Feb 092016

Weedy seadragon

I’ve dived Flinders Pier before and regularly but it’s been a while. Looking back through my photo archives, it’s been more than 6 months since the macro lens went on the camera. I think there were probably good macro opportunities in Truk Lagoon but it’s hard to concentrate on little things with great big shipwrecks in front of you. In just three weeks I’m off to the Maldives for two weeks of sharks and tropical waters, with a few hints of small critters. I thought I had better get the macro lens dusted off and back in service.

Pipefish in seagrass

It was a stunning evening at Flinders with the tide creeping in as the sun went down. I disturbed a big stingray as I walked into the water and his surprise appearance set the scene for my encounters on the dive. I spent a few minutes with the first weedy I spotted before leaving him to motor off into the seagrass. The next one was the guy above, much more relaxed and happy to hang around for a portrait. I noticed this eyebrow isopod on him as I downloaded the photos afterwards.

As I was changing angles on him, I spotted a tiny cuttlefish hanging out to the left. He was not in a good spot for a good angle. However he was convinced he was totally camouflaged and didn’t move as I circled around to try and find a shot that would work. From there I moved on to yet another weedy and was just lining him up with a pylon when I realised a piece of grass was in fact the pipefish below. I doubt I would have spotted the pipefish at all if he hadn’t passed across my viewfinder – a nice surprise.

After one more weedy seadragon encounter and after watching a huge school of tiny fish flee through the pylons, I was thinking about heading back to shore. On the way home I was swimming a meter or so above the bottom when a massive octopus swooped under me and engulfed a rock. His tentacles went looking for dinner to flush out into the waiting mouth, with his flared shirts preventing escape. With the rock cluster cleared of dinner, he retracted and scooted over to the next target. I watched him cover half a dozen rocks, half sad that I had the macro lens on and no way to capture the behaviour, and half glad that I could watch without worrying about angles and opportunities.

He jetted out of sight to good hunting and I headed back to shore on the surface of a very calm sea. There’s a lot to be said for summer diving in good vis and good weather. Here’s hoping the Maldives are as calm, as clear and as fruitful – I reckon I might be in luck!

Feb 022016
Munitions in the cargo holds of Truk Lagoon

The supply ships present at Truk Lagoon during Operation Hailstone in 1944 were in the process of loading and unloading their supplies. With the world at war, a lot of these supplies were munitions big and small. The photo above shows one of the front holds of the Sankisan Maru with thousands of bullets piled up. Diving over the piles of lead is a strange experience – these bullets never got to their intended destinations and now sit peacefully on the bottom of a tropical blue ocean. These massive shells are quick fire ammunition in brass casings. From the other end it’s easy to see that they’re still loaded and ready so go, despite being underwater for 70 years. I [read more…]

Jan 262016
Truk Lagoon Propellors

Propellors are one of the best wreck features to find underwater. They’re nice and recognisable and they always hang out in the same place. If they’re still somewhere down there, they’re usually fairly easy to find and identify. And the bigger the ship wreck, the bigger the propellor, right up to some very impressive sizes. There’s something about swimming between massive blades that could have quite easily chopped you up into little bits while in operation. A lot of the regularly dived wrecks out of Melbourne were scuttled and in some cases had their props removed before heading down to the ocean floor. Whereas the Truk shipwrecks went down with everything on board, so whether the propellors are present or not [read more…]

Jan 192016
Elk River Exploration Report

All of that floating around in the pleasant tropical surrounds in Truk Lagoon had to come at a price, and it arrived last weekend with 32 hours of painful caving in Elk River. After multiple set up trips to load in tanks to the beginning of sump 5 last year it came time to use them. The plan was for three divers (myself, Steve and Ryan) to traverse sump 7 and emerge in the freshly discovered Hall of Crazy Horses on the other side. We would take through an emergency pack of camping gear, a rope for lowering gear down the 10m high waterfall, and a selection of 7L tanks for push diving in sump 8. I also intended to [read more…]

Jan 122016
Coral growth on the Truk Lagoon shipwrecks

From the photos I’ve already posted here of the Truk Lagoon shipwrecks, you might be forgiven for thinking there was very little for your average reef-loving diver to look at. The insides of the wrecks are dark and rusty (albeit filled with interesting things) and the deeper wrecks like the San Francisco Maru get less light and less coral encrusting them. This post is to correct those illusions – the Truk Lagoon wrecks are covered in tropical coral and very active fish life. In the shot above you can see the small fish swarming around the kingpost pair, ready to dart back into the protective corals should the predatory trevally swim by. Most of the shallower wrecks have at least [read more…]

Jan 052016
Engine rooms in Truk Lagoon

After an epic 2 weeks, 23 different wrecks and nearly 4,000 photos I’ve made it home from Truk Lagoon. As I churn through the photos (Why do I have way too many “final picks”? How does one choose between a giant propellor shot and a well lit cargo hold interior? How many trip photos can one reasonably ask friends and family to look at?) I was struck by how much I learned about ship layouts during my visit. The normal wrecks dived in Melbourne were mostly scuttled in the 1930s or 40s. This means both that anything interesting was removed first, and they’ve had a lot more time to break down. In many cases all that’s left is the hull and [read more…]