Archive for May, 2013

St Leonards and Ozone

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

To wrap up a good month of diving we headed down to Bellarine Peninsula for some shore dives. Weather was decent for the end of May, some clouds and little drizzle every now and then but still reasonably warm.

There were three of us heading down: Seth, Natalia and me. To get things started we drove down to St Leonards. This is one of my favorite pier dives and it didn’t disappoint this time either. This time we had a particularly high tide which is great for this shallow site.

On this dive we decided to explore the pier further than usual. Unfortunately as you follow the main pier the water gets really shallow again. In the end we had to turn back as it simply got too shallow. It would also be nice to check out the other side of the pier at some point on a really long dive.

Seth was testing out his GoPro and I was focusing on some macro shots. There was plenty of stuff to photograph, including several seahorses, pretty sea stars, lots of pufferfish and quite a few shrimps.

For the second dive we drove to the nearby Ozone wreck. Despite the really shallow depth I really like this site. For this one I switched my fisheye lens on. The fact that parts of the wreck are above the surface make for some interesting split shots. Unfortunately the cloudy skies made for a rather boring backdrop. In addition, small waves made split shots somewhat tricky.

In the end I focused on the underwater sections of the wrecks. In particular I spent a lot of time exploring and photographing the boilers. I had some issues with one of my strobes but this wasn’t a huge issue in shallow water. There were also a few fish around but no bigger schools. While the splits didn’t work out quite as well as I hoped some of the shots turned out nicely. In general I was quite happy with this dive and I’m keen to come back to spend more time with the wreck on a future dive.

However, my next dives will be back in the Cave Country. We will be heading back to Mt Gambier for our cave course in early June. Pretty exciting and I’m really looking forward to visiting some new sites over there!

#325 Ozone 2013-05-26

Sunday, May 26th, 2013
Ozone in Melbourne, Australia
33 minutes, max depth 3.3 m, water 13°C
Buddies: Natalia, Seth

#324 St Leonards Pier 2013-05-26

Sunday, May 26th, 2013
St Leonards Pier in Melbourne, Australia
39 minutes, max depth 4 m, water 13°C
Buddies: Natalia, Seth

Birthday Dives: SS Coogee and “Dirty Steps”

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

It was time for my Birthday dives again! We ended up going out on the 19th of May, a few days before the actual Birthday. Forecast was looking rather promising so we took both the boats down to Queenscliff and started heading out through the Heads. Unfortunately the conditions in the Heads were quite choppy and while the Big Boat I was on got through Luke decided to turn the Little Boat back and do a dive inside the Bay inside.

After confirming that the other boat was ok we continued heading out to SS Coogee, our original destination. It was little bit choppy out there but pretty smooth going after we had cleared the heads.

I hadn’t dived the wreck in a long while so I was rather excited. I went down with Mel B and got started with the dive. Unfortunately my torch was acting up quite a bit and I spent way too much time on the bottom fiddling around with it. It was little bit murky down there and I even got slightly lost for a moment. Luckily we relocated the wreck quickly but with the limited bottom time this led to some very limited chances to explore the wreck and take photos.

We still had time for a decent look at the boilers and the bow section. Unfortunately by the time we reached the stern section and the most impressive parts of the wreck we were already hitting the decompression limit. After a few quick photos of the stern we had to head back towards the surface already. A real shame, I would love to spend lot more time with the photogenic steering rudder and the schools of fish always swimming around it.

To celebrate my Birthday I had made a Finnish style cake with cream and strawberries. A few us already ate our share on the boat, the rest of had their slices back on the shore. This was my first attempt at a cake like this but in general it was judged a success.

For the second dive we waited for slack and set out for Lonsdale Wall. We visited a slightly different section than usual, we called this area “the Dirty Steps”. Conditions on the surface had improved significantly: the sun was out in full force and the ocean was perfectly flat. Visibility was still somewhat average but not bad enough to spoil an excellent deep dive.

At the Dirty Steps the Lonsdale Wall plummets along several “steps”, small plateaus with steep slopes between. This is one of the deeper parts of the Lonsdale Wall, we went down to almost 50 meters and from there a steep slope kept going down into the abyss. It seems likely the area is used for training too, there were some permanent lines going down from around the 40 meter mark. At that depth we also found some remains of an old sailboat.

With the poor visibility near the surface it got quite dark deeper down. Limited light and visibility were not the best conditions for photography, but otherwise this was a very moody dive. We even found a large cave entrance on the way back up. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough bottom time left to explore. I really need to come back here properly equipped so I can spend more time exploring the site!

#323 Lonsdale Wall 2013-05-19

Sunday, May 19th, 2013
Lonsdale Wall in Melbourne, Australia
29 minutes, max depth 48.5 m, water 14°C
Buddies: Evan Hallein, Hugh

#322 SS Coogee 2013-05-19

Sunday, May 19th, 2013
SS Coogee in Melbourne, Australia
30 minutes, max depth 31.7 m, water 15°C
Buddies: Mel B

Updated Dive Log

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

I have been working on a new version of my dive log for quite a while. After a few aborted prototypes I have finally come up with a version I’m reasonably happy with. The new dive log is running as a WordPress plugin so it’s fully integrated with the rest of the site unlike the old log. The current version is still somewhat bare bones but it should cover all of the most important functionality. Still there’s fair bit of work to do, including adding missing information and photos to the individual dives.

