|2006/01/22 Diving the Great Barrier Reef in Australia|
π 2006-01-22 13:58 by Merlin in Diving
Day 0 (Tuesday):
After going to the Nimrod office in Cairns to fill out some paperwork and be picked up to go to the boat, we got a scenic flight to Cooktown.
We boarded the boat at 18:00 after visiting Cooktown (where capitain Cook first arrived in Australia, incidently after getting his boat stuck on the great barrier reef :) ).
Our boat has a nice little crew of 6: the skipper, the engineer (who makes sure the engines, electricity, air compressors, and water makers (reverse osmosis from sea water) all work), our cook, our hostess, and two divemasters.
Also, because it's off season right now, as the summer is the rainy and cyclone season, we only had 7 people in the boat and I was able to upgrade to a single room with double bed since it was free and they were happy to make a little extra money. That was a good deal since I was slightly worried about how well I would sleep.
The divemaster gave us a quick breefing on how things were going to happen, and since I signed up for the nitrox course, instead of going to bed early, I got to watch the PADI nitrox DVD before finally crashing a bit after 23:00, for a wakeup at 06:00 (first dive at 07:00).
Diving Day 1 (Wednesday):
It's going to be a tough week, 5 dives a day (including a night dive), but the worst part is that we get fed after every single dive, and pretty good food even :)
A pre-breakfast, 1st dive, a real breakfast, 2nd dive, lunch, 3rd dive, pastry or cake, 4th dive, dinner, 5th/night dive. So much for my plan to get back in shape during my vacation :) (they say that we'll burn it off, but I call BS on that :) )
Anyway, the first 5 dives went fine. The day was busy as I was spending all my free time reading the PADI nitrox course, and taking the lesson review tests.
Incidently, the night dive was the most interesting (usually you don't see as much), as we saw our first turtles and a decent sized shark that came quite close to me.
You can find pictures from those dives here , and below a few daily highlights from the best of directory :
Diving Day 2 (Thursday):
The morning dive site was incredible, multicolored fishes swimming all around you, and nice schools of yellow fishes, as well as a few barracudas (not as nice as the huge schools I saw at Barracuda Point in Malaysia, but that's probably the best spot in the world for that)
By my 3rd dive, I had also finished all the tests and I'm now Nitrox certified (Nitrox means diving with an air mix that contains more oxygen than the regular 21%, in order to decrease the amount of nitrogen that ends up in your blood, and that forces you to shorten your dives if you go too deep for too long). Nitrox is an interesting beast as it helps staying longer under water, but oxygen at higher pressures can also be toxic (not fatally so, but convulsions under water aren't a good thing since you'll most likely drawn in the process). Anyway, I now know the tables that explain when it's safe and beneficial to use higher oxygen content, and I'm certified to dive with Nitrox
You can find pictures from those dives here , and below a few daily highlights from the best of directory , as well as a video of a Giant Morray :
Diving Day 3 (Friday):
Even though I'm not in my own bed, and the temperature on the boat tends to fluctuate between warm and cold, I still had a good 8H of sleep; for some reason diving makes one fairly tired even though it's not strainous exercise
I was happy to have my tools and bare necessities with me again. This time I got saved by the superglue: the bandaid on my left big toe just wasn't sticking, but I did need it to be there since the fins had ripped a piece of skin off. This is where my trusty superglue came to the rescue: glue the bandaid to my skin (always works wonders) :)
Today we did 3 dives, and left early by 15:00 for a 16h 120 nautical mile (138 statute miles / 222 km) trip to the Coral sea, for a way out there reef (Holmes Reef). Man, I can't say I've ever felt sick on a boat, but I'll have to admit that I'm not feeling too fresh right now: I barely touched my dinner as I'm slightly nauseous. 12H of boating and rough see to go... this is going to be an interesting trip and night...
