nudibranchs, moray eels, wobbygong sharks, Port Jackson sharks, blue grouper, jewfish, and schooling pelagics are found in huge numbers.

It is unlikely you will be able to see all of Edith Breaker on a single dive.  There are many routes around the reef.  Underwater navigation techniques will help keep track of the anchor line, but in case you need to surface away from the anchor line make sure you carry a surface marker bouy to signal the boat. 

Edith Breaker is exposed to the prevailing swell conditions, but is somewhat sheltered from the worst of the East Australian Current by the headland to the North.

Visibility is generally good, and may be crystal clear as far out as 30 meters.

Temperature ranges from 18 to 24 degrees.

Jimmy’s Cave

The entrance to Jimmy’s Cave is a vertical chimney running from the rubble pile at 24 meters depth, down to the main cave at 35 meters depth. 

From the bottom of the chimney a tapering crack boast lobsters, shrimp and other creatures.  In the opposite direction is the passage through the Jimmy’s Cave.   There are three exits between 35 and 27 meters depth, and a fourth exit by why of another chimney running from 27 meters to 15 meters depth.

Jimmy’s Cave is an excellent cave dive, but it is still a comparatively deep, fully enclosed cave dive and should not be attempted without a guide and at least an Advanced Open Water licence.

The Trench

There is a deep gutter running 50 meters in a North to South direction, and ranging from 20 to 40 meters depth. If you follow the trench heading South there is a large black coral at about 25 meters depth.

Interlinked Caves

There are two ocean caves in 33 meters both with an entrance/exit very close together.

Statis Rock aka Skeleton Rock

Depth (12m | 39ft) |
The home reef a Seal Rocks, perfect second dive after a deeper rock or wreck. Sheltered dive site with Grey Nurse Sharks and lots of schooling pelagics.
 Located just off the headland at Seal Rocks, Statis Rock has sheer sides that drop to the sand at 12 meters depth.  A pronounced overhang often shelters wobbygong sharks, port Jackson sharks and cuttlefish.  Bommies and guttering in the surrounding rock reef attract a small but consistent number of grey nurse sharks.  Light growth of kelp and sponge decorates the rocky terrain.

 

Statis Rock also makes a good sheltered second dive after another, more exposed dive around Seal Rocks.  It is possible to dive Statis Rock from the beach, but it is a 200-300 meter swim.

 

Divers should stay generally within visual range the rock reef, and avoid straying too far onto the sand as it may be difficult to navigate back to the reef.  In some conditions, funnelled swell can become a problem close to the narrow gap between Statis Rock and the headland.  Otherwise this is generally a comfortable spot, sheltered from swell and current.

Big Seal Rock

Depth (40m | 131ft) |
The focus of grey nurse shark aggregation in the Seal Rocks Complex, at times there may be more than 40 individuals gathered in the Eastern Gutter.

Big Seal Rock, the northern most feature of the Seal Rocks complex, was a local fishing spot and deadly shipping hazard long before it was a dive site.  Big Seal Rock is an extensive rock reef, which can be explored at 16 to 25 meters depth, down to the sand at 40 meters depth.

Big Seal Rock can be done as a circumnavigation if you have sufficient gas available, or as a back and forth wall dive centred on the anchor line.  The terrain is mostly bare rock with only sporadic growth, however the wide range of gutters, overhangs, caves and bommies attract grey nurse sharks and huge numbers of schooling pelagic fish.

The Eastern Gutter starts from a pronounced rock overhang to the south east,, and runs north up a natural ramp to a shallower area.  The Eastern Gutter is the focus of the local grey nurse shark aggregation site, with dozens of individuals cruising back and forth.

Big Seal Rock is offshore and exposed to the prevailing swell and the East Australian Current running north to south.  All divers should carry a surface marker buoy to signal the boat in case of ascent away from the anchor line in the strong current.  Visibility is generally good, often crystal clear out to 30 meters.  Water temperature ranges from 18 to 24 degrees.

Little Seal Rock

Depth (40m | 131ft) |
Complex rock reef structure with grey nurse sharks, bull rays, and plenty of schooling fish. The rock that sunk the Catterthun on 8 August 1895.

