Tag Archive: diving

great barrier reef, part 4

on our final day of diving the gbr, we arose early as on day 2 and completed our final dive at ‘the whale’ — less exciting than the night dive the previous evening, during which we saw grey reef sharks, but still pretty cool; a sleepy school of several hundred large hump-head wrasses hung around long enough for the first few divers in the water to say hello.  needless to say, we were among them — ear trouble and burst blood vessels (in our eyes and eyelids) be damned! (totally worth it.)

the last dive site was aptly called ‘coral gardens.’  every size, shape and color of coral we had seen on previous days was there, in about 7-8m of water, and many more.  on the first dive we headed out to the edge of the reef and skirted the wall (taking care not to drop all the way to the floor, some 30m down, which would have been soooo easy); looking off into the blue was actually remarkably similar to the ‘don’t go near the dropoff’ scene in finding nemo.  except that the humpback whales were singing again, which would have been way too early in the movie.  we also saw a large maori wrasse (probably a good 1.5m long), many beautiful nudibranchs, colorful bird wrasses, an impressive titan triggerfish, various darting schools of smaller fish, and we heard afterward that someone else from our boat had managed to spot two leopard sharks.  while jealous, we also felt that we had to leave something on the list to see next time.  ;)

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great barrier reef, part 3

on day 2 of our trip to great barrier, we awoke at about 6am to the smell of coffee, the sound of bacon frying and the sultry tones of the divemaster shouting ‘time to get up!  dive briefing in 20 minutes!’  (when i say ‘awoke,’ i actually mean ‘awoke fully’ since the numerous boat sounds overnight had prevented any deep or prolonged sleep.)  we tumbled out of bed into the deeply twilit morning, wondering whether this would count as our second night-dive, but no — by the time we were ready to get wet, the sky was pale grey and the seafloor once more visible about a dozen meters below the surface.  we gulped down muesli bars, spat chunkily into our masks to de-fog them, and hit the water again.

on this day, not only did we find nemo (as well as barracuda, various puffers, turtles, more large morays, other lovely fish, and yet more spectacular corals) — we were also treated to something i’d never considered we might experience.  during the second dive, in the pause between exhaling and inhaling, i slowly became aware of faint threads of sound, descending in pitch, repeated several times a minute.  the friends diving with us had mentioned that they’d heard humpback whales singing while diving in fiji, and i realized that this was what we were also hearing.  it was magical.  i did my best with the video function of the camera, and if you listen closely, you can just hear a snatch of it here.   when we surfaced, we heard that the whales had been sighted about 300 m away from the boat — no wonder the songs sounded distant.  we did not see them, but  stay tuned for the reports from day 3…

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great barrier reef, part 2

continuing day 1 of the dive trip… after the first two dives at ‘petaj’, we stayed on milln reef, but moved to a site called ‘the whale’ (the top of the main bommie sits just under the surface, disturbing the water in a way that looks much like a whale rolling and blowing).  the sun was warm, the breeze steady, and we mostly dried out between dives; the constant prune-fingers and dreadlock-style hair would not set in permanently until day 2.  from the surface, the water was a crystal blue-green and we could easily see the sandy bottom, punctuated by bommies of all heights and sizes.  large fish (mostly trevally) gathered under the boat while it was moored, and an impressive maori/humphead wrasse idled nearby, inspecting most divers as they entered the water.  on the afternoon dives, we also saw huge moray eels (and a large grouper startled by the same) and our first turtle (a green), as well as trumpetfish, moorish idols, puffers, fields of blunt coral fists, and many different kinds of fish that glowed galaxy-like with iridescent stars.

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great barrier reef, part 1

last tuesday, a life-long dream came true — we flew to cairns to begin our trip to the great barrier reef.  the time in the gold coast was great, and full of lovely things to see and do, but on tuesday i could not sit still.  the pebbles probably got tired of my chanting ‘want to go to cairns’ over and over, but he hid it remarkably well.  we departed brisbane mid-afternoon, flew toward a deep red sunset, and landed with the high hills surrounding cairns just barely visible against the twilit sky.  there was just time for a quick dinner and re-pack of our bags before early bedtime, in preparation for our 6.10am pick-up in the morning.

