Despite a return to relative lockdown over the New Years period, we have been fortunate to still enjoy local dive conditions on our club boat. The first outing of the new year was skippered by Pablo. Check out Charlie’s review of that dive because we saw a lot of interesting marine animals including a pygmy pipehorse.
Reef Life Survey is starting up again and dates are being finalised for the end of March. More on this to come. We are also trying to secure accommodation in April for another Jervis Bay trip. If you are interested in RLS dives please speak to John Turnbull. While on the topic of research dives, one of the challenges we have is finding volunteers to coordinate the projects. If you have a subject in mind that you would like to be the focus of a citizen science project please let us know. We will then approach the researchers who need data and find out how we can help.
Since COVID hit our monthly general meeting at the Oaks in Neutral Bay has had to cease. We expect that in the next few weeks we will be able to resume these. These are great opportunities to get to meet other club members so look out for comms soon.
Male weedy seadragon - CTB at 14m depth
We are also starting to think about monthly shore dives to help members get to meet and know one another. Myself and Charlie are convening a shore dive at Kurnell on the 27 Feb. All are welcome, and there is a Facebook event set up for updates and information, so please come join us and stay for a picnic afterwards. We are seeking volunteers to host and organise monthly shore dives, so put your hand up if you want to run such a day in March.
Teaser: Pablo and his partner Greer have something exciting shaping up in early March to get URG back involved in clean up dives. There is a big event which we are looking to be part of so keep an eye out for comms about this.
Lastly, if anyone is interested in doing a photography dive and sharing tips on settings and techniques let us know. We can incorporate these activities into one of the shore dives.
Hope you all have a great February.
Article by Charlotte Elliott
While international travel is off the table I can recommend Heron Island as a wonderful Australian destination for any URG members. We went for a few nights in August and, now the borders are open, it's somewhere to think about booking this coming winter.
Heron Island is a coral cray in the southern end of the barrier reef, it’s a tiny island which you can circumnavigate on foot in 20 mins, following the white sand beach around. You stay at the resort and the only other inhabitants are those stationed at the research center. You can often meet them enjoying sunset from the jetty and find out about their research, which is fascinating.
Under the Jetty
Even in August we were so lucky with the weather, a few storms but enough sunshine that it felt like a tropical getaway. The dive boat runs three times a day for single dives which are all within 10 mins drive of the jetty. Make sure you book early. January to May you may be lucky enough to see Turtles hatching.
Snorkelling with a green turtle
Some of our highlights were snorkeling the boat channel early morning and sunset, where you regularly encounter rays, turtles and reef sharks; diving Jacques Cousteau's favourite dive site, where we saw Manta Rays; and reef walking to find Epaulette Sharks, who frequent the shallows.
Epaulette shark at sunrise
To get there you get a ferry from Gladstone, which has an airport if you're flying there or can be reached by roast tripping up the coast (stop off at Wolf Rock near Rainbow Beach if you have the time for another spectacular dive).
First URG Boat Dive of 2021
Article by Charlotte Elliott
2020 was a slow year for URG boat dives with some teething problems with the new boat and then the Covid lockdown. With the boat now working well we’re hoping to see a lot more divers out on the water this year and the first Sunday on the water bodes well for a great year of diving.
With all our gear on board and Pablo at the helm we headed out to try and dive the whale watching platform for the first URG Boat dive of 2021. Swell was not in our favour so we headed back across the bay for a more sheltered spot at Henry’s Head. Descending the anchor line we found beautiful sponge gardens, some chilly thermoclines and decent viz. The cooler summer has really helped keep algae blooms down and we’ve been rewarded with better than average viz on many dives.
Henry Head Sponge Gardens
For me it was an amazing couple of dives, I found so many of my favourite creatures, Giant Cuttlefish, Weedy Seadragons, a Pygmy Pipehorse, Ceratosoma Brevicaudatum nudibranch, Red Indian Fish.
It was brilliant to be out on the water with some new members joining us. There was a bit of swell about and we really felt the benefits of the double hull. Looking forward to many more days on the boat this year!
https://www.facebook.com/657906405/videos/10157599553406406/ - enjoy a video from the day by our president Duncan Heuer.
Red indian fish
Ceratosoma brevicaudatum nudibranch
Weedy Sea Dragon Hunts
Article by Michael Abbott
My first dive on the Underwater Research Group boat for 2021 was looking promising as the sky was at last blue and wind was negligible. I was joined by Janet, Hatty, John S, Joshua B and Kris and naturally Kris wanted to get photos of sea dragons for her identification project.
We anchored at The Whale Watch Platform as indicated by spot 2 on the URG chart reader. The first 3 returned with glowing reports of a spectacular dive but cold and alas no weedys. As we descended, I noted that we were anchored in front of the cave which was full of bullseyes, old wifes and stripys. We headed through the pass to the deeper sand line at 21 meters finding 2 fiddler rays then back to the cave and along the wall to the south. Against the wall were schooling red morwong and one spot chromis guarding eggs.
Still no weedy so I turned back towards the anchor and stayed off the wall and over the healthy field of ecklonia radiata (kelp). Success there was a lovely big male complete with eggs attached to the tail. After getting photos for KO we headed back and up through a mass of mado to finish the dive.
Water was clear and blue with 20 degrees at the top but a chilly 15 on the bottom. Viz a good 15m. As we had John as skipper in the first buddy group (and Hatty in training) we had decided to do a drift from The Leap Deep into the bay. Tide was incoming. The first group surfaced on a surface marker bouy not far from the boat and reported lots of weedys. For our turn we started where they finished their dive and swam to level with the Steps. Viz was again very good and sponges and corals were abundant. We managed to find 2 weedys, one with eggs and numerous nudibranchs including a violet pteraeolidia with eggs.
We headed shallow earlier that we would have liked in search of warmer water and found 18
degrees at 5 M. There was a huge school of yellow tail scad streaming past on our 5 M safety stop so they must prefer it warmer too. Viz was 12 M+ and temperature was 14 on the bottom.
All in all, a lovely day and a successful weedy hunt.