Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay/MV Aster
The dive site ’’’M.V. Aster’’’ is a recent wreck in the Hout Bay area on the Atlantic seaboard of the Cpe Peninsula, near Cape Town in the Western Cape province of South Africa. Information is provided which may assist in planning Recreational and Research Scuba diving at this site, and links to photographs of marine organisms that have been found there.
The wreck is easily accessible by a short boat trip, and was prepared for diving before it was sunk. It supports a large variety of marine life, and is structurally still fairly intact.
Name "M.V. Aster"
The 340 ton MFV Aster was a South African registered lobster fishing vessel which was prepared as a diver-friendly artificial reef by cleaning and cutting openings into the structure. It ihas been used as a training site for wreck penetration. The Aster was scuttled in Hour Bay near the wreck of the Katzu Maru on 9th August 1997.
S34°03.891’ E018°20.955’ (Mast)
In the middle of the mouth of Hout Bay, near the wreck of the Katsu Maru, 700m offshore
Access is only reasonably practicable by boat. The site is about a 2.2km ride from the harbour slipway. The wreck is in the harbour approaches, and there may be significant boat traffic.
The site is exposed to south westerly swells, which can cause a strong surge. The site is usually at it's best in summer but there are also occasional opportunities in autumn and winter.
This is an area which sometimes has upwellings, caused by strong south easterly winds, resulting in cold clear water, which may develop a plankton bloom over a few days, which will reduce the visibility again.
Keep a lookout for times when the south west swell is low and short period, and there is not too much south easterly wind forecast.
Maximum depth about 28m meters in the scour at the bow and stern. Average depth of the wreck is over 20m.
Flat sand bottom.
Flat sand bottom at about 27m. The ship stands almost level imbedded in the bottom as if floating in sand. The bow points towards approximately 330° magnetic (North West). Deep scouring at bow and stern, usually to about 28m maximum, depending on the tide. The vessel is is essentially intact and still looks much like when it was afloat. The hull is intact with a few holes cut in it, and the superstructure except for the wheelhouse, and tripod mast are also intact. There is a fairly large rectangular hatch just forward of the superstructure. The gunwale is at about 24m depth, and the boat is about 36m long. Top of the mast is at about 9m depth The Aster is marked on the charts at the same position as the Katsu Maru, but is about 30m to the East of the other wreck, and both can be visited on the same dive.
Cold water, occasional fog, boat traffic. Possible entrapment if the wreck is penetrated. Some of the structure may be unstable. Strong surge if the swell is large or the period long.
No special skills required unless penetration is intended. It is necessary to be qualified for 30m dives.
Macro and/or wide angle equipment recommended.
A light will restore colour and allow you to look into the wreck. Reel and DSMB are worth carrying in case it is necessary to surface away from the shotline. A dry-suit is recommended as the water is cold, Nitrox is recommended to extend no-decompression time.
Marine life (and features)
The wreck is heavily encrusted with common feather stars and sponges, with good representation by colonial ascidians and hydroids. The mast has Urchins, black mussels and barnacles near the top. There is a fair range of other species, and the rarely sighted Tasselled nudibranch Kaloplocamus ramosus has been seen here several times.
No special route recommended. Start deep, progress upward. The mast is a good place to ascend if not using a SMB or shotline. If you wish to visit the Katsu Maru, swim to the west from the middle of the Aster, perpendicular to the length of the Aster.
The Aster shortly before and during scuttling. The cage on the stern is no longer there. This vessel was cleaned and scuttled near the Katsu Maru to form a diver-friendly artificial reef.