Another historical shipping hazard in the Seal Rocks complex, Little Seal Rock claimed the SS Catterthun on 8 August 1895 when she hit the rock at full speed and sunk within 15 minutes.  Initial salvage operations confirmed fresh scoring on the rock surface, indicative of a collision by the steal hulled SS Catterthun.

Little Seal Rock rises to a peak just above the surface and is best done as a circumnavigation at between 16 to 25 meters depth.  The circumnavigation distance increases as depth increases towards the sand at 40 meters depth.  If you have only made it partway around the rock and have used nearly half your gas supply (100 bar), ascend to a shallower depth to reduce both travel distance and gas consumption rate, and continue to follow the rock around to the anchor line. 

The rock surface is mostly bare with only sporadic growth, however structural features such as gutters, overhangs, caves and bommies attract grey nurse sharks, wobbygong sharks, port jackson sharks, bull rays, eagle rays, black cod, cuttlefish and schooling pelagics.  There is a spectacular black coral tree in 18 meters depth.

Little Seal Rock is offshore and exposed to the prevailing swell and the East Australian Current running north to south.  All divers should carry a surface marker buoy to signal the boat in case of ascent away from the anchor line in the strong current. Visibility is generally good, often crystal clear out to 30 meters.  Water temperature ranges from 18 to 24 degrees.

Idol Bay

Depth (10m | 33ft) |
An excellent second dive just West of Latitude Rock. Plenty of bommies on a mixed rock and sand bottom. Full of big and small marine species. One of the most enjoyable shallow reef dives on the Mid Coast of NSW.
 Idol Bay is located just West of Latitude Rock and makes an excellent second dive.  As a complex rock reef system, there are plenty of opportunities to anchor a boat, although be careful of some of the bommies that may come close to the surface.

 

Jumping into Idol Bay for a second dive, you can immediately see a mix of isolated and interconnected bombora structures to explore.  Idol Bay is a garden of rock reef covered in colourful sponges and kelp beds.  Hunting among the various nooks and crannies reveals shrimp, muscles, nudibranchs and moray eels.

 

Blue spotted stingrays are very common on the clear sandy bottom between reef structures.  Over the sand you can also spot eagle rays, bull rays, yellow tail kingfish, and turtles.

 

Idol Bay is shallow and so can be done at your leisure, with reaching the maximum dive time allowed by the skipper a more likely end to the dive than running short of air.

 

There are so many bommies, gutters and reef structures at Idol Bay it is pointless to give specific dive plans.  The best plan is to jump in, stick with your buddy, and explore as many features as you can find, crossing the sandy areas to reach new features.

 

If you are unable to find your way back to the anchor line, do a blue water ascent, and do a mid water safety stop using your computer or depth gauge.

 

Idol Bay is fairly well sheltered from current and swell and can be done in most conditions.  Water temperature varies from 18 to 24 degrees.  Visibility can range from 7 to 25 meters.

Bennetts Head Bommie

Depth (8m | 26ft) |
Rock reef with a short swim through cave just off Bennetts Head. Plenty of macro life, anemones and large bull rays on the sand.
 Bennetts Head Bommie is an isolated rock formation almost 80 meters long, standing from the sand at 8 meters depth to just below the surface.  On the ocean side there is a small swim through cave.

On the sand close to the bommie are large species including shovel nose rays, bull rays and turtles.  On and around the bommie there are a wide range of temperate water reef species including red morwong, eastern blue groupers, luderick, surgeonfish, leatherjacket, old wife, and long snouted boarfish.

The bommie itself is decorated by anemones, kelp and soft corals, which provide a perfect habitat for moray eels, cuttlefish, nudibranchs and shrimp.  Lobsters and hermit crabs can be found in the short cave.

Bennetts Head Bommie is usually a boat dive, but can also be done as a shore dive with entry below Bennetts Head Lookout.  The entry point is exposed to swell from most directions and should only be attempted in calm conditions.  Remember that conditions must be calm for your exit after the dive and plan accordingly. 

Visibility is generally good, and may be crystal clear as far out as 30 meters.

Temperature ranges from 18 to 24 degrees.

