Wednesday, 26 October 2011

An Amazing Night in the Gold Coast Seaway

Papuan Cuttlefish. Sepia papuensi. Ryan Pearson
By Ryan Pearson.
Prep was hectic for this night dive, I procrastinated too much in the arvo, and then couldn’t find everything I needed when I tried to pack it all up in a rush. I’d decided that I wouldn’t take my camera because it seemed like too much effort at the time, and I didn’t have batteries for my focus light. But in the process of packing the car, I found a whole packet of fresh batteries and decided fate was telling me I should take my camera… so I did, and I sure didn’t regret it!

I picked Kieren up, and we headed for Devocean Dive to get some tanks (and to set my camera up since I decided to bring it so late). In the end, we didn’t need to rush and were at the Gold Coast Seaway much earlier than we needed to be. So we scoped out the conditions and since Pete from Devocean had just come out of the water with a class we asked him. He told us that the conditions were awful… uh oh. Lots of muck in the water meaning at some points he couldn’t see things that were only centimeters in front of his face. Dejected, and wondering if it was worth the effort at all, Kieren and I decided to check out the South West Wall instead to see if it looked any better there. We figured it looked ok, and it certainly couldn’t be any worse than what Pete had described, so we made the decision to enter at the beach and cruise up the wall instead of the original plan to enter at the pipes.

Common Sydney Octopus (Octopus tetricus). Ryan Pearson
Some time later Ben arrived at his usual 20 minutes after the turn of the tide, and we all jumped in to probably about 6-8m vis. Not bad considering the report from Pete on the other side. But it was very sandy so I knew the photography would be difficult… little did we know this would be one of the best dives we’ve had in the Seaway. It was more than alive, and almost all of the critters were uncharacteristically brazen with very few of them scattering at the mere sight of us. The first thing I noticed was the exception - a large common octopus out hunting in the middle of the sand. He tried some camouflage initially, but wasn’t all that keen to hang around, so I didn’t manage to get great shots of him before he shot off. Here’s the one I did manage to snap. 

Next up I came across what I believe to be a polychaete worm (I.D. TBD), which are normally so skittish that I don’t think I’ve ever even more than glimpsed them before they retreated back into their hole… this one was different. He hung out, snatching little morsels out of the water and allowed me to take a few nice pics of him.
Unknown Polychaete. Ryan Pearson
Octopus tetricus. Ryan Pearson
Then came one of the highlights of the dive for me, another Octopus (slightly smaller than the first). This one was hunting on the sea grass bed, and continually advanced straight toward me allowing me to get lots of shots. He changed colour multiple times, from white to red to green and back again. Eventually, we got to the edge of the sea grass, and in an instant he leapt sideways and dug into the sand, pulling something up with him… a pippy! Dinner time!

I followed him a bit further, hoping to get some shots of the octopus devouring its catch. To my dismay (and probably his as well), he dropped it and continued on his way. I figured I’d done something to disturb his dinner, so feeling very rude I decided to let him go and swam the other way.
Octopus tetricus about to drop the bivalve it had dug up. Ryan Pearson
There was so much life on this dive that I don’t have space to talk about it all. But there were a couple of other highlights. The next one was an anemone hermit crab, which was surrounded by hundreds of tiny little snake like critters (I don’t know exactly what they were). These critters kept getting caught/captured in the anemones on its shell (see the one of the left of this shot?)
Anemone Hermit Crab (Dardanus pedunculatus) with one of its anemone's feeding. Ryan Pearson
Then there was a second type of Cephlapod… a cuttlefish. It appears to be a Papuan Cuttlefish (Sepia papuensi). I don’t remember ever seeing a cuttlefish in the Seaway so this was exciting. This guy drifted in the current with me for ages, and stared straight into my lens, posing, with his two top tentacles propped up for quite some time. Unfortunately, this dive was the first time I’d decided to try auto-focus on my macro lens, and it simply wouldn’t focus so I didn’t get any shots in this position. Dammit!
Papuan Cuttlefish. Sepia papuensi. Ryan Pearson
Lastly, on the way back I found Ben filming something I’d never seen before… a bobtail squid (Euprymna tasmanica)! A third Cephlapod species on the one dive! Awesome! This cute little guy also approached my lens, and again my camera wouldn’t focus on him when he was there… but he was very active and I got him in a few different poses anyway.
Euprymna tasmanica. Ryan Pearson
By now the current had picked up ridiculously, and I was really struggling against it. On the way back I found a third common octopus, this one was much shyer – he actually held up a shell just like a shield and kept it directly between us. Anyway, due to the current I didn’t hang around to spend much time with him, and powered on out of the water to talk with the boys about how awesome the dive was. We were all stoked, and Ben got some nice footage with some amazing behaviour.

It’s amazing the life we have right on our backdoor, readily available in under 5m of water! 

Click here to some of the other photos I took on the dive.

Thanks to Dive Around for the I.D. help too.

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