ANUSC Trip - North Solitary 10/10/2011

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Amphiprion akindynos (Brown Anemonefish) - NW Rock - Fish Soup

Photos from this trip are in the marine gallery.

The rain came in overnight Saturday, along with the 25 knot southerly as predicted. It whipped the sea into a state that prevented the boats going out on the Sunday. As the forecast was similar for the following couple of days, the group broke camp on Monday and moved up to Nelson Bay so we could at least we can do some shore diving while we wait for the seas to settle down.

On Monday we managed to do a nice dive on the right side of Fly Point. There were plenty of juvenile Nudibranchs, perfect miniatures of the adult form. We saw Short-tailed as well as Sweet Ceratasoma, Red Lined Flaballina, Reddish Flaballina, Daphne's Chromodoris, Chromodoris Splendida and White-lined Cratena. From a fish perspective there was Dwarf Lionfish, a Blind Shark, some nice Lizard fish as well as Spotted Grubfish. I always like the large white "Blue" dragons nudi's that you see at Nelson Bay.

On Tuesday we did something a little different. I have always wanted to do a drift in the bay. We had the boat so decided that we would attempt a drift dive from Halifax Park, accompanied by the boat as surface support. Myself, Jane, Kim and Tom acted as guinea pigs as we were dropped off in the channel off Halifax Park. We went in about 2.5 hours before the high tide. The drift started well initially but the further we got into the bay, and to keep within sight of interesting reef we started to encounter a gentle back eddy. The drift soon became a fin and we ended the dive in the area off the boat ramp of Halifax. It was a good dive never the less with plenty of critters to see including a very nice Sieve Patterned Moray Eel that was out.

The second group benefited from the experience of the pioneers and decided to drift from Fly Point instead. Kim, Jen, Lucy & Steve certainly went on a drift as they surfaced at The Pipeline !! By all accounts they traveled over a far bit of sand but they seem to enjoy the dive.

We then did Halifax Park on the high tide. This is the second time I have done Halifax Park in recent months. There was a time where I could not bring myself to dive there. It was just too depressing. This used to be arguably the best shore dive in NSW and to see what has happened to it is just distressing. You can still have a great dive at the site but it requires a different approach to the old way of diving it. There were a stack of interesting Nudibranchs present and the fish life is still quite good. We saw Hunter's Chromodoris, Brown Trapania, Pink Phyllodesmium, Red-lined Flaballina, Gorgonian Dermatobranchus and Sweet Ceratosoma (mating). The highlight of the dive was the Red-lined Flaballina attached to the side of a Red Rock Cod !

With the sea calming down we decided to make Wednesday a traveling and head north to Minnie Water. It would seem we timed it just right as the bar at Wooli the next morning was quite reasonable as we headed out to Fish Soup. I have never dived this site before and had been told by locals that it was a quality site. It is on NW Rock near North Solitary Island and can only be attempted when the sea is quite calm and surge not present. I must admit, it was an absolute pleasure to be in clear warm water once again. There was not as much fish life as I have expected in the crack in the rock but the Grey Nurse shark, Anemones, Clown fish all the the colourful Moon Wrasse and Butterflyfish made up for that !!

Friday was Pimpernel day after some minor confusion about which end of the beach we were launching from, we were off on a flat sea and a bright sunny day toward the infamous sea mount off Sandon. When we got out there, the top of the Pimpernel was clearly visible, a good sign !! We dived the site in shifts after anchoring one boat in the sand and dropping divers in on the Pimpernel with the other. It was beautiful and clear on the top but it got progressively murkier the deeper we got. The fixed growth on the Pimpernel is unbelievable. Whilst very different, it is as breathtaking as the fixed growth at Stoney Creek at Jervis Bay. Jane and I dived done the ridge and then the wall to the bottom at the mouth of the cave. Out on the other side of the save the Grey Nurse sharks were plentiful as were the Jewfish and Kingfish. The Pimpernel is a big diving experience. Not one that can be easily forgotten !

In the afternoon we headed out to the Outer mooring at Anemone Bay on North Solitary Island. You know it is going to be a good dive when you see Grey Nurse Sharks as you descend. We spent ages just laying on the bottom watching the sharks as well as the schools of Kingfish that were swimming in. There were stacks of other fish to see as well such as Lionfish, Spotted Lionfish, Three Spot Damsels, Gold-bellied Gregory's, Yellow-backed Triggerfish, Yellow Moon Wrasse, Moon Wrasse, Blue Surgeons, Keyhole Angelfish, Wobbegongs (Spotted and Ornate) and of course Clownfish by the million.

With such a good dive Friday we set out to emulate the feat on Saturday. The conditions on top where identical but unfortunately the water was far from it. Jane and I were dropped into green murky water with 1m vis. We dived to 30m and failed to even see the Pimpernel at which point we aborted ! It is impossible to understand how within the space of a day, conditions could be so radically different. Not to be beaten we head off for some exploratory diving on Sandon shoal instead. Sandon shoal comes up from ~30m to 10m gradually. We picked a spot on the deep side where the structure looked interesting. Unfortunately, the Vis was poor but the reef growth very interesting. I would love to go back and dive it in better conditions.

The final dive of the trip was in the afternoon on Saturday at the Mackeral Run on North Solitary. I loved the schools of Southern Fusiliers as well as the aggregation of Gunther's Butterflyfish that were clearly breeding. The highlight of the dive however was the large Egg Cowry we came across.

A fantastic ANUSC trip and one we should do more often as it is well worth the drive.