May 14 2011

5 days, 7 dives

Tag: Australia,diving,fun activity,Justin,route,scuba diving,wild lifeJonathon Haradon @ 1:07 pm
Our first three dives were off Bait Reef, 30 miles from the Airlie Beach, on the outer section of the Great Barrier Reef. Here the water was clearer than near shore. Bait Reef stays entirely under water. Our first dive was at night, a disconcertingly amazing experience. Never really knowing where you are, or what is just outside the beam of your torch is eerie. We were surrounded by a school of 3 to 5 foot long tuna. They would dart into the light and just as quick burst away. They would playfully dart into the light, come right up next to you, and then quickly burst away and after five feet they would be out of the light. Second up was a wall dive. A sheer vertical wall took us down to 90 feet; Justin sunk to 100. From there we meandered and drifted along the wall, slowly making our way shallower and through gullies and overhangs and swim throughs. Third was a shallower dive around what are called the Stepping Stones, seven pillars that vertically rise from 15 meters up to within 1 meter of the surface. We then had to unfortunately leave Bait Reef without visiting nearby reefs, as a front moved in bringing with it 25 -30 knot winds. The winds whipped the water across the reef and made for a terrible place to hang out. Bobbing and swaying, we labored to get the dinghy out of the water and make for calmer anchorages. At Hook Island, we dove the Western tip of Butterfly Bay, an enjoyable outing, where Justin spied a small shark. We then dove on the eastern side of Manta Ray Bay, unfortunately spying no Manta Rays. The season for them is May through September, but we haven’t been lucky enough to catch a glimpse of one yet. The west side of Pinnacle Bay was next, adjacent to a rock-cliff named the wood pile that begs to be the site of some cliff diving and which I spent an afternoon scrambling and doing a little climbing on. An awesome 10 foot roof crack juts out over the water; a better climber than me would love having a go at it. I just admired it and wished I was a better climber. This dive was a bit disappointing with respect to fish, coral and visibility, given it’s hype in various guidebooks. It did have, however, some fantastic coral formations, huge overhangs, deep slots to swim through and a couple of tunnels. I spied one tiny tunnel with a sliver of light coming through it. I motioned for Justin to come check it out and jokingly hand signaled for him to swim up it. To my surprise, he took me up on it and started to gingerly make his way through. Soon, his fins had kicked up a cloud of dirt as he angled up and through. I ascended along the coral watching bubbles filter up through what seemed to be an impenetrable mass of coral. Justin was nowhere in sight. I then crested over a hump of coral and there was Justin, his upper body poking out of the end of the tunnel, as he gingerly twisted and squeezed through the last, tightest spot. Finally, we dove the eastern side of Pinnacle Bay, around the Pinnacles. This dive, combined with the previous one, are supposed to be the best in the main islands of the Whitsundays. On both, as in most dives in Australia, I continue to be disappointed in the visibility. Live coral was also not particularly present on this dive, but formations within the coral were. High narrow slots abounded, two in particular were reminiscent of the slot canyons of Utah, 8 feet wide, 25 feet high slices through the coral made for fun exploring. Another big highlight was seeing the 6 foot long turtle. I immediately thought of Finding Nemo as it glided along in the current. I saw a Moray Eel, a disgusting looking creature. And I nearly had to adapt a fish; an angel fish, sometimes accompanied with his three friends, swam within 10 feet behind and around me for over 20 minutes of our dive. Huge thanks to Brian on Furthur who has been filling our tanks for us. Diving and hanging out with him and Susan has been a great time over the last five days.

Apr 19 2011

ex-HMAS Brisbane

Tag: Australia,diving,fun activity,Justin,pictures,scuba divingJonathon Haradon @ 12:41 am
This post pertains to events that happened June 9th.

Justin and I went diving on a wreck called the ex-HMAS Brisbane just outside of Mooloolaba. ‘Ex’ because she’s sunk. HMAS is her Her Majesty’s Australian Ship. Justin was our dive master for the trip based on his getting certified more recently, three years ago, than I, fifteen years ago. He also paid for the permit and listed himself as dive master. He also has a dive computer. I have yet to figure out how mine work.

