Thursday, March 16, 2006


Navy shipwreck in Wellington to reopen

March 15, 2006

Divers will be allowed back into the water tomorrow to dive on the old navy frigate Wellington off the south coast of Wellington.

However, they have been warned it is too dangerous to go inside the two stern sections of the wreck which can still be heard "creaking and groaning" as they move in the underwater tidal currents at Island Bay.

The ship was ripped into three pieces during a big southerly storm 10 days ago and was closed to divers for safety reasons.

Wellington Regional Harbour Master, Captain Mike Pryce, was expected to lift the dive ban at midday tomorrow.

He said the bow section remained in the same place, pointing south into Cook Strait and held in place by the eight-tonne anchor which was attached to the ship when it was sunk last November.

However, he said divers should be extremely careful and should think about diving inside the bow section only with a commercial diver.

Captain Pryce said the stern section, thought to be about 2000 tonnes, broke off the bow section behind the gun turret and had broken in two again, leaving the wreck in three pieces.

The bow section was intact and lying on its side but the two stern sections had been flattened by the huge swells.

"You can still hear creaking and groaning. It has been beaten flat."

Until 10 days ago divers had been swimming through the ship, in and out of internal doors and through the large number of holes cut in the side when it was sunk.

"You can't swim through it any more. You can only swim into a little alcove and come back out again," Captain Pryce said.

He said police divers had recommended divers to dive on the wreck but not to try and swim through it.

Captain Pryce said the frigate was a relatively light ship and it was no surprise it had broken into three bits so soon.

He said the number of holes cut in the lightweight hull would have weakened the ship and hastened its demise.

He said the two stern sections were not likely to move further ashore as they were against a rising back.

The swell which broke the ship into three pieces was estimated to be 12 metres.

When the hull broke in half the stern section pivoted on its embedded propeller shaft and was now facing north west.

The lower decks of the ship were crushed and the upper decks had dropped onto them, said the F69 rust which sank the ship.

"The engine room and boiler room, both large unsupported rooms, have collapsed, making a gap of approx 10m were the remains of this part of the structure lay crushed between," said trust chairman Marco Zeeman.

"Basically the ship has been flattened midships of the main structure with the bow and remaining upper two sections of the ship intact. There is a debris zone on the seaward side and mid-section of the ship and between the bridge and bow section," he said.

He said the ship was not expected to break up so quickly.


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