30 May 2007

A Canberra Diver - Loading Gravel

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Many divers I’ve met are a bit derisive of the shore dive. Thinking its tame and boring with little to see, I disagree. Many of the best dives I’ve done have been shore dives. The benefits include no sea sickness from sitting in a little boat for a long time (important for me), takes a lot less time without having to drive the boat to the dive site or tow one all the way from Canberra. No worries about anchoring the boat and hoping its still there when you come back up. They’re usually quite shallow so you get good light and visibility and I’m a lot less likely to get lost. They’re also much cheaper because you don’t have to own a boat or pay for someone else’s.

Back at Easter I did a shore dive on the Shellharbour Gravel Loader

Dive – Shell Harbour Gravel Loader on Bass Point
Driving time – 2.5 hours
Accommodation – Stayed with friends in Wollongong, but now JB lives nearby, I’ll be knocking on his door for a place to stay.
Gear Hire –The best price on the day was Leisure Coast Dive in Shellharbour for the hire of tank, BCD and regulators of $30 for the day
Tank fills – not needed

As I don’t have a decent scuba camera I’ll once again point you at the ANU Scuba Club Photos Page

Or here are some ANU Scuba Club photos taken at the Gravel Loader by Jose and Peter

The Dive
The Gravel Loader is a longish pier that sticks out of Bass Point. I’m told that it is still in operation and a ship comes in every week or so to pick up the high quality gravel they produce. I doubt it would be a good idea to go diving there if the ship is in.

It’s a 100m swim from the boat ramp over to the pier (which is about 400m long) where you can go under near the pylons. Depth varies between 6-12m deep out at the end of the pier.

The dive does start off a bit boring just going over rock and seeing some various debris from the pier in the water. As you get further out the pier gets a little surreal with ropes and chains just hanging in the water suspended above you, you’re just watching them waiting to see if they will fall. Eventually you get to the point that the fish have been waiting for.

As with lots of popular dive sites there are some local blue groupers that as soon as they see a diver come charging up and demand that they be fed with a cut open sea urchin. Now I didn’t used to cut open sea urchins as the diving course I did was based on conservation (don’t touch nothing), but I’ve since been told and found that the sea urchin population has reached plague proportions (due to an over fishing of abalone) so feeding one to a fish is not going to do anything. The first time the grouper hits the urchin is a real experience. Its like a little sonic boom under water as its lips shoot forward and grab the insides of the urchin off the tip of the knife. And as soon as you start you’re then surrounded by any other fish in the area as they all come in to get their piece of the action.

The next point of interest you come across is the giant cuttlefish. There were around 6 or 7 of these guys hanging around under the pier towards the end. Having just watched a great doco on the giant cuttlefish a week before this was a great opportunity. One large one (male) had his 2 front tentacles up in the hunting or aggressive pose and I was trying to get him to strike out at things but he was too composed and was having none of it. I should have thought to grab my signal mirror out and let him see himself, as I’m told you get a great light show from their bodies as they change colours and take up a very aggressive pose against their own reflection. When you see what these guys can do with their skin colour and texture you’d be amazed.

On the way back in we tried to find the pieces of a wreck that is supposed to be beside the pier (on the side away from the boat ramp, beside the third pylon) but no luck.

It’s a popular dive site so if anyone has a page of photos from the Gravel loader they’d like to link to, please send them in.

PS. I forgot to mention last week if anyone is diving the Tasman Hauler and finds a black handled dive knife, can they let me know. Watch out, I wouldn’t be surprised if an octopus had found it and was using it to fight the morays with.

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Yay, I got the images to work

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