The Pacific Gas Wreck. On a good day, and in the right conditions, this one of the best wreck dives in Papua New Guinea. However those conditions really do make or break a day out from Port Moresby to dive this site.
The Pacific Gas wreck is located on Horeshoe Reef, part of the offshore reef systems that shelter Port Moresby and Bootless Bay.
While the wreck is on the leeward side of the reef and therefore sheltered from the worst of the elements. It is still exposed to big seas in strong winds.
But when the conditions are good the wreck is an awesome dive. Because at 65m in length, it is big enough to impress, but not so big as to overwhelm.
The History of the Pacific Gas Wreck
The Pacific Gas started its life in Hiroshima, Japan in 1967 as the MS Nanayo Maru. Built by the Kanawa Dock Company as a liquefied gas carrier for its owners Okuda Gyogyo KK. It then went into service as a Japanese merchant ship transporting gas cargoes between Japan, Taiwan and Singapore.
The liquefied gas was stored in two large cylindrical, refrigerated vessels located in the middle section of the ship.
In 1972 the Nanayo Maru was sold to the Australian company Liquefied Gas Carriers. It was then renamed as the MV Pacific Gas
The ship was then put into service transporting gas cargoes between Australia and PNG for Boral Gas.
In 1980 it was assessed as being at the end of its effective operating life. As part of it’s de-commissioning the gas storage vessels were removed and installed on dry land at the Boral Gas facilities in Port Moresby and Lae.
The hull of the ship was then sold to a group of enterprising Port Moresby businessmen. Led by the prominent politician Sir Hugo Berghauser.
Sir Hugo planned to run it aground on Ela Beach and convert it into a seafood restaurant & nightclub…
However permission to ground the Pacific Gas was refused by Port Moresby’s Town Planner.
So the Pacific Gas ended up moored in the harbor until June 1986. When, after several missed deadlines to remove the vessel because of its poor condition, the Harbors Board issued a final ultimatum to remove the ship within 14 days.
Bob Halstead and the Pacific Gas Wreck
Bob Halstead is probably best known for his role in pioneering the liveaboard dive industry in Milne Bay with his boat the Telita. But he actually started his diving business in Port Moresby back in 1976 with his wife Dinah. And they both played a major role in the final resting place of the Pacific Gas.
Their diving business was called Tropical Diving Adventures they catered for both local and tourist divers. Concentrating on the offshore reefs and of Bootless Bay for their open water dives and then in 1978 Bob enlisted the help of the Port Moresby Sub-Aqua Club to create the first wreck dives in the area.
Two condemned ex-government vessels, the MV Parama and the MV Jade, were to be towed out to sea and scuttled but instead the Halsteads and the Sub-Aqua Club were able to get them sunk near Horseshoe Reef, south of Bootless Bay.
Then in 1986, when Bob heard about the final ultimatum from the Harbors Board, he approached Sir Hugo and ultimately was able to convince him that the best solution to the problem was for the Pacific Gas to join the growing list of wrecks near Horseshoe Reef.
The Sinking of the MV Pacific Gas
This is how Bob Halstead described the actual sinking of the Pacific Gas… “Pacific Salvage cleaned up the vessel and towed it out to a spot I had marked in the shelter of Horseshoe Reef with the stern in 40m of water. We moored the ship and Ian Short, a local commercial diver & explosives expert, planted the explosive charges which worked perfectly and sank the Pacific Gas in just 12 minutes.
The bow hit the bottom first giving it a ding, and then the rest of the vessel sank perfectly upright with the stern in 43 m of water. There are photos of the vessel sinking which I will get for you.
At the same time we started operating Telita in Milne Bay and moved our operation from Bootless so we actually missed out on many of the benefits of the sinking, but it is a wonderful dive and I am proud of it.”