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WWII shipwreck on Heron Island is one of Australia’s best dive sites

Travelers flock to this breathtaking island of pristine white sand and crystal clear waters – but it has a dark past

  • A WWII shipwreck can be found off the coast of Queensland
  • HMS Protector was requisitioned for service by the US Army in July 1943
  • It was damaged in a collision with a tugboat and left at Heron Island
  • Seven decades later, the wreck is a dive site accessible on foot at low tide
  • Photographer Mark Fitz called it one of his ‘favorite snorkeling spots’


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A shipwreck dating back to the darkest days of World War II is now a spectacular dive site off Australia’s east coast.

After requisitioning for service with the US Army in July 1943, HMS Protector was en route to a naval base in Papua New Guinea when it was damaged in a collision with a tugboat and was abandoned off the coast of Heron Island, Queensland. .

Nearly 70 years later, the rusted wreck is one of the state’s most breathtaking underwater attractions, inspiring visitors with its formidable size and incredible history.

Travel photographer Mark Fitz described it as one of his favorite snorkeling spots on Earth.

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This shipwreck was once the HMS Protector which collided with a tug on its way to active service in Papua New Guinea in July 1943 at the height of World War II

This shipwreck was once the HMS Protector which collided with a tug on its way to active service in Papua New Guinea in July 1943 at the height of World War II

Nearly 70 years later, the rusted wreck (background) is one of the state's most breathtaking underwater attractions, inspiring visitors with its formidable size and incredible history

Nearly 70 years later, the rusted wreck (background) is one of the state's most breathtaking underwater attractions, inspiring visitors with its formidable size and incredible history

The ship was abandoned off the coast of Heron Island, Queensland (pictured)

The ship was abandoned off the coast of Heron Island, Queensland (pictured)

Nearly 70 years later, the rusted wreck (left) is one of the state’s most breathtaking underwater attractions, inspiring visitors with its formidable size and incredible history

At low tide, the hull can be reached by wading through the ocean and walking along the sparkling white sandbar.

Heron Island, 80 kilometers northeast of Gladstone, is a natural coral quay surrounded by 24 hectares of coral reef on the south side of the Great Barrier Reef.

Famous for its spectacular coral reef, the island is home to an array of extraordinary animals, including migrating whales and nesting turtles that glide between holes in the wreck.

Photos of the ship have sparked stunned reactions on Instagram, with many shocked that such a huge piece of WWII history can be found in Australia.

‘It’s like a dream! I’ll go next time I’m in Australia,” one woman wrote.

Another said, “Mate, this is right at the top of my bucket list.”

At low tide, the hull can be reached by wading through the ocean and walking along the sparkling white sandbar

At low tide, the hull can be reached by wading through the ocean and walking along the sparkling white sandbar

At low tide, the hull can be reached by wading through the ocean and walking along the sparkling white sandbar

Famous for its spectacular coral reef, Heron Island is home to an array of extraordinary wildlife, including migrating whales and nesting turtles that glide between holes in the wreck

Famous for its spectacular coral reef, Heron Island is home to an array of extraordinary wildlife, including migrating whales and nesting turtles that glide between holes in the wreck

The island (photo) is 80 kilometers off the coast of Queensland

The island (photo) is 80 kilometers off the coast of Queensland

Famous for its spectacular coral reef, Heron Island is home to an array of extraordinary wildlife, including migrating whales and nesting turtles that glide between holes in the wreck

Photos of the ship have sparked stunned reactions on Instagram, with many shocked that such a huge piece of WWII history can be found in Australia

Photos of the ship have sparked stunned reactions on Instagram, with many shocked that such a huge piece of WWII history can be found in Australia

Photos of the ship have sparked stunned reactions on Instagram, with many shocked that such a huge piece of WWII history can be found in Australia

Getting to Heron Island takes a bit of planning, but travel review sites claim it’s well worth the effort.

The nearest commercial airport is 45 miles from Heron Island in Gladstone, which is served by regular flights from Brisbane.

Once you’ve landed in Gladstone, there are two options for getting to the island itself: a boat that costs $75 one way, or a helicopter that will set you back $940 for a return ticket.

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