Neutrally Buoyant – Underwater in the Coral Sea & GBR

Cornered & Dangerous

smw, slt has learned how very much more there is to just this one little world than we’d even previously realized: though I’ve dived before, somehow this 4-night, 3-day, 11-dive live-aboard is an experience that’s likely to resonate for some time to come. It’s reminded me how multi-dimensional our world can be, and my mind is still wrapping itself around all I’ve experienced and how big a change it is from my daily life in Port Moresby. It’s roughly 36 hours since I landed at Lizard Island and left my waterborne home of the prior four days behind. Still my body has the feeling that the earth is moving, and I woke in my snuggly bed chez Trudi here in Sydney, feeling the roll of the waves. So we’ve learned Paul’s inner ear adapts well to the waterborne world but takes time to readapt; and we’ve learned seasickness doesn’t seem a worry. We’ve also learned that definitely the best way to see the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea beyond it is to do a live-aboard: what you can reach from Cairns by dayboat is simply too limited and too over-dived. I will add only captions after this and beg your forgiveness for putting so darn many photos up: I’ve never been under water with a camera before, and I wanted to let those of you who’ve wondered why I do it to get an idea of what you can see down there. These are pretty crappy photos but they’re best I can do to give you an idea; trust me, the reality is much more vibrant.

Aquarium Scene

…most of the shark photos you’ll see are from an event Mike Ball does which feels a bit hype-ish to me, but is nonetheless quite educational in the sense that it gives a more visceral meaning to feeding frenzy and law of the sea. We all dive to a certain depth in the water where there’s some dead coral and rock which makes a virtual amphitheater, and they lower a bucket (locked, at first, then released once it’s down and we’re all seated around the amphitheater (of sorts) – the bucket has tuna heads in it. There’s a scrum of sharks down below, and both that and all the other shark pics are from that event. They are magnificent creatures. These are just white tipped and grey-tipped reef sharks, nothing terribly threatening to us. By and large the dangerous wildlife doesn’t seem to know what to make of divers, but that doesn’t make the experience any less real when you’re in it.

And since I was  curious, I searched my memory and determined the only other time I’ve lived aboard a boat was 3.5 yeas ago when I spent two nights on houseboat on the backwaters of Kerala — a very different but equally rich experience documented here, should you be curious:

A Jaws Moment

Angels in Coral Garden

Angel in Coral Garden Paul the PhotographerThat’s me – all the shots of someone diving and taking pics etc. are me, taken by dive-buddy Scott. We were both learning how to work with cameras underwater. Just in case anyone wants to know what I look lke down there – yeah, that’s the camera in my  hands, taking one of these shots, perhaps…

Yellow & White

Aquaium Scene w Diver & Bubbles Aquarium Scene 2
Big Eye 1 Clam 1 Clam 2 Clam 3 Coral & Little Grey

One thing it’s very hard to do is get photos that capture some of the lively color of the underwater world, without strobe flashes and high-tech gear that’s beyond my price and capacity at this point. I love the clams because they are amazingly beautiful and sensitive, shifting and closing down significantly when they sense you near them; watching them move to close creates a shimmering array of colors on top of the colors already in their shells and bodies. Below is that feeding-frenzy scrum I mentioned.

Feeding Frenzy Giant Stride - ScottThat’s the boat, and a pic I took of my dive-buddy Scott entering the way most of us did it – it’s direct and quick, though there’s always that flutter in my stomach as I prep to dive in….Hide & SeekPaul the Photographer 2
Pleasure to Meet You Red Fish Reto Investigates

Algae on Mooring RopeThat’s not me doing the upside-down thing; it’s dive-buddy Reto but I liked how it seems he’s headstanding on the coral (he’s not, just looking at it close up). The multi-colored bit is just algae clinging to the mooring rope…actually on the way up from the shark dive, which was a heavy-current day so I clung to it so as not to have to fight too hard back to the boat…


Shark - Diver - Bubbles Shark & Potato Cod Shark SilhouetteUpsdie Down 1 Well Camouflaged Yellow 2 Yellow 3

12 responses

  1. Bill McCuskey

    Paul, Truly breath-taking!!! What a great escape from PNG stress ………………….

    August 13, 2013 at 21:07

  2. Steve Dickman

    Best vacation pictures from August that I’ve seen so far. Not at all too many. What a great trip you had.

    August 13, 2013 at 21:49

  3. Stephen Esmond

    Wow, great pictures! Can’t believe all those sharks. Very scary.

    August 13, 2013 at 22:33

  4. Kenya

    Hey, birthday buddy! You sure did something WAY more exciting than I did on my birthday! Fascinating pictures, and definitely not too many! Thanks!

    August 13, 2013 at 22:48

  5. Sarah Quinnell

    Looks fantastic. Glad that you had a real break away from it all. Looking forward to seeing you in September.

    August 13, 2013 at 23:19

  6. Stephen Brockmann

    Hi Paul, wow, these are way cool! It looks like you are having an absolute blast!

    August 13, 2013 at 23:39

  7. Nancy Andrews

    My fav is you upside down. That explains what neutrally buoyant really means! Beautiful.
    (Kip and I watched real WWII footage last night of Port Moresby, PNG and we thought a lot about you.)

    August 14, 2013 at 00:50

  8. amelia

    These are incredible! I was not able to do a live-aboard, what with Luna. But I feel like I have done one now! Fabulous. We miss you!

    August 14, 2013 at 03:27

  9. Stephen Brockmann

    Yes, well if these are “crappy” shots, Paul, I’d like to see some not-crappy ones. Truly amazing, almost makes me want to learn how to dive! I trust you’re having a spectacular time, and it certainly looks great! Enjoy Sydney!

    August 14, 2013 at 06:53

  10. Diane Rachiele

    Love that erm – neutral buoyancy! cheers!D

    August 17, 2013 at 20:55

  11. Wow!

    December 28, 2013 at 13:58

  12. Stephen Brockmann

    You really do go to some pretty amazing places for your birthday! Have a happy one!

    August 9, 2017 at 09:02

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