Before the I.C.S – The Great Barrier Reef!


img_3989-x3When I began planning to attend this years International Congress of Speleology in Australia (Nearly four years ago) , one of the thoughts for-most on my mind was here was my chance to visit the Barrier reef. I did some quick research and found out that most visitors to the Barrier reef set out from Cairns. Once the field trips for the I.C.S were posted I noted that there was a pre-congress trip to the caves near Chillagoe which would depart from Cairns. This seemed like a perfect opportunity.  With some suggestions from the organizer of the caving trips, Paul, I began choosing a dive outfit for the trip. I ended up choosing Pro-dive and this in turn was an excellent fit. I booked a 3 day trip aboard one of their live aboard dive boats which included 11 dives. Then I anxiously awaited my departure day.

My adventure began with the airline cancelling  my flight out of LAX. I nearly panicked when they informed me they wanted people to wait in motels or go home and they would notify them when they would be re-scheduled. I explained that I had a scheduled trip on a boat that couldn’t be rescheduled and they said they would see what they could do. Eight hours later I was scheduled on a flight to New Zealand and thanks to a much shorter layover in Auckland then the one I was originally scheduled for in Manila I arrived in Cairns just a couple hours later than originally scheduled. Sadly my luggage didn’t do so well and I was informed it was still in L.A. The folks at the pro-dive shop were very helpful in setting me up with some extra gear and I did a little shopping for clothes so I was all set to head out on the boat the next morning.

 

 

 

 

(while shopping I spotted Dead-Pool hanging out by the local mall?)

After dragging myself out of bed at what seemed a crazily early time I was met by a van that drove us first to the dive shop and then out to the boat. On board I was pleased to find two other cavers from the U.S.A were aboard, Kim from Maryland and George from West Virginia. We had a few hours ride out to the reef so we were able to grab coffee and a little breakfast as we sailed. It was a little rough heading out so the crew offered sea sickness meds which they encouraged people to take as a precaution. I declined and did just fine, though I noted a few passengers who were looking a little green by the time we reached our first dive site. Once the boat was secured to the permanent anchor points set up to protect the reef things calmed down considerably and soon everyone was readying to get in the water.

 

 

img_6036-x3

After a dive briefing about what to expect in the area, what depths and when we were expected back on the boat we began diving the reef. We started at Petaj Bommie, part of Milln reef. I did the first dive without a camera since I wanted to focus on the dive and not a rental camera I wasn’t familiar with, but there was so much to see, I knew I needed to bring the camera along on my subsequent dives. I did find a lost snorkel someone had dropped near the anchor point- looked like it had been there awhile.

img_3988-x2

The boat crew kept us on a busy schedule- dive, eat, dive, eat etc. and the food was exceptional. Of course nothing works up an appetite like spending time in the water but really the food was great. The crew was also great- high energy and very positive as well as very knowledgeable about the sites we were diving which was very helpful.

 

After the first two dives we dove on to Flynn reef where we dove Tracy, ski slope, tennis court Gordon’s Mooring, little Tracy’s reef and Coral Garden. Over the next three days we did 11 dives including 2 night dives. It was a busy and tiring schedule but very rewarding getting up early for the sunrise dive on the last day was especially tough but seeing the reef come alive as the sun rose made it very worthwhile.

A highlight of the trip was after one of the dives when someone spotted a Minke whale. Many of us were able to jump back in and watch underwater as the whale circled the boat a few times to see what we were up to.

img_4538-x3

A big thanks to the crew for making it such a memorable trip and proving us with some wonderful memories.

img_4688-x3

You can see all the pictures I took at https://captnemo.smugmug.com/Places/Australia/Barrier-Reef/ (including the bump headed parrot fishes grouped together for the night pretending to be a coral bommie)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Heading back to Anacapa


 

Urchins

After the previous days Whale watching trip I was a little worried that the ocean conditions would be less then ideal for diving. The weather was warm and sunny but there was still enough wind that the waves were choppy crossing the channel. Several people were looking rather green by the time the dive boat found a suitable sheltered spot to anchor. Everyone manged to stay in good spirits though and the diving was a lot of fun. I was enjoying the warm temps(57F that’s approx. 13C) since its considerably warmer then Monterey or salt point were the last time I dove those water temps were 51 to 52F. Some people said they were cold anyway but I presume they were used to tropical waters.

Garibaldi

We were greeted with the usual critters, Garibaldi, sea hares, anemones, urchins various rock fish and numerous fish darting in and out of the kelp. Due to the conditions we stayed anchored in relatively shallow waters so I didn’t see any of the large sheepshead fish and groupers I’ve spotted on other trips.

chiton and purple urchins

Fish amongst the kelp

Sand dab

Sadly there appears to be a lot more of the Invasive species that are preventing the normal kelp forests from growing as abundantly as it usually does and which hides the rocky bottom where so many interesting critters live. I also noticed a lot more brittle stars then I have in previous years.

sea hare

 

brittle stars

After the first couple of dives we enjoyed a delicious lunch back on the boat and a short rest before the final dive of the day. this time I spotted some tube anemones and had to stop and take pictures.

Tube anemones

 

All to soon it was time to head back after a final stop to say bye to the dolphins jumping in the channel. We arrived back to Ventura where I loaded the motorcycle up for the ride home.

Thar She blows!


img_5480-x2

When the local Bakersfield Scuba club was kind enough to schedule an outing during my Spring break from classes I felt I just had to go. After I had signed up I mentioned to a co-worker I’d head down after work Friday and spend the night on the boat, she pointed out the office would be closed for good Friday. I decided to head to Ventura early and signed up for a whale watching trip with IslandPackers the company that  also provides trips out to the Channel Islands. After a leisurely start I headed out Friday morning and spotted these California poppies growing way up on this hillside while stopped for gas.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I still made in to Ventura well before lunch time and my 1PM departure time so I stopped and got some lunch then wandered around the shops in the harbor and took a few pictures of the sea lions that were playing amidst the boat docks, also a few sea birds and the pelicans diving into the harbor img_5492-l  kept me entertained.

img_5550-mimg_5513-m

It wasn’t long till it was time to board the Island Explorer and head off in search of whales.

Turned out the seas were a little choppy and folks who opted to stand out along the bow rail got wet as we crossed the deep part of the channel.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA We slowed for awhile when a Fin whale was reported to be off the port side but I never spotted it. We then continued around Anacapa Island and along the more sheltered side we spotted several grey whales. First sighting I had for the day was a big tail fluke sticking straight out of the water :)

img_5681-x2 It wasn’t long though till we also saw the spouts of water being blown in the air from several other whales coming up to the surface.

img_5790-x2

All to soon it was time to head back to port. We got to pause and admire the numerous dolphins that swim near the islands on our way though.

img_5663-xl They really do seem to enjoy seeing who can ‘surf’ the waves coming of the boats the furthest as we go by.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Arriving back in port I still had a couple of hours to kill till the Spectre was due to be at the dock so I decided to wander down to the little dive shop in the harbor and then go get some dinner. At the shop I was lucky enough to run into some folks who had come down from Bakersfield for the trip and we all decided to head over to Brophy Bro’s seafood restaurant for dinner. It being a holiday weekend and a Friday night there was a long wait for a table or even a spot at the bar but we weren’t in any rush and I’m sure the food tasted even better after our wait. After a very enjoyable dinner we wandered over to the dock found the boat waiting for us and a few divers already aboard. A couple of us stayed up on deck late telling sea tales and then it was time to hit the rack and rest up for diving, but I’ll leave that part for my next post.