Archive for February, 2013

Snorkeling Ricketts Point and Mordialloc Pier

Saturday, February 16th, 2013

I had a couple of snorkeling/diving spots I had planned to check out for quite a while. With the great weather on Saturday I finally had my chance.

I started out with Ricketts Point marine sanctuary in Beaumaris. I have done some walking along the coast in the area before but never got around swimming or snorkeling. There’s no direct public transpot option to Ricketts Point so getting there involved some walking. But it wasn’t a bad day to be out and about, just a tad hot.

I started out from Watkins Bay between Ricketts Point itself and Table Rock Point. I first headed towards Table Rock, an interesting coastal rock formation. There was a pretty good reef there in the shallows with good growth and decent fish life. I also spotted a couple of stingrays there. After exploring Table Rock Point I headed back towards Ricketts Point. The reef was very shallow and not quite as nice as on the other side.

There’s supposedly some deeper reefs in the area as well, but I didn’t find any. All the reefs I found were shallow and only suitable for snorkeling, really. Still, I only covered a fairly small part of the marine sanctuary, there seems to be plenty to do in the area. Definitely worth a return visit at some point even if the nearby Black Rock has slightly better snorkeling.

After Rickett’s Point marine sanctuary I moved on to Mordialloc Pier. This must be one of the easiest snorkeling or diving spots to reach with public transport around Melbourne. It’s just a few hundred meters from the train station to the beach and the pier. On a great day like this the beach was busy but still not too crowded.

I started out following the pier itself. Close to the shore the visibility was somewhat poor but as I got bit further out and to deeper water the conditions improved. I still had to be somewhat careful as there were some fishermen on the pier and couple of kids dive-bombing as well.

The pier was quite interesting, there lots of shells, fanworms and seastars on the pylons and near them. There were also several schools of fish swimming around, most of them were juveniles but there were some bigger fish around too. I also spotted a lone seahorse on the bottom, a nice surprise.

After the pier I also checked out the nearby reef. Unfortunately it was somewhat disappointing, there were some bigger fish around but otherwise not much to see. I also ran into a group of kids snorkeling around with spearguns, bit of a negative experience for me.

The pier itself would likely make a fairly decent dive as well on high tide. Nice option for a night dive or just a quick dive in general close to the city.

Back in Mt Gambier

Monday, February 11th, 2013
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After just two weeks after our last trip I headed back to Mt Gambier. Conny wanted to get another trip done before leaving Australia and she also brought along two of her friends (Ray and Chris) from Canberra. This time around it was just Adrian and me driving from Melbourne. Again the drive to Mt Gambier was long and uneventful, we did hit a few navigation hitches along the way and ended up driving (almost) through Portland by accident. Still, it was lot more pleasant than the drive from Canberra and Wagga that the others had to endure, that must have been pretty cruel!

We were again staying in Pine Tank Dive Lodge. While it’s little out of the way for most sinkhole rated sites, having the airfills (and Grant’s expertise) in the same place as the accommodation is a big plus. It was again a fairly busy weekend, quite a few cave and advanced cave rated divers there, including Liz Rogers. There were also quite a few people active in cave exploration around.

On Saturday we got started with the diving itself. We had Kilsbys Sinkhole booked for the whole day and did two dives there. I was buddied with Adrian and Conny and we started with a deep and long dive. We explored some of the deeper sections of the sinkhole again, starting with the tunnel where Adrian had his reg problems during our previous trip (apparently the manifold was faulty). This time around everything went smoothly and we were able to get pretty close to the bottom of that tunnel at 50 m. My maximum depth was 46 m and the other two went little bit deeper. Then we turned back and followed our line back to a shallower section.

We also explored some of the areas behind the boulders near the back of the sinkhole again. This is the deepest section of the sinkhole (with a maximum depth of around 63 m). We didn’t go too deep, however, and stayed around the 40 meter mark. At this point we had all racked up a fair bit of deco, so we started slowly making our way back to the shallower waters.

The final deco stop was again pretty long and boring, particularly for me since I was diving only on air and didn’t have a stage tank with me. I had done my best to stay slightly shallower than my buddies, but I still ended up with quite a few extra minutes above their deco obligation. Still, Kilsbys is nice enough place to sit out deco, even if the light wasn’t quite as nice as last time around. Finally after 104 minutes I had cleared all my deco and headed to the surface, it was my deepest and one of the longest dives so far!

Our second dive was lot less ambitious, we still had fair bit of air left in our tanks but decided not to go too deep. Adrian and I stayed in the reasonably shallow water under the entrance and Conny was freediving with us. With crystal clear water and decent depth Kilsbys must be a pretty nice freediving spot. I spent most of the dive shooting upwards towards the light, always bit of a tricky thing to do in a drysuit. Still, it was good to practice that in reasonably easy conditions.

On Sunday morning we started out with a quick dive in Pics with Adrian. Unfortunately as we exploring the bathtub at the bottom of the Cathedral his regulator started freeflowing badly. By the time we got the valves closed he had already gone through lot of air, so we called the dive. We headed back to the surface and finished with a total dive time of only 29 minutes. Bit of a shame, but at least we were able to resolve a potentially dangerous situation safely.

The main event for Sunday was a dive in Hells Hole. This site is rarely dived because of all the extra effort required. The only way to get into water is from a platform 35 meters above water level. It took us quite a while to set up all the ropes and harnesses, after a lot of work we were finally ready to lower the tanks into water. After the tanks the divers followed. Ray, Chris and Conny went in first. We were abseiling down on ropes, this seemed to work out pretty nicely for everyone (almost at least, I’ll come back to that).

The three divers had a fairly long and quite nice dive down there and then it was time for the hard part: climbing back up! While there are few different options how to do this, we had opted for jumaring back up. It took a while but eventually all three managed to make their way back up to the platform.