too excited to sleep well, i dozed fitfully and kept checking the clock to see whether it was time to go yet.  the alarm finally sanctioned our wakefulness, and we arose, threw our gear into the shuttle, checked in at the dive shop, and finally climbed aboard our home for the next three days.  the boat was designed specifically for diving, with the aft deck designated a wet area and lined with benches for tank/bcd assembly and general dive preparation.  32 passengers — a full roster — were on board, including us and a pair of similarly marine-enthusiastic friends from auckland, about 20 american teenagers on some kind of extended wilderness team-building trip, and assorted australians, kiwis and europeans.  we received our first briefing and our ‘safety numbers’ (numeric roll-call to ensure that no one was accidentally left behind anywhere along the way), and made our rollicking, pitching, rolling way out to the first dive site.  i don’t think anyone was actually sick but it wouldn’t have surprised me.  luckily, once we pulled up over milln reef (tethered to sets of permanent blocks in the sand to prevent repetitive anchor-damage), the swell broke over the seaward edge of the reef and left us in relative calm.

we received our first site briefing from divemaster oscar (originally from dunedin) — a detailed map of the area and suggested compass headings indicated the best route to follow for this dive, what landmarks to look out for along the way and what animals we might see, where — and then it was time to get wet.

the photos that follow are from the first dive.  by way of quality-disclaimer, i will confess that we bought the cheapest digital camera/housing combo available (about nz $250) since we had to have something but didn’t really have the budget for fancy gear at the time.  the camera has no zoom, six whole buttons (two unlabeled), and  a physical switch on the side for ‘macro’ (focal length 65–130cm!!) or ‘landscape’ (>1.3m) settings, which is not accessible through the housing, so you have to choose before the dive which you want this time around.  however, it records images at 9mp, takes both video and still shots, and all in all, didn’t do that bad a job.  given its limitations, i pretty much shot everything i saw (>1000 photos), hoping that a few would turn out.  and here are the first results.

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we just got back from a stunning weekend in dunedin, but before i launch into those pics, i should probably finish up with the poor knights. our little camera obviously isn't going to be used in any high-tech underwater filming any time soon, but it does convey some of the marine magic a little better than the still shots do.

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poor knights – the fush

and now, back to your regularly scheduled undersea program. because there are heaps of photos, i thought i'd divide them up along biological lines, and start with the cool spineless stuff we saw.

i know i already posted a photo of that nudi… but this is a slightly different photo.  and it was so cool!

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poor knights again

over the weekend, we went back to the poor knights islands for some stellar diving.  i was last there about ten months ago (pics here and here) and was eager to return with the pebbles, hoping to take him through the amazing northern arch.  as it turned out, conditions were wrong for that site but pretty much perfect for the two sites we did dive.  the water was about 21 degrees C (i almost never finish a dive feeling anything but freezing; didn’t even notice the temp on these two), the visibility about 20 meters.

our first dive was in the channel between the two largest islands, and we started on a wall that was essentially vertical down to the sandy bottom (around 20 meters).  here i saw my first Tambja nudibranchs.

from the wall, we followed a horseshoe-shaped reef around to ‘boom-boom cave,’ which was an incredible experience.  we had been warned about it in advance, luckily – a blow-hole-type cave but with no outlet for the air/surf, so that when the waves came pounding in, the trapped air under the ceiling (and within our bodies) was rapidly and forcefully compressed, with an accompanying boom.  we felt the pressure change (about every ten seconds) through every bone in our bodies, reverberating inside our skulls and ribcages and making the small airspaces inside our ears vibrate (which eventually drove us out).  the cave floor was about 10m deep, the walls maybe 7m apart and the depth of the cave was about 20m in total.  it got dark fairly quickly but we made it about halfway in, and discovered some large blue moki, before our ears entreated us to return to a less violent spot.

our second dive was in a site we’d done on our very first trip to the poor knights, blue maomao arch.  we anchored across labrid channel from the arch and snorkelled over to drop down at the arch mouth.  entrance to the arch is gained (optionally) by swimming under a massive slanted boulder; you emerge into the deep sapphire twilight of a passage about 20m wide and 15m deep, with a few shafts of sunlight piercing the arch walls.

the walls of the arch are spattered with rainbow-colored epifauna.

and the feature for which the arch was named is a resident school of perhaps 50,000 blue maomao, who hang along the inland wall about halfway through.

over the next few days i’ll post more pics!

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more dive pretties

on saturday we dived the mokohinau islands.  it was a gorgeous day in spite of the choppy ride out and chilly 16 degree water, and we saw many good things!


Undersea pebblesNice colorsKina

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it’s dive season again

i went for the first dive of the summer yesterday – finishing a rescue diving course, we did some open-water rescue scenarios at tawharanui.  and afterward there was time for a little underwater sightseeing.  :)

Squid eggsEncrusting stuffCrevice

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