In the meantime, I haven't had great luck writing my talk for LCA in New Zealand, it's hard to focus right now... I'm more thinking about the mythbusters episode where they tested sea sickness remedies, and the evil turning and spinning chair they had to simulate sea movements, as well as how sick it made poor Adam....
And come to think that I can fly 120 nautical miles in 1H instead of 16H by boat :)
Well, in the end the sea and the boat won after about 6 hours: one paperbag overboard, one... I guess, now, I feel a little bit better as a result.
You can find pictures from those dives here , and below a few daily highlights from the best of directory , as well as a video of a The Mario Land looking sea bottom :
Diving Day 4 (Saturday):
Damn were we happy around 07:00 when we finally heard the engine stop. Finally, after 16:00, we had arrived to Holmes Reef. Between you and me, I would have been perfectly happy diving other closer locations of the barrier reef, especially Cod Hole, but that wasn't what this trip was about, so I went along with the boat :)
I started feeling gradually better after the boat stop rocking on 3 axis all the time, and had a light breakfast, but once in the water, it was of course much easier since it didn't rock at all :)
Also, for better or for worse, I've been getting plenty of sleep. I just came back from a 1H nap after an 8H night :)
The dives were nice, especially the school of big eye trevally. It was intereresting the weird swimming patterns they did, like a swirm of bees. One even had a piece of its flank that had been eaten out.
I also got my lip bit by a vicious clown fish that was protecting its anemone instead of hiding in it :)
That said, the highlight of the day had to be diving among sharks, which had been lured with a box of fish lowered in the water. Honestly, I still don't know how much of a bad idea it was. While it was quite interesting and exhilarating to see, it just felt like the danger level was a bit too high for my blood. What made me especially nervous was the much bigger shark that was making long and wide circles around the boat and us, wondering what it should be doing with us. After 20mn under water, I had seen enough and decided to come back up, I saw no reason to tempt fate any longer, and had had my heart beat enough by having 1.5m sharks swim less than 1m away from me.
Well, just after writing this, I went to Dive #4 for the day, which was supposed to be a nice cave dive, looking for holes and connections between them. While we did some of that, we were also escorted by about 10 sharks that kept swimming around us. Even though they were not really of the size that are known for attacking humans (a bit less than 2m), their circling around us, and the "we can take all 4 of you look" just made me quite nervous.
My dive buddy (divers always go by 2 as a backup and for safety), finally got spooked when a shark came out of a cave right behind my head as I was blocking the small hole out. I should have been scared shitless, but I didn't know it was there, so that was just as well. However, at that time, we elected to end the dive and head back for the boat.
Later, I was told that they were just following us as they were hoping for food as they sometimes get fed by humans, but as far as I'm concerned, had any of us happened to have any cut yielding any blood, it would have been really bad news for us.
At that point, I just wasn't really up for the night dive. As I wrote on the board "it's not because you can't see them that they aren't there".
It's true that according to statistics, our odds of being attacked were quite low, but eh, why play negative odds to start with? I'd rather be run over by a bus if no one minds :)
You can find pictures from those dives here , and below a few daily highlights from the best of directory , as well as a few videos
Diving Day 5 (Sunday):
Today was our last 3 dives. The funny thing is because I elected not to go to yesterday's night dive, I'm now one dive short of 75 dives in my logbook, but no biggie :)
The dive were mostly uneventful, but we still saw a few nice things. Thanks to Nitrox, I was able to do the last dive and not worry about depth or nitrogen absorbed: my dive computer said I'd be good to fly 4H before my flights to New Zealand on Monday. This is just as well since I have plans to go fly a small cessna over the great barrier reef before I leave anyway.
You can find pictures from those dives here , and below a few daily highlights from the best of directory , as well as a video showing how quick a Fire Dartfish really is:
All in all, this was quite a good trip, and an interesting experience of leaving 1 week on a small boat, something I had never done (cruise ships don't count as boats as far as I'm concerned :) )