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.

 

 

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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.

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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.

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

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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)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Traveling through Nevada



Traveling in Nevada

My apologies for the lack of posts as late. My excuse as before is I’ve been busy with coursework as I near the completion of my degree. Hopefully the hard parts are over and I’ll have a little more time to post before I begin job seeking in earnest. Meanwhile I’m completing some posts from last year. Leaving the NSS convention in ELY we planned on driving over to Henderson Nevada and seeing Hoover dam. I however messed up the hotel reservations so instead we headed South to Needles, California which gave us an opportunity to see southern Nevada.


Cactus

The landscape here was definitely more arid then the previous part of our journey and afforded some great cactus sighting as we traveled along.

 

We stopped at the Ludlow Cafe for lunch the next day.img_2065-x2

and I spotted a film crew hard at work on an indie film “Thrasher Road”

https://www.facebook.com/thrasherroad/

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Then it was back on the long road back to Bakersfield.

 

Whitney Portal


I decided to head out this weekend on the motorcycle and escape the heat here in Bakersfield. In hindsight maybe heading into the desert wasn’t the best choice for this but overall it worked out very well. Early morning riding past Tehachapi was nice and cool and it wasn’t till I neared Mojave that the smoke from nearby forest fires clouded the air.

I continued North up through Red rock Canyon and soon I was riding in clean cool air again though as the sun beat down it was getting noticeably warmer. By midday it was becoming hot so I was glad to take a ride up Whitney Portal road. This very steep road soon had me up at cooler climes and I was able to relax near a stream for awhile. I had intended to pop into the portal shop for a bite to eat but there was a considerable crowd up by the trail head/ parking area so I decided to make my way down back towards 395 instead. Progressing along the interstate it wasn’t long before I realized  a. it was pretty darn hot out and b. the air quality was significantly worsening as more smoke flowed out of the forest fires.  The smoggy skies did make for an impressive sunset as I passed back through Red Rock Canyon so I stopped for a few pictures and as I headed towards Mojave a gusty wind started blowing which while it made riding a little uncomfortable did cool things off.

450 miles later I was home, a very enjoyable outing.

See the rest of the pictures HERE

Thar She blows!


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Weekend BBQ at Cave City


Coulterville

Coulterville

I wouldn’t normally drive nearly 300 miles for a BBQ but when the opportunity includes a chance to catch up with some caving friends I haven’t seen in a while and do some sightseeing well why not?

I loaded the motorcycle and headed north. I took the scenic route, winding my way through the foothills. I finally stopped at Coulterville for a break and a cold drink. I walked around the Historic Hotel Jefferey took a look at the old steam train and various gold rush era things on display. Finally I told the Duke at the Emporium farewell and headed on to lake Camanche to set up camp for the night. It was a busy summer weekend and this is a popular spot so I was not alone but at least I’d be back on the road before the big crowds arrived.

mining equipment

mining equipment

Emporium

Emporium

Camp for the night

Camp for the night

Lake Camanche, water levels looking pretty low.

Lake Camanche, water levels looking pretty low.

I awoke in the morning and turned on my cell phone, figured I’d check my messages before heading back into the hills where I wouldn’t have signal. Just then my phone rang! It was Ric checking to see if I was coming to the BBQ. I told him I’d see him up there in a couple of hours and after a stop at Valley Springs for coffee and supplies I made my leisurely way on through San Andreas and on to Cave City.  Ric arrived a little after I did and it turned out we were the only ones to arrive early. That was OK though as we had plenty of time to catch up and see that the cave tours were doing plenty of business. We wandered over to the gift shop and reminisced about how we’d watched it being built and slowly transformed over the years. They now have a video viewing area and a full bear skeleton on display. We also spotted a couple of deer behind the gift shop.

gathering for the BBQ

gathering for the BBQ

It wasn’t long before others began arriving and slowly we started organizing the lighting of the grills so that dinner could begin.

Matt was doing some last minute prep on his pitch for the Convention in Ely next year and showed us a new promo video he put together which really looked great. I’m looking forward to attending.

Matt making last minute edits

Matt making last minute edits

Deer behind the gift shop

Deer behind the gift shop

Climbing practice

Climbing practice

After dinner in addition to Matt’s video, Dave gave a great slide show on some of his recent cave trips including the Bonne Terre lead mine in Missouri which is on my list of place I’d like to dive someday. After his great slide show there were some enterprising folks who made a squeeze box/obstacle course out of Rons ladder.

Hold your beer or lose your pants, decisions, decisions.

Hold your beer or lose your pants, decisions, decisions.

All to soon it was over. After a good nights sleep in my tent it was back on the road for the long drive home.

Another great weekend in the MotherLode