Forster Barge

Depth (28m | 92ft) |
An old Barge upside down in nutrient rich water near the Forster estuary opening, teeming with big critters and macro photography opportunities.

Descending the anchor line will bring the barge and surrounding low-profile reef into view.  Forster Barge itself rests upside down over rock and sand.  The barge and surrounding reef are textured by old barnacles and worm tubes, covered in brown algae, and decorated by sponges in orange, yellow and pink.

One edge of the barge rests on a higher rock, creating a gap beneath the barge which shelters wobbygong sharks and schooling stripped catfish.  Sporadic hull sections have collapsed over the years to reveal the internal framework and also provide a view beneath the intact sections.  Moray eels and wobbygong sharks often hide within the enclosed areas of the barge.

Forster Barge is a grey nurse shark aggregation site.  It is common to find two or three different water layers with varied visibility and temperature over Forster Barge.  Often grey nurse sharks will congregate in the water column at the border between water layers, accompanied by schools of big eye. 

The top surface of the barge, flat areas of the surrounding reef, and the sandy patches between are all littered with shark teeth.  Photographers will be kept occupied by plenty of nudibranchs.

No-decompression time is limited by the consistent depth of this dive site at around 28 meters over both Forster Barge and the surrounding reef. 

Forster Barge is located near the estuary entrance at the border where outgoing, nutrient rich, fresh water fights for supremacy with incoming salt water.  The high nutrient content of outgoing fresh water may account for the density and variety of marine life at this site.

At low tide the outgoing fresh water dominates and passes over Forster Barge, bringing colder water with low visibility.  At high tide, the incoming salt water pushes back the fresh water and provides warmer water with good visibility.  Visibility ranges from 7 meters to 30 meters and will change quickly as the tide turns. 

Water temperature similarly ranges from 14 to 24 degrees, and the mix of fresh and salt water may make Forster Barge several degrees colder than nearby dive sites.  Thermoclines are particularly pronounced over Forster Barge.

Tidal currents and boat traffic in the area make blue water ascents inadvisable, even with a surface marker buoy, so you should make all effort to end the dive on the anchor line.  

Forster Pinnacle

Depth (40m | 131ft) |
Isolated rock pinnacle, a favourite hangout for big critters including rays, jewfish and grey nurse sharks.

Forster Pinnacle is a submerged rock mount with gutters, large flat areas and wall features sitting in the middle of an otherwise sandy bottom.  The permanent mooring buoy is fixed to a gutter near the peak, and the mooring line itself attracts circling bull rays.

Bare rock dominates the shallower areas which may be subject to surge, while sponge and brown algae encrust the sheltered corners and gutters.  Deeper flat areas support kelp beds. 

Forster Pinnacle has been identified as one of the primary grey nurse shark aggregation sites on the East Coast.  Historically the Forster Pinnacle was subjected to commercial fishing activities for wobbygong sharks and grey nurse sharks which severely depleted the populations of both species until the area was declared a sanctuary zone.  Now, both wobbygong shark and grey nurse shark populations have recovered and are a significant attraction for Forster Pinnacle as a dive site. 

Other common large species at Forster Pinnacle are jewfish, bull rays, eagle rays and turtles.  The boat ride out to Forster Pinnacle will usually provide the opportunity to see dolphins and whales from the surface.

As an offshore dive site the Pinnacle is exposed to some ocean current, although not as strong as sites further offshore such as the SS Catterthun or MV Fairwind.  The shallower regions may be subject to surge, while swell can be an issue for the safety stop on the mooring line.

Water temperature at Forster Pinnacle varies from 18 to 24 degrees, and visibility varies from 7 to 30 meters.  

There are many more dive sites in this area that can be arranged on request either to the skipper on the day of this event for normal dives,
or by Contacting Us for specialist technical dives.
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Cavern-Cave
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Forster Dive Centre

11-13 Little Street, Forster, Australia Facilities:
With great reefs and historic shipwrecks, a well-equipped and comfortable dive boat, FDC is ideal for a quick getaway. Join Nick for great reefs and historic shipwrecks, from a well-equipped and comfortable dive boat. Don’t forget to add Tabasco sauce to your between dive soup.
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