Tuesday, February 1, 2011

scuba diving on the great barrier reef! (days 9, 10, 11 & 12.)

1 meter = 3 feet (3.280 if you want to be exact)
Since meters are what's used here, that's what I'm going to be using because no one told me how many feet we were down.


It's 6 am right now, on the 29th of January.

I set my alarm to wake up at five because somehow, I thought I'd need an hour and 15 minutes. Anyway, made sure everything was packed, brushed my teeth and have been checking Facebook for the past hour.

I'm so terribly excited, there will be photos galore I promise!

Day 1

nothing between me and south america.

We left Cairns at around 7, arriving on the outer reef at about 10. We moved locations 3 times, I think, but we were just moving up or down. We were on the outer reef, meaning there was basically nothing between us and South America.
In fact, on the last dive we took we were diving the outer wall. The end of the end pretty much.

On the way out to the reef I took a bunch of photos, which were fine but then we got all the way out I went to take some and my cameras (the 7D) was being super weird. It wanted me to change the card & battery (which I did) but the top half of every photo I take is just black. I tried changing the lens and nothing happened so its definitely the shutter. Lord knows what I'm going to do.

the last bit of australia we saw.


We did our first dive, which was pretty fucking scary. I mean, it's one thing to putter about in 4 meters of water in a pool but quite another to be in the open ocean. Jeeessssus.

who wants to get in the water when that's the weather?

According to my Log Book (a book we were given where you right down lots of information about each dive. Stuff you saw, your buddy, the surface weather, visibility, length of time you were in the water, the pressure group you started in, the pressure group you ended in etc etc.)  this is the stuff we saw on that first dive.

We were on Milln Reef, dive site Petaj. In Case you care.

- juvenile rock mover. Perry said this is pretty uncommon to see, so we're lucky.
- maori wrasse. it was about a meter long I think. Either way, it was giant. But it was pretty small for that species.
- white tip reef shark. So cute!
- angel fish. Apparently I didn't know what kind.
- puffer fish, again, an unknown kind apparently.
- sergeant major
- bi color parrot fish
- trigger fish. I should be more specific.
- giant clams.

It was so good!

We got out and ate lunch then pretty much got right back in and saw:
- giant trevallies
- snapper
- bi color & another kind that I'm blanking on right now parrot fish
- blue spotted ribbon ray
- green turtles
- true clown fish (As in, Nemo.)
- angel fish
- palette surgeonfish (Dory, from Nemo. In case you care. A lot of people seemed to)
- yellow damsels
- white tip reef shark

Got out again relaxed for a few hours, drank some tea and ate some cake (Lisa, the cook, made a lot of cake for between dives. Not too shabby really.) and then went back and dove again. Still with Perry leading us.

- giant moray eel
- tiger fish
- true clown fish
- parrot fish
- puffer fish
- lined butterfly fish
- three spot angel fish
- eyestripe surgeonfish
- white margin unicorn fish
- moorish idol (again with the Nemo reference, Scar was one of these)
- giant trivially
- deep bodied fusilier
- red bass

The latter three live under the boat, we didn't see any of those while on the reef itself.

Ate some dinner. It was some kind of coconut milk curry. Not to die for, but totally edible.

worry not, dear reader, that's someone jumping in not some sort of mythical sea beast attacking the boat.

We watched the already certified divers jump in for the night dive, which looked terrifying.
Went to bed pretty much right away, I was dead tired.

Day 2

Woke up around 5, for no reason. We were in the water at 7. 30 for out last dive of the course. By that I mean, the last dive we needed to take to be certified Open Water divers.

- green turtles. Perry was feeding it some kind of algae so it was swimming with us for a little bit.
- bi colour parrot fish
- giant moray eel
- giant clams
- some kind of wrasse I've forgotten the name of and didn't write down.
- surgeonfish
- a grouper of some sort.
- spiny-tail puller
- humbug damsel


After breakfast we were sent off in out buddy pairs. I don't think I said this, but after our first dive Andreas and I were buddies, Matt and Chris were buddies and Ryan was either Perry's buddy or came with one of the other pairs. We were split like this based on how much air we used, so it'd be the most evenly matched.

Well, it was a bit of a disaster. I suppose not really since neither of us died.

We somehow got hopelessly lost. Which is awfully easy to do underwater.
I'm about 97% sure we literally went in the wrong direction. We went to the very limit of what we were qualified to go to (18 m) even though we were planning on not going below 16 m. It was pretty scary really.
But in the end we made it back without any serious mishap.

