Monday, June 14, 2010

Blue World Team entry #2 from Queensland, Australia – June 15, 2010

Well the JBBW team is back in Cairns having just returned from four days aboard the Spoilsport, the 100’ well appointed dive boat belonging to Mike Ball Dive Expeditions. Although it didn’t turn out exactly as we’d planned, our liveaboard experience was wonderful and we have several hours of footage to add to the Blue World segment library.

We boarded the Spoilsport on the evening of Thursday, June 10th where we were welcomed with champagne cocktails and snacks by our crew of 12. We got our cabin assignments, unpacked our dive gear and settled in for the night and our short crossing to the Ribbon Reef.

Each day onboard had generally the same schedule which began at 6:45 AM with a cheerful call of ‘Wakey, wakey” from Trip Director Kerrin. This was followed by a light breakfast and an early 7:15 AM dive. Then came the full breakfast, open dive deck which usually meant two dives, lunch, two more dives, a night dive and finally dinner. All in all you can get in 4-5 dives a day. The crew is outstanding and run an open dive deck, meaning you can get in an out of the water at will (following all the safe and proper diving procedures of course). Diving is done directly from the dive deck and the crew set up ample ropes to guide divers to and from the various sites.

Our three days of diving offered us 14 dives that covered the Great Barrier Reef from Steve’s Bommie on Ribbon Reef #3, to Stepping Stones on Ribbon Reef #10. The currents were light and our visibility averaged about 40’. Our trip was to have included a crossing out to Osprey Reef in the Coral Sea, but unfortunately this had to be cancelled due to 30 knot winds and 15’ seas.

On all of our dives on the Great Barrier Reef we saw massive ‘bommies’ (coral heads), beautiful reef topography, a wide variety of reef fish and had plenty of marine life to interact with. One of our highlights was at Lighthouse Bommie where we first encountered Olive Sea Snakes. We met some of the most cooperative sea snakes possible all destined for a job in television. Jonathan shot some fascinating footage of these snakes hunting in and around coral heads and rocks and got to interact quite closely with them.

Another highlight were the Giant Potato Cods at Cod Hole. At one point in time, the cod here were fed regularly by all the dive boats. This practice has recently been generally curtailed, but divers still benefit from how familiar the cod are with divers. The cod will generally swim right over as soon as they see you and indeed Jonathan and one of the largest Potato Cod became quite close. If it were possible, Jonathan’s children would now have a new, 6 foot long, pet cod. By the way, the cod are called ‘Potato Cod’ due to their uncanny resemblance to large gray potatoes. They are actually large groupers.

Other highlights included large schools of Big Eye Jacks and Yellow Striped Snapper, truly giant clams, very personable Green Turtles, white tipped and gray reef sharks and a surprising encounter with Tawny Reef Sharks which showed up one night while we were moored just outside of Lizard Island. Jonathan managed to get some good shots of these by dropping his camera over the side of the dive deck.

The only disappointment for us was that we didn’t get any personal encounters with Minke Whales. Minkes were high on our shot list and although several other divers onboard did get to see at least one or two, however briefly, we didn’t get a glimpse. We are here at the very beginning of the season, so advice to those of you that have high hopes of Minke encounters, you may want to wait until the season is in full swing in July and August. Thankfully the sea snakes, cod, and large schools of fish rounded out our shot list nicely.

The last night onboard was spent moored just off of Lizard Island. The crew threw a lovely Australian barbeque and a great time was had by all. The next day delivered quite a treat as our return trip to Cairns was via a low flying, single prop airplane from Lizard Island. This is part of the standard 4-day dive package for Mike Ball Dive expeditions. The flight took us over long strips of the Great Barrier Reef and we got to appreciate the vastness and beauty of it all. We were able to get some good shots of the reef during the flight.

Next we go back to Brisbane to dive the Gold Coast. We can’t wait to see what we’ll find there.

~ Julia


Unknown said...

Hope you guys are having lots of fun. Can't wait to see more pictures

Unknown said...

I know the trip is for work. Good to see new places and try different things. It will be fun for Blue World to take us there.