About the site
Mt Hypipamee Crater is located in the Atherton Tablelands in Far North Queensland, 25km from the town of Atherton. The crater is a volcanic vent, created by volcanic gases under pressure exploding out through weak points in the rock 100,000 years ago. Unlike the limestone caves created by the ground water in South Australia, Mt Hypipamee has walls of basalt which appear speckled pink underwater.
Our week long expedition had taken several years to come together, requiring permits from the Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management and permission from the Traditional Owners of the land, the Ngadjon people. A 1959 diving expedition had written up a report of dives to 61m in dark but clear water. The information sign provided for tourists at the viewing platform proposed depths of 80m+ and a tunnel heading down past 130m, but unfortunately without any attribution for this map. Our group was very interested in finding out exactly what was on the bottom of the crater.
The main challenge of diving here is the 56m drop from the tourist viewing platform to the surface of the water. All necessary dive gear and equipment needs to be lowered by rope down the sheer sides of the crater. As a first step, we sent Craig and Harry abseiling down through the vegetation to the surface to anchor the other end of the 100m of rope for the flying fox. Unfortunately the crater doesn’t provide any surface level gearing up ledges, and from the bottom of the flying fox a 10m vertical drop to the water required a wire rope ladder.
Once the gear and the people have finally been safely relocated into the water, gearing up begins. Floating in the surface layer of green duckweed and over (we assumed) significant depths, getting all the gadgets in the right place without dropping anything important proved complicated. Fortunately, for the trip from the water back to ground level, we managed to lower the flying fox pulley to hoist gear directly from the water. My tanks can be seen ready for lift off in the second picture, guided by Nat Kenyon.
About the dive
With the flying fox established, Joel and Samuel Vermey and I dropped in for a dive. Our main objective on this initial foray of the trip was to survey the radius of the crater from the centre to the walls at 20m. As the first dive below the covering duckweed, we were also providing a report on the visibility and general conditions. Descending down a central shot line that we had placed, it rapidly became clear that it wasn’t going to be clear. Visibility hovered around the 2m mark, and below 10m no sunlight was visible at all.
Once we reached 20m, Joel took one end of the tape measure and swam out to the wall, while Samuel noted compass readings and distances from the shot line. I moved between the two, documenting the documentation.
About the photo
Having discovered the visibility as only slightly better than abysmal, artistic photography was going to be difficult. However, my main purpose here was photography of the research and survey work underway, capturing the tasks being undertaken. The Vermey brothers were particularly patient with having a photographer messing around within a foot of them, flashing and bumping into things and generally getting in the way. Joel is pictured here holding the tape measure against the crater wall at 20m depth, waiting for the series of tugs from Samuel to swim onto the next point.