Wally Gibbins (1930 – 2006) was making films with Ben Cropp when they both dropped in on the YONGALA shipwreck, SE of Townsville, Queensland.
The ships’ bell had not been found. Wal had a fair idea where it should be. He’d studied the layout of the ship and swam to where the bell should have been. Nothing there.
Out on the sand was a large clump of barnacles and a part of the ship. It looked as if this had broken away from the structure. Judging by the shape and weight Wal concluded it must be the prized bell.
Getting it to the surface would have been an effort for most people. For Wally, who’d salvaged giant shipwreck props (in 250 feet of water on air) this would have been a walk in the park.
When being cleaned, the delight on the faces of Ben and Wally would have been a memorable sight.
Here was the prize find of the most famous shipwreck (for divers) in our Australian waters.
The above picture is a reconstruction in 1983 under the Coffs Harbour Jetty.
The bell had been removed from Wal’s own former sea shell and shipwrecks museum, especially for this picture. Some 16mm footage was also made – which has remained in archives.
John Sumner (a shipwrecks expert and long term friend of Wally Gibbins) is considering publishing a limited edition postcard using this image, and others featuring shipwreck bells.
All information readers may care to send on the ownership of such shipwreck bells will be forwarded to John Sumner for his research. A worthy cause indeed, even if only partial details can be obtained.
Photographed underwater at Coffs Harbour Jetty, 1985
YONGALA wreck in 2002