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Eric’s Dive Report for 6 April

Dive #1 Long Reef:  

This is a dive site that deserves a thousand words to describe diving here.  But not even a thousand words could truly convey this unique experience.  Or rather experiences.  Because every dive here is different.  
Yesterday, brought its own surprises.  We pulled back a blue sky reflected in the surface of the sea, to find underwater a new sky above us spread out in translucent shades of blue.  So this is the underside of the colour 'blue'!  Or rather turquoise.  Trying not to be too distracted by these visual effects all about us, is like saying Aladdin should not have been distracted by a cave full of jewels.  And we had now entered that cave.  Notwithstanding this, we had a mission, and were determined to make some progress.  Following a confused reef wall superimposed with an infinite number of boulders meant paying attention to where we were and where we meant to go.  But, in this context, paying attention is sometimes easier said than done.  A juvenile Moorish Idol was the first of many creatures seeking to capture our attention, and, more often than not, our affection as well.  Some Cardinal fish then tried to outdo the Moorish Idol, and, in this way, we were often waylaid in our journey.  Eventually, a shark alerted us that we had reached or were quite close to their inner sanctum.  We had indeed reached a point where I knew we were near certain gutters favoured by several Grey Nurse sharks.  Now skirting above one of those gutters, one favoured by turtles as well as other creatures, first one then another, and then more sharks appeared.  Sometimes they swam right next to us, sometimes just below us.  They were a mixture of different sizes and sexes, and included one particularly large one.  Every pass, by one shark or another, including sometimes by two or three of them together, filled us with excitement.   Few experiences in the ocean are as exciting as a scene like this one.  We were now mentally as well as literally floating.  It redefined the concept of ‘buoyancy’.  

This scene had enough exhilaration to fill and exceed any quota for this year's diving, let alone for this single dive.  

We continued our journey through narrow and wider gutters most of which were filled with fish.  Pomfrets rule Long Reef, claiming complete dominion over this space - something the Grey Nurse sharks there might dispute.  But, if it were not for the Grey Nurses, this claim by Pomfrets, would definitely be indisputable.  Again and again, they produced dense clouds or plumes of gold and silver.  'Bodies' is a better description than 'clouds', as they shimmered and flashed golden light and moved like some single organism - but of gigantic size.  A single organism that repeatedly swallowed us up and then let go of us - only to do this same thing repeatedly.

Somehow through this organic maze of fish, we reached the outside of the 'Cathedral', a long and large underwater tunnel.  In an indentation alongside the pinnacle above the Cathedral, a Grey Nurse shark, appeared, swimming through a thick school of fish.  Both this shark and us, clearly enjoyed that particular experience.  Kerrie saw this scene and knew it had to be captured.  Staccato-like flashes from her strobes lit up that dark scene the way lightening suddenly illuminates and reveals a blacked out room.  It gave that scene a cinematic horror film effect!  But in this case, without the 'horror' element, if you know what I mean.  

We penetrated the entrance of the Cathedral and I could see a shark at its far end.  I knew, this time, Shelley 'needed' to record this scene.  I also knew that vistas like this one are precious which is why it was worth pausing within this underwater tunnel so as to really appreciate such a scene.  Nick joined us in the swim through and saw Shelley taking her photos - with the obliging shark happy to pose and parade within the glow of a diffused light at the end of the tunnel.  

A dive like this one is hard to match.  So back on the boat, a decision was made to go to a particular dive site for our second dive, one which constantly throws up even more surprises.

Dive #2 Blue Fish Wall: 
We started this dive by tracing an invisible 'key pattern' - sometimes between rounded boulders, sometimes between them and towering underwater cliffs.  Looking upward, one either saw waves crashing into those same cliffs or saw schools of fish swimming up or down their vertical face.  Some Cardinal fish were showing off their brilliant colours, as did a Crimson Wrasse, when a male Six Spine Leatherjacket modestly outdid them both.  
Exiting another swim through, along our underwater journey, gave us an opportunity to see Bulls Eyes waiting for us at the other end.  We needed to remember to look up as well as around, as a school of fish fanned out above us, creating a lace patterned ceiling.  A large Ornate Wobbegong swam by whilst looking at us as we looked at him/her.  Five minutes later we stopped to look at something else and that same Wobbegong shark swam directly over to us and then promptly sat down right next to us - literally only a few centimetres away.  It posed for Shelley with me mentally urging her to take some photos of its unusual eyes.  After allowing us to admire him/her and permitting Shelley to take some brilliant images, this Wobbegong got up and simply swam away - leaving us to question whether this bizarre scene had really just taken place!  

Bizarre scene or not, scuba diving scenes and its horizons are limitless:  Kerrie is soon to dive in Sweden and later Antarctica, Shelley will soon be diving with Anacondas and underwater with Piranhas, whilst David is currently counting turtles and diving with them in Mozambique. 

It has to be said, however, that gazing into the hypnotic eyes of a Giant Cuttlefish, sweeps you away.  At that moment, there is no other place in the world you would want to be.  As an aside, a relatively recent academic paper reveals that the evolutionary process and development of a Giant Cuttlefish is relatively unique - where they are actually able to effect RNA editing (In most creatures, like humans, DNA gives instructions to RNA for proteins to be produced - with no editing taking place.  Giant Cuttlefish ignore those rules and routinely edit their RNA.  If one day humans were somehow able to do this, it might offer an effective solution to DNA 'defects' and avoid highly controversial CRISPR gene editing technology).  It has also been suggested that the RNA editing ability of Giant Cuttlefish has played and continues to play a part in their amazing intelligence!
There were so many other things we saw in this dive (Fiddler Ray, Port Jackson sharks, more Giant Cuttlefish, Octopus, Eagle Ray, etc) which reinforced this dive site as one that really must be visited.

Now opening my eyes after recalling many of yesterday’s encounters, and experiences, felt like waking up from a surreal dream.  I realised once again how lucky we are to be able to enjoy the special experience of diving here in Sydney - especially when the sensations from our dives linger so long afterwards - and are like the feelings you have after waking up from a beautiful dream - much like waking up after Dalia’s and David’s unforgettable wedding!  Who knows what scenes and excitement the denizens of the deep have organised for our next adventure underwater!  Let me assure you that they are exceedingly good at redefining the word ‘surreal’ as well as ‘amazing’ and ‘fantastic’!  I look forward to our next dive here in Sydney.