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Reef Report for Wednesday, September 27, 2000

Undersea Explorer highlights Reef Research

It was a little lumpy and bumpy on the reef this week, however despite the rain on the land, the reef as been basking in the sunshine. On Flynn Reef, passengers onboard Kalinda have had 10-12 metres visibility, with a slight 10 knots wind to gently lull them to sleep at night. © Undersea Explorer On the Northern reefs, Ocean Quest has had similar conditions. Skipper Ralph reported 12-15 metres visibility. A huge difference to the 40 metres they were experiencing 2 weeks ago! Passions of Paradise had 10 metres visibility at Nursery Bommie this week. Divers were lucky enough to come across a large group of Hump Headed Parrot fish. These fish are rainbow colored and grow to around 1 metre. They are a timid fish so divers must approach them slowly so they donít swim off. It seems we have seen the last of the whales migration south. There have been no reports or sightings for a couple of weeks. It will remain windy over the weekend with a few showers.

Another week at sea on the Undersea Explorer shows that there are amazing discoveries still to be made on the Great Barrier Reef. The last two week's adventure divers were joined by one of the world experts in octopus, cuttlefish, squid and nautilus. © Undersea Explorer Dr. Mark Norman headed a team of researchers who over the last few years have discovered incredible numbers of new species in the Indo-Pacific waters.

On this trip the Undersea guests played a big part in these discoveries, which included many species which were thought only to be found in New Guinea and Indonesia. Photographer's cameras worked overtime as the beautiful 'flamboyant cuttlefish' was found, as well as leaf scorpion fish and ghost pipefish on two of the dives. A world first was a pure white nautilus which was trapped from 250 metres below, tagged and released as part of this deep sea research project.

A highlight of the trip was the 'black water hang' dives. These occur on all the Undersea Explorer Coral Sea trips but are particularly exciting when plankton experts and filmmakers are on board. Divers hung between 10 and 20 metres in over 1000 metres of water in the middle of the night with large lights, waiting to see what would come in. Some great discoveries were made and brought on board to film in live tanks and under the TV linked microscope. The most amazing was a blanket octopus -the female is 2 metres long and the male only as big as your thumbnail! This was the first male ever seen alive. The transparent juvenile coral shrimp, ctenophores, flounders and mantis shrimp witnessed have incredible neon light banding and look quite different to the adults divers are used to seeing on the reef.

All this happened in between dives with sharks, schools of barracuda and tuna and the incredibly steep walls of gorgonian fans and soft coral trees.

Back on the GBR, the numerous mating cuttlefish showed divers their amazing color pattern changes and intelligent behavior. Male cuttlefish aggression towards large mirrors is a wild experience as they display and attack another male, who is really their reflection. Sitting back quietly watching the female cuttlefish laying her eggs amidst a coral colony is one of the pleasures of the next 6 months for divers on the Undersea Explorer. You can just dive, or you can join Undersea Explorer for a remote diving adventure of discovery!

(C) Pro Dive Cairns The weekly reef report is written by Sue-Anne Chapman of Pro Dive Cairns, who compiles them from the many conversations she 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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