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Reef Report for Friday, November 29, 2002

Coral Spawning Highlights the Week on the Reef

The big build-up to Coral Spawning over the past few weeks has paid off. I wish I could report I was one of the lucky divers to experience this event first hand, but unfortunately work commitments took me out of town. © Great Barrier Reef Enterprises I did manage to contact Reef Teach earlier this week and was told that Paddy went out to Hastings Reef with TUSA DIVE to witness the event. He was out on November 25th, and the reef just went off, erupting into an underwater snowstorm as most every coral polyp produced either sperm or eggs.. The reef was thick with the little pink packets of eggs and sperm. The dive group spent the next twenty minutes going from colony to colony, observing this amazing underwater event. Paddy’s highlight of the dive was the last twenty minutes at the back of the boat in the minestrone-like larval soup, observing the mixture of coral spawn, juvenile cuttlefish, larval crustaceans, and tadpole-like brittle worms.


In the week leading to Coral Spawning diving at Green Island has been pretty interesting. On one trip crew and passengers spotted a group of seven green turtles on the surface. The reptiles seemed calm, swimming slowly on the surface, spaced no more than two metres apart. Certified divers at King's Cross were happy for sighting one of the adult Maori Wrasses that visits the sight sporadically. At a new dive site, introductory divers took advantage of the shallow depth to observe species that are common to the sheltered lagoon areas of the reef; blacktail damselfish, blue devils, and neon damsels made for an interesting dive. Many of these species are found near branching corals also found in the lagoon areas.

Northern Reefs/Coral Sea:

Out on TAKA II this week they also reported some coral spawning. Divers had visibility of approximately 20-25m along the Ribbon Reefs and up to 35m at Osprey Reef, with water temperatures still up at 28 degrees. Lots of action took place during the shark feed at North Horn (Osprey Reef) with grey whalers, white and black tips and a sighting of an Oceanic Silver Tip (3.5metres) on the out skirts well away from the shark feed area.

The Cod Hole produced the usual amazing sightings, with 2-3 metre potato cod coming in for a bit of attention from the guests. Other fish seen at the Cod Hole were giant moray eel, a 2m White Tip Reef Shark, a Blue-spotted Pufferfish, coral trout and a Giant Clam, which the dive team estimated it to have been approximately 125 years old. © Great Barrier Reef Enterprises Pixie’s Pinnacle was teeming with life including red lionfish, spotless lionfish, zebra Lion fish, moon wrasse, fairy basslet, banded pipefish and much, much more. Giant cuttlefish appear to have made the Clam Gardens their home as 8-15 of them have been spotted every week for the last two months.

Further to the South, Townsville

Crystal from Pro Dive was lucky enough to sneak in a few days of diving recently, making her way down to Townsville to explore the infamous Yongala Wreck with Adrenalin Dive. The SS Yongala sank in March, 1911 while on a scheduled east coast run from Melbourne to Cairns. The passenger steamer was caught in a severe cyclone off Cape Bowling Green, approximately 48 nautical miles south east of Townsville. All 124 passengers went down with the ship. As the wreck lies in the middle of a shipping channel it is often a bumpy ride to get to the dive site, but well worth it once under the water. The wreck lies in approximately 30 metres of water at its deepest point and as it is the only reef structure to be found for miles, there is an abundance of marine life. Giant bull rays, schools of large barracuda and trevally, Queensland groupers, inquisitive sea snakes, logger-head turtles and a few different species of sharks are all residents of the wreck.

The wreck is covered in brightly colored soft corals and the rudder, the aft and forward masts, the engine and steam rooms, toilets, portholes and the name ‘Yongala’ are all still quite distinguishable even after nearly 100 years. Each dive on the Yongala is unique, as there is something new to see on each dive – a dive that must not be missed by any avid diver.

Our local scuba club recently visited the Yongala Wreck also, making the trip out on the MV Hero.. Although they arrived at the dive site with unusually strong winds and a big swell running, nothing could dampen their enthusiasm to venture onto what they described as "Australia's best dive". Diving to 28 meters not 2 meters away was a very large Leopard Shark, not to mention every conceivable size and species of fish. Sightings ranged from very tiny basslets to the very large gropers, barracudas, bull rays, trevally and batfish, not to mention the olive sea snakes that seemed to swim out of every crevice.

Due to the depth the Yongala Wreck rests in (30 metres plus) I would recommend that you should try and obtain your Advanced Level of diving certification. This will ensure you are not restricted to diving only certain sections of the wreck. Access to this wreck dive is via Townsville with dive operators providing day trips to two and three day live a board dive trips. Email divethereef.com if you are interested in making this amazing dive.

This weeks’ forecast:

Well with plenty happening this week out on the reef it should still produce plenty of activity with the fish and with this weekend looking to hold for low winds makes for a perfect weekend for diving. So as always, safe diving. Steve Brady

(C) Pro Dive Cairns This weekly reef report was written by Steve Brady of Pro Dive Cairns, who compiles them from the dive trips he takes, as well as the many conversations he has with divers, dive instructors, captains, and others in the Cairns dive community. The report is published weekly in the Cairn Post, the local daily paper and appears here thanks to the courtesy of Pro Dive Cairns.

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