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Australia - Great Barrier Reef - December 3rd-11th
georoc01 - 12/12/2007 12:44 PM
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Category: Personal
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Australia - Great Barrier Reef - December 3rd-11thAustralia - Great Barrier Reef - December 3rd-11th, 2007 SingleDivers.Com trip to the Great Barrier Reef. We all met up in Cairns the night before. They bussed us over to the Explorer Ventures office where we dropped our extra bags before heading out for a low level flight up to Cooktown. Each person`s gear was weighed to make sure that the overall group averaged 44 lbs. After we met this requirement we took the 45 minute flight split into two planes. One a six seater, the other holding 18. It gave us a view of the reef as well as the tropical rainforest that makes up the Northeast Portion of the state of Queensland. The airport in Cooktown is the smallest I have ever flown into. Even smaller than the one in Dickinson, ND, where they use a Ford Ranger to transport the bags between the plane and the terminal building and a tractor with a pump for fuel just in case. Here we didn`t even have a tractor. They used hand carts to pull the bags from the tarmac to the busses and back. The terminal building was about the size of a very small post office. They did have a single stall bathroom and a soda machine. Once the busses were loaded we took the ride to the boat. We were early so they dropped us off at the local pub and grocery store to purchase personal provisions such as carrots and macadamia nuts. Of course, one of the things we discovered in the EV office was that seafood wasn`t served on the boat. Shawn Abbot offered to purchase prawns and lobster for the group if the cook agreed to cook it. Which she did and made for a side stop and added to the quality of the food on the voyage, which overall was quite good. It was definitely British styles, with sautéed mushrooms, soft boiled eggs, etc for breakfast. There was also unlimited beer and wine served on the boat for us Americans. And as such a special alcohol run was made even at sea to ensure we wouldn`t run out. And this after the engineer had made significant additions to the stores prior to leaving Cooktown. We then took the walk down from the pub to the boat, passing some Wallabies on the way. Just another reminder that we were in Australia. We were then introduced to the crew. Trent was our captain, born and raised in Western Australia where Kangaroo is the meat of choice. Shawn was our engineer. An Australian raised in New Guinea, he had a braided beard that made him look like an extra out of Pirates of the Caribbean (and in a previous life, was a real pirate). Anna Marie was our German cook, who prepared all the meals including the above prawns. Dauphine was our cabin hostess from France, and graced us in the water like a mermaid. Last but not least, Dan and Ben were our Dive Instructors who managed the back deck of the Nimrod. They had the responsibility of trying to keep us all in line. They also served the vegemite punishments when we had too many demerits. The Nimrod Explorer we had maxed out with 18 passenger’s total. 10 women and 8 men. The boat was originally a marine biologist`s research vessel who was the son of a wealthy Australian. However, the back deck was expanded to give us space to set up and break down our gear. We had six cabins, three quads and three double rooms. Then there was a main room that served as our dining area off the kitchen. Starting the following day, we began into a typical day which went as the following. 6:30am early breakfast (porridge, toast, fruit, and cereal) and dive briefing 7:00 Dive 1 8:30 hot breakfast (eggs, pancakes etc) 9:30 Dive 2 11:30 Lunch 1:00pm Dive 3 3:00pm snack 4:00 Dive 4 5:30 Dinner 7:00 Night Dive 8:30 Dessert So basically it was sleep, eat & dive. A total of 26 dives were offered. We did have a couple of divers make every one. (Susie and Eric were the iron men of this boat!) We did the night dives at the same location as Dive 4. This way we were at least somewhat familiar with the dive site prior to the dive. A typical dive was to a max of 100 feet and 70 minutes. The night dives were held to 60 feet and 50 minutes Day 1 - Ribbon Reefs 9 & 10 After motoring all night from Cooktown we arrived at Reefs 9 & 10 Dive 1 - Pixie`s Pinnacle Dive 2 - The Lighthouse Dive 3 - Cod Hole Dives 4 & 5 - Coramount Reef - Leave for Osprey Reef Day 2 - Osprey Reef Day 1 Dive 1 & 2 Raging Horn - Two Drift Dives Dive 3 - Silver City Dive 4 & 5 Admiralty Cave Day 3 - Osprey Reef Day 2 Dive 1 - North Horn - North Wall Dive 2 - Shark Attack! Dive 3 - North Horn - West Wall Dive 4 & 5 - False Entrance Day 4 - Osprey Reef Day 3 Dive 1 - The Gap Dive 2 - The Castle Dive 3 & 4 Rapid Horn No Night Dive - Leave Osprey Reef Day 5 - Ribbon Reefs 4 & 5 Dive 1 - Cancelled due to strong currents Dive 2 - Andy`s Postcard Dive 3 - Jayanem`s Wall Dive 4 & 5 - Steve`s Bommie Day 6 - Ribbon Reef 3 Dive 1 - Wishful Wall Drift Dives 2 & 3 Flare Point Leave for Cairns All of the dive sites were impressive for the diversity of the marine life in the Great Barrier Reef. A few dives really stand out to me. One was the Pinnacle dives (Pixie`s Pinnacle, Lighthouse, Andy`s Postcard, Steve`s Bommie). These dives were basically cylinders or cones coming up from 100` to about 15 feet at the top. They contained a wide and large diversity of marine life, starting with sharks and snakes at the bottom to large amounts of small creatures like a little clownfish at the top of Steve`s Bommie. Those dives in particular had large amounts of fish, including rockfish and beautiful lionfish. Another dive that stood out was Cod Hole. The potato cod and this dive site are very large creatures, running 5-6 feet long and weighing up to 400 lbs. They are also very friendly and would follow you around. They are a unique sight to see. And then there was shark attack. Basically there is an amphitheater around a bommie where the crew lowered down a milk crate full of chum and let the marine life go at it for about 30 minutes. First the silver tip sharks come take their shot, then the white tips, and finally the black tips. Mix in a large potato cod that felt like he was the king of the bommie and certainly got his fill when fish started coming out of the box. Then the smaller fish and when the box hit the surface of the bommie, the 5-6 foot moray eels took their fill. It was a surreal dive that Wildcard was nice enough to video for us. Hopefully we can get it up on a website for everyone to see soon. For me personally, the other thing was working on my breathing and buoyancy skills underwater. The first dives I was lasting about 30 minutes max. By the end, I could extend it out to 40-50 minutes, completing dives. Kamala was a big help with this, serving as my dive buddy for over 1/2 of the dives. Mark was nice enough to put up with me on the others. Other than a few dives in Cozumel, this was both the largest number, and longest dives I have ever done, especially when compared to the diving I had done training in Colorado and New Mexico. I thank you both.