Diving the Whit Sundays

The Great Barrier Reef lies in the Coral Sea 15-160 km (10-100 mi) off the eastern coast of Queensland, Australia. Often called the longest coral reef in the world, it is actually a series of coral islands, reefs, and shoals that extend north to south-east for over 2,000 km (1,250 mi). The coral formations are based on the outer, eastern edge of the continental shelf, once part of the Queensland coast. They largely consist of the calcified remains of coral polyp built up in strange and beautiful formations over millions of years; there are more than 350 species of coral. Between the Main Reef and the mainland lies the Lagoon, a shallow body of water dotted with hundreds of islands, some of them coral cays, others summits of a drowned coastal mountain range. Vividly coloured fish, shells, and giant clams, all clearly visible in the crystalline waters, are great tourist attractions. Capt. James Cook discovered the reef on June 11, 1770, when his ship, the Endeavour, ran aground on the reef that now bears the ship’s name.

Bibliography: Reader’s Digest Book of the Great Barrier Reef (1985).

The Whitsunday’s is a part of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) and in the Whitsunday’s there is an island named Hook Island.

Hook MapThis is where the JCU Diveclub usually head for relaxing their tired university brains on the mid-semester breaks.

This semester the Hook Island trip was cancelled due to overbooking of the island where a possession of a camping permit is a must. To compensate the lack of holiday Jody decided that he wanted to go unofficially with just close friends where all just pay what it really costs. Jody sent out an email to about 20 persons that he thought would be nice people to have along on the trip.

Of these 20, 14 made it. These where, Jody Jude Jono Ruth Chris Julia Eddie Milno Ashley Tony Sea Chris Morgan Warren and me.

It all started a little worrying though Jody said we all should be at the diveclub house at 10am to pack the trailer.

Because me being trained to keep time, I arrived at the Diveclub house 5 to 10, and the only person that was around was Jude, after 50 minutes wait, Jody and Eddie came but left right away thought they did not have the keys to the Diveclub house. After another half an hour they returned with keys and we started to put up some tents to see how they where (many where attacked by rats). The idea was to leave Townsville for Airlie Beach around noon, but the girls did not show until two when we had decided to leave without them, so they could catch up with us in Airlie. After more waiting little here and there, we finally head of to our first destination, Airlie Beach. I went in Tony’s quite new Land Rover with Sea.

After about 4 hours we reached Airlie and checked in at the resort where we would spend the night and get some food into our selves.

After the early rise (5am) we encountered many of our travel companions sleeping on the lawn outside their cabin, at first sight we thought they where joking with us, but after a closer look we saw what we all thought it would be… They where so drunk so they did not find there way into the cabins!! After half an hour we were on our way down to the dock to load the banana-boats that was taking us over to Maureen’s Cove on Hook Island.

After loading the boats and unloading them after the 40 minutes boat ride, we all felt home at once due to we all have being there before. We found our selves a sleeping place and the whole camp was established within an hour or so, with wind and rain protection over our hammocks and tents.

On the Sunday I made my first dive for this trip with a girl from Melbourne named Chris. My second dive was with a fellow called Broke Milno, which I later almost did all my dives with. During my 10 dives this trip I encountered many beautiful animals such as nudibranchs, moray eel, box fish, sea urchins, white tipped reef shark, wobbegong, blue spotted stingray, crayfish, cuttlefish and turtles!

The last night we decided to do a nightdive, and it’s always special due to the excitement of the waters (read fear of sharks) and the sightings of sharks earlier in the week did not decrease the thrill. We divided us up into two groups, one that did a dusk dive, meaning you enter the water while it’s still bright, but during the dive the sun sets and it becomes a nightdive. The second group entered just after the first one had come up (due to sufficient with torches). I wanted to do both a dusk and a nightdive so I did the dusk dive with Milno and I saw the white tipped reef shark (about a meter, a meter and a half long). The second dive was with a whole group of people; Jody Tony Warren Eddie and me, that was really a great dive where I saw the Wobbegong, the blue spotted stingray and the cuttlefish.

CuttlefishAt the end of the dive the three first divers (Tony, Jody and Eddie) had encountered a crayfish laying under a small rock, the crayfish was about a meter long (with other words, HUGE). Somebody signed to Tony to wank it’s antennas and pull it out from the rock so we could see how it looked like. When Tony pulled it out it got scared (of course) and it tried to escape but we all sat in a circle around the rock to watch so it just aimed for one direction and ejected as fast as it could in the direction where I sat on me knees!!! It came towards my chest really fast and unexpected from my side, I jumped of pure instinct the crayfish slipped through my legs and I can tell you I almost shit pants when it hit my leg!!

So the conclusion of the diving was that it went out on a really high note, which was good after the whole week of moderate diving.

On the Wednesday we had our X-mas party, where we all gave each other gifts of a maximum value of 5$,  We were all assigned to give a person a gift after Jody’s secret gift list, I was assigned to give Jody a present. I was thinking for quite some time what to give him but I ended up giving him photo film so he could contribute to the diveclub’s home page photo gallery.

I got fridge magnet with a thermometer on and some Starwars candy! After I opened the presents they all said; you’re an Aussie now!!! And that felt nice to be approved as an Aussie by some Australians.

The Friday was the big cleaning up day due to our departure early the next morning. The Saturday came and everybody was up at 5 am to take down our hammocks and roofs and get all our stuff down on the beach, so we easily could load up the banana boats when they came and picked us up at 7 am. OR should I say, should have picked us up, because by eight o’clock the banana boats still hadn’t showed up. We waited till nine and nine thirty, but no boats, words like emergency and survival came up, and when we saw one of the dive-boats that belongs to the same company, as the banana boats do, cruising by into the next bay. Jody said that when it gets back I will fire a flare so we know what’s going on. Ashley was against the idea but Jody was sure that he would use it and 10 minutes later the dive-boat came back and we started waving, me with my jacket and others just with their hands. When the boat had done like half the bay they spotted us and turned towards Maureen’s Cove where we were. When it got close enough Tony swam out and asked where the F**K the banana boats where. And the lady on the dive boat said that they where not suppose to pick us up until Sunday, so Tony jumped onboard and they went out to radio the base and came to the agreement that they would pick us up at 6pm that night…

Little disappointment among the people but 6pm was better than 7am the day after, we got some water from the dive boat crew and took Chris and Milno to Airlie because they where going to Brisbane not to Townsville. They had to get in earlier so they could get back to Brissy before Monday when they started working again.

First I thought that I could go for another dive but changed my mind quite fast and put up my hammock again and took a little snooze. I don’t think I ever slept this much in my entire life as I did during this week.

At 6pm the banana boats came and we had a beautiful ride home in the sunset. On our way back when we passed Haymon Island we say a dinner table out on a coral cay and about 8 people sitting there. Our skipper told us that, that is not a bad place to have a 5 star dinner with the chance of having a bottle of the finest wine in world (Haymon Island is famous for its wine cellar)

When we got to Airlie Beach, we unloaded the boats and loaded the cars and the trailer, and headed for the city to get some food.

Leave a Reply