While swimming I saw something ridiculously huge swimming in front of us.
There's a well know 140 year old green turtle who lives on the reef we were diving, who's apparently about 2 1/2 meters long and I think maybe that was it. It was moving in the turtle-ish way, not a shark/dolphin way.
Anyway, we got back in one piece. So it's all ok.

other shit I saw on that dive
- green turtle (I think, so it counts)
- giant clams
- true clown fish
- sergeant major
- fowler's surgeonfish
- spiny-tail puller
- trigger fish
-  some kind of starfish.

It scared me a bit, since I knew I didn't look at my computer enough if I let myself (and Andreas) get that deep. I know it's not the end of the world, but clhmlkfgvhc.

At 3 we went for another dive, Ryan came with us this time.
He (Ryan) was navigating since clearly it was a bad pan for me to and since he wanted to/swore up and down it was capable.

It was largely less of a disaster than the previous dive, but it wasn't exactly smooth sailing.

We got down to the bottom fine, Ryan found 150 on the compass and we double checked it, it was right so we went off to find the 'Micky Mouse', which was our destination. Basically it's three, uh, sea mounts? no, those are too big. They had a name for them but it's escaping me right now. Like a pinnacle. Bits of reef coming up from the sandy bottom. Anyway.

We got there fine, went around like we'd decided on the boat and then Ryan starts doubling back on himself and by the time we caught up with him I had no idea what direction we were facing. At this point Ryan went to the surface to check where the boat was, since he wasn't 100% sure. Andreas and I just stayed at about 5 meters since we figured he could handle it.
We could see another reef over to our right, so when he came back down we went there since we knew that there was another reef within sight. That was fine, saw some nice things and then instead of going back the way we'd come or going to another landmark Ryan just sets 300 from where we were and sets off into the blue.
Since he'd just been to the surface with decided to just follow him. We also knew we weren't too far away since we hadn't left the shallow shelf.
Off we went for a while, I then went to the surface since I wasn't entirely sure Ryan had any idea where we were going. He was pretty far off, we were about 50 meters away from the boat and quite far in front of it. I get back down and we keep doing, eventually hitting a rope. Which I knew was the bow rope. Andreas figured out it wasn't the side rope super fast, since it was just one rope, not two like on the sides. I'm not really sure what Ryan thought it was to be honest.

Then, I realized Ryan had gotten a nose bleed. Literally a halo of blood. That was it, we were going up with there, fuck finding the back of the boat. When we got to the top Andreas and I still had a bit of air but Ryan only had 60 bar anyway, so we weren't really up early. Swam to the back and it was all ok in the end.

stuff I saw:
- green turtle
- potato cod/grouper
- giant clam
- trigger fish
- squirrel fish
- pennant banner fish
- orange-spine unicornfish
- agile chromis
- highfin parrotfish

got out and ate some chocolate cake/drank some tea.
Around 5 the five of us (who did the Open Water course) sat down with Perry since we all wanted to continue and do out Adventure course too.
He pretty much explained the deal and we filled out all the needed paperwork.
We'll be certified to dive up to 30m and dive at night. Pretty amazing! We'll be doing out first night dive tonight and our deep, 30 m dive tomorrow morning.


We were fed dinner (pasta with a tomato sauce) but I was mostly too nervous to eat.
at 7 they put the lights on outside and we went and watched the sharks start to gather. So. Many. Sharks. They we all Grey Reef Tips and none of them were longer than about 1.5 meters, but still. We could see about 10 of them.
Plus the giant trevallies and red bass some of which were about half a meter long. Just big-ass fish everywhere.

looking at the sharks.

the water I was about to jump into.

Perry gave us a briefing of how everything was going to work when we went down there, the plan was to go down super slowly, swim about and then come up super slowly, having an extra long rest stop to look at the sharks.

We got suited up in our ever lovely stinger suits and did our buddy checks and everything.
I was trying to think of a time in my life I'd been as nervous and failed to think of one.

So then we got in. I was the second one in, after Perry so I had plenty of shark-watching time. As soon as I'd inflated my BCD and put my snorkel in I could see sharks all around. You couldn't shine the torch anywhere and not have one swim into view. It was surreal. There were red bass running into me too.

The Dutch lady who was my roomate, who's name I think was Ow (which was short for something hard to say and dutch) took a bunch of photos which she said she's email me. So when I get them I'll post them, believe me, they're hilarious.

