History of the ex HMAS Adelaide II

Design work for the PERRY class ships started in the early 1970s.   

This class of ships were originally conceived as a low-cost convoy escort (hence the original "PF" (Patrol Frigate) hull number for the prototype). In mid-1975, the PERRY class ships were re-classified as FFGs (guided Missile Frigates). The ships were completely developed by the US Navy and later awarded for construction to the two lowest bidding shipyards - Bath Iron Works and Todd. Construction went on in time and sometimes even ahead of schedule.

The first PERRY class ships were commissioned without the SQS-56 Sonar because production of the system started too late so that it was not yet available during the construction of the ships.  Originally to be 75 in number, a total of 55 FFG 7 OLIVER HAZARD PERRY class ships were built, including 51 for the US Navy and four for the Royal Australian Navy.  Australia subsequently built a further ship of this design at a very high cost.

Spain also built to this design and a modified design was built in Taiwan (the Cheng Kung Class).

Early in their operational lives, ships of the FFG 7 class, the ex HMAS Adelaide included, began to develop serious cracking in the superstructure, which extended from side-to-side and for approximately 70% of the length. These cracks were serious in that they could extend down into the hull portion of the ship and provided a way for water to flood important weapons system spaces.

Detailed inspections were made, analyses undertaken, and model-scale tests conducted.  Fixes compatible with the entire class were developed and subsequently installed.  Tests were conducted at sea and were found to be satisfactory; further fixes were then carried out on all ships of the FFG 7 class.

The PERRY class ships were produced in two variants, known as "short-hull" and "long-hull", with the latter variant being eight feet longer than the short-hull version.  The long-hull ships [FFG 8, 28, 29, 32, 33, 36-61] carry the SH-60B LAMPS III helicopters, while the short-hull units carry the less-capable SH-2G.

The reason for the two variants was due to the late introduction of the SH-60B helicopters.

When the PERRY's were designed, LAMPS III was not yet tested and one did not know how the new helicopter would approach the ship for landing.  Therefore, the first 26 ship in the PERRY class were completed in SH-2G configuration.  When it became obvious that the SH-60B would not approach the ship sideward like the SH-2G but directly from astern, the remaining ships of the class were completed with an 8-feet long hull extension astern of the flight deck.

In late 1980, the first sea trials of an SH-60B aboard a PERRY class guided missile frigate took place aboard the previously modified USS McINERNEY (FFG 8).

ex hMAS Adelaide docked at Port Adelaide for an open day in 2007

In 1978, a 1:1 SH-60B scale model was used for testing aboard USS OLIVER HAZARD PERRY (FFG 7).  Although the ships were intended to operate the LAMPS III ASW helicopter, FFG 7-35, as completed, lacked the equipment necessary to handle them.  Beginning with the FY79 ships (FFG 36 and later), helicopter support equipment was aboard on completion: fin stabilizers, RAST (Recovery Assist, Secure, and Traverse system - not fitted as completed until FFG 50), and other systems.

The RAST system installed aboard the ex HMAS Adelaide permitted helicopter launch and recovery with the ship rolling through 28 degrees and pitching 5 degrees. The equipment was first installed in MCINERNEY (FFG 8), which was reconstructed in 1981 at Bath Iron Works to act as LAMPS III/SH-60B Seahawk helicopter trials ship.

The Search for a Wreck

The ex HMAS Adelaide served the Australian Navy for more than 20 years and we wanted to ensure its future as a major tourist attraction on the Central Coast to be just as successful.

At 138.1 metres in length, the decommissioned frigate was scuttled off the NSW Central Coast on March 13th, 2011 to create an artificial reef.  It took only one minute and thirty nine seconds for the Adelaide to slip below the surface and become one of the most popular dive wreck sites and newest artificial reef in Australia.

There is certainly a lot of ship to see.  Just cruising around the outside of the artificial reef, the sheer size makes an awesome sight.  Water temperatures range from 15C in winter to a summer high of 24 C. Visibility averages around 15 metres in Summer up to 40 metres or more is not uncommon during the cooler months.

The ex-HMAS Adelaide lies in approximately 35+m of water with the bow facing towards the open ocean.  The top decks lie at 25 metres and the main deck is at 29 metres while the sand is at 35+ metres.

