It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Australia: Osprey Reef

Saturday we woke to find that we had in fact made it to Osprey reef though the boat sustained minor damage and the fresh water system was not working. It was a bit more sporty out here, with, for instance, waves sloshing up onto the swimstep. The wind was about the same as it had been, but there was more swell, or at least that's how it seemed to me (and I am not a weather expert, nor do I play one on ba_diving).

The first site we had planned for had a broken mooring, so we went to "False Entrance" instead.  It consisted of some coral ridges separated by sand, running at an angle to a big wall that supposedly goes to 1000 meters. There was quite a bit of current. It seemed like everywhere we went, we were moving against the current :P. We hung out on the wall hoping to see some bug stuff swim by, though the only thing we saw was one reef shark (we saw another laying on the sand on the way out to the wall). The wall does seem to go forever though.

After hanging out on the wall, we headed over to one of the sand channels, where there was a big school of trevally.  Getting back on the boat was a bit of a cluster. There was a lot of current midwater so we came up the line. We decide to head to the ladder, just as a group of three made a bee line for it, and got one of the hang lines wrapped all around the ladder. So we came up the down current hang line and getting from there to the ladder was tricky. Rob ended up making it halfway from the line to the ladder, grabbing onto the swimstep, and then he swung me for the line to the ladder. Super lame, I know. Once back on the boat it seemed that everyone else had even more trouble on that dive :)

The second and third dives were both at North Horn, with lunch in between. The first dive was a shark feed. They wanted everyone to get in the water at once, so people were entering with either a (very) giant stride off of the side, or in the usual manner off of the back.  We were going to go off the side (because it looked fun) but then there was a big line for that so we headed to the back. Rob jumped in and practically got washed right back up onto the swimstep by a big wave. Then he had to kick hard against the current to get to the line.  After watching that, I decided to go in off the side after all, since that was up current of the line.  I kind of assumed Rob would just head down with the group and wait for me, but actually he waited, while getting pummeled by the current, the entire time while I was waiting in line to get in the water -- poor Rob. Anyhoo, when it was finally my turn to jump in, oof, what a jump, I felt like I was hitting concreted when I hit the water :)  Once reunited with Rob, we headed down the line.

There were already some sharks swimming around midwater, so we entertained ourselves with those while waiting for everyone. The feeding spot is on top of a little pinnacle next to the wall, and the wall right there it kind of amphitheater shaped. So people were directed to sit on the curved area of the wall to watch. Rob and I opted out of the wall sitting and instead hovered right next to the wall right where the curved amphitheater met the flat wall. Before the dive, one of the DMs suggested this as a good spot to see the action.  Eventually everyone was in the water and situated, and they lowered a cage with a bin of shark food (fish heads and the like) in it.  They sharks got all excited, and then they opened the cage, and the sharks went at it.  I think shark (or anything) feeds are kind of dumb, but I found it surprisingly entertaining to watch.  And it was definitely the best shark-peeping dive I've ever done.

Once the feed was finished, we meandered along the wall, watching the sharks cruising along.  A lot of them stuck around even after the food was all gone.  There was a manta sighting on the dive, but we didn't see it.  Boohoo.  Aside from the sharks, the reef there was actually pretty nice, which surprised me, considering that they do a shark feed here.  Even the little amphitheater area where people sit on the wall was in pretty good condition, which made no sense at all to me :P  Getting back onto the boat was once again a bit of a cluster because of all of the surface current.  One of the DMs (Simon) was basically hanging on the bottom of the ladder, and plucking people from the drop line, and placing them on the ladder (hands and then fins).  I ended up waiting on the drop line for quite a while, because people kept swimming over to the drop line, having not very much gas, and so they got plucked ahead of me. It was pretty entertaining to watch (Rob avoided this altogether, by swimming from the mooring line straight to the ladder, to avoid the plucking, because you know, that's how he rolls).

Lunch was pasta dishes and salad.  When we got back into the water for the second dive, we both jumped off of the side of the boat.  After I hit the water, it seemed like something was a little out of place, and after looking over my gear, I realized that my video reflector had popped off of its double ender, and was rapidly descending below me.  I pointed it out to Rob (since there was no way in hell I could chase and catch it), and amazingly, he zoomed down and caught it.  Phew.  The second dive at the site was more of the same -- a lot of sharks were still around, but we also covered more ground along the wall, checking out the reef.  Rob flooded one of his strobes on this dive :(  Apparently there was a long hair in the O-ring, though I still tried to blame it on Pepper.  Actually I think it was because of the rough crossing the night before, everything had been moved down to our room, so he setup the camera on our bed, instead of on the camera table.

The last dive of the day was at Admiralty, which was a pretty cool site.  The drawing of the site on the whiteboard looked like a maze.  I guess the main site is a coral outcropping on top of a wall.  Because there is a sand "bottom" the "maze" sits on top of, but there is also a deep wall adjacent to it.  There are some extended swim-throughs (or "caves") in a few spots, but we decided to skip those.  The reef was in great shape, and all of the nooks and crannies were pretty cool.  I especially liked the fact that the reef came up to less than 20 feet.  I was thinking, and I know this sounds like something Rob would say, but it would be awesome to dive the walls around here with some trimix, and then follow the reef all the way up on deco.  There must be some cool sea monsters down there :)

Overall, I thought that the deep walls at Osprey were pretty impressive, the reef seemed to be in better shape and had some brighter soft corals, and I think that the viz was better there.  But I didn't think it was particularly epic.  I thought that the best dives that we did in Fiji were better than the best dives on this trip, just as a point of comparison.

Dinner was pork belly, sweet potato purée and veggies, with tiramisu for dessert.  We once again had to secure everything for a rough crossing, though it was not as rough as the night before.

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