(Above) Canterbury, Copyright RNZN Museum www.navymuseum.mil.nz, Torpedo Bay
Size: 372 feet
Date Sunk: 2007
Location: Deep Water Cove, Bay of Islands
Class/Type of Ship: Royal New Zealand Navy Leander frigate
Notable Facts: Purchased by a non-profit outfit for $1 NZ for the sole purpose of diving, the Canterbury is the newest of the region's massive warship reefs. It sits upright in a protected cove with a depth profile between 40 and 125 feet, offering loads of encrusted superstructure and safe penetrations to explore.
On the wreck, Johnston and I glide along the starboard side in bright, 80-foot visibility and drop into the wide-open hangar at the stern, interrupting a school of snapper before continuing up to the communications tower, where strands of tall kelp grow on a platform. Submerged just a few years, the ship is already showing impressive growth and drawing large numbers of interesting inhabitants.
(Above) Rainbow Warrior, Copyright Pieter Lagendyk, Greenpeace.org
Diving RAINBOW WARRIOR
Size: 131 feet
Date Sunk: 1987
Location: Matauri Bay, Cavalli Islands
Class/Type of Ship: Steel Fishing Trawler
Notable Facts: The former Greenpeace flagship, sabotaged by French commandos in 1985, now boasts more than two decades of growth, including a blanket of jeweled anemones.
There's a more advanced scene of transformation the next day when we dive the Rainbow Warrior, the former Greenpeace flagship that was famously sunk in Auckland harbor by French commandos in 1985. Refloated and moved north to the Cavalli Islands two years later, the hull and bowsprit of the 131-foot trawler are almost completely covered in luminous jeweled anemones that light up the superstructure with vivid shots of pink, purple and orange. Again the bountiful ocean here has turned a structure of inanimate metal into a haven for life.
(Above) Tui, Copyright RNZN Museum www.navymuseum.mil.nz, Torpedo Bay
Size: 210 feet Date Sunk: 1999 Location: Tutukaka Coast Class/Type of Ship: Steel scientific vessel Notable Facts: The broken hull at 105 feet is covered in delicate hydroids and is a magnet for schooling snapper.
(Above) Waikato, Copyright RNZN Museum www.navymuseum.mil.nz, Torpedo Bay
Size: 372 feet Date Sunk: 2000 Location: Tutukaka Coast Class/Type of Ship: Royal New Zealand Navy Leander frigate Notable facts: The upright behemoth at 92 feet features an intact gun turret, a giant propeller, heaps of structure and multiple points of entry for safe penetration.