Archive for January, 2013

#268 Kilsbys Sinkhole 2013-01-28

Monday, January 28th, 2013
Kilsbys Sinkhole in Mt Gambier, Australia
75 minutes, max depth 38.7 m, water 15°C
Buddies: Adrian Koochew, Conny Hoffmann

#267 One Tree 2013-01-28

Monday, January 28th, 2013
One Tree in Mt Gambier, Australia
38 minutes, max depth 38.1 m, water 14°C
Buddies: Adrian Koochew, Conny Hoffmann

Cavern diving in Mt Gambier

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Last weekend I did my first cavern diving trip to Mt Gambier. There were five of us, Alex, Dean, Conny, Adrian and me. Monday was a public holiday due to Australia Day, so we had one extra day available for day. The drive to Mt Gambier with Adrian was pretty uneventful, no close calls with wallabies this time around!

We had Piccaninnie Ponds booked for Saturday. However, as only four persons per dive slot can dive the Pics at one time we had to do it in two groups. For the morning dive Adrian and me headed to Ewens Ponds and the rest did Pics. As we both had some gear testing to do this worked out nicely. Ewens Ponds was nice as usual, on a sunny day like that there was great potential for over-under shots.

After grabbing some lunch at Port Macdonell we regrouped at Ewens Ponds. Alex and Dean hopped in with scuba and Conny and I joined them for a snorkel. Drysuit snorkeling is always bit of a pain, particularly since I didn’t have my snorkel with me. After the snorkel Adrian, Conny and me packed up and headed for Pics for the 5 pm dive slot.

We some gear issues at Pics, but eventually we got everything sorted out and hopped in. The dive itself was very enjoyable, quite a bit nicer than the already quite nice course dive. We did quite a bit of exploring and finished the dive just as our dive slot was ending. Unfortunately Pics tends to silt out quite easily and while I did attempt some shots out of the Cathedral part none of them really worked out as well as I hoped.

On Sunday we started out early and headed to Little Blue Lake with Adrian and Conny. This was a fairly nice dive during the course so I was expecting a decent dive. It did look really murky on the surface but we were hoping things would clear up further down. Unfortunately this didn’t happen, at best the vis was maybe two (!) meters. At least we found the car and some other interesting stuff down there. As we headed deeper the vis kept getting worse, by the end it was getting really close to zero so it was obviously time to head to the surface after a quick deco stop.

Luckily the second dive of the day more than made up for it. We headed to Kilsby’s Sinkhole, one of the best Sinkhole dives in Australia (and the world for that matter). This sinkhole sits in the middle of a sheep farm but even from the surface you can see that the dive will be special. The sun kept playing on the walls of the sinkhole and you could easily see the bottom at 20-30 meters.

And the dive that followed didn’t disappoint either, this was easily one of the best dives I have ever done! After descending we headed to the deeper end (bottom maxes out at 40 meters with some smaller tunnels going deeper) and started exploring. Unfortunately Adrian started having some problems when we were checking out one of the holes there. He was having problems with his main regulator and while it was no real emergency it was best for him to call the dive. We made sure he cleared his deco obligation and got safely back to the surface. After that Conny and I continued the dive in the shallower parts of the sinkhole and explored many of the swimthroughs there. Even in the shallows we managed to get into fair bit of deco so eventually we had to call it and head to surface after finishing our deco stops. The dive was an amazing experience and Kilsby’s is now my clear number one dive site in Australia.

Monday was our last day in Mt Gambier. We started out with a visit to Tank Cave, the premiere cave diving site in Mt Gambier. To actually dive Tank Cave you need advanced cave certification and quite a bit of experience so we were obviously there just to have a look. We were given a quick tour by a group of experienced divers. On the surface the site does not look much, there’s just stairs leading down into a small tunnel and some crystal clear water. But underwater it’s a different story, there are over seven kilometers of tunnels and for many people this is the culmination of their cave diving career.

After Tank Cave tour it was finally time to head for our own dive. We decided to have a look at One Tree, another sinkhole on one of the farms. I hadn’t done the site before so I was pretty eager to have a look. In the end the dive was decent if nothing too special. Down on the bottom it was really dark, sunlight didn’t really penetrate there at all. At least vis was pretty decent and there’s some interesting stuff on the bottom. Highlight was the old harvester with lots of cow skulls on it.