The ex HMAS Adelaide wreck has many deck levels that lends itself to multilevel diving which maximises your dive time. We highly recommend the use of dive computers and/or multi-level dive planning. To take advantage of this fact, ProDive offers hire gear with dive computers included.

ProDive have the exclusive moorings on the ex HMAS Adelaide wreck located on the main mast at 14 metres. Using this mooring you can perform a multi-level dive, ending with your safety stop at five metres. Makes finding the wreck a lot easier than descending to the sand at 34m and swimming to the wreck.

HMAS Adelaide Deck Plans

“This dive site is the first attraction of its kind in NSW and is now a world class recreational diving facility”

Diver access holes have been cut parallel to each other on either side of the hull so there are quite enough entry and exit points in all areas of the ship. Visibility at certain times of the year is quite poor, this should not adversely affect your dive as, inside the wreck very little sediment/silt has built up and this does not affect visibility greatly.

After special preparation to become an artificial reef, the ex HMAS Adelaide wreck is a relatively easy wreck to penetrate, we still recommend that only experienced divers penetrate the wreck. Before the Adelaide could be scuttled off the coast, environmental and diver safety issues had to be implemented into the design phase- Bob Diaz as a member of this group, took great interest in this issue to ensure diver safety was paramount.

One of the biggest concerns was the removal of electrical cabling all over the vessel, held in cable trays that could have fallen down creating a dangerous entanglement for divers.

The ex HMAS Adelaide wreck had to be made diver safe but, remained interesting enough for divers of varyious levels and fun to explore. Bob had visited the vessel many times during its restructuring as a dive wreck/ artificial reef and after walking through the companion ways, climbing the many ladders and squeezing past machinery, was never concerned the wreck would become a dull or boring experience.

There are still challenges with lower light level areas, machinery, bulkheads and cupboards have come adrift in the scuttling and subsequent storm that followed the scuttling.- this all adds to the enjoyment of the dive.

“Remember that all access holes lead to the outside- Divers never need to backtrack to find an external opening”.

We do however, strongly recommend that beginner divers and less experienced divers take extra precautions to further explore the ship. Why not take the next step and explore the HMAS Adelaide as a Deep or Wreck diver? The Adventure wreck and deep Dive can be attributed towards your specialty  diver rating?

Can't wait to dive a specially created artificial reef namely the ex-HMAS Adelaide? Book a dive with ProDive Central Coast today.

The Legal Battles

After a long and drawn out legal struggle to begin with, the ex HMAS Adelaide is now safely on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean off the NSW Central Coast is doing exactly as she was intended;-

  • Attracting marine life to the newest artificial reef
  • Becoming a place for scuba divers the world over to enjoy
  • Attracting divers worldwide to a terrific tourism and economic asset for the NSW Central Coast.

The objections began when a group of residents from the seaside community of Avoca Beach suddenly and without prior (sic) warning discovered a large naval warship was to be sunk a short distance off “their” beach without "their" prior consent or "their" consultation.

This started an avalanche of controversy that lead to claims of nimbyism, false and misleading information designed to frighten and mislead Central coast residents and possibly, divide a community.

The biggest environmental problem was the removal of oil and hydraulic fluids, PCBs, Lead, Mercury and potential toxic materials. Whilst the ex-HMAS Adelaide had been specially prepared as a dive site and is relatively safe, however as with any other dive site hazards do still exist as can be present on any wreck dive.

To put a positive spin on the debacle caused by a few individuals, the following media releases from the No Ships group did more to advertise and market the Adelaide than we could have ever imagined!

The anti-ship group helped the Pro group to take the HMAS Adelaide to the world stage.  We are forever grateful for their vain, ill informed, scurrillous and sometimes tedious efforts, that really did pay off for us, in the end.

Some of the Media releases from No Ship Action Group included the following gems, however some of the articles are no longer available online.

