Saturday, July 7, 2012

Finding Nemo: Three Days on the Great Barrier Reef

This year Microsoft held its annual student technology competition in Sydney, Australia.  Since the Great Barrier Reef is one of the "must see" dive destinations, and getting there is ridiculously expensive, I took advantage of the situation and traveled a week early and took a three-day "live aboard" dive trip on the Great Barrier Reef. There were 24 of us on the boat, and I shared a bunk with another solo guy near my age.  Since it takes 3 or more hours to reach the outer reef, it makes sense to go out there one day and then stay awhile to maximize your dive time.  We did 11 dives in three days, including 2 night dives.  My first day there was a mix-up on where my hotel was, and I ended up missing my boat's departure, but hitched a ride on a much faster day boat owned by the same company, so I actually got out there hours early and started diving earlier. Plus, the day boat had a pro-photographer that went down with us so I actually got some fun pictures that included me in it (price of photo CD extra of course, but well worth the price since he gave me every picture he took of me).

We had quite an international group on board including folks from Germany, France, Australia, and the USA. We ate buffet style, and the food was good and plenty of it. Snacks in-between meals.

It was rather windy while I was out there, that made being on deck during breaks not very pleasant, but once we were underwater it was calm, with very little current or surge. The water temperature was 75 degrees most of the time, and surface temps during the day sometimes rose up to 77. The first morning I wore a shorty wet suit, but once I was on my real boat, I wore a full wet suit (but with short sleeves).

The time zone difference wasn't a problem, but when 8:30 or 9:30pm rolled around (about 4am Mountain, I would hit the wall and fall immediately asleep once I got into bed (the top bunk).

My bunk mate was a nice guy and he ended up being my default dive partner, but sometimes he got a little nervous and would sit a dive out so I would join another group. 

It was a great adventure and I'm really glad I made the effort to go.

My dive boat left from the resort town of Cairns (pronounced "cans" with an Australian accent. This sign is on the main beach. If you click on the picture you can see children (otherwise referred to as "bait") playing in the tidal flats in the distance.

This is the dive deck. My cabin was on the top deck just aft of the wheelhouse

Just coming aboard the day boat; photo by the staff photographer. Cairns Harbour in the background.
The Dive Deck; my rig is second from the right
Another view of the dive deck. We kept our towels hanging out here, but they never got dry; we used them too often and it was too humid, plus the salt in them slows down the drying.
This is the reef from the top deck.The dark mounds of coral are called "bommies" and we dive in between them. Snorkelers go on top.
After meals they hook up a hose to a pump (ocean water) so we can rinse our dishes overboard. The fish don't seem to mind.
Our cook was french. Here he is on the dive platform cleaning up after dinner with lots of grateful fish below
Another shot of the reef at low tide from the top deck.

Multi-purpose marine head; notice the shower nozzle above the mirror.  Basically if we had a few hours between a dive you would jump in here for a minute and rinse the salt out of your hair and bathing suit, then put on a dry rash guard and board shorts and call it good. I don't think anyone really bathed per se; since we were doing four dives a day we were always clean-ish.
This is the saloon where we ate and generally hung out; kitchen in the foreground on the left.  Notice we are all barefoot, which was a rule.  It was much safer in terms of not slipping or tripping.
This is the wheel house, and where the Skipper sleeps as well. He has a sun-shade over the windshield to keep the sun off while we are anchored

This is my stateroom. Tiny with me on the top bunk. The beds were comfortable and I slept like a rock each night.
Most of the divers rotated their bathing suits; particularly the women. We tied out suits out on the rail so they would dry in the wind (it sort of worked... well not really).
Sunset out on the reef.
Me getting ready for my first dive
I took this picture of our guide
Boat photographer's pics of hawk-bill turtle with me in the background

Barracuda were common
Nigel the Napoleonic Maori Wrasse

Underwater cartoons always have giant clams in them but I never seen them off the coast of the US or in the Caribbean. These ranged from 12 inches to 24 inches across. The electric blue fringe was common but sometimes the colors were different.
View of a diver reentering the boat.  The guy in this picture has already removed his fins and handed them to our guide, who will hold them until he is safely on the ladder.

Parrot fish with beak; click picture to get a better view
A smaller clam.
What we call a "swim through"
My dive buddy with a clam showing the size

The side of a coral bommie
White-tip Reef Shark
Green Sea Turtle
Divers and snorkelers on the dive step defogging and putting on masks, and getting checked on the dive list
Pro picture of me, coral and fish
White-tip Reef Shark resting under a ledge
Clown fish "family" living in a big anemone

Montage of my favorite video clips.

Diving the Great Barrier Reef from randy guthrie on Vimeo.

1 comment:

Melissa said...

Great pictures and Bryson loved the video. Looks like you're having a great time.