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Find out how you can explore South Australia’s naval history – under the sea

Want to explore maritime history and see abundant marine life? Visit the Ex-HMAS Hobart shipwreck. Here’s where.

South Australia has some truly amazing natural attractions – both on land and under the sea.

The state’s network of marine parks and sanctuary zones are full of natural wonders to experience for those who like to throw on the scuba gear and explore the deep blue.

If you enjoy life under the water, the Rapid Head Sanctuary Zone within the Encounter Marine Park is a great place to visit, as it’s home to the spectacular Ex HMAS Hobart underwater shipwreck.

Here’s everything you need to know about the vessel and how you can see it for yourself.

History of the vessel

Built in the US in 1965 for the Royal Australian Navy, the Hobart is a 134-metre ex-navy guided missile destroyer. 

The vessel was decommissioned and gifted to the South Australian Government in 2000 and sunk in 2002 to create an artificial reef. Eighteen years on, the artificial structure is now teaming with marine life.

Haven for marine species

The wreck was recently surveyed by the DEW Marine Science team to establish a baseline inventory of the species now calling the wreck home.

The underwater survey revealed that the wreck is now home to more than 50 species of fish including iconic species such as the blue devil and snapper.

The species living on this reef have reached impressive sizes, highlighting the effectiveness of maintaining the wreck as a sanctuary zone where no fishing is allowed. Sessile invertebrates are also thriving, with currents bringing in lots of food for these filter feeding organisms.

But don’t just take our word for it – check out the video below filmed by Ocean Imaging and marvel at the ship’s structure and marine inhabitants.

How to explore the site

To visit the site you’ll need to be an experienced diver as the wreck lies in 30 metres of water.

If you’ve never dived before then get in contact with one of Adelaide’s leading dive tour operators, or if you’re already experienced, find out when the next dive on the Hobart is happening.

You’ll also need a permit from National Parks and Wildlife Service SA before entering into the 550-metre restricted area around the wreck.

And don’t forget – the site is protected so no fishing allowed!

Protecting maritime heritage

South Australia has a rich maritime history, with more than 800 shipwrecks recorded along the coast and inland waters.

Shipwrecks provide important insights into the state's maritime history and are havens for marine life. The remains of these vessels are also important education, recreation and tourism assets.

SA's shipwrecks are a non-renewable heritage resource, meaning that once a wreck is damaged or disturbed, it cannot be repaired, and the historic and physical values are lost.

That’s why protecting these historic wreck sites is critical for the preservation of the state's maritime heritage and surrounding marine environments. 

Love heritage? Learn about some of the state’s more unusual heritage sites with our story: 7 heritage places in SA you might not know about. If marine life is more your thing, check out this story: 6 baby marine animals you can see in South Australia.

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