The Great Barrier Reef - 1 Natural Wonder down
Trip Start Mar 10, 2009
39Trip End Nov 09, 2009
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Where I stayed
Cairns City Backpackers/ Global Hostel
Birnie and I were totally stoked that we stumbled across a true gem in our dive package on the great barrier reef. Basically, 3 days, 10 dives and all accommodations included on a liveaboard right on the reef. It was really cheap, and ten dives was going to be insane.
Now, for the catch. I haven't dove since probably 1997.........and 12 years is a long time not to have gotten into the water. I was hoping to do a refresher dive in a pool or something, but it didn't happen........so why not throw myself to the wolves in one of the best dive sights in the world? Birnie and I took the two hour ride from Cairns to the liveaboard and we are ready to roll. We had our dive brief, got geared up and were gonna dive with about 6 or 7 others just for an orientation dive
Second mistake - too much freakin' weight. Now we were not wearing wetsuits, only stinger suits (it's jelly season on the reef in Queensland), and for those of you who have dove before, the boyancy of a stinger suit in relation to a 5mm wetsuit is quite different. So as I came out of the front flip with no snorkel and already drowning.
Third mistake - forget everything you should do to remain calm and increase your boyancy and instead, tread water as hard as you can. Fight the losing battle against the weight mistake and kick violently as you gulp copious amounts of sea water.
So, here I was, one of the first people in the water, and fighting for my life. Now in my prideful state, I was trying not to look panicked - so we will call that mistake #4 - pride. After about five minutes, I had absolutely exhausted myself and in my mind, drowning became a serious option. Birnie had since entered the water and noticed that I didn't seem totally comfortable. He made his way over to me and it my best prideful voice, I think I said something like, "F*&% dude, i'm struggling a little bit." Hmmm..... a little bit is what I said. In actuality, I was dying a slow, panicked and prideful death. Now birnie in his infinite wisdom realized that I had serious negative boyancy, so he reached over and inflated my BC. Imagine that, inflating my BC. I am advanced certified and have dove many many times, but the idea of using a Boyancy Compensator to create boyancy seemed absurd to me
Anyhoo, at this point I really was gasping for air and had converted roughly seven pounds of fat into glycogen for energy to support my violent and desperate attempt to stay boyant.
I said to birnie and the dive guide that I needed to head back to the boat, to catch my breath and get a snorkel - but I really had absolutely no intention of leaving the boat again for the remaining 3 days. Luckily, the guide swam over with me, said, don't sweat it, this happens all the time in rough conditions and it has been over ten years since you have been in the water, what do you expect? Well, I did my best to convince him to go on without me, but he was persistent and insisted that I go with them.
Thank god, because had I not gone on that first dive, I am fairly certain I would have been the guy clapping for all of the real divers from the top deck of the liveaboard after each dive. Not all of us can be heroes, and at this point, diving seemed too challenging an obstacle for this chubby guy.
Well, we did the first dive and it was just like riding a bike. I ended up remembering what I was doing, but the dive was short-lived because I had sucked about half of my tank during the aforementioned episode.
On our second dive, we stumbled across about a 4 -5 foot white tip shark. We started following it, nervously and excited, and as I had mentioned visibility was poor, only about 5-10 meters. Well shortly there after, the hunters (Birnie and I), became the hunted. Apparently the 4-5 foot juvenile shark went and got his big brother to protect him cuz we came face to face with about a seven footer. Birnie was in front of me and for a second I thought Birnie had transformed into a giant squid. He "inked" in the water, or better yet his stinger suit, and both of us froze for a second. It was nothing to worry about though, the sharks were more curious than anything and nothing to sweat.
Ok, I am tired of typing. Further details to come later in the day.
CMB- OK. You have to watch Makely on these blogs... he is known for his ability to stretch the truth
Honestly, it was a very cool experience as Makely said, about a 4-5 and ~7 footer that were hunting the reef. We followed and the shark flipped around in his hunting pattern that definitely made both of our hearts skip a beat as he cruised right at us. Was awesome though as the shark was just about 2 arms lengths away and you could see him checking you out. Very cool if a bit intimidating at first.