We got down to the bottom using the rope and off we swam. Once we were on the reef it wasn't scary all since everyone had a torch so there was a ton of light being reflected back from everything.

We saw
- spotted lion fish
- coral crab
- green turtles (they were sleeping! so adorable.)
- giant trevally
- red bass
- white tip reef sharks
- grey reef sharks
- fowler's surgeon fish
- a giant crab no one seemed to know the name of nor was it in any book.

plus some other little fish, but that's al I wrote down in my log book.

after about 20 minutes we started going up again, we came up right behind the boat so while we were at our rest stop we could see silhouetted sharks against the light.

Once we were on the surface is actually when the exciting things happened to me.

Everyone but me, Ryan & Perry had gotten out already and I was moving towards the boat with was probably about 2-3 meters away when I saw a fish swim right past me. I will forever forget that fishes name, it's like a Needle fish or a Ribbon something. Basically it's about half a meter long, super thin and most importantly for this story, sharks love nothing more than to chase them.

about .05 of a second later the first shark ran into me, it hit me in the middle of my shins. There's actually a cut on one of them from the force. Luckily my knees just bend, so I was Ok. As soon as I've put my feet back down and looked in the water another one runs into me, about an inch towards my shoulder from my heart. I spin all the way around so I'm back facing the boat at which point Warren (our South African skipper) starts yelling "get out, get fucking out!"
I was feeling ok, a little nervous but pretty calm as I got out and got up the stairs but when I was trying to undo all the straps on my BCD to take it off I was really having a hard time since I'd started shaking like a feather. I still wasn't that afraid though, I actually didn't get nervous until Taylor & Bao told me what they'd seen from the top desk.

One of the sharks had just suddenly got out into deep water as fast as it could, for no apparently reason, did a big circle and came back towards us. This one missed me by less than a foot they said, at the same time as the other two hit me. So I'm so lucky I didn't have that kind of force coming from both sides since they I really might have been in trouble.

It was nuts.
But I survived and really, I think it's pretty amazing.

my shark bark.

I ate some more cake & drank more tea. Pretty much my days looks like this.
sleep, dive, eat, dive, eat cake/drink tea, dive, read, eat, sleep.

Day 3

We had to wake up at 5.30 since our deep dive started at 6.20.

So up I was, dead tired.
We got a briefing about deep diving and narcosis or 'being narced'
From what I understand (aka nothing) it's when the pressure & nitrogen makes you high pretty much. It effects everyone differently and people can have totally different responses dive to dive.

So we go down and his plan had been to free fall from 10 meters down to 30, but since the visibility was shit we fell from 18 instead. Apparently at about 15 meters we stopped to look at two lion fish, but I failed to notice anything. Oh well.

We got to 30 meters and it was insane. I felt like I was stoned out of my mind.
We were kneeing in a field of Garden Eels and I'm pretty sure they were all looking at me.
Then I closed my eyes (something Perry advised us to try, since it's awesome) and I suddenly didn't hear enough people breathing but instead of just opening my eyes to see I just tried to listen. And then I opened my eyes and looked up at our bubbles floating up for 14 stories. That was trippy shit right there.

Perry had us to this narcosis test, where he held up 5-10 fingers and we had to told up enough to make 15. ie, if he held up 5 we'd give him 10 or if he held up 7 we'd give him 8.

Well. He gave me 7 and I knew it was 7 and I knew how to count but I couldn't for the life of me remember what number we were trying to make.

One can only be at that depth for about 15 minutes so then we slowly made our way back up, which took us about 30 minutes.

Stuff I saw:
- bi color angelfish
- some kind of grouper
- squirrelfish
- pennant bannerfish
- spiny-tail puller
- fowler's surgeonfish
- another surgeonfish, I don't know which one though.
- racoon butterfly fish
- about 3 other typed of butterfly fish.
- spangled emperor
- red rock grouper, I think.
- emperor angel fish

Ate breakfast!

We couldn't go on the next dive, it was too soon since we'd gone so deep.
So everyone else in my group went for a snorkel and I read the fish identification book instead.

is this the first photo of me in the post? a new record I do believe.

I'd probably want to cause fatal injury if I was a Horrid anything too.

For the last dive before being adventure divers we had to pick a theme.
Andreas, Chris & I did Underwater Photography
Matt did Underwater Naturalist
Ryan did a sort of bastardized Navigation. Bastardized only so he could be with us, not off making 90 degree turns somewhere.

