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The Dive before the storm – A Duece of Islands, increasing wind and low visibility Beaufort and Midd

After weather watching all week, storm Mawar failed to turn up as predicted, leaving questions of increasing wind speed and possible swell and perhaps a T3 later in the day. The morning was relatively calm, a slight breeze and small swell. So having packed the boat we headed off to Beaufort.

The internet is fantastic for filling in amazing facts, did you know, Beaufort Island is in the (Antarctic, Ross) sea. It is made of Basalt and Granite (and has a large colony of Adelie penguins on the south-western end). It has several named rocks, Lover's Rock, Sole Rock, Sentry Rock and Conch-Meat Rock, but I have no idea which is which. I do know that the uniform grained granite has aplite dykes which intrude the rock. (There is a small colony of emperor penguin on the island also).

Beaufort Island – Ross Sea, Antarctica. NB The iceberg and granite rock formation.

(Strikethrough as appropriate)

The divers were a motley assortment of misfits, degenerates and a Canadian. Some would be out for fun, others to hone their rescue skills in a series of every demanding retrieval of dummies. The boat was target rich for the purpose. After a short trip, we arrived and picked a spot on the eastern end of Beaufort in the channel near Po Toi. The water looked reasonably green and clear on the top, but we all soon discovered it was rubbish below about 12 metres and worsened the deeper you went. Beaufort force 12 is described as “ air is filled with foam and spray; sea is completely white with driving spray; visibility very seriously affected.” Beaufort underwater was more like a 10.

The fish were a bit sparse, probably hiding about two metres into the muck. Beaufort is a fairly steep slope with boulders large and small, these are mostly covered in barnacles and sharp oyster shells. There were a few apogon, rabbitfish and damsels mingled with a pile of urchins, all ideal to generally make your day with cuts and spines. Cath saw a fairly big Groupa, but apart from an odd stripy angel fish and hark fish, there wasn’t a lot happening at fish central. Or there may have been if the visibility was better.

Rescue involved two divers waiting for a long time on a drift line, while planning and delegation took place on-board. Mr Dillon was masterful in his control, ignoring the heckling and focusing on the job. Luckily we were eating and could admire the spectacle, although he did demand that people should put down their sandwich and switch off the music. Eventually they were rescued and order was restored to the universe.

After lunch there was a definite change in the weather, a rustle in the trees and movement in the water. In case it went extra lumpy, we headed to Middle Island. It was never explained why the island was so named, but perhaps in the middle of a sewage outflow or some other vortex causing foul visibility.

As we arrived there was a plaintiff “aaaargh” from the poop area and Bob, or perhaps Clever Dick (the man who can swim with no arms, legs or head) had fallen into the water. No Beatrix jokes, although she was on-board. Step forward Nicky and rescue by the German method. “Catheryn Chu, take that gum out of your mouth, stand up straight and point at the victim. Iz he Zinking? What is the victim doing now? You, Paul Bayne, put some fins on and the rest of you – SILENCE. You could have heard a pin drop. Before long the deck was being scrubbed, varnished and polished for a clear area for the victim. Warm towels and hot water, ironed newspapers were prepared along with an assortment of cakes and hot tea. Oxygen, bandages were readied and the flying doctor summonsed. At the order of get in the water, several surface snorkelers dived in to rescue headless Dick whether asked to or not.

After the success of the rescue came the challenge of landing someone heavy. Parbuckle the Chunker. I had expected to be dropped, if I’m honest. The mechanical advantage of 4 to 1 was little