  • Warship threatens to erode Avoca Beach: further studies needed - October 20, 2010
  • Tribunal rebuffs Government Warship appeal - October 12, 2010
  • Abandon warship scuttling or do full environmental study - September 24, 2010
  • Tribunal orders toxins off warship - September 16, 2010
  • State Government happy to dump 28 tonnes of lead paint at Avoca Beach - July 8, 2010
  • The Castle Battles the Warship [PDF] - July 4, 2010
  • Don’t dump warship on whales: recycle [PDF] - June 29, 2010
  • State Government Squanders Money on Warship Debacle [PDF] - March 27, 2010
  • Warship Steals Five Metres of Beach [PDF] - March 16, 2010
  • World Class Surfer Teaches Tony About the Sea [PDF] - March 16, 2010
  • HMAS Adelaide threat to Avoca homes - Coasting Magazine 17–03–2010
  • Scuttled ship would wreck bay: residents - Sydney Morning Herald 7

The attempt to frighten and mislead people was refuted in the tribunal. Headed by three Advocates who, unanimously agreed that the HMAS Adelaide artificial reef, would be a benefit to the community and a safe site for divers and residents alike. 

The Final Journey

The ex HMAS Adelaide left Sydney harbour a little after 6 am on Monday 11th of April, 2011.

Her presence under Sydney Harbour bridge was a spectacular site and when she passed the Sydney Opera house on her journey the vision was intense.
She was escorted out of the harbour by a small spectator fleet on her final journey and eventual scuttling on the NSW Central Coast to begin a new life as an artificial reef.

The ex-HMAS Adelaide had been stripped, cleaned and made dive ready. Over the next few days, diver access holes would be completed and the navies former warship the HMAS Adelaide II, would be scuttled to become an artificial reef.

Media attention was high and all Sydney channels took the opportunity to farewell the vessel and this vision was seen all around the world. I received calls from China, Scotland and America from friends and allies also a few- not so friendly, who watched the scuttling event on their local news stations, live on television.

Check out the video below where we picked up the ex HMAS Adelaide off Palm Beach near Broken bay for her journey north.

 Our Newest Reef

The ex HMAS Adelaide is the largest and most accessible former naval dive wreck scuttled as an "artificial dive reef" in the Southern Hemisphere.
At 138.1 metres in length and over 15 metres wide- Four lower levels and three upper decks, this equates to a whole lot of ship to explore. 

Making the ex HMAS Adelaide, a very diverse and complex dive site. Even so, it is not too difficult to navigate if you take note of some of the distinctive features in particular, the helo hangars, Operations room, Flinders street, missile launcher, torpedo magazine and bridge, all useful areas to remember as landmarks for orientation to the vessel.

Scuba divers wishing to penetrate the wreck should be suitably qualified, prepared and carry all the necessary equipment including a light source to further explore the dimmer areas. Scuba divers planning to penetrate the wreck, should make at the minimum- one orientation dive outside the vessel, or follow an experienced Diver who some knowledge of the areas of interest and location of safe exits.

Remember at all times, this site has been designed with diver safety as paramount in all aspects.

Bob Diaz, a member of the two committees to ensure the Adelaide was made "Diver friendly" carefully noted and offered advice when asked and inspected the ship, many times over the deconstruction phase- The access holes cut in the hull easily allow two divers to swim side by side to exit the inner parts of the vessel. Whilst vertical accesses were cut in several areas of each deck to allow easy vertical access within the ship to decks above and below without the need to exit the ship.

ProDive has exclusive use of the main mast, mid-ship mooring. This is the best possible position to start your dive, as it makes for a very easy and relaxed dive plus gives you great orientation to the safety stop area on the mast.  Making your descent down our mooring line onto the crossover line at five metres, you follow this line across to the mast at fourteen metres and then take a leisurely swim to the bow or stern. This allows for a relaxed dive that covers the whole wreck. No frantic rush swimming from one end to the other.

Environmental studies commissioned by the EPA confirm that the bio-diversity of the marine life that has already made the HMAS Adelaide home will only increase in size and number as the Adelaide is slowly taken over its intended marine inhabitants. Plus the numbers of animals making the Adelaide their home will only continue to increase as the years go by and the marine life becomes further accustomed to the area.

Book a dive and experience this awesome divesite for yourself.

Don't forget to come back every few months to check out the differences as a living artificial reef, comes to life.