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Booya was a steel hull, three-masted auxiliary schooner. It disappeared during Tropical Cyclone Tracy on Christmas eve in 1974 with the loss of all 5 crew. At the time of its loss, Booya was one of Australia’s last commercial trading schooners. The wreck was discovered in 2003 in association with the wreck of Darwin Princess a Darwin Harbour ferry. Archaeological evidence suggests that Booya went to the aid of Darwin Princess, during the cyclone, but both vessels foundered after colliding with each other. The wreck site was declared a Heritage Place under the Northern Territory Heritage Conservation Act 1991 (now the Northern Territory Heritage Act 2012) on 17 May 2005. Access to the wreck is by permit only. Further information on the Booya is available from the NT Government's Maritime Heritage's website.
Resting in 19m of water the United States Army Transport Mauna Loa was part of the Timor Convoy to bolster that island's defence against the Japanese. The convoy returned to Darwin on 18 February 1942. Mauna Loa received 2 direct hits the next day during the Bombing of Darwin, killing 5 of her crew. Their names were not recorded. The vessel settled on an even keel and it was planned to salvage her in its entirety, but these efforts were abandoned. The wreck was salvaged in 1959/60 by the Fujita Salvage Company who removed the ship's superstructure, engines and boilers, but left behind a cargo of trucks, motorcycles, Bren gun carriers and tons of small arms ammunition. A brochure on the Mauna Loa is available from the NT Government's Maritime Heritage section.
The USS Peary was a four-stacked Clemson Class destroyer. It had served a distinguished career in the US Asiatic Fleet in the interwar years and was stationed in the Philippines at the commencement of the Pacific War. The ship escorted the ill-fated Timor convoy that returned to Darwin on 18 February 1942. It was a high priority target for the Japanese during the air raid the next day. She had managed to evade them all the way, but was finally caught in Darwin Harbour. Peary was hit by numerous bombs and plunged by the stern to her watery grave within minutes, taking 88 of her crew with her including her captain. The ship suffered the highest loss of crew than any other during the air raid. The site is the deepest WWII shipwreck in Darwin Harbour and was missing until 1949. Salvaged in 1960, the lower sections of the ship survive in an upright position. Melvin Duke, for many years thought to have died on the ship, was the last surviving member of her crew and passed away in 2001 at the age of 85 years. His ashes were spread over the wreck in accordance with his last wish to be buried with his crewmates. The NT Government's Maritime Heritage section has developed a brochure on the USS Peary.
HMAT Zealandia had been an international passenger liner with her principal route between Australia and Canada. In WWI the ship was used as a troop ship, but in WWII it was used to evacuate civilians from Papua New Guinea and Darwin. The ship had arrived in Darwin some weeks before the Bombing of Darwin and its cargo was believed to have been off loaded. It received two bombs on 19 February 1942 causing it too flood. Only 2 casualties were sustained during the air raid, both men dying later on the hospital ship Manunda. Zealandia collapsed on her port side and was salvaged in 1959/60. The site is characterised today by a jumbled mass of collapsed plating, covered in soft and hard corals, obscuring the ship's outline. It is a relatively clear water dive for Darwin Harbour with visibility up to 7 metres on a good day.
Catalina 4 is a PBY-5 Catalina flying boat of the United States Navy's Patrol Wing Ten. The aircraft originally belonged to the Netherlands but was taken over by the US while in Surabaya, and re-numbered as #41. It was sunk on 19 February 1942 while at its moorings in East Arm, together with another two Catalinas. There were 5 Catalina's on the mooring line in East Arm at the time of the Darwin Air Raids, but 2 had gone out on patrol. The Catalinas in East Arm were attached to the seaplane tender USS Wlliam B Preston. This ship had kept an hourly log of it's position, which archaelogists used to predict where Darwin Harbour's missing Catalinas were sunk. Catalina 4 (341) lies in 16 metres of water and is a protected site.
The Vernon Islands are located 2 hours by fast boat East of Port Darwin. Situated in Dundas Strait they provide reefs which rise steeply out of deep water. At low tide amazing horizontal waterfalls occur along the tessellated reef structure. Diving in this area provides opportunity to witness the full diversity of coral and fish species that the NT coastline has to offer. This is a good location for drift diving. In shore from the Vernons are the Blue Holes, a network of lagoons that become landlocked with extreme tides. The depths of the holes are sand scoured and are an oasis or marine life.
28 kms out of Darwin Harbour and 25 metres down are Fenton Patches, a large artificial reef made up from an assortment of vessels, tyres and old bus shelters. The reef was started in 1988 when the 32 m oil exploration vessel Marchant III was scuttled. Since that time the reef has been added to, and it now has developed an exceptional ecosystem, with large schools of fish, sharks, rays and turtles. Channel Rock is a shallower dive but has similarly impressive marine life. Channel Rock lies beside the Port of Darwin's main shipping channel. At around 12 - 16 metres the rock is home to a huge assortment of fish, and both hard and soft corals and sponges. The occasional sea snake also slithers by, and sea turtles are common.
The freighter SS West Lewark was requisitioned by the US Army in 1922 and renamed the USAT Meigs. The ship was part of the Timor convoy which was recalled to Darwin on 18 February 1942. The ship was bombed and sunk the next day, with only one casualty who later died on the hospital ship Manunda. The wreck is the largest of all the ships lost during the Bombing of Darwin. It was salvaged by the Fujita Salvage Company in 1959/60. Although they cut away the hull plates and super structure, the salvors left behind the ship's cargo of munitions, trucks and Bren gun carriers. It is now home to rich marine life, with much of the remains covered in Gorgonia fans and sponges.