Purpose Statement

Exploration -> Experience -> Feeling -> Transformation -> Understanding

Monday, January 19, 2015

Highlights from the Great Barrier Reef


A few highlights from my week on the Great Barrier Reef:

1. Jumping in the water at Lady Musgrave Island. I did my best to not burn in the tropical sun - zinc oxide all over my face, a spandex shirt, knee length board shorts - and I did pretty well except for one small oversight. When I went swimming, as in long distance freestyle, my shirt rode up on my torso, and I was quite skinny by the time we got to the reef (I pretty much stopped eating for 2 weeks as we crossed the Tasman Sea because I was constantly on the verge of nausea from the motion) so my shorts barely hung on my non-existent butt, so I have a 2" horizontal burn stripe across my lower back. I can cover a lot of distance swimming, as opposed to snorkeling, so I went for long solo swims most everywhere we stopped. I missed my Hawaii swim buddy Ellen Argo.
2. School of fish. There was a huge flock of birds swarming just behind the boat so I stuck the camera in the water to see what the birds were feeding on - a school of fish.
3. Mama and baby dolphin swimming of the bow. Pods of dolphin visited us frequently, especially at dawn. They love to swim right at the bow of the boat. By the end of the trip, I had figured out how to hold the GoPro right on the skeg of the bow under the water line while moving 5 knots/hr., but when this baby visited us, my technique was a bit less refined, so the camera bounces in and out of the water. One night I was on watch, sitting at the helm. The moon was to starboard (the right) and cast a bright reflection over a large swath of roiling ocean. A pod of dolphin swam alongside for hours, their "blow" sounds and sleek black silhouettes a welcome distraction from the monotony of watch. I would often hear their sonar as I sat in the boat, so I suspect they were "looking" at (or perhaps through) the hull of the boat.
4. Eagle Ray. A big boy. I bet his wingspan was 6 feet.
5. Beautiful coral and a giant clam in fairly shallow water. I was swimming in goggles, so I couldn't equalize the airspace in front of my eyes, so I doubt I went much deeper than 10-12 feet.
6. Island Jungle. Few insects. Birds everywhere.
7. Sea bird. These guys do a great little dance. I don't know if it was a mating dance or a war dance. I tried to video it, but the lens on my GoPro is so wide, the birds came out too tiny. In the video you see here, the camera was handheld  literally a few inches from the bird.
8.  Stag horn coral and a black tip reef shark. When we arrived at the Great Barrier Reef, the first thing we had to do was drop anchor. We wanted to drop anchor over sand, so as to not destroy any coral, so I jumped in to the water to look for a big sandy spot. This was the first time I had been in the water on the trip. I jumped in, put my face in the water and looked down. The first thing I saw was a 12 foot reef shark and I thought "Holy $&!#, what have I jumped into." The shark you see in the video is probably 6 foot tip to tail.
9. Now gimme some fin. Noggin. DUDE! (Ask your kids to explain.)
10.  Snorkeling reef canyons. I mounted the GoPro on a short gaff Dwight had for snagging mooring buoys and it worked quite well. I sandy bottom where the ray was resting was probably 40 feet down.
 How long was I down? About a minute.
11. A very large, very old loggerhead turtle. This was the closest thing to a religious experience I had on the trip. I floated with this guy for half an hour
12. A fast, muscular dolphin off the bow.
13. Sting Rays in shallow water on a sandy bottom at Heron Island. With my mask and snorkel, I was able to study these fellows in great detail, especially the barbs on their tails. Yes, I was quite mindful of what happened to Steve Irwin.
14. Sting Rays from the kayak.
15.  A Shovelnose Ray or Guitarfish from the kayak. I chased this guy for half an hour and have quite a lot of footage of his distance shadow swimming away.
16. Turtle tracks on the beach at Mast Head Island. In the dark of night, female turtles slide themselves up the beach, dig a hole in the sand near the treeline, lay their eggs, bury their eggs, then slide back down the beach to the water. It was quite encouraging to see all the turtle tracks. I thought to carefully brush away sand to look at a clutch of eggs, but decided better to leave everything alone.

The music is "Surfin the Log" from Aboriginal group Yothu Yindi. I love the lyrics and the bass line.

4 comments:

lag said...

Wow!!!! Incredible. The turtles didn't seem to mind you terribly much. Any GWs?

Manai'a Explorations said...

LAGarooni, I saw black tip and white tip reef sharks, the smallest being only 30" or so and the largest being 12'. I think the great whites tend to be in cooler waters, like 50-75 degrees, and we were in 80-85 degree water.

lagalag said...

You know this now, but around the time you were nearing Brisbane, a 3700 lbs. GW had closed the beaches off of Newcastle. Holy cow!

Manai'a Explorations said...

Sharks are all about food. Deep sea fish populations have been decimated by overfishing and along the shore are tasty seals. It's no surprise that sharks are coming in to shore.