...and other misconceptions I made 08-05-18
2008 May 18

Archive for January, 2011

January 31st 2011
Changing travel plans

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Tropical Cyclone Anthony was causing bad weather and a couple of not-so-pretty days during our boat trip. But that was a tiny little storm. At least that’s the assessment now, given that Tropical Cyclone Yasi is approaching. Right now a category 3 storm, about 300 miles in diameter and about 600 miles away from Cairns. It is expected to make landfall tomorrow as category 4 storm with winds of about 175 miles / 280 km/h – right here in Cairns.

Comments range from “Monster Storm” to “Catastrophe of Epic Proportions” – this storm is bigger and stronger than Katrina was. Coming right at us.

We were booked on a flight tomorrow morning, a few hours before the first stronger winds are supposed to arrive. And as much as I love to trust in science and forecast models, that was a little too close for comfort. So we decided to run away instead and are leaving this afternoon and are spending a night near the Sydney airport instead.

That seemed like a much safer choice.

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January 31st 2011
Map of the dive sites

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For those who are curious, here is a map of the dive sites.

I can’t seem to convince Google to include the labels on the embedded map, so please follow the link above if you want to know where exactly we were diving.

I have added four new posts in last couple of hours… if the last you’ve seen were the underwater / sunset pictures, please look at the older posts as I posted the summary of the first day on board chronologically correctly before the one with the pictures

January 31st 2011
Day Three of the Great Barrier Reef Liveaboard

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This morning started early. Really early. Wake up at 5:45am for the morning dive briefing. The weather had cleared up over night (it actually had been nice already on Sunday evening) and we were all happy to see the sun again.

We were still at our fourth dive site, but swam in a different direction to a new part of the reef. Visibility was really bad, possibly the worst of all dives from a visibility point of view. We saw lots of large fish – I’m not good at identifying fish on a clear day and in this environment I won’t even try, but we saw several fish that were clearly 4-5 ft long and big all around – certainly a couple hundred pounds and more. I had some equalization issues with my right ear so L took over navigation – and at less than 10 ft visibility brought us back exactly to the back of the boat after a 55 minute dive. Very impressive (and this is the guy who claims to have no sense of direction…).

We moved to our fifth and final dive site. Did the briefing where we got compass directions and rough distances and water depths to help us find the way to a beautiful wall. This time it was my turn to navigate. There were three buddy pairs navigating independently and we all ended up swimming around the same area which was beautiful and a really cool dive (tons of fish, beautiful reef formations, etc), but there was no wall and the water depth was less than half of what we were told to expect. We all got very uncertain and in each of the teams at some point the navigator swam up to the surface to get a bearing on the boat. We were clearly in the right spot. Only it wasn’t the right spot.

We got back on the boat after a wonderful 58 minute dive and were asking the instructors. At first they were very defensive. “You guys got lost”. “Of course there’s a beautiful wall, of course it’s 20m deep there”. Etc. But since three buddy pairs insisted that they swam the right direction and there was nothing that looked as they described it, the skipper of the boat geared up to take a look for himself.

We had our snack and shortly thereafter we did the briefing for the third morning dive (the boat has to be back in Cairns by 3:30pm; that’s why the day starts so early and why the three dives are a bit close together). At the beginning of the dive the supervising instructor (who had done the previous briefing) was a lot less defensive and told us what happened. Apparently the huge concrete blocks (or as they call it, the “box”) to which the boat is tied down had been moved two weeks earlier after a storm ripped them lose and as none of the instructors had been to this site since that happened they all forgot about that minor detail. So instead of swimming 120° from the port side box (which gets you into the shallowest part of the reef), one now had to swim 180° from that box.


I felt a lot better about my navigation skills and we did our third dive to the aforementioned wall. Which was indeed very nice and a spectacular site for the last dive. Since the visibility had been bad all morning I didn’t take my camera which turned out to be mistake as it had cleared up a bit and I would have had a chance to take pictures of a real Nemo and a quite a few other reef fish and sea life that we found, but it was just as well, I think this way I enjoyed the dive even more.

After another 58 minute dive we returned to the boat where the crew was already in the middle of preparations to get going. The other passengers who had rented gear dropped that in buckets, L and I went ahead and rinsed our own gear and hung things out to dry on the upper deck. A quick lunch and then everyone went packing to their rooms.

On the way back in we sat in the dining area and talked and I posted the first two reports, this one is now from our hotel in Cairns where we need to stay for 36 hours before it is safe for us to fly given all the scuba diving we have done the last three days.

It was an amazing trip. A few hiccups, not the weather or visibility that we might have wished for and not all dives were perfect. But still, a three day liveaboard is an amazing thing to do and I’m very glad that we went.

We met nice people, had a lot of fun, got some good diving in and didn’t even get sunburned. What else could we ask for.

Oh yeah, I have an idea. We could ask that the second cyclone that’s approaching Cairns right now turns somewhere else and that our flight back to Sydney (and then on to Vancouver, B.C. and finally home to Portland) doesn’t get canceled.

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January 30th 2011
Day Two of the Great Barrier Reef Liveaboard

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Sunday morning the weather was still very windy and rain was falling on and off for most of the day. We changed dive sites again (we tended to do two dives per site and then move the boat).

The morning dive was the Deep Dive of the class. Since everything is rather shallow at the Great Barrier Reef the dive wasn’t all that deep, but it went past what PADI considers the “Open Water Diver limit” of 18m / 60ft. We got down to about 76ft or 23m. In all honesty – I have been much deeper than that a few times already. Which I guess isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. We did some fun exercises (seeing how the pressure just crushes a coke bottle we took with us from the surface and seeing on a color card how red and orange have completely disappeared and yellow is beginning to fade). The rest of the dive was mostly just fun.

After breakfast came the final class, the photography dive. I brought my own camera and used the new underwater case that K2 had given me for Christmas for the first time. I really liked it, but with the bad visibility and a rather annoying current this wasn’t the best day for photography… I already posted some of the better pictures (and my brother gave me some suggestions in email how to do better next time).

After this we did the final paperwork and Taylor and I were certified as Advanced Open Water Divers. Alex and Claire got to take another dive with Masao to work on the missing navigation exercises and the buoyancy exercises they failed the first time. Taylor and I went back to our original buddies and had five more fun dives ahead of us.

The afternoon dive on Sunday was really nice; we saw several more turtles (including a HUGE one – its shell was at least 5ft in diamater). And lots of other fish including a colony of “real Nemo’s” (as in the “Finding Nemo” movie). It was one of three dives on this trip that lasted 58 or 59 minutes (the boat requires you to return with at least 50bar in your tank – after a 3 minute safety stop, but puts a hard one hour limit on all dives).

After dinner we did our second night dive. We were at the same site as we were for the afternoon dive, but sadly didn’t see quite as much sea life. Still, it was a very nice fun dive. Much shorter (as the crew wants you back on the boat after 30 minutes).

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