Wreck Diving on the “Sea Rogue”

Now we’ve got your attention. Yes, there is wreck diving off Byron Bay.

The “Sea Rogue” is a steel trawler that sank after capsizing in the early morning hours of 27 February 2008. All three crew on board survived the spill. After realizing that no-one would be looking for them for a few days, one of the deckhands swam the 12 hour marathon swim back to shore to raise the alarm and start a search for his shipmates who were floating at sea holding on to the ship’s debris. 30 hours after the trawler capsized, the second crew member was plucked from the sea. The “Sea Rogue’s” captain was never found.

We located the wreck in 2011 approximately 15km offshore and judging from what we saw on the sounder, we had reason to be believe that it was intact and upright and full of fish life. The wreck of the “Sea Rogue” lies in about 50m depth with its top in about 40m depth. On 21 May 2012, we dived it for the first time, below is Christina’s dive report.

21 May 2012: First Dive on the “Sea Rogue”

“Conditions were stunning for the last few days with visibility at Windarra Banks at its best around 30-40m and the sea as flat as a tack, so we decided it was the perfect day to check out the wreck of the “Sea Rogue”. With all crew and John (our “in-house-photographer”) onboard, we took the boat out to where we discovered the “Sea Rogue” a while back. Straight away, we could tell that the current was raging that day at approx. 2 knots if not more. It was a very hard decision to make, but John had to leave his big camera on the boat as he probably would not have made it down to the wreck with it in such a strong current. Therefore, we have no photos of the “Sea Rogue” at this stage, so you’d have to take our word for what we saw down there.

Descending along the anchor line was a huge effort in the raging current, but right from the start it was obvious that the vis was amazing. (John and Rod believe it was 50-60m, I would be a bit more conservative and say it was around the 40m mark). As I made my way down the line, I started to notice a big school of huge Kingfish beside and below us leading the way towards the wreck. As far as I’m concerned, the best thing about a wreck dive is always the first moment you lay eyes on a shipwreck, seeing its shapes and position and size emerging from the blue. Being the first divers to ever lay eyes on the “Sea Rogue” and the amazing visibility made this moment even more memorable. As far as wrecks go, the “Sea Rogue” is a real beauty: She sits pretty much upright and is fully intact. The top of her beams is in about 40m depth, she is approx. 50 to 60 feet long. We saw the net, a winch, lots of cables and ropes and bits and pieces that I wasn’t able to identify in the short time we had down there. The wreck is completely overgrown, it’s original colour is no longer visible. All windows are gone. I had a brief look inside and saw a lot of unidentified smaller items, plenty of cables hanging from the ceiling and a door flapping in the current. Since the “Sea Rogue” lies on flat sand and provides shelter from the current, it has attracted incredible amounts of fish life. There were big Kingfish and big Jewfish absolutely everywhere. Directly on and inside the wreck were thousands of smaller fish plus wobbegongs, Lionfish, Mooray Eels and the list goes on. After what seemed much too short a time, we had to say our good-byes to the newly discovered “Sea Rogue” and start our ascent as her silhouette slowly disappeared in the crystal blue water. The impressions of this incredible dive will stay with me forever. I can’t wait to see the “Sea Rogue” again. Being a steel trawler, we believe that she will stay intact for quite a while and provide us with some spectacular dives in the future.”

Nick Rawnsley