Michael McFadyen's Scuba Diving - Henry Leith
The town of Madang is often called the "prettiest town" in the whole Pacific. I must say that I agree with this description as it is very beautiful and ideally located on the shores of Madang Harbour, a harbour that comes close to Sydney Harbour in terms of size, protection and beauty. Numerous parks, lagoons and creeks are found in and around the town and there are plenty of trees that add to its appeal. To the north there are three other harbours, Nagada, Mililat and Sek Harbours. In reality, these are really just parts of the one, huge harbour protected from the open ocean (not that there is any real big seas) by a barrier reef and a number of small islands. The vast majority of the diving here is carried out in and around these harbours.
|Les Caterson and Tim Rigg|
above the bow of the Henry Leith
On my 1996 dive trip to Madang in Papua New Guinea, I was able to dive four wrecks, ranging from recently scuttled vessels to one over 50 years old.
At the northern end of Nagada Harbour there are a couple of islands, the smallest of which is Wangat (or Wangad or Wonad) Island. This is located only metres inside the barrier reef. The island is very small, it only takes a few minutes to walk across it. Located off this island are a couple of very interesting wrecks. One is the wreck of a North American B-25D Mitchell light bomber which is off the southern end of the island. Off the south-western corner of the island is the wreck of the Henry Leith. Originally a 32 metre long coastal freighter, I have not been able to find much about this ship yet. All I know is that it was sailed from Sydney in 1969 for Lae (where it was to be used) and that it broke down and was towed to the Russell Islands by a Japanese boat. In the 1970s or 1980s it was purchased for one kina by Kevin Baldwin and scuttled by him and Bob Halstead as a dive site. It is perfectly placed in terms of depth and location.
Maximum depth on the wreck is about 20 metres on the sand under the stern. The deck is about 16 metres and it is 18 metres inside the three holds. The shallowest part is the bridge which is about 14 metres.
|Eddy Labour goes through a hatchway|
Starting from the bow you will see that it is a very square bow, with no rake at all. It is not too far to the bridge area and this area is very broken up from rust and by now (2005) may have collapsed totally. The other superstructure is also very rusted and may also be gone by now.
As you swim along the deck or sides you will see that there are some extremely nice soft corals, sea whips, gorgonias, sponges and anemones all over the deck and hull. As well, the fishlife is quite good, with numerous firefish, coral trout, trevally, wrasses and triggerfish swimming in, over and around the wreck. At the stern, there are some excellent hard corals (only small) but the smaller fishlife is really prolific.
Under the stern you will see the rudder and the prop shaft hole. There is no prop, it was obviously removed prior to scuttling.
|The prop shaft hole of the Henry Leith|
From here you can explore the inside of the wreck. There is a lot to see on the wreck, the holds and engine room. Since I am writing this many years after the event, I cannot remember the exact details of the inside, but you can enter the engine room from a number of spots, including the holds, the upper deck and from inside the superstructure. I cannot even remember if the engine was still inside, although I assume that it was there. You can penetrate the wreck in safety, although commonsense must be used. A great second dive.