Nov 292016
 

Australasian Gannet

After managing to completely skip last week’s fantastic diving weather, I was determined to get out over the weekend. Of course the weather closed in and the Heads got worse. In desperation to get wet, I ended up at Pope’s Eye. With low expectations I was pleasantly surprised by spending a fun hour photographing gannet bottoms.

Australasian Gannet

Australasian Gannets pair up and nest in big breeding colonies, including on the rocks and platform at Pope’s in Port Phillip Bay. When feeding they dive into the water at high speeds, grab a fish and swim for the surface. The rest of the time they appear to have a great social life. From the boat I watched several turf wars and some friendly social sparring underway. Landing birds would circle to find a good spot, with birds sitting on the water needing several hops across the surface to get into the air.

I was in stealth mode underwater and not producing any bubbles. This allowed me to hide in the refraction of the surface, completely invisible to the floating birds. The inside of Pope’s is shallow and all of these photos were taken from between 1m deep and surface level.

Once I got close enough to be inside Snell’s window, the bird would either swim a metre further away, or stick their head under the surface to see what I was doing down there. The stickybeakers were persistent, alternating between a quick check on the skies and underwater face. Being eyeballed by a gannet while underwater is a fairly unique experience.

After half an hour of flashing their bottoms and occasionally getting a beak in the picture, the gannets were relatively comfortable with me. The photo settings were relatively consistent – high shutter speeds to deal with the bright sky overhead, a touch of one strobe to bring out the shadows and the feet, and a mid range f-stop to keep everything sharp. The main issue was the sand in the water from the course divers practising exercises in the middle of Pope’s, and the difficulty of reviewing shots in bright sunshine. It took some persistence to get angles I was happy with, and to find the curious birds who kept looking down. For a very shallow dive, it was very productive on the photography front.

Gannet on the surface

Nov 082016
 
Le Polynesien WWI Wreck

Le Polynesien was a consolation dive for us after some more exciting prospects failed to materialise on the depth sounder. After a few hours of searching we decamped to this well-known WWI wreck. She was a French ocean liner, launched in 1890 and carrying passengers between France and far flung parts of the globe. Prior to her war re-fit as a troopship she had capacity for 582 passengers in four classes. In the last year of WWI she was tracking 7 miles out of Valletta Harbour en route to Greece when she was struck by a U-boat torpedo. She now sits on the bottom in about 65m of water. Le Polynesien is huge – 152m long – with one massive propellor [read more…]

Nov 032016
 
Exploring the Mark One

The highlight of our trip to Malta was diving the Mark One. I’d like to give you a background on the ship – launch date, history, nationality, circumstances in which she sank – but that’s all unknown. The Mark One is an unidentified shipwreck that was first dived by the Shadow Technical guys in 2015. They have completed four dives on her to date. She sits on the bottom in 120m of water with her deck coming up to 108m. Completely upright, the Mark One is nearly 150m long and has four large open cargo holds. On the first dive we dropped down the shot to arrive on the stern of the ship. Blue water and great vis showed the [read more…]

Oct 182016
 
Guns on the HMS Russell

The HMS Russell was a WWI pre-dreadnought. Unlike the WWII wrecks that we dived first in Malta, the Schnellboot and the HMS Southwold, the Russell has been on the bottom for a century. She was launched in February 1902 as one of six Duncan-class ships with the new four cylinder triple-expanision engines. During the Great War the Russell spent time at Scapa Flow and on the Northern Patrol. After a stint in the English Channel, a refit in Ireland and supporting the Gallipoli campaign up to evacuation of troops in early 1916, she was waiting to enter the Grand Harbour in Malta in April 2016 when she struck two mines. Two mines laid by the German U-boat U-73 the night [read more…]

Oct 102016
 
2017 Calendars

2016 seems like it’s only just begun and 2017 is already sneaking up on us. With the end of the year in sight, my 2017 calendars are now on sale. Calendars come in both cave diving and ocean flavours with lots of space to note your important dates for the year. The caves side features a number of beautiful shots from the Timorese caves with a good mix of local and exotic. On the ocean front this year’s calendar is dominated by big animals in blue waters – whales, sharks, mantas and more. The photo pages are A4 (approx 12″ x 8″) with the dates grid on the page below. The calendars are ringbound with a punchhole for hanging. Even better, prices [read more…]

Oct 042016
 
Stern of the HMS Southwold

The HMS Southwold was a WWII British destroyer. Built during the war and launched in late 1941, she was sunk less than six months later on March 24th, 1942. She was tasked with escorting the crippled HMS Breconshire to Malta after leaving the convoy. As she attempted to pass a line to the Breconshire, she hit a British mine. The resulting explosion in the engine room killed five people on board. With her back up generator fired up and crew working to plug the leaks, the Southwold was taken under tow by a tug. Shortly thereafter her hull began to split in half and the remaining crew were transferred to another ship as she went down. The split in the wreck means [read more…]