Diving the RMS Quetta, a huge shipwreck from the 1880s, every turn will bring you face to face with the amazing creatures of the deep. Head to the very tip of Northern Australia to visit this amazing wreck.
Diving the RMS Quetta
Due to its location, the Quetta is overflowing with amazing marine life, all of which seems to be huge. Like most animal-rich and rarely-dived locations, the site comes with its risks — namely huge currents. However, when executed safely, it is an unforgettable dive.
Having come to rest at a depth of 60 feet (18 m), the ship sits on its side and is consistently buffered by a current in excess of four knots. This means you can only dive it on slack water, and you must wait patiently in your boat atop the wreck for the magical changing of the current. Once this occurs, you must be ready to jump in immediately, since this limited window usually only happens once a day. Often the decent is a mix of swimming and slowly dragging yourself down the descent line, but this wreck is definitely worth a bit of hard work.
Once you’re on the wreck, you’ll be totally shielded from the water’s rapid movement, and what appears before you are a plethora of fish and fantastic rusted holds and rooms to explore. Luckily the wreck is pretty open thanks to the nasty gash that ultimately caused its sinking, which left an interesting and unique pathway.
Marine life on the Quetta
Inside and outside the wreck, massive groupers wait until night to hunt while manta rays sweep and dance across the hull in search of food. In the various massive cargo holds, thousands of eyes seem to stare at you up close as sweetlips come in for a closer gentle stare at their latest visitors. Above, barracuda and sharks sweep past, either looking for a place to rest or a quick fishy snack. You just never know what you will see thanks to a current that brings a seemingly endless supply of food and nutrients onto the wreck.
The best dive plan involves swimming through the front holds and out the nasty gash, where you’ll find hundreds of huge sweetlips of every species mulling around, intermixed with an occasional and very rare Queensland grouper. Move to the bow of the ship and through a dense cloud of batfish to reach the deck.
From here, you can weave in and out of the open cargo holds until you reach the very intact mast that juts straight out parallel with the seafloor. A nice little swim will take you to the end and back. Continuing toward the stern, you come face to face with even more hunting fish. Barracuda and sharks are often chasing prey and it’s a treat to stop and watch if you have a moment. The last part of the dive takes you around and under the huge prop that still sits well out of the sand and into a hole blown in the ship’s hull by scavengers seeking the riches within, back when diving involved bell helmets and seafloor walks.
You can dive the Quetta as part of a multi-day liveaboard trip running from Cairns or as part of a club dive out of Thursday Island. Social media is the best way to connect with locals who know the area and, in exchange for some fuel, will be happy enough to take you out.
All images courtesy Matt Testoni