The ex-HMAS is quite possibly the best first wreck dive you could do. It was purposely sunk to create a reef and a dive site. Large panels were cut through the sides to allow easy access all throughout the ship’s interior. Justin was hesitant before diving about going through the interior; going inside a real wreck can be a serious endeavor. Once we were down though, and right next to the eight foot wide cut-outs, I found it irresistible to not meander through and motioned that intent. What a cool experience.

We almost were unable to do the dive, rough seas gave us fits as Justin tried to motor up to the mooring while I tried to snag the mooring with the boat hook. At one point, we had to execute a boat hook overboard, when I had snagged the mooring but was unable to hold on as the waves pushed us away. The boat hook was ripped from my hands. Justin did a few circles around the hook before finally closing in. We retrieved the hook and managed to secure up. And glad we were because it turned out to be a fantastic dive.

Here are a few pictures.

Oct 10 2010

Diving in Fiji

Tag: diving,humorous,route,victoriesJonathon Haradon @ 11:36 pm

(This post refers to events that happened September 21st and 25th)

I had designs to dive on beautiful reefs and coral bommies in Fiji while our guests were here.  Fiji is proclaimed as the soft coral capitol of the world.  I don’t even know the difference between hard coral, soft coral and mean coral but ‘capitol of the world….’ That must be good right? Alas, a broken wrist prevented Allison from being able to dive.  And while we did some great snorkeling, I never motivated to pull out the dive gear to dive while others snorkeled.  I am motivation-less when it comes to diving.  It’s also hard to bring along the dive gear in the dinghy when five other people are in there as well.  Dive gear being bulky and all.

So while I never dove while others were snorkeling above me, or dove down to see beautiful coral, I did do two dives, both alone and to mundane non-beautiful things.

The first dive was just off Octopus Resort on Waya, the day Gary and Anna arrived.  I am willing to bet large sums no one had ever dove my dive site, and so I feel empowered to give it a name. The dive plan was to head straight down to the bottom, a depth of forty-five feet.   Swim with the current along the bottom for sixty feet.  Then shift in one direction perpendicular where you just swam by about 8 feet.  Then swimming parallel to your original track, swim back to where you started.   Due to large amounts of silt, visibility was a mere fifteen feet.  During the quarter of an hour dive I saw no fish. The bottom was flat sand, bereft of any life or even a rock to break the monotony of the bottom.  Completely bereft save one item.  Matt’s snorkel mask.  The one item I was looking for.  This dive site is named Matt’s Mask.  I would not recommend this dive as the major attraction to the dive is no longer there.  I felt compelled to take it with me.  (As an aside, the snorkeling off Octopus Resort is excellent, we were anchored a bit away from it)

The next dive site was located off Navadra Island.  There was actually some particularly nice coral to look at just a little ways away, in predominantly twenty feet of water or less.  Allison was up above snorkeling, so why bother dinking around in twenty feet once I was done with the dive’s purpose?  That purpose being to retrieve our $800 Fortress stern anchor because the line attached to the anchor had chaffed through during the night.  This dive lasted just over five minutes as our GPS point of the anchor location was exactly on.  The dive plan consisted of going down to the bottom at fifty feet.  Visibility was only thirty feet; the water was cloudy here, though near the better snorkeling, visibility seemed improved.  Once at the bottom, dig up the anchor which is excellently embedded in sand, two feet away from the large coral reef which chaffed the line.  This will reduce visibility to six inches, so digging must be done by feel.  And you will not see approaching sharks, which are probably large 25-foot man eating ones.  I don’t know if there were sharks approaching, visibility was six inches, but I assume there were.  None, thankfully, penetrated the six inch visual field.  None, not even tiny reef sharks, actually penetrated the entire visual field of anyone that day during a combined four plus hours of snorkeling.  While my visibility was six inches though, I am sure the man-eaters were approaching rapidly.

Once the anchor is dug up, tie on a line to the anchor and return to the surface.  Job completed.

Another two dives bring my total to an impressive six dives in the last five months.  Seven dives, if you include the pool in Denver where I took the refresher course.  Other things have taken my time, energy, focus, and enjoyment.  Perhaps Australia will bring more regular diving!