Monday, March 09, 2009

Dive Number 5, The Channel, Goat Island Bay

We haven't been diving for a month. Where does the time go? Rain has been falling and wind blowing for the last two weeks - but a month? The forecast today is somewhat challenging for a small boat to make it around Cape Rodney, so we’ve decided to do the dreaded shore dive. It's not shore diving per se that were against, but rather the trudging of dive gear from the car; parking the car; and the sand that will inevitably infiltrate every crease of clothing, gear and skin. In two, or maybe 3, words, we’re fussy! As we heave our tanks onto our backs, the glass bottom boat skipper tells us, "it's horrible there." Encouraging. He explains,” the water's black.’ On most summer days, and every weekend, the glass bottom boat takes dozens of people for a journey through the reserve. They alight the boat full of anticipation, and disembark chattering about all the fish they’ve seen and the water clarity. He’s decided to forego any income and NOT take passengers out today. Nobody likes disappointment.

Sensible – they’ll see nothing. Ominous – we’ll see nothing.

We HAVE to get in the water, we’ve come too far to repack the car with dry gear. The water is darker than tea. Tannins have leeched from the copious seaweed that lies tangled along the beach. Further evidence of the last weeks’ storms. The seaweed is up to 40 cm thick in places and very spongy underfoot.

Of course, the glass bottom boat skipper is right. We can’t see anything. Not a thing. Not even each other. It’s diving by Braille. We optimistically head out into the Bay - side-by-side and holding hands. Nothing romantic, just self preservation you understand. If we lose contact we will almost certainly not find each other again, especially underwater. The water does eventually clear and we head out to sea through the channel where the visibility is drastically improved. It’s now a consistent two metres, even three in places. No need to hold hands now – besides Darryl is keen to try to salvage some pictures out of this dive. And he needs two hands to do that.

We stumble across a couple of eagle rays that scamper away quickly into the doom and a school of parore sweep past. All kinds of shells and small animals are scavenging amongst the rubble and kelp. Some, like tiny nudibranches are struggling to hold on. Nevertheless they seem to be on patrol – they are scattered all over the seafloor. Darryl hasn’t even noticed the little stuff. I’ve never seen quite so many clown nudibranches at Goat Island Bay, and wish I had a macro camera. In fact, I wish I had my own housing and camera. I do, but it shoots film and we don’t shoot film anymore! Darryl, predictably, has a wide angle lens on his camera. I notice that Darryl is attracting a collection of snapper . Six pretty mature fish are following behind him as dutifully as I am. I’m sure they are not as dependent on his navigational skills as I. Silently, I muse whether this is pure animal magnetism or just his funky split fins. ( I don’t have a pair of those either!)

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