Dan and Justy Down Under


January 22, 2005

Dan or Justy

Our weekend on the Big Cat Reality began in spectacular fashion Friday night with a comprehensive lightning storm over the interior of SE Queensland. It didn't affect us at all, but was a real distraction from the ships briefing.

We set motor for the North end of Moreton Island and the Moreton Bay Marine Park. The plan was to anchor there overnight and begin diving at 6:30am. Yes, AM. Oi.

And what diving it was. Our very first dive down under was like dropping into a rehearsal for Finding Nemo. Actually we first spotted an octopus, but after that it was all Nemo: characters present included Crush and a friend (complete with multiple fish hanging around on their shells), the professor (a HUGE stingray swiming amongst the group, Gil (a Moorish Idol), Marlin (Clownfish) and Dory (Royal Blue Tang). I kept expecting security to ask us to leave the set.

I spoke with the Captain just before lunch about some of the wrecks in the area. He had some info on the bridge, so I followed him up the stairs. In the process I slipped slightly and tore a quarter-sized flap of skin off the bottom of my right big toe. I skipped one dive and then wrapped the toe up tight in duct tape for the last 2.

The big continued on the second dive with 2 BIG Marble rays slowly swimming thru. Another great big turtle and numerous fish. Big in this report means 3-4 feet across. Big. I also found a large-scale cleaning station for the big angelfishes. Unlike others I have seen, this one was about 10 feet off the reef in mid-water.

On the night dive we saw yet another big turtle and unfortunately awoke him. Several big lobster were seen, one on walkabout. Toward the end we spotted a juvenile Lemon shark and a Shovelnose shark, who is obviously the missing link between sharks and skates.

I dove the 75 degree water in a 3mm suit. This is probably a bit lightweight. Some folks I know would need a drysuit. :)

I napped most of the day in between dives. Just sat on the comfy sofa and drooled on myself until the next dive briefing.

Justine did five dives and broke her record with the last 2. She got some great shots with her double strobe setup. The diving was all we could have wanted, and there's another day of it! One crusty regular opined that the diving here is better than on the GBR proper. Here you get a confluence of the warmer water with more temperate currents. As a result, there are more species around.

The sport-mad Aussies were glues to the live coverage of the Australian Open grand slam tennis tourney most of the day. I thought they'd cheer Leyton Hewitt when he won, but mostly they were disgusted by his oponent's spitting.

My mind is frothing, my mouth is gaping. 5 dives! I really didn't think I'd do it! I have sores on my fingers from taking the wet suit on and off, and hot-rubs on my right ankle from the booty. Not a day without casualties. Did Dan mention his open wound on his big toe, THE grossest thing ever! But it happenned in a completely benign way: walking. D'oh.

The water is nice, the fish aplenty and the crew excellent! Big Cat is purry-purrfect. Obviously a well-oiled operation. I must comment on the fish life, as almost any fish I'd seen thus far is completely different from anything I've ever seen before. Mostly the colors, or subtle differences to the shape of the Parrot fishes head (more Beluga whale than Parrot fish).

The Big Cat rocks! the divemasters and instructors kept their peolpe going through the dives and liking them too. Everyone had great times (even the sea sickies) and no one got lost or needed rescue from the weenie boat. That is saying a lot for a group of 24 divers, with at least 4 open water students, and 16 open water divers.

Thanks to Nautilus Divers: Kim, Jodie, and Serge! Big Cat crew: Skipper John, Ian, George, and John-ze-cook! Also thanks to Frank (that's not his real name, but it stuck!) the instructor from SunReef.

Itinerary Highlights
January 20: Winery Tour
21-23: Moreton Bay Diving
25: Australia Zoo
26-30: Lady Elliot Island
February 13: Diving the Yongala
15-17: Cape Tribulation + Daintree Rain Forest
17-20: Atherton Tablelands
22-28: Coral Sea Diving Liveaboard
March 11-13: OzTek Dive Conference: Sydney
14: Fly to New Zealand
20: Poor Knights Islands Diving
31: Mt. Cook
April 2-4: Queenstown
TBD: To Be Dreamed

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