I rented a camera from the boat, which was fine but the time to figure out how a case/camera works is not underwater. Just a tip.

my trusty gear.

as you can see, the sergeant major decided to move just as I was taking the best photo of my career.

does anyone know what the purple & yellow thing is? I couldn't find out anything about it.



perry & andreas.

We all dove for about 40 minutes at which point we were back at this circle of reef that surrounds the blocks the boat's attached to. Then Ryan, Chris & Matt got to 60 bar so Perry took them up and Andreas and I chilled out and mostly watched a Clown Trigger Fish for another 10 minutes or so. It ended up being out longest dive, with a bottom time of 51 minutes. I thought that was a little odd since I figured all the using of my hands and trying to stay in one place to get a photo would use up so much air.

no, it's not pretty. but it's me scuba diving on the great barrier reef. it had to be done.

our bubbles!

There are some of the gems I took, I unfortunately didn't get a photo of the clown trigger, but it was still amazing to see.

Got back up, cleaned everything off one last time and ate some more.

We then started out 3 hour trip back to Cairns.
Andreas and I looked through the photos we'd taken, as you saw, some of them are alright but I do have more respect for underwater photographers. Granted they're probably using a SLR they've used before… but still. It's hard when you're moving, the fish is moving and sometimes it's hard to see anyway.

I hung out on the top desk for a little bit, enjoying the end of being on the water.

and we see australia again!

Drank my final cup of tea & ate my final piece of cake and we were there!
Stopped by Pro Dive to pay for the Adventure Course and Reef Tax then went back to Traveler's Oasis. I'm in room 19, which I like more than I liked room 1.
I have two Japanese roomates who I think are traveling together. Neither of them has actually spoken to me. In fact they probably think I'm crazy since we've only seen each other 3 times
first I still had salty I-haven't-showered-in-three-days hair and was sporting me every wonderful Barak Obama sarong, second I had to ask to borrow one of their keys since I locked mine in the room and third I accidentally turned on our room light at 2.30 am when I came home. Oh well, I'm leaving tomorrow they can think whatever they want.

Anyway, after the best shower ever I used the internet for a bit until around 7.
I was supposed to meet everyone who's been on the boat for dinner at the Rattle n Hum for dinner at 7.30 or 8. I left here about 20 past 7, got a little lost typically enough but eventually found my way there. It was really nice! The food was delicious actually, a thousand times better than I thought it'd be. I had a veggie type pasta with mushrooms, feta, olives and bell peppers. for the first little while I was sitting next to this guy, Linus until he left pretty early to go to bed. As it turns out, I found out later, he's the guy who created/wrote the Linux Kernal, which according to wikipedia, is what made it possible to do something to do with commercial business. He continues to work on it.
When he's not scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef.

Anyway, he left and then Andreas arrived and took his seat.
It was really nice to get to talk to everyone in a social setting, you know how I adore a social setting.

Around 12 they were starting to shut down so Lior, Perry (Lior's girlfriend, second Perry), Bao, Ryan, Chris, Taylor, Hannah, Adreas, Perry (the scuba one), Karen and myself decided to go to the Woolshead to do some dancing/heavy drinking. (Well, not heavy drinking on my part. In fact, no drinking on my part.)
So we hung out there until about 2. I somehow managed to not take a single photo the whole time we were there, which is a crying shame really. On the way over Perry decided someone needed to play the giant didgeridoo that was hanging in front of some shop and I did document the tower that was build to make his dream come true

attempt one did not make dreams come true.

but attempt two

was a success.

This morning I discovered that there's a cyclone, Yasi, headed right for Cairns, in theory hitting tomorrow night. Pretty much that means I needed to get out fast.
Luckily I was already set to Skype with my family and mum found me a ticket to Brisbane for tomorrow morning. I didn't much want to go back, but if I stay I could be stuck for weeks. It's a category four, so it's big.


I just registered for camp! (not back to school camp, nbtsc.org)
I'm going to both Vermont Sessions, I'm also graduating this year.
It's nuts to think about not going back, even though I sill have months and months until camp 2011.

Basically right now I'm going to get all my photos updated and but this up then go find some food.


One of my roomate's phone just started ringing and I think it's a Japanese version of Strawberry Fields Forever. It sucks.


  1. Signe, yikes! Your trip is so exciting! I love your underwater photos! You are GREAT!

  2. Wow, your trip sounds amazing! Thanks for the travel log! Did you go to Australia by yourself?