At this point it was getting fairly late and we obviously wanted to finish before sunset. We quickly got Adrian and myself in harnesses and then it was time for us to go in. The abseiling itself went fine until I managed to break one of my drygloves when one of them got stuck between the rope and the ring. I ended up with a fairly big hole in the glove, not really an issue for the climb but in the water it was leaking badly.

Water temperature was only 14 degrees and the dive was obviously pretty wet and cold for me as my drysuit got soaking wet quickly despite my best efforts. At least we had to keep the dive duration short anyway as it was soon getting dark. While probably not worth all the effort the dive was still pretty interesting. There were lots of trees and various junk in the water. In the center the Hole is really shallow, in many parts you can actually walk on the trees lying in the bottom. Water is also really murky, but luckily it clears up quite a bit when you go deeper.

Despite the shallow depth (we only went to around 20 m) it’s an interesting dive. Too bad it takes so long to set up and get people back out, otherwise it would be a great addition to the somewhat lacking selection of sinkhole and cavern sites in Mt Gambier.

By the time we had finished with our dive I was getting pretty cold and starting to shiver a little bit. It was also getting pretty close to sunset, so we started getting all the gear out as quickly as we could. After hauling everything else out it was time for Adrian and me to do the climb. In the end we missed some part of the fun, instead of jumaring all the way back up we were hauled by ropes part of the way. Probably a sensible thing to do as it was getting late, at least it was just us two skinny guys down there so we had the option.

Monday was lot less busy, it was a normal weekend so we had Pine Tank almost to ourselves. We said our goodbyes and then we went our separate ways. We were doing more dives in Piccaninnie Ponds and as you can only have four divers there at once we had to split up. Conny, Chris and Ray headed there first while Adrian and I decided to do Gouldens.

Conditions in Gouldens were a huge improvement over what I remembered from the Deep Cavern course. The visibility was actually quite and it was quite enjoyable to explore the site without any extra stress. It’s not an amazing dive by any means, even when you are careful the place silts out extremely easily and the site itself is fairly small. Still, there are some interesting sections near the sides to explore including a fairly tight section near the entry platform. There was also a fair bit of life down there, including some small fish and a huge yabbie.

To wrap up the trip we headed to Piccaninnie Ponds for our last dive. This time everything went smoothly and we were able to utilize pretty much the entire one hour dive slot we had. First we went down the Chasm to the maximum allowed depth (36 m in Pics) and then spent majority of the remaining dive around the Cathedral. To my surprise I found out you can actually get bored in Pics. It’s a great site but also fairly small. Additionally, all the organic silt tends to add up and after a while it’s hard to get clear shots anymore. At least I don’t have to feel bad about the fact that Pics will be closed for over a month after the next weekend.

After the dive we dropped off our rental tanks at Pine Tank and then started the long drive back to Melbourne with Adrian. The return trip went smoothly and despite some minor issues the weekend as a whole was again a great success!

During my next Gambier trip I’d really to dive the Shaft as well. While there are few other sinkhole/cavern level sites left for me to dive in Mt Gambier, this is the definitely the most interesting of them. It is also another site that does involve some climbing, even though not to the extent of Hells Hole. It’s also an excellent site for photography as the light passes into the sinkhole through a narrow shaft as the name implies. Unfortunately the site access is somewhat restricted, the next time it’s open is in April. I’m also very keen to get my cave course done later this year, after a third trip I should actually have the required dives for the course. Obviously there’s also fair bit of practicing to do, particularly with the reel work which I haven’t really done after the course.

Still, really looking forward to all the new skills and the new sites opened up when I get the cave course done!

#276 Piccaninnie Ponds 2013-02-11

Monday, February 11th, 2013
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#275 Gouldens Hole 2013-02-11

Monday, February 11th, 2013
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#274 Hells Hole 2013-02-10

Sunday, February 10th, 2013
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#273 Piccaninnie Ponds 2013-02-10

Sunday, February 10th, 2013
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#272 Kilsbys Sinkhole 2013-02-09

Saturday, February 9th, 2013
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#271 Kilsbys Sinkhole 2013-02-09

Saturday, February 9th, 2013
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Day with Octopuses

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013
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After the crystal clear waters of Mt Gambier it was time to jump back in Port Phillip Bay. Despite the ebb tide and some heavy rain a few days earlier the visibility was still fairly decent. There we four of us divers, Luke and me and then couple of newer members, Javier and Casey.

We started out at Rye, a nice easy dive as usual. Javier was slightly underweighted and was having some trouble getting down. I ended up giving him one of my weights and with the added weight we were able to get started. Near the end of the dive I was getting little bit buoyant myself, but it never got too annoying.

The dive itself was quite enjoyable. It was a really busy day under Rye Pier, there were lots of other diver groups around including some people doing courses. There was also a surprising amount of fish life, Rye Pier is usually nowhere near this busy! In addition to the various fish and crabs we also saw a small octopus. We met him in the open but he did his best to hide from us by crawling into a small hole. Near the end of the dive there was also a small school of dumpling squids swimming around.

After Rye we moved on to Blairgowrie. It was pretty busy there as well with few other groups of divers in the water. The dive itself was excellent, along with the usual nudibranchs (including a few you don’t see that often) there were also a couple of big smooth rays and another octopus. This one was pretty huge, probably the largest I have ever seen. Initially he was just hanging there on the pier structure but then he got annoyed with us, swam almost to the surface and then away from us. The macro lens I had on for this dive wasn’t really optimal for the big critters, but some of my nudibranch shots turned out quite well so I was still happy enough.

#270 Blairgowrie Pier 2013-02-03

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013
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