My experience down under

This is my 7th day in Aussieland. I have travelled to magnetic island, where I encountered wallabies, koalas, death adders, kookaburras, cockatoos, lorrikeets, magpies, curlews, giant orb weaver spiders, brown tree snakes, spotted pythons, and a whole lot of creepy crawlies.

Bungalow Bay was lovely…a bit touristy but the owner,Tony, was absolutely a hoot and a half. He lead us on more mountain hikes than any normal man his age could do and colored our world the Aussie way. Maggie is a beautiful Island and I really enjoyed the conservation work we did on the island.

We have spent three nights so far on the floor of Reef HQ sucking the knowledge out of our hosts of the great barrier reef marine park agency, the government organization that monitors and conserves the reef. For the most part the people are unbelievable. Lots of amazing research taking place with sharks, corals, barrimundi, and climate change. There is lots of opportunity for partnership here so I am completely psyched about that.

I just returned from a two day live aboard trip on board the research vessel Kalinda. She floats. That is about the most kind thing I could say. I slept in a berth that was 4 cots squished together on each side with a small aisle in between. Let’s just say I spooned with two others. The berth was just next to the engine room, was full of mildew, wreaked of diesel fuel, and we listened to the bilge run all night. The plus was, since we were at the bottom of the boat we didn’t feel the toss nearly as much as the rest of the boat. My dive buddy had initial problems with buoyancy, so it was a miserable dive and we cut it short. I bailed on the three subsequent dives for fear of my life. The report came back that he had a faulty BCD so I felt like I would trust him on the next dive. He asked to go to the anchor even though we were in very deep water with low vis and we discussed the rules, no getting too far ahead of me, always check to see if the depth is OK, always check back…at 50 feet I was experiencing bad mask squeeze and I needed a moment to fiddle…I signaled and flailed and signaled and my buddy disappeared. I darted after to 60 feet, and couldn’t find him. Now I needed to ascend…but I had to dive my computer, alone, in the dark, and oh, I was overweighted…so every 10 feet, I would stop, and I would start to sink back….not fun! I took about 4 minutes to surface where my buddy was way on the other side of the cove. We met back up. We went down on the bommies and saw a few decent fish, nothing to write home about. I missed my reef assessment that I was supposed to do and then I made my decision to stop diving. I said I didn’t want the surface swim (which is slightly true). And stood watch. Where I did see a manta from the surface…kind of cool…

Today, we went up the coast and spent the day in the mangroves with the aborigines. Absolutely amazing. The topography here is very different lots of green lots of cattle and lots of sugar cane. I am very, very tired, and quite filthy. Tonight, I present my reef conservation with my group. I hope we get it together. I miss everyone! G’day!