Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Adventures in Oz: Diving the Great Barrier Reef (Part 2 of 6)

Link to Part 1: Cairns

I didn't think I was going to be able to show pictures of our 3-day dive trip because I'm not comfortable enough with the whole diving thing to divide my attention between the equipment and a camera. Lucky for me, some other people did take pictures and pooled them on a photo sharing site.
Husband is in the middle and I'm on the right. First picture of us diving!

The Great Barrier Reef! It's really easy to get lost in the coral. I mean that in both wonder and navigation. Seriously, there is zero frame of reference for direction below the surface.

I was surprised at how much dead area there was, presumably where storms have come in. That said, where things were living, there was a lot of stuff living together.

One of the most entertaining weird colorful things are Christmas Tree Worms:
That picture is from Wikipedia and not in the Great Barrier Reef, but we saw them sprinkled all over the place. If you swoosh a little water at them, the pop inside the coral, so they're kind of fun to play with. Tiny, too. The ones we saw were about the size of a thumb to the first knuckle.

Looking up at the boat
We saw a handful of sharks, but whitetip reef sharks and blacktip reef sharks are not aggressive and are no reason to worry. Husband wanted to go over and hug one, of course, but between my exclamation of "Brblbrlbrrbl!" (regulator in mouth + words carry poorly underwater = lack of auditory communication), underscored by vigorous head shaking, and the shark swimming away, he didn't get the chance to live out that particular dream.
Well, I think his dream is actually to punch a shark, but I made him promise he wouldn't unless it was attacking him first.

Until this trip, I'd kind of thought giant clams were a cartoon device for physical comedy. I didn't think they could actually get big enough to swallow a mini fridge. Pictures don't quite capture the scale, but it was the size of a home appliance.

We saw a few of these blue spotted rays (or possibly a type of skate), too. They're not large, but the spots are iridescent.

Bumphead parrotfish may look goofy, but a group of a dozen or so are a little intimidating because they are the size of a human torso and they move much faster than we do.

There was one dive in which we saw three turtles eating breakfast, and they didn't seem to care how close we got, so we made sure to move slowly (not hard underwater) and didn't stay too long. That was pretty exciting.

The boat for the trip accommodated 30 people at a time, not counting the crew. The two cooks did a fantastic job of keeping us fed when we weren't diving or sleeping and even getting vegetarian food wasn't an issue.

Water, of course, had to be conserved, so after eating we rinsed our dishes in saltwater before returning them to the galley to be washed. The cooks also rinsed the big serving and cooking dishes. At night in particular, the fish in the ocean were very pleased with this decision.

Before each dive there was a briefing on what kind of route to take, what to look for, and the maximum length of time for the upcoming dive so we could keep on schedule (11 dives over 3 days, I can't blame them for wanting to keep everything on time).

There were two night dives offered, we went on one of those. Prior to that dive there was a slightly different briefing, because some things are different at night. For starters, the usual hand signals are pretty much useless, so we had to learn some new signals with a flashlight. Then there was the flashlight etiquette, mostly about not blinding your buddy or the things that might be swimming past you. Although there is a fairly large type of fish (don't remember what kind) that loves night divers because it makes it easier for them to hunt. We were warned not to be too surprised if a big fish suddenly appeared from our blind spot to eat something we had just been looking at. (We didn't see any of those fish.)

For example — and now I'm relating what we were told from memory as accurately as I can — if you shine your light in a turtle's face, it will get stressed. When it is stressed, it will process its air faster and have to go to the surface much sooner (also why you should never try to ride a turtle — you can drown it).

If you shine your light on a shark, it will also get stressed. But it won't go to the surface. It will go toward the source of the problem. This might be cool at first, but at some point you will become very uncomfortable and want it to stop. That is when you should cover your flashlight and count to ten. After ten, take a quick peek with the flashlight and eight out of ten times it will be gone.

Point 1: OMG!
Point 2: I'm not sure I like the odds of 20% of the time a charging shark might still be there. But as long as you don't blind them, you don't have a problem to begin with. I can do that.

Sharks were hanging out around the boat where we got into and out of the water, but they were attracted to the light and not the idea of having a diver snack. They were completely nonaggressive and we didn't see any while we were actually on the dive.

Coming back, of course, Husband was using his flashlight to point out one of those sharks to me and he either wanted to get a closer look or he lost track of where the boat was. I let out another "Brblbrlbrrbl!" and pointed at the ladder. Dive buddy is one thing, Shark Hug buddy is another entirely. I don't mind sharks. In fact, I like sharks and I think they have an overblown bad reputation, but I'm happier when they are at at least a short distance away or not paying attention to me. It isn't my dream to introduce myself to one.

Link to Part 3: Port Douglas and the Road

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