On the 21 December 2001 I headed down to Albany, some 4 hours South of Perth, with my son Chris and Brother in law Bob. Our mission was to have two dives on the HMAS Perth, it was sunk a month earlier, and to do a bit of sight seeing, all within 2 days. The HMAS Perth is a decommissioned guided missile destroyer, 133 m long with a beam of 14.3 m and a height of 46m. We left Perth at 09:30am to allow for some sightseeing in the afternoon and would be diving the HMAS Perth at 07:30am the next morning to allow us time to get home. Once in Albany we headed for our accommodation at the Jacaranda Hills bed & breakfast, this is a lovely older style house which has been setup especially to accommodate divers, we unpacked our car and made our way to the bays around the South West coast for some sightseeing. This part of 'town' has lots to see, a whaling station museum, the gap and the Natural bridge to name a few. Even with the ocean as flat as we had seen it down here it was still crashing into the rocks at these sites. We spent the whole afternoon driving and walking around, taking in all the beauty that was offered before returning back to town to try out the local Pizza shop. The evening was spent running Bob and Chris thru some courses we would do doing as we dove the Perth.
I woke at 05:00am, with the sun, prepared the camera and dive equipment before breakfast was served and then a quick dash to the dive store (Albany Scuba Diving Academy) for Nitrox tank analyzing and a briefing. Dive gear was rigged up and loaded on the boat then wetsuits were donned, a little problem occurred as I popped my Semidry Zip, I managed to work it back on but lost two zip teeth in the process, time would tell if this would make a difference. The dive boat left the town jetty and headed straight for the wreck about 10 - 15mins away. The locals had said the water was as warm as Perth city water, but we quickly learnt that was give or take 4oC as we back rolled out of the dive boat, 17oC was the recorded temperature on my dive computer. A moment or two was taken to adjust to the water temperature, the crows nest was visible from the surface and this is were we descended to. This wreck is huge and a fair amount of equipment has been left on her, paneling, radar dishes, the rear gun and even a table in the galley. We had decided to explore the front parts of the upper desk and entered the wreck through the forward funnel which leads into a passageway taking you to the command bridge. It was at this stage that I began feeling colder than usual, upon checking I realized that the two zip teeth I had lost did make a difference and my zip had opened up across my chest letting water flow freely though my suit. This was a slight inconvenience but I wasn't about to let freezing cold water ruin my dive, putting into practice the mind over matter theory, it didn't take me long to reluctantly realize it was a lot of bullocks, it was starting to get cold. The first dive lasted 40 mins before we were taken to Frenchmans Bay about 5 mins away for a safety stop. An hour and a half latter saw us back in the water, this time we would explore the rear upper decks, we entered through the rear funnel and explored the inside of the wreck before exiting and viewing the radar dishes and rear gun. Amazingly enough soft coral had already started to grow in some places and the fish have started to move in but not a lot of them yet, a few yellow tails and a leather jacket were all we spotted. We exited the water after another 40min dive and were taken back to Frenchmans bay to load the bus and return to our car.
The time was about 1:30pm so we decided to make a detour home through the "valley of the giants" this is a forest of huge Tingle trees were they have built a walk way through the top of these trees. It is located just East of Walpole, the view is amazing from 40m up in these giants, it is defiantly worth the extra drive if down this way.