May 262015
A sea lion inquisition

A sea lion inquisition

About the site

The Moncoeur Islands are a pair of small outcroppings of rock south of Wilson’s Promontory. Technically part of Tasmania, the granite slopes are inhabited by a large sealion population and flocks of sea birds. Access is tricky – the seas here are very exposed and good weather is rare. I was lucky enough to spend a weekend of relatively flat seas on the Ocean Odyssey, a very awesome boat. After launching from Port Welshpool and slowly chugging down the east coast of the Prom we did some dives in rough water on Saturday. By Sunday the waves had dropped a bit further and we kept heading south.

Sponge garden at Moncoeur Islands

About the dive

Steve and I had done a deep-ish dive on Saturday afternoon. I still had a bunch of helium in my dil so we jumped in and headed down to see what we could find. The wall of the island drops fairly steeply into the water and continues almost straight down underneath the surface. At about 30m depth the kelp gave way to soft sponges and colourful, squishy life. Sea whips were waving in the breeze and schools of butterfly perch followed us around. As you can see in the second photo here, the colours were brilliant.

Having had a swim through the sponge gardens we worked our way back up the wall. At 25m I was engrossed in trying to take pictures of waving kelp when something zipped over my shoulder. It was a juvenile sea lion, very interested in Steve’s shiny tank valves. His high speed friends zoomed in next, pausing to peer at their reflection in the camera, tilt their heads at curious angles, and nudge bits of dive gear that looked interesting. Curiosity satisfied or patience exhausted they would revert to cutting laps around us and chasing each other through the kelp.

We spent about half an hour in the shallows of their garden watching them play games and debubbling. I could have quite happily spent most of the day there. After the next round of divers got in the water I jumped back in with a snorkel and headed over to shore to see if I could snap some sea lion over/under shots. Both the little waves and the sea lions themselves made this hard – all that splashing puts a lot of tiny bubbles in the water. Playful sea lions underwater also became suspicious on land, after they stop being graceful, high speed torpedos and are forced to waddle up the rocks.

Over the course of half a day I managed to take several hundred seal photos to sort through on the way home. A lot of them are fuzzy. Even at the maximum strobe sync speed of 1/250th, a swimming sea lion comes with motion blur. And a lot of them are missing a bit of sea lion, usually as the subject in question twisted its body in unnatural ways. But there are definitely enough keepers that I couldn’t choose my favourites…so here’s a gallery of a few more.

May 192015
Four years on the web

While I was pootling around underground in Mexico, this website passed its fourth anniversary. Four years since I spent a weekend setting up web hosting and nervously publishing my first photo and article. I didn’t tell anyone what I’d done for fear of early criticism sinking the whole grand idea. As I said two years ago I was afraid of having one of those two-post blogs, where the second post was about not having much to say “but be sure to check back soon!”. To avoid this I wrote my first dozen articles well before I posted the first one. For most of 2011 I had a 10 article buffer that slowly became a 6 article buffer followed shortly after [read more…]

May 122015
A midnight ramble in Cueva de Eduardo

Besides the fun of the main game in San Agustin and La Grieta on the PESH 2015 expedition, there was also some surface activity and trips to smaller objectives. Corey spent a day wandering the jungle and covered a huge distance from our lodgings. The universe being what it is, he found a highly prospective cave entrance on the way home, less than 200m from where we were staying. He came back with this news late in the day and made it sound enticing. Sometime after dark we decided to go and have a look. After sliding down the hill from the road through some particularly spiky vegetation, Corey relocated the entrance. I was expecting a small hole in the [read more…]

May 052015
PESH 2015 - Diving Red Ball Canyon Sump Part II

In Part I I talked about the Huautla System, the trip into the San Agustin entrance and the first dives of Red Ball Canyon sump. So now we were past the two short sumps and into the expected dry cave behind. The cave was heading away upstream and while climbs were expected, the assumption was that the gradient would be relatively flat and the lead would eventually join up with another known cave system kilometres away. The next underground morning, Dave, Sandy and Andreas headed off to Red Ball Canyon to ferry three divers through sumps 1 and 2 with two sets of dive gear. They took a dry bag of drill and batteries, rigging bolts and rope with intentions [read more…]

May 022015
PESH 2015 - diving Red Ball Canyon Part I

After crossing the world twice and two weeks of hard work, I’m back from the wilds of the Mexican mountains. This trip report is long enough that I have split it in half. Stay tuned next week for part 2. The PESH 2015 expedition is now complete with the two main cave entrances used de-rigged and returned to their natural state. 2015 was the second annual expedition with trips planned each April until 2023. Over the course of 10 years the PESH team aims to expand the known depth of the Huautla System beyond a mile, and the surveyed horizontal passage to over 100kms. This year’s expedition cracked the 70km mark and with the total depth at 1545m, a mile can’t [read more…]

Apr 072015

Life has been a little bit quiet on the website of late, because life has been incredibly busy in the real world. Since our last successful exploration weekend in Elk River I’ve spoken at Oztek, done a couple of lovely ocean dives, a weekend in Gambier and packed three overstuffed bags for Mexico. I fly out of Melbourne next weekend for two weeks of caving, diving and exploration with the PESH (Proyecto Espeleologico Sistema Huautla) expedition. The PESH mission is to run ten annual expeditions to the Huautla System. This April is the second one and continues on with the aims of pushing the known cave past 100kms in length and one mile in depth. There are more than two dozen [read more…]