And then it was time to head for another dive in Kilsby’s Sinkhole. This was the first day with poor weather, the site was not nearly as spectacular on a rainy day. It was still an excellent dive and we spent fair bit of time exploring some of the deeper swimthroughs. We racked up fair bit of deco while down there, waiting 27 minutes of deco out sure got pretty boring. Luckily sun was coming out from behind the clouds again so there were more cool photo opportunities.

After Kilsby’s we started the long drive back to Melbourne with Conny. The others opted to stay in Mt Gambier for the night and return in the morning.

It was an amazing trip and I’m really keen to get more cavern (and eventually cave) diving done both in Mt Gambier and elsewhere!

#266 Kilsbys Sinkhole 2013-01-27

Sunday, January 27th, 2013
Kilsbys Sinkhole in Mt Gambier, Australia
79 minutes, max depth 40.5 m, water 15°C
Buddies: Adrian Koochew, Conny Hoffmann

#265 Little Blue Lake 2013-01-27

Sunday, January 27th, 2013
Little Blue Lake in Mt Gambier, Australia
24 minutes, max depth 36.9 m, water 13°C
Buddies: Adrian Koochew, Conny Hoffmann

#264 Piccaninnie Ponds 2013-01-26

Saturday, January 26th, 2013
Piccaninnie Ponds in Mt Gambier, Australia
44 minutes, max depth 34.4 m, water 16°C
Buddies: Adrian Koochew, Conny Hoffmann

#263 Ewens Ponds 2013-01-26

Saturday, January 26th, 2013
Ewens Ponds in Mt Gambier, Australia
42 minutes, max depth 9.4 m, water 17°C
Buddies: Adrian Koochew

#262 Z Reef 2013-01-19

Saturday, January 19th, 2013
Z Reef in Melbourne, Australia
40 minutes, max depth 19.8 m, water 20°C
Buddies: Luke Cawley

Boat diving

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

I haven’t done a wreck dive in ages so I was really looking forward to this Saturday as the dive plan included a visit to the J5 submarine. This is the most photogenic of the subs around Melbourne and one of my favorite wreck dives around here. Due to the depth of this sub (bottom is at 36 meters) we dive it quite rarely and I have only had a chance to dive it once before.

Unfortunately our plans didn’t quite work out. We got the boat in the water just fine and started heading towards the submarine. But as we were approaching Port Phillip Heads the sea started looking quite rough. We have certainly passed through the Heads in worse conditions. However, after quite a bit of contemplation we ended up deciding to stay inside the Bay. Our trip back from the sub would have been at the height of the ebb tide which might have made the return trip somewhat tricky. So in the end we felt it was best to play it safe.

So instead of the sub we headed to Pope’s Eye. At least the tide was ebbing so the conditions were lot better there than a week earlier. We actually did two dives there. First some of the people already on the boat did the dive. Then we headed back to Queenscliff boat ramp (which is just a short boat ride from Pope’s Eye anyway) to meet some people who had done a shore dive first. We switched out people a little bit and then headed back to Pope’s Eye. And then the people who hadn’t done the first (including myself) did the dive.

The dive itself was pretty nice and certainly quite interesting. To begin with the current was fairly strong. There were also lots of particles in the water and the visibility was quite poor. And to complicate matters further Crystal was having some problems getting down. At least it was an easy site like Pope’s Eye. Soon enough the current started to ease and visibility improved too. There were still a fair bit of particles floating around but otherwise the rest of the dive was very enjoyable.

This was probably the best fish dive I have done at Pope’s Eye, there was a great variety of different species. Some of the scalyfins were being really territorial too, a few even tried to bite me through the drysuit! In addition to all the fish there was also a cuttlefish swimming around and stingray hiding in the sand. Far better dive than last week’s mess at Pope’s Eye!

For the last dive of the day we waited for slack water. We had a couple of fairly inexperienced divers with us on the boat so we opted not to dive the Lonsdale Wall itself. Instead we did one of the nearby reef sections, the GPS marker for this one was called Z Reef. I was diving with Luke and the area was surprisingly nice, lots of nice ledges, small walls and holes. Visibility wasn’t the best and the current got fairly strong by the end of our dive. We still had a great dive and everyone thought this was very nice OW level site. Sometimes it’s worthwhile to check out random markers on the boat GPS. 🙂

#261 Pope’s Eye 2013-01-19

Saturday, January 19th, 2013
Pope's Eye in Melbourne, Australia
51 minutes, max depth 11 m, water 20°C
Buddies: Crystal Kean