Sinking of the Waikato

Sinking of the Waikato

By Jeroen Jongejans

The sinking of the HMNZS Waikato on 25 November 2000 proved to be a nail biting two week affair. The weather conditions would not let up, and many of the planned celebrations had to be postponed and cancelled, but when it happened, it was a huge success!

It is estimated there were over 7000 people on the water and on the shore nearby enjoying the show. Once the fuse was pushed by Rob Snelling, our lucky raffle winner, it was over in two minutes 40 seconds, a new world record for sinking a frigate. And that’s the secret – if you sink the vessel fast, chances are she will end up in an upright position, which she did!

Our media coverage went worldwide with Australia, The Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, the Czek Republic, United States and Hong Kong reporting the sinking on their news channels.

So, how is it for diving? To be honest, far better than I expected. The access through the cut and blasted holes works a treat and lets enough light into the ship to navigate. The interior has been sufficiently cleaned out to give easy access to most places, yet there are enough bits and pieces left to keep divers fully occupied and interested.

And the process of colonisation is going forward with unexpected speed, seemingly faster than the Tui two years ago. Diving both wrecks puts another dimension to the experience. The ships are so different, not only in development, orientation and size, they also have a very different feel to them. For me the Tui feels like a shipwreck, positioned along a reef, becoming more and more part of that environment, yet retaining her strong hull shape. The Waikato, with the slight tilt to port, feels as if she is still underway, a ghost ship where you can expect a crew to appear at any minute.

As if she wasn’t big enough on top of the water, now the original draft of five metres has been extended to a vertical wall of over 10 metres from the sand on the bottom. And from the top of the mast it is only eight metres to the surface. The dive is unreal, and the ship’s outline can be seen from the surface on any day with reasonable visibility.

The price tag worked out to be over a staggering $400,000. The Tui came to $180,000. In the last three years we have achieved beyond our wildest dreams, and this has only been possible because of other people sponsoring our efforts with money, discounts, goodwill and other contributions. Those who helped, a great thank you for your faith in us.

We took huge risks, worked our rings off and achieved our dream for all to enjoy. We set out to try and fund this venture ourselves, and largely succeeded! After 18 months of hard work the committee had to arrange a loan of  $40,000 from our local council (and sign personally for this amount) in order to pay the last accounts. We have approached local and regional authorities for financial assistance, yet none was available.

We are currently levying divers who join commercial trips to the wrecks for $5 per day. We will only do this until the money has been paid back to the council. If you wish to make a contribution it will be gratefully received.

Thanks to the following charter boat operators who will assist us in paying back the council loan: Dive Connection, Dive HQ Whangarei, Dive!Tutukaka, Lady Jess, Norseman Charters, Pacific Hideaway. These businesses support the divers and the industry, please support them.

Thanks again to all of you who have supported us.

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