Jun 092015

Loggerhead turtle at Julian Rocks

While I did consider a return to the annual Combined Clubs Weekend in Bicheno this June, after the temperature started to drop at home a flight north to Brisbane looked a lot more tempting. In the end we were somewhat foiled by the weather anyway with dives on the wreck of the Brisbane cancelled for the weekend for high winds. On Sunday we drove down to Byron Bay for a splash at Julian Rocks instead.

The Rocks are a marine reserve a very short distance off the beach in Byron Bay. After a beach launch we jumped on the Sundive boat for a 5 minute run out. Two minutes later I was underwater. Given the weather situation I left my rebreather and piles of gear at home and ended up in a single tank and blowing bubbles for the first time in more than a year.

Itchy turtle

The initial drop in point had thousands of little fish swarming the bottom and disguising the wobbegongs lying on every rock. We headed around the corner into the more interesting gutters and trenches. As we came around a small ridge I noticed a turtle shell in amongst the rocks. Not wanting to scare him off, I took a few photos from a distance as I approached him from one side. As I got closer it became obvious he was spectacularly unconcerned about divers, camera, bubbles or anything else really. He had found a great spot between two bits of rock where he could get good leverage, and was scratching his butt.

Rather than one particularly itchy spot he was trying to scratch left to right and top to bottom. This meant he would seemingly wait until I was in just the right spot before turning around and presenting me with the other end. A minute or two later he’d rotate again, scratching a different quarter of his shell against the rock.

I love turtles and one of my regrets of Melbourne living in that we don’t see them in local waters down south. We do get seals though which makes up for a lot. But gifted with the opportunity to flash a turtle who wasn’t going to head off anywhere, I spent a good ten minutes trying to capture his expression, his shell, his motions and his textured flippers. With a bit of surge pushing me around I didn’t want to put my face on the viewfinder so a lot of this was shot blind with fingers crossed for framing. I was very happy to see a few of these come out as planned after we swam off, leaving him to his itching post.

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