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SCUBA-L  May 2000, Week 5

SCUBA-L May 2000, Week 5

Subject:

Manta's at Julian Rocks

From:

Simon L Hartley <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Scuba diving discussion list <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 30 May 2000 18:17:42 +1000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (101 lines)

Just sent this dive report to our club list.  May be of interest.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Yep, there are Manta rays around at Julians at the moment.  Did some grey
nurse survey dives on Sunday and saw a couple of Manta's at close quaters.

First dive was wide of the Codhole in the sand gutters.  No grey nurse but
a leopard shark and a few turtles, plus lots of eagle rays and big snapper
cruising around higher in the water column.  Back on the boat the other
crew (who'd dived the Needles and wide of Hugho's Trench) reported a Manta
and large'ish grey nurse.

The second dive (to chase grey nurse and Manta rays in the Needles and
Hugho's) started poorly with one charter diver loosing her weight belt.
She actually was doing quite well struggling down the mooring line to
recover it but I told her to stay where she was and I'd bring it up (buddy
helped her into it and we proceeded with the descent).  On the bottom I
found I had to chase after the staff divers who were going with us, only to
find one girls tank was loose.  We fixed that (I got the tank and strap in
postion and directed her buddy to tighten, still not a lot of strength in
my right hand) and off we went.

I was struggling a bit to find stuff to point out (no one seemed to be able
to see a cuttlefish I located and I got the usual blank stares when I
pointed to an egg cowry.  The Needles was a bit stirred up but going wide
we found a large turtle grazing on algae (a relief, I was beginning to
doubt I'd find any "charismatic megafauna" (as Nick Holmes puts it) to show
them).  Wobbie Rock was not itself with very little fish life, however a
little further along things really started to happen.

The charter divers were amusing themselves with a small blue-spotted sting
ray (never know what will interest some people) when I spotted a couple of
large black shapes on the edge of vision.  It took a little effort to get
attention and by the time we arrived there was only one large cowtail ray
left.  It was over two metres in diameter and seemed happy just to circle
around us which seemed to impress everyone (finally getting some reaction).

I did a bit of a scan over the sand gutters for grey nurse but no luck.  We
started up Hugho's a little way (mindful that this was a repetitive dive
and my charter divers were not following my lead (and the dive brief) in
limiting their depth to 15 metres).  I found a lion fish in a small recess
and turned round to find another smaller turtle.  Great, this has got to
please them (two turtles in one dive).  I looked over to get the attention
of my group when out of the corner of my eye noticed a shape about 6-7
metres above us.  At first I thought it was an eagle ray (which got me
excited enough) but a closer look revealed the large rudder like mandibles
of a Manta ray.  Mmmmmm  Mmmmmm   Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm (point, point, point).
They got the message and looked up.

The Manta kept circling the one spot (probably a cleaner station) as we
watched and didn't seem in any rush to leave. The ray had it's mouth closed
and just appeared to be hanging around.  It's a bit hard to judge exactly
how long this kind of encounter can hold the attention of the average
punter.  When people start to drift away a little or discover some exciting
peice of algae or coral to look at it's probably time to move on.  In this
case I had a deco (or avoiding said) imperative so after judging interest
had wained started herding everyone across the other side of Hugho's trench
and up toward the top of the wall where we'd do our safety stop (had
contemplated doing a stop near the Manta but was a bit concerned about how
exposed we'd be to swell).  This proved quite difficult as a wayward diver
started back off into the deep with no apparent thought to his dive
profile.  I indicated he should come up and did the "T" for time jesture to
no evail.  Then I saw what I had barely hoped for, another largish (2-2.5m)
Manta circling our planned safety stop.

This was the hook I needed and I eventually had all my divers hang just
over the wall in 6 metres while the ray circled and eyed us up.  The show
continued throughout our stop and I had real trouble dragging everyone away
(the diver who'd been so hard to get off the bottom again dropped to 10-12
metres or so before hitting the mooring line (some people have no clue)).
I didn't want to leave myself but was mindful of the cold westerly winds
and the wet cold divers waiting for us on the boat.  We were, as the
skipper commented when I was back on board, already 5 minutes over time.
It was a cold trip back to shore, Warren had given my gortex jacket to one
of the students.  I'm still diving in a shorty (water temperature is in the
low 20's still) but the cold air and winds are harsh on exposed legs and
arms   :-(


Steve just phoned me to say there are quite a few Manta's inshore at Lennox
Head (jumping clear of the water and feeding).  Along with big schools of
bait fish and larger predatory species.  Have to see if anyone's interested
in getting out and filming them.

Cheers,

Simon

Simon L Hartley
RSM Unit Web Administrator\First Year Course Coordinator
Associate Lecturer
School of Resource Science and Management
Southern Cross University
P.O. Box 157
Lismore NSW, Australia 2480
Ph: (02) 66203251 or (61 66) 203 251
Fax:(02) 66212669
E-mail: [log in to unmask]

http://www.scu.edu.au/staff_pages/shartley/index.html

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