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HMAS Adelaide to be sunk for divers

HMAS Adelaide, the ship that came to the rescue of stranded yachtsmen and terrified asylum seekers, now begins its final chapter underwater.

The decommissioned frigate was on Friday handed over by the commonwealth to the NSW government and will be sunk off Terrigal on the NSW Central Coast later in the year to create an artificial reef and dive wreck.

NSW Premier Nathan Rees said instead of being scrapped or dumped, the ex-HMAS Adelaide would be used by generations of divers.

“Coral will grow on the metal you see before you, fish will swim through the corridors that once rang with the sound of action stations,” Mr Rees said.

“And divers will find a place of contemplation and beauty as nature slowly reclaims her broken frame.”

The federal government will contribute up to $5.8 million to make sure the ship is environmentally-sound by stripping it and removing the fuel tanks.

Defence Minister John Faulkner said the scuttling of the ship would have long-term benefits.

“I think this is a great project, I’m very confident we’ll see HMAS Adelaide become a great national, and I suspect international, attraction for recreational divers ..,” he said.

HMAS Adelaide served the Royal Australian Navy for 27 years, participating in 30 overseas deployments, including the 1991 Gulf War and peace-keeping operations in East Timor in 1999.

The crew of the HMAS Adelaide rescued solo yachtsmen Tony Bullimore and Thierry Dubois, whose yachts both capsized in the Southern Ocean during a round-the-world race in 1997.

In 2001, the crew of HMAS Adelaide intercepted a boat carrying asylum seekers near Christmas Island, rescuing all on board when it sank.

Photographs of the rescue operation became the centre of the children overboard affair.

HMAS Adelaide was decommissioned in January last year at Garden Island in Western Australia.

Sue Dengate, who rallied to get the ship scuttled near Terrigal, said Central Coast dive clubs had been working for 10 years to secure an ex-naval vessel.

Ms Dengate, whose son served on the HMAS Adelaide, said divers would continue to appreciate its history.

“When a diver goes on this wreck when it’s sunk, they will want to know more about its history and that … gets people involved more in the services and the contribution they make.”

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