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The Honorable laid to rest, HMNZS Canterbury

December/January, 2008

By: Dave Moran

The Honorable laid to rest

The Honorable laid to rest

The Honorable laid to rest

The Honorable laid to rest

 

Whack!
In just under four minutes the image we had all been looking at for four hours was gone - vanished - only the haze of black gunpowder hung over the hundreds of spectator craft and the whiteness of the water where she once floated indicated that something very significant has just happened.

The HMNZS Canterbury had begun its new life as an artificial reef and as a major diving attraction for the Bay of Islands region on Saturday, 3 November 2007.

During her last minutes as water smashed its way through the six blasted holes in her belly she seem to hang, floating on the water as if stunned - frozen in time. Like an elephant hit with a fatal bullet - stopped in mid stride before its legs crumbled.

Many of her ex crew felt her stagger - flashes of the good and the bad times stormed through their minds as her image began to fade through eyes flooded with memories. Her hull swallowed all that it could and she slid backwards beneath the waves, her bow defiantly clinging to the sunshine above.
Then the question on every diver’s mind was, how did she land on the sandy bottom below, sitting straight or on her side?

As images materialized on the MV Acheron’s bridge Wassp’s monitor as it passed over the wreck it became very clear that the wreck was sitting perfectly upright and in slightly deeper water at 35m than the proposed 28m.

This new recreational diving wreck has the potential for its hull to remain intact and continue to be an enjoyable ‘swim through’ wreck for many, many years. She joins three other purposely sunk Navy ships: HMNZS Tui, 20 February 1999, Tutukaka; HMNZ Waikato, 25 November 2000, Tutukaka; HMNZ Wellington, 13 November 2005, Wellington.

The other well known wreck is the historical Greenpeace flag ship the Rainbow Warrior which was sunk by two underwater mines placed by agents of the French Government in Auckland Harbour on 10 July 1985. She was re-floated and sunk as a monument to a nuclear free Pacific at the Cavalli Islands on 14 December 1987.
Early reports from divers are that fish life has already welcomed the Canterbury to their new home that for many will offer a safe haven. In a way the Canterbury is continuing her purpose in life to protect those that need protecting.

Yes, the Canterbury is very much alive and kicking and will become a magnet for local and international divers to enjoy for at least the next 100 years. Congratulations to The Bay of Islands Canterbury Charitable Trust and a big thank you from divers worldwide.

Location: Cape Brett Peninsula. The Canterbury’s resting place is marked by buoys in Deep Water Cove just east of Putahataha Island at the Cove’s most northern entrance which is 28km by sea from Opua in the Bay of Islands.

How to sink a ship: Only eight kilograms of plastic explosives was required to blast six large holes in the hull when 14 yr old Kerikeri College student Lucy Hamnett, a qualified diver, pushed the firing button aboard MV Acheron, 480m from the Canterbury. Her father Keith won the privilege to be part of history by placing the winning bid of $19,200.00 at a fund raising auction.

Twenty-seven holes were cut above the water line and holes in the deck to assist air escaping during the sinking. Keith Simpson, from the English company Cadre One, prepared the laying out of the charges to cut three large holes on either side of the keel. The frigate was pre-ballasted with water by Richard Allandale to ensure that once the explosive went off the ship would settle stern first, thus avoiding the bow crashing to the bottom and possibly cracking the hull just forward of the bridge, a known weak spot, plus have her sitting up straight on the bottom.

HMNZ Canterbury F421 brief history, specifications and facts: Leander Class Frigate built in Scotland for the Royal New Zealand Navy. She accommodated 245 ratings and 15 Officers. Commissioned on the 22 October 1971. Canterbury saw operational service in much of Australasia and other regions like the Persian Gulf. Some operations included: supporting UN sanctions against Iraq, peace-keeping in East Timor, Falklands War and being present during the anti-nuclear protests off Mururoa Atoll in French Polynesia. Decommissioned. 2005. The ship was sold to The Bay of Islands Canterbury Charitable Trust for a symbolic NZ$1.00. The turret was removed to be part of exhibits at a new Navy museum in Auckland.
Length 113.4 metres
Beam 13.1 metres
Draught 5.6 metres.
Displacement 3182 tonnes (fully loaded).
Powered
two steam turbines driving twin shafts: 30,430 horsepower.
Maximum speed: 30 knots.
Armaments: Twin, 4.5 inch forward guns, heavy machine guns, Sea Cat missile system and antisubmarine torpedoes delivered by Seasprite helicopter.

Article reprints or information email DiveNZ@divenewzealand.co.nz

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