I’m particularly happy with the new dive site map.  The map utilizes the excellent Basic Google Maps Placemarks plugin. The map marker clustering is very convenient for displaying the dive sites around the world.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be adding some more features to the plugin and also doing some polishing work.

Unfortunately there’s one more pressing issue that needs to be resolved first. You may have noticed that I haven’t posted any photos in a while and there’s a good reason for this. I’m currently having some annoying issues with the Lightroom export plugin I use to upload my photos to the online gallery. While I now have a decent general idea what’s causing the issue, fixing the problem is not straightforward and may take quite a bit of debugging. I’ll try to get this resolved ASAP and start uploading my photo backlog that includes several shore dives in April/May and another trip to Mt Gambier in the beginning of May.

#321 Blairgowrie Pier 2013-05-11

Saturday, May 11th, 2013
Blairgowrie Pier in Melbourne, Australia
70 minutes, max depth 6.1 m, water 16°C
Buddies: Crystal Kean, Luke Cawley

Diamond Bay

Saturday, May 11th, 2013

This week we had one of those rare spells of really strong northerlies blowing for several days. While this is no good for shore diving inside the Bay it can make for excellent diving on the back beaches of the Mornington Peninsula. Due to swell these sites are normally rather unpleasant and even quite dangerous to dive but on a day like this when the strong northerlies have calmed down the swell the diving can be excellent.

I had planned to visit Diamond Bay (near Sorrento Back Beach) for quite a while and this was finally a perfect chance. The weather was excellent as well, a particularly warm and sunny day in May. Rest of the club regulars were busy running an OW course at Blairgowrie so it was Luke, Crystal and me heading down to check out the site. Unfortunately when we got there we found out that  Crystal had forgotten her fins. So in the end she had to drive back to get some new ones and it was just Luke and me doing the dive.

Entry takes more effort here than the usual shore dive on Mornington Peninsula. First of all it’s a fair walk from the car park and you also have to climb down some pretty big stairs to get down to the beach. And the way back up the stairs is obviously even worse. Luckily the site is well worth the effort!

We had an excellent dive here, a very different experience from the usual shore dive around Melbourne. Most of the bottom is rocks with lots of kelp and other organic growth on them. There are also plenty of small canyons and holes between the rocks with several swim-throughs too. Even on a good day like this the currents and surge can get fairly strong, especially around the Bay entrance where the water is quite shallow.

While the Bay itself is pretty enough the best part of the dive is definitely outside. The water gets little deeper and there are some excellent walls and some interesting marine life. In addition to the schools of fish we also saw a couple of big rays. But for me the highlight of the dive was definitely the small cat shark (or swell shark) we saw. Sadly he only let me take one photo, the first flash of the strobes scared him off. I was still very happy to see one of these sharks.

However, care must be taken to dive this interesting site. We had a minor incident on this dive when we decided to surface and check out our exact position. We found ourselves a fair distance out of the Bay and right next to a really shallow area. The waves started pushing as toward pushed us into the shallows area and we got banged around a fair bit before we managed to get back to deeper water. Both me and my camera survived unscathed but unfortunately Luke got a nasty bruise on his leg.

Luckily we made our way back to the Bay without further incidents. Crystal was already waiting for us there with her newly-bought fins. After a quick rest it was time to head back up the stairs to the car park. After a rather strenuous dive that long climb up the stairs was quite a killer!

After the Diamond Bay both Luke and me preferred something nice and easy for the second dive. We headed down to Blairgowrie where the OW people were just wrapping up their course. While macro lens is normally my first choice for Blairgowrie I went with wide-angle this time for some variety.

This was a pretty good choice. While we didn’t see any big critters there was still quite a bit of nice stuff to photograph. With the wide-angle on I focused more on the pylons and pier structure. There was a decent amount of fish life around and a lot of seahorses, including a nice trio near the end of the dive. Unfortunately we had some rather strong current around the main section of the pier so getting good shots of them was bit of a hassle. We had also timed our dive well, near the end of the dive sun was getting quite low and I got a couple of really nice pylon shots against the sun.

This was an excellent day of diving and I was really happy to finally check out Diamond Bay (especially with that cat shark sightning!). The dive at Blairgowrie also ended up being Crystal’s last dive in Melbourne. Later in May she packed her things and moved over to Rockhampton in Queensland. She will be missed in the club. 🙁

#320 Diamond Bay 2013-05-11

Saturday, May 11th, 2013
Diamond Bay in Melbourne, Australia
74 minutes, max depth 12.5 m, water 17°C
Buddies: Luke Cawley