Jun 212016
 

Crawling to the first sump

The weekend before last saw us back in Elk River. After an exciting push trip back in January and a subsequent epic tank extraction trip in March, it was time to start loading freshly tested and filled tanks back into the cave. Going downhill is easier than hauling tanks up to the surface. However the air inside each tank definitely adds weight and as we had a three day weekend on our hands we made good use of it. On both Saturday and Sunday Dave, Sandy and I humped a large tank from the surface to the beginning of sump 5.

Floating packs past stals

There had been good rains in Gippsland in the preceding week. I was hoping for slightly higher water levels (to assist with floating the packs over the tricky bits) but not too high (so as to prevent us from diving). While the water was slightly milky which indicates a small flood surge might have been through, water levels were very normal. As a result, we rolled, lifted and heaved the caving packs over the usual shallow spots. I much prefer flowstone on the walls as I wade past, rather than on the floor under a low ceiling.

Our trips into Elk now easily exceed the outcomes that we had in the first year of doing this. Rather than complaining about two 7L tanks between the group, we’re each relaying 9s and 10s into the cave. Our equipment has improved drastically, with custom caving wetsuits, great headlights and better footwear and gloves. Small things like packing a foam sleeping mat around the large tanks means that the caving packs are lasting twice as many trips before holes start to appear. All in all, our trips in and out are both more efficient and more comfortable.

This expertise didn’t stop me from dropping my Lumix in sump 3 on this trip and being very lucky to find it again in the mud. Elk is still borrowing and breaking our gear on a regular basis. And of course, the end of the known cave is now a lot further away than it used to be. With enough large tanks in there at the moment to support another dive through the long sump 7, it will soon be time to start planning an attack on the end. Sump 9 awaits!

May 312016
 
Green water in Piccaninnie Ponds

It’s been a little quiet here on the website, which is a good indicator that I’ve been ridiculously busy. I have some exciting upcoming plans and there’s been a lot of travel logistics to arrange. I’ve also just realised that my website passed its five year anniversary while I wasn’t looking. Two hundred and forty four posts later, I haven’t run out of inane things to say about photos. Looking back through the archives gives me a great sense of satisfaction in how far both my underwater photography and my ability to write about it has developed. If you’re thinking of creating a more comprehensive online record of your photos than Facebook provides, I can highly recommend getting started on a [read more…]

Apr 192016
 
Exponential Pot

Exponential Pot is one of the restricted entry caves on the Buchan Potholes reserve. Access is limited to one trip a year of just a few people, with the entrance protected by a metal plate and big padlock. I was lucky enough to join Peter Freeman and four other eager cavers on the 2016 trip. One of the trip objectives was to take some photos of this rarely-seen cave, and in that we definitely succeeded. Exponential Pot is highly decorated. It’s discovery was the driver for turning the Potholes Reserve into a Reserve and protecting all of the caves in it. As a result of the limited access arrangements most of the cave is in excellent condition. There are low [read more…]

Apr 052016
 
In the trees in Ela Elap

I spent the Easter long weekend in Mt Gambier. Four days of uninterrupted diving in sites at every level was a nice change from the usual two day jaunts. The first couple of days I dived with fellow-rEvo diver Tom in Pics, Kilsby’s and the site above, Ela Elap. Ela is a sinkhole site south of Mt Gambier. Unlike Piccaninnie Ponds it has greenish waters and a murky bottom. Ela is known for being cold and it lived up to its reputation – a balmy 18 degrees on the surface gave way to a chilly 11 degrees below 20m. We jumped in and spiralled down through the very murky surface layer to the dark water underneath. I took some shots of [read more…]

Mar 222016
 
Nurse sharks by night

My favourite dives and swims of the Carpe Vita Maldives trip were the night dives. There’s something surreal about swimming through inky black water on a warm tropical night. The otherworldliness increases when large creatures swim through the water beside you, completely ignoring your incursion into their world. The night dive on the first day was at Alimathaa Jetty. The resort on this island conducts a sunset shark feed and the sharks are very active after the sun goes down. We descended onto the reef to see a couple of nurse sharks and their large fish escorts zipping between the corals. They were using diver lights to hunt out small unfortunate fish in the reef. As a group we tried [read more…]

Mar 092016
 
Stalking eagle rays in current

My time on the Carpe Vita has come to an end today, and we’re about to be deposited back on dry land. Apart from a very nice BBQ on a deserted atoll one evening last week it will be the first time since boarding. It will certainly be the first time wearing shoes again. Since the last time I wore shoes we have done a lot of channel diving. The Maldives is a series of atolls with central lagoons. As the tides rise and fall, the water flows in and out of the lagoon through the channel between small sandy islands. When the current is running, animals gather at the interface between the channel and the deep blue sea. The [read more…]