The next day was another great day on the reef. I had started the day with a growing blister on my feet from the fins, sunburnt arms and legs from falling asleep on the sundeck, and the beginning of some bathing suit chafe in the groinal region. A good day of diving trying to find more sharks and turtles while going through caves and swim through at one of the sights. It all was topped by that night's dive, our second night dive.
The previous night's dive was our first, and we dove with a guide to help us get adjusted to night diving. The first night dive was very cool seeing turtles sleeping on the reef with makely and I accidentally waking him up. When you do this, you need to shine your flashlight to the surface to help them get their bearings (they think that your light is the moon at the surface - they're not too smart) because once woken, they need to surface to replenish their air.
Saw some shrimp in the coral with glowing red eyes in the darkness, lionfish and great colorful coral with your light at night
Makely and I start cruising the reef seeing huge red bass hunting smaller fish with the aid of our lights. They hunt by sight and your flashlight helps them lock in on a fish. Most of the time they miss even when you try to help them but that night there was a huge bass following us and you knew why he was so big as he would hardly miss Cool to see the action. All the while as we are scoping out the reef, we are constantly checking our backs to see if we have any companions... a bit different this night on our own than last night with a guide. We are cruising along a ~25m reef wall when we both spot another shark cruising the reef... not too far away... beady green eyes checking us out in the pitch black. We get our lights on him for a few seconds then gone.... again we are both a bit unnerved half expecting to turn a corner or look to the side with the light and seeing jaws waiting for us or maybe one just waiting to take a nibble of your calf as we are carelessly trekking ahead. Needless to say, it made it all very exciting. A great dive that we will remember forever.
The next day was our last day on the reef but not without incident for Ding and Mambo. We headed out for a dive at a sight we had been before in the morning. On the way back to the boat, snorkeling at the surface, we spot a diver on his own on the bottom of the reef floor not moving
OK, makely back here. I will continue Birnie's story. As birnie noted previously, he went down to check on the motionless diver as I watched from above. I was low on air, so I didn't make the descent, but watched from the surface as birnie played hero. From my perspective, birnie tapped the dude, rattled his mask and there was absolutely no response. My adrenaline started to pick up as well, as birnie scooped this cat up, started filling both of their BCs and began to surface. About 3 or 4 meters from the surface, I see the guy grab birnie, start giving him the "OK" hand signals and they both signal each other for a few moments. The guy, who ended up being an instructor, applauded Birnie under water and emptied his BC as he descended back to the ocean floor
We laughed a little bit at the surface, and were actually a little bit proud that we were cognisant enough to attempt to rescue a diver in despair. None the less, we swam back to the dive deck and were met by many a crew member laughing and applauding our brave but inopportune effort.
He had in fact been an instructor and there were some rescue dive students out there performing a search pattern for their mock rescue training. Both birnie and I, as well as the crew got some good laughs over the incident and we were quickly nicknamed Chris Cross - saviors of the deep.
Even though we lobbied hard to get our rescue certification for our heroic efforts, the dive crew on the Kangaroo Explorer wasn't buying what we were selling. All in all, it was a fun memory that created a lot of laughs.
As birnie mentioned earlier, wearing a salt water swimsuit for the better part of 72 hours leads to some serious chafe. By the time we boarded the boat to return us to Cairns from the liveaboard, both of us were raw hamburger.
When we got back to Cairns I was walking so bow-legged as to prevent my tender areas from rubbing together, that people could only laugh at me. First priority was to find a hostel to stay in, second priority, talcum powder. Ahh the relief of a corn-starch based anti-rash powder for way too much money. Life was good again.
Well folks, we are getting tons of comments and emails about the blog. I hope everyone is enjoying it and we will keep it coming.
We are in Cairns for about another day and a half, then we head to Sydney on tuesday and TOKYO ON THURSDAY!!! Giddy up. More to come soon.
Birnie and Makely