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Club Trip - Harbour Boat Dive

7th October 2000, Otago Harbour



Check out the trip photos here

This trip was initially intended to be a women's dive, organised by Melita. Well, she managed the organisation but due to an inability to avoid injury, she was on enforced shore leave. Medically unfit to dive. Just another indoor netball statistic (and they say diving is a risky sport!). Anyway, you get the picture. Some last minute cancellations saw our club members present pared to four with Olivia Hayes, Andre, Kate Shimanski and Kathryn Blakemore ending up throwing their gear into Sea Squirt and heading for the boat ramp at Carey's Bay.

Due to Melita's 'condition', Greg stepped in as a Divemaster for the trip and because this was the first dive for some of us for a while, Charles, a recently qualified Divemaster from Dive HQ came along too. Bob Begg was our skipper for the day.

We launched at the Carey's Bay boat ramp and headed out via the harbour shipping lane to Wellers Rock as a few spots of rain threatened. The sun doggedly shone through gaps in the cloud though and the air temperature was somehwere around 12C. Mind you drysuits have a tendancy to make one underestimate the cold a little, both in and out of the water... (small plug for Dolphin there...). We anchored to the North of beacon tower 10 off Ohinetu Point (one point southwest of Wellers Rock), which was upstream of the beacon as the tide was still coming in. The dive plan was to enter the water and descend down the anchor line, head west until we hit the rock wall on the side of the shipping channel and then drift up the harbour with the current. Kate and Kathryn dived with Greg, Olivia and Andre dived with Charles. Can't say much about Olivia and Andre's experience since I wasn't there - want to add anything Olivia or Andre? Drop me an email.

Kate and Kathryn got themselves to the bottom and we headed west for the wall, letting the tidal flow take us to the southwest as we swam. We reached the base of the beacon tower at a depth of around 19 metres with around 8 to 9 metres of visibility (pretty good I have to say!). The current was starting to slow as the tide was nearing highwater but we were still dragged along at a reasonable rate. This dive is a must for anyone who says Dunedin diving isn't worth the effort. Huge sponges in a rainbow of colours, great bottom topography, crayfish in abundance (though most are too small to be taken) and the a variety of fish species to check out. We stumbled upon a couple of carpet sharks resting on the bottom among the rocks about 10 minutes into the dive. I got excited and took a few photos but there were more just along a bit. And then more. And some more. They were everywhere - at least two dozen along a 50 metre section of the wall. They weren't paying us too much attention, most being around 1 to 1.2 metres in length. Impressive. They looked very similar to Wobbegong sharks in Aussie. Check them out here. After getting my fill of carpet shark photos we moved on and came across a small community of crayfish nestled in the rocks. At least a couple of dozen were plainly obvious and there were undoubtably more in the area. Most were too small to take though I went 'shopping' and chose a nice looking cray for the dinner table. Picked him up without a problem but then realised no catchbag. Oh well, I'll just hold him... A few minutes after this we were crusing at around 24 metres when Kate started having a few hassles with buoyancy and starting heading for the surface. I had an agonising second of decision making - help Kate or keep the cray? ... I dropped the cray and headed up to catch the rapidly disappearing silhouette accelerating towards the surface. I wasn't keen about such a quick ascent and thankfully she was regained control and slowed her ascent to finish her dive. I went back down and Kathryn and I made a slow ascent from 20 metres. We were face to face, eyeing our depth gauges and things were going well. Passing through 11m, Kathryn's eyes got a little wider and she starting jabbing her finger at a point somewhere behind and below me. Something slammed into my left leg throwing me off balance and as I twisted around I caught sight of the 7-gill shark as it headed back down from where he had just come from. Now I know that water distorts sizes, that people always overestimate and that hey, a 4 metre shark sounds better than a 3 metre one. But I'm telling you, that shark was easily over 2 and half metres, maybe 3 metres. He looked about 3 times my size from my point of view. But I digress. He hit me from below and behind, I never saw him coming, through that's probably a good thing. Chances are I would have soiled my drysuit if I had. Messy cleanup job that would have been. Kathryn was blissfully looking around for where the shark had gone while I was having a mini nervous breakdown. In mid water, no reference points and a big shark playing games. Nice. I grabbed Kathryn and made a bunch of rapid hand signals something along the lines of "Keep your eyes OPEN and let me know if you see him COMING BACK, OKAY?). Still not phased and here I was about to have a heart attack. We continued our ascent without a problem and I can tell you I had no problem getting the volume to shout out to Bob to GET THAT BOAT OVER HERE NOW, keeping one eye on the approaching boat and another firmly in the water sweeping the area under me. Thinking 'Don't come back, don't come back, don't come back..". You get the picture, I'm a big chicken. Anyway, great dive, great vis, great adrenaline. Gotta try it sometime.If you're interested, check out the link here to the data sheet on the shark I think it was - a Broadnose Sevengill shark, (a different link here) probably a female if my size guesstimate is anywhere near accurate.

Kate was already on the boat, and once Bob heard my shark tale took great pleasure in advising me that I couldn't get out just now - we had a weight belt to look for. You've gotta be kidding me. I had just about climbed in over the side as soon as the boat had pulled alongside weight belt, gear and all. Floating around in the water wasn't fun any more... Anyway, after a bit of a think about things and a little time to settle down, I started to freak a little less and thought that if he had wanted a piece of me, he would have taken it when he had the chance. Even started to think it had been pretty cool seeing a real live bitey-thing up close and personal. So Charles and I got towed behind the boat to where the belt was dropped. We had a quick search and found it. Good thing too - it was a new club belt!

We had lunch on the rocks at Pilot Beach and then went on a bit of nature tour around the coast of Taiaroa Head. The albatrosses weren't flying but there were plenty of seals and about a million sea birds nesting in the rocks. A southerly swell was rolling in making the Head a little rough so we headed back to the Mole.

The second dive site ended up being the wreck of the Moana at the Mole. We followed the anchor line down and made our way to the wreck, then southwest along its starboard side, checking out the wrasse, moki, spotties, greenbone, nudibranches and colourful sponges. Vis here was great too, around 7 or 8 metres, though it closed in a little as we made our way further inshore. We reached the beginning of the wreck of the Paloona at the dive midpoint and Kate and Kathryn braved the 'swimthrough' - a 20m section of passageway inside the ship that is open at either end and makes for some interesting diving. More cool fish, a few photos and we were ready to surface. Olivia and Andre had been too quick for Charles at the start of their dive and had left him behind. When he didn't reappear they finished their dive without him while their Divemaster looked for them in vain. Oh well, everyone had a decent dive so that was the main thing.

Great effort guys - the weather even turned it on for us, managing a few breaks of sun that gradually got longer as the remains of the old front moved on and blue sky moved in. Thanks to Bob and Charles for their efforts - two awesome dives and five satisfied customers. The photos from the trip are posted here.

Greg 7/10/00