Dan and Justy Down Under


February 13, 2005

Dan or Justy

"You look like Neopolitan ice cream" Justy said. She was referring to how my legs were dark brown, my back bright red and my ass, well, my ass vanilla white. It's not easy being me, but Justy makes it more bearable. :)

If I never get to dive again, I will be satisfied, because I've dove the SS Yongala. It is, if possible, much more than advertised. A wonderland of sealife and a superb shipwreck. It is the uber-dive.

There are some places where artificial is better: clothing for winter sports, armor, car parts. Most divers would not say that artificial reefs are superior to coral reefs. They are a great idea and a worthwhile cause, but we don't think of them as fondly. Likewise, wreck divers can't look at an artificial reef with as much wonder as an actual shipwreck. The element of misadventure makes a shipwreck special. Almost mystical.

I can't identify with the people who prepared a ship for sinking as an artficial reef. I don't think about them while I'm diving it. A real shipwreck, however, is the habitat of more than sealife. The souls lost need a home too.

Justy describes the dive well. I am glad I wasn't shooting video, because I could just bliss out in a marine paradise. I am sad I wasn't shooting video, because it is a sight to be seen. Easily the best dive I've ever done.

The window of time for us to do this dive has been getting smaller and smaller. There is even the chance that we wont get to dive the famed Yongala at all! Yesterdays talk with the dive operation from Ayr, a less known and newer establishment, put us as the last 2 spots for today but no guarantee on the weather.

In the morning, we arrived with our gear and my camera ready to dive. Dan decided not to shoot video and be my buddy. If the conditions are great we'll switch roles and stay another day. This is a deeper dive, max of about 100 feet with relief up to about 70 feet, and therefore requires more planning and care. We were lucky to get 2 Nitrox fills for the dives! Even though scaring up some 'oxy' on a weekend in a wee-bit town is tough, we got it.

We were immediately pleased with our choice to go out of Ayr instead of Townsville. We heard one of the boats there was broken, and was not running. Other boats were worried about the weather turning bad. The rib (fiber-glass base with pontoon-like air sides) is 10 meters long (33 feet) and can load 12 passengers and 4 crew. It travels at 25-30 knots (that is almost lightspeed in relative boat terms) and would get us to the wreck in 20-30 minutes if all went well.

The seas were incredibly calm, and we spotted dolphins, turtles, jellyfish and some feeding-frenzy on the surface on the way. When we arrived, 2 overnight boats were already moored there. One was Mike Balls Spoil Sport, the liveaboard boat which shall be home away from home for The Scuba Connection this coming August.

We were told that divers have lodged complaints recently about the dive. A woman trying to take a picture just couldnt get the fish out of the way, others cant see the wreck through the mass of life on this wreck! These are all legitimate complaints.

I've never seen so many, in number and species, kinds of life in one area. There were countless fish cleaning stations. Turtles, maori wrasse, queensland grouper, parrot, goat and bat fish, tuna, shovelnose shark, tobaccofish, glass-eye, moray eels...and tons more. The schools of fish hug the wreck like a thick blanket. Often you cannot see the shipwreck underneath, as gangs of tuna and wrasse envelop you in their dance. The distance is studded with silhouettes of millions of fish of all sizes.

I could not stop shooting, but worse I could not be bothered to spend too much time in one area to perfect the photo. I managed to get a few good shots. For the first time I shot 2 full memory cards in 2 dives, and I certainly did not get enough!

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

Digital Pix Courtesy of Shimmivision.com
More Digital and Film Pix Coming Soon.