Yongala Centenary Expedition with Cairns.com.au
CAIRNS tourism pioneer Charles Woodward is today heading for the shipwreck that claimed the life of his great grandmother Mary - and all her fellow passengers - exactly a century ago.
100 years ago tomorrow, the passenger cruiser SS Yongala was approaching Mackay on route from Melbourne to Cairns on its 99th voyage in Australian waters.
On March 23, 1911, disaster struck. The Yongala steamed into a cyclone and sank south of Townsville with the loss of all 122 people on board.
Tragically, a Marconi wireless that would have alerted the Yongala to the cyclone arrived from England shortly after the disaster.
To commemorate this tragic event, Woodward has chartered the M.V Sea Esta to visit the Yongala on the anniversary.
Accompanying Woodward are his wife Pip and Cairns tourism identities John and Lyndell Ross of Reef Encounter, Bob McGill of Kuranda Scenic Railway, Tim North of Reef Magic Cruises, Gabriel Thallon of Tropic Days Backpackers and Angus Baker of The Hotel Cairns.
All participants have donated money in lieu of fees to help with post-cyclone Yasi rebuilding efforts in Tully, with all funds donated to the Tully Lions club to assist with a community project.
“It is too late to do anything for the victims of the Yongala except to honour their memory," said Woodward, "but we can at least contribute to the victims of Cyclone Yasi.”
Woodward, 64, has recently completed his PADI Advance Open Water dive course so that he can dive the wreck for the first time on the centenary of his great grandmother's death.
The Woodwards will scatter 122 orchids at the Yongala on Wednesday in memory of Mary Woodward and the crew and passengers who perished.
Lying at 30m on a sandy bottom inside the Great Barrier Reef, 22km off Cape Bowling Green, the Yongala lay undiscovered until 1958.
Today, the wreck is one of Australia's most popular dives, attracting more than 10,000 divers each year. It is widely considered one of the best wreck dives in the world.
For live updates from the Yongala Anniversary Expedition, visit twitter.com/cairnsnews