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Published: August 17th 2014
I See the Light
Swim through makes for unusual photography
SPIRIT OF FREEDOM Live Aboard
Great Barrier Reef Australia
(I have not had access to a computer for the last fifteen days. I have been out in boats on the Barrier Reef so I have been unable to post my blogs. I do apologize.)
After several days in Melbourne, Canberra, and Sydney, I became impatient to dive the Great Barrier Reef and traveled to Cairns. I spent a day going to a couple of dive shops investigating live aboard boats. At the second dive store, since they didn’t go to the more distant dive sites, the manager suggested I do the Spirit of Freedom out to the Coral Sea; the farther reefs of Australia. I booked a four day three night trip. Then the shop owner at Cairns Dive Center said I could book their three day, two night trip aboard the Kangaroo Explorer and then take the same boat for eight days as a volunteer. With a two hundred dollar deposit, to ensure I finished the job, I will work on the boat, cleaning tables, doing dishes, making beds, and cleaning bathrooms and I will be allowed to dive three dives a day
Lacy Scorpion Fish
Unusual and hard to find due to camouflage.
(if I have the energy).
The Spirit of Freedom van picked me up at 7:45 am and collected my luggage, separating it into bags to be stored and bags to go to the boat. We were dropped off at a tiny airport for a short flight out to the staging area for the outer reef dives. There were nine of us who joined sixteen others already on the boat, who were on a ten day trip. There was a bit of a schism because groups had already formed, but still people were helpful and friendly, particularly the staff.
The boat was large and comfortable and the food was good. I shared a cabin with Pam, another American, working in Asia. We ate, dived, ate, dived, ate, and dived again, for four days. I did a total of fourteen dives and we visited eleven different sites. The third day there was a staged shark feeding. I found the huge potato cod even more interesting than the sharks. He is so large, he eats first.
The weather was rough so the crew had to visit sites that were somewhat protected. Maybe the bad
Shark Feeding Frenzy
The dive masters fill a large steel cage with tuna scraps and lower it onto the bommie. The sharks, mostly large grey reef sharks and large potato cod arrive in droves.
weather kept some of the life hidden away. I almost never get sea sick, but for two of the nights I had to just put away book and computer and go to sleep. It wasn’t until the third day that I felt really top notch.
The diving deck was well run; sign in, sign out, head counts before and after each dive. Every diver was issued a dive safety sausage, a bright orange plastic tube that you blow up with air from your second regulator. Then you twist it shut and hold it up above the water so the boat can find you if you get separated from the rest of the divers. Also a personal GPS was attached to the BC of every diver, in case of really bad visibility or high seas; the boat could locate missing divers. These safety procedures were not used, but it is comforting to have them at your disposal. Most dives were guided by the dive masters and sometimes a dive master was my buddy since I didn’t have one along.
The water was a bit nippy, and the last day I had trouble with my BC
View from the stands
Sitting on the coral wall, it feels like an underwater arena. Note the cage.
self-inflating, so I borrowed one of theirs.
I have light! After hauling my underwater camera around for seven months, Chris, at Digital Divers in Cairns, showed me how to set it up so the strobes (flashes) work, perfectly. How delightful. Now I am taking a lot of bad photos, since I learned to compensate for the lack of light, now there is a whole new learning curve, but I am happy. I actually get color underwater. Now I just need to learn how to get the light without the scatter (light reflecting off the particles in the water column, resulting in spots of white in the photo). Still the camera takes great distance shots when the visibility is good. And I have gotten a few good photos using the strobes.
I enjoyed my first live aboard, and I am looking forward to the next one. We got into port about 7 am and I have a day to do laundry and sort things for storage, before going out again with Cairns Dive Shop, on their boat, Kangaroo Explorer.
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