Michael McFadyen's Scuba Diving - Cruwee Cove
The history of Botany Bay goes back thousands, if not tens of thousands, of years. Prior to the visit by the first white men 1770, Botany Bay was already home to a number of Aboriginal tribes. One of reasons the Kooris thrived here was the abundance of marine life present in and around the Bay.
In 29 April 1770, Lieutenant James Cook, R.N., in HM Bark Endeavour entered Botany Bay and stepped ashore at Kurnell. Cook and his crew, including the famous scientist Sir Joseph Banks, explored the area of the bay and named it Stingray Harbour because of the large number of rays they caught here. Cook and his crew stayed eight days and then headed north.
Europeans were not to visit Botany Bay for another 18 years, but in January 1788 two separate European fleets visited the Bay within days of each other. The first to enter was the First Fleet under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip on 18 January 1788. He stayed until the morning of 26 January when he moved his fleet to Sydney Harbour.
On 26 January while sailing the short distance from Botany Bay to Sydney Harbour, Captain Phillip sighted the French navigator Jean-Francois de Galaup, Comte de Laperouse (note the correct spelling of his name which is different to the suburb named after him, La Perouse) off the coast in his ships La Broussole and L'Astrolobe. Later that day, Laperouse entered Botany Bay. He stayed almost 6 weeks and departed on 10 March 1788. Nothing further was ever heard of Laperouse and his men until 1827 when an Irish trader and adventurer, Captain Peter Dillion, heard from islanders about a wreck 40 years previously on the island of Vanikoro in the Solomon Islands. In the 1950s, Reese Discombe, a New Zealander, discovered the remains of one of the ships confirming Laperouse's fate.
Luckily, Laperouse had entrusted to Captain Phillip a copy of his logbook which is our only knowledge of his trip until he came to Australia. Items of the equipment carried by the expedition and pieces of the ships can now be seen in the Laperouse Museum in the old Cable Station in the suburb of La Perouse on the Botany Bay shore. A replica of an anchor from L'Astrolobe is also on display at the Laperouse Monument and nearby is the grave of Pere Receveur, a Catholic priest who died on 17 February 1788 from injuries received earlier in the voyage.
A visit to the Laperouse Monuments is well worth a visit and I recommend it to all interested in the history of not only Australia, but the South Pacific in general. he Museum is run by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and a small fee is charged for entry.
The only parts of the Bay that are really suitable for diving are the sections near the heads and Bare Island, although the Container Wall can also make a great dive if you select the right spot. The remainder of the Bay is either too shallow or has been destroyed by development for the diving to be good. Despite all the damage we have inflicted on the Bay and its two tributaries since white settlement, even now can still amaze with its marine life.
Since the 1930s Botany Bay has suffered the building of Mascot Airport, the extension of its main runway twice, the recent construction of the third runway, the reclamation of all the northern shore for Port Botany and its facilities and the construction of two oil refineries/storage areas and numerous chemical plants. Somehow, it has still survived. At least in the 1990s we (scuba divers) saved the Bay from the effects the sandmining would have have on it.
The outer northern headland of Botany Bay is called Cape Banks after Sir Joseph Banks who was the first European to record the flora and fauna of New Holland (or New South Wales as Cook was to later name it). Just inside Botany Bay is the wreck of the SS Minmi. A collier, the Minmi was on its way from Melbourne to Newcastle when it hit the outside of Cape Banks on 13 May 1937. As can be seen, the main hulk of the wreck now lies above high water mark on the rock platform, but pieces of the ship can be found over the eastern side of Cruwee Cove and around the Cape. These remains include metal plate, timber pieces and steel. I have been told there are other bits in very shallow water on eastern side of Cape Banks, but I have not been able to find any on a couple of dives in this area.
The first inlet inside the Bay is Cruwee Cove, also known as Pussycat Bay. This inlet is managed by a department from the University of Sydney as a scientific control against other more accessible areas of coastline. Foot access to the area is via the NSW Golf Course Road across Botany Bay National Park and the golf course. As the walk from the pistol club's carpark is over 500 metres, it is far too long to make the dive enjoyable. Accordingly, the only practical way to dive Cape Banks is from a boat.
The maximum depth inside the heads in Cruwee Cove is only 15 metres. While a relatively shallow dive, there is plenty of marine life with colourful sponges and kelp gardens widespread. Groper, moray eel, cuttlefish, red morwong, mado, common bullseye, wobbegong, bream, maori wrasse and starfish are found here, although because of the lack of regular divers they seem to be a bit timid. A dive location anywhere in the area will produce a pleasurable dive.
In summary, Cruwee Cove is not a bad dive site but only do it after you have dived Henry Head a few times.