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Reef Report for Friday, May 23, 2003

Minke Whales Top Off a Week of Perfect Diving

With winter on the way we are seeing the water temperatures drop to around 27 degrees and they should potentially keep dropping to the still warm low 20ís between June and August. This is far from the diving conditions I experienced last week, 18 degrees on other side of the country in Perth!

Locally this week, all reports have been of near-perfect diving and snorkeling conditions on the reef with some excellent sightings. In earlier articles I have talked about Minke and Humpback Whales visiting our waters during the winter months and this week on board Quicksmart (operated by Quicksilver dive in Port Douglas) they had sightings of a Dwarf Minke whale.

Not known to be shy, two minke whales (see photo) played around the boat for some time, leaving passengers with amazing memories. A few lucky passengers happened to be in the water when the whales appeared, giving them an up close and personal view of these majestic 7-metre creatures. Fiona Sleight from Quicksmart commented "the whales seemed almost as interested in us, as we them." Iain Ralston from Quicksilver Dive was kind enough to provide me with some interesting facts about the Dwarf Minke Whale. Did you know that they can grow up to 8 metres (27 feet) in length, weigh up to 6 tones, that 80% of sightings in reef waters occur in June and July and they can swim, in bursts, of up to 12 knots. © Undersea Explorer Thanks Iain!

Also lucky to sight these magnificent mammals were guests on board Undersea Explorer while diving the Agincourt Reefs off Port Douglas. Passengers with Poseidon sighted dolphins and Minke Whales as well. Commencing from the 7th June next month Undersea will commence there first minke whale expedition and Diversity operated by Quicksilver Dive also will be commencing their first-ever minke whale expeditions.

Cairns: This week several manta rays were sighted by divers on board both Scubrapro while diving at Flynn reef around Gordonísí mooring and then at Osprey reef with Under Sea Explorer. Yet to personally witness these gentle giants myself, one can only imagine the experience it must be to have them come swimming past. Also of interest this week, further studies of the Nautilus which come under the group name Cephalopods. Cephalo meaning head and pods meaning feet were given a boost with the capture, monitor and release of 12 of these amazing creatures (Refer Photo).

Passions of Paradise passengers got to enjoy the reef at its best all week. Introductory divers reported seeing bicolour angelfish and lots of Moorish idols while certified divers were lucky enough to spot a white tip reef shark and also spent some time diving with their resident Maori Wrasse.

Northern Reefs/Coral Sea: Divers on board TAKA II had some fantastic sightings this week while traveling out to the Ribbon Reefs and Osprey Reef in the Coral Sea. Visibility at the Ribbon Reefs was near 30 metres and over 50 metres at Osprey Reef. Sightings included a Tawny Nurse Shark, a Bull Shark, and a superb specimen of a Gorgonian Fan Coral loaded with glass shrimp and long-nosed gobies. They also were surrounded by a huge school of yellow-banded perch and bigeye trevally, at Steveís Bommie on the Ribbon Reefs. The resident Turtle is back again on the Beer Gardens, huge fellow which has been described as almost the size of a picnic table.

Port Douglas: Passengers traveling with Calypso to Opal and Tongue Reefs located had plenty to see while snorkeling and diving, as these two reef sites hold an abundance of marine life. In the same area divers on the Poseidon witnessed numerous sightings of volatan scorpionfish and leaf scorpionfish as well as numerous cleaner shrimp.

Well this weekend the weather looks like it will hold with winds around the 15knots coming from the south. So take full advantage of these excellent conditions and head for the reef as you never know what you may see. 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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