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Esperance weekender returns

written by Joey Pool

Sanko Harvest wreck, Esperance taken by Joey Pool

“THIS WRECK IS HUGE!!!”

That was my first thought as I descended on the enormous Sanko Harvest wreck in Esperance last Saturday.  February 14, 1991 saw the Sanko Harvest floundering on a reef some 21 nautical miles from the Esperance Port. What was originally seen as an environmental disaster turned out to be a major windfall for we divers. The second largest wreck dive in the world and the largest off the Australian coast this 174 metre long Japanese Bulk Carrier now acts as host to a vast array of marine creatures.The ocean has taken its toll and the wreck has divided into three major sections – plus plenty of smaller debris the size of a large car. The depths vary between 6 and 44 metres of water where the bow lays. Officially declared a marine sanctuary in 1994 the wreck acts as a safe haven for the large blue groper and red snapper that inhabit the twisted remains.

Long Island, Esperance taken by Johanna Pool

You could spend days exploring the Sanko Harvest wreck and still not see it all. With two dives on the wreck, my buddy and I, managed to explore the bridge, mid-section, ballast tanks and the enormous hole gouged out of the hull by it’s collision with the reef in 1991. I was astounded at the visibility that we enjoyed – more than 30 metres! There were schools of hundreds of fish, be they glass fish or red snapper, plus big blue groper playfully darting away from my camera. We entered one of the ship’s ballast tanks and found 6 well fed Port Jackson shark enjoying a rest in its hold. They weren’t fazed by our lights and sat there as I took a couple of shots. Un-surprisingly at 38 metres it was soon time to return to the surface before our air and decompression limits were met… Next time GADGET!

We enjoyed such a variety of diving in Esperance, rich in marine life and coral colour, and the visibility was fantastic on every dive. Our group stayed on Woody Island about a 30 minute boat trip out from Esperance. The island is set up with permanent tents allowing visitors to stay close to nature and wake up to the birds calling each morning – much to the complaint of some of our late night card players! And we even had penguins on our island – we have photos so they do exist!

The night dive at Woody Island saw a giant bull ray that followed us around below the jetty, plus such a wide variety of marine life, I don’t even know the names of most of them!

Our reef dives were on massive granite outcrops covered with soft corals in all the colours of the rainbow. There were giant swim throughs in amongst the boulders where blue devils and harlequin fish hid. No matter where you swam there were big schools of fish of so many varieties. Everytime we swam around a corner of the reef there was something new to look at (and take its picture!). Some of the crew were even lucky enough to swim with a school of dolphins and play with a sea lion!

After three days of diving what Esperance had to offer it was time to turn around and head home… This trip was over way too soon – we’re going to have to return!!!

To check out more of my photos from Perth Scuba’s dive trip to Esperance click here.


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