WA Dive Trip: In Jan 2001 Mal and Ted explored Cocklbiddy Cave on the Nullabor Plane. It's one hell of a walk into the cave with dive gear.
Australian Grand Prix: From 1-4 March 2001 the Dive Club in conjunction with divers from the Australian Navy Reserve Dive Team 6 provided water rescue for the Formula One race. This involved having two teams of four in the club boats at each end of Albert Park Lake. The teams consisted of a kitted diver, a swimmer, divers attendant and Coxswain. The water rescue team was also supported by a lake side attendant and headquarters staff co-located with the Water Police.
|A willing volunteer to look after the dive gear during a well earned break|
WEEK ONE HIDEAWAY ISLAND:
Hideaway Island is about the
same size as the MCG and is situated 200 metres from the mainland and approximately 20
minutes west of the capital. Accommodation was basic dorm with a walk to the shower/toilet
or twin share rooms with en-suite in the newly renovated cottages (warning the walls are
very thin). All rooms are around the edge of the Island and the Dive shop and dining area
looks west, and on a night dive you walk out of the water in front of the Bar/ Dining
area. The meals were excellent and there are surf skis and catamarans for guest to use to
fill in the time when not diving.
|Diving, now that was why we went and there was
a lot to see. All dives are a short boat trip from the island and around 10:00 am you
would head out for the first dive, back for lunch and then out for the second dive.
Murray, who had only just finished his open water course plus 2 dives, was soon diving to
40 metres. The local guides were very good and happy to keep an eye on the big air user
(Murray). These boys are better at air consumption than Mal (I doubt). You roll over the
side into clear warm water and an abundance of coral at 5 metres, then swim over the edge
down to 30/ 40 metres making your way back up the wall. The guides show you large clams,
Lion fish and many other things of interest, you would normally miss. As you swim along
the top of the reef on your way back to the boat, you pass Manta Shrimps, small Cray Fish
and Eels that are hiding in massive brain corals 9 metres high. By the time you've made it
back to the boat, the safety stop is over without any one noticing. The area just out the
front of the Island is a reserve, hence an abundance of sea life. Fish splash around in
the water just out from the bar as the staff feed them left over bread. There is also the
wreck of the Konanda you can dive. At the moment it is a morning trip only, as the boat
used is slow and the trip across the bay takes longer than it should.
|Murray was an Advanced /Deep and Wreck diver by
the time we left Hideaway thanks to Bryan McGoldricks excellent instruction. On the
rest day before flying out we visited a waterfall in the hills just a short walk from the
Island. Great for a swim, then a tour of the local village before being dropped in town to
do same shopping.
|Things to watch out for are:
|We awoke at 4:00 am to catch the flight from
Villa to Santo and the second half of the trip, diving the wreck of the SS President
Coolidge. The Coolidge is a passenger ship turned troop career for the war that hit a mine
trying to enter Santo without a pilot. The Island of Santo is a 45 minute flight east of
Villa. Santo is not as developed as Villa and most shops have the same things (more a
small general store). The accommodation was at the Deco Stop over looking the town and the
Segond Channel where the wreck of the Coolidge lies.We had arranged a dive that afternoon
and as Murray and Lisa were not experienced they would dive the Promenade Deck while Dave,
Bryan, Greg and Doug geared up with twin tanks and Alpha lights to dive the deepest pool
in Vanuatu and count the colours of the tiles. This dive was a shore dive and my first
time on twin tanks, a long surface swim in current which almost killed me (pay back for
Koonya was the words used by Bryan). 70 minutes later we had swam laps of the pool,
returned along the lower side of the ship, over one of the ships big anchors, past a
typewriter, the 20 mm cannons, port holes, fans and the list goes on.
|All dives on the Coolidge are done as deco
dives and the stops worked out before you go, with extra stops put in if you go deeper. So
you spend a lot of time moving up the wall to the 3 metre coral garden made so you had
something to look at for the last stop which is the longest at 20 minutes. Then it was
back to the resort to settle in and have dinner (the food was good but slow in coming).
The view was excellent and the newly finished Club Narcosis bar, that all the expats
visited, served cava nook? The next morning we headed for the boat we would dive from for
the rest of the dives. This was a motor sailer which made a great dive boat.
We geared up and worked out
buddy groups. The size of the groups is normally 4 to 5 for safety and our group was
Murray, Greg, Doug and a local for a guide. David, the guide, explained the dive and deco
stops before leading us down the bowline to the wreck and into hold # 2, which contained a
"Long Tom" large 155 mm anti-aircraft gun and a few ten-wheel GMC trucks. We
also saw Willys Jeeps stacked on top of one another and aircraft drop tanks before
swimming out and around the bow and up the bowline. On the boat ride back to the resort
for lunch we removed the tanks for filling while the first mate served coffee. The next
dive we started at the captains bathroom then past the skylights, rows of toilets,
around to the water fountain then it was on to the medical supplies and out through cargo
hold # 2.
Off to see the lady; this is
a statue that has a big reputation. After kissing the lady we passed over plates and
crockery and into the smoking room with its large frosted glass lights (The location of
the lady has moved as it had fallen). We then swam past rows of toilets, brass mushroom
lamps in the Continental lounge and out the front windows. Then along the bow, passing the
3 inch gun and stopping to look at a big eel that has mad its home in the winch. Back at
the deco stop, Boris a massive groper was being fed by the guides.
That afternoon we dived 60 /
40 reef where we had a free hand to look around and not long after entering the water we
found a lot of full rifle rounds. The area was covered with coral and sea life and near
the end of the dive a 7 ft leopard shark decided it was getting to busy and headed for the
deep. A relaxing dive and a nice change from the Coolidge.
Down through a cut out into
the engine room to check out what pushed this ship though the water, we stopping for a
look at the drive shaft before moving in to the control room where the telegraph settings
still shows the last commands from the helm. Out past the Dinning room and the Lady to
exit via the sea door, past the shark cage and back for deco. We stayed on the boat this
time as we sailed for the USS Tucker, a Destroyer that had hit a mine thirteen weeks
earlier than the Coolidge. Not too much of this ship is left but the visibility was
fantastic and the trip home at sun set had Murray catching Tuna while the rest of us had a
We, that is Greg and I, went
back to the pool and took Murray with us in preparation for tomorrows dive to the stern.
Murray had to check the colours of the tiles, while Greg and I swam laps of the pool with
tumble turns. Heading back via the upper side of the pool and passing over a lot of old
bottles and stuff on the deck, we swam in past the beauty shop before heading for home.
With a night dive planed, there was no afternoon dive giving us the chance to have a look
around town. The Coolidge at night is something to see, but not the reason we were there.
The reason was the flash light fish which we could see while swimming around in Hold #1
& 2 with the light turned off there are all these little fish glowing, which looks
Dave and Bryan joined the
three of us to have a look at the stern. Rounding the stern at 60 metres we swam past the
rear 5 inch gun, #7 cargo hatch, the tourist pool and first class pool. While slowly
changing depth and decompressing on the way back along the ship you could see the rows of
toilets though the hull as we swam over them. Swimming the length of the ship the last
dive on the Coolidge you get a feel for the size of the ship which was a great experience.
Only one more dive left and its million dollar point were the Yanks pushed all their
machinery in to the sea as the French and local government didnt want to buy it for
10% of its cost.
|You have to look hard at some of it to work out what it was but you get an idea as to the amount of equipment that was thrown away. (Bulldozers, truck, cranes and the list go on)|
Rest day before flying out to Villa for an overnight stop and home. We filled the day in with a bushman trip to a village, jumped of a bridge in to a river before swimming down it to a waterfall. On the walk back through the bush the guide pointed out plants that can be used for everything from soap to insect replant and finished of with a visit to Blue holes, which is a swimming hole where Dorothy Lamour reportedly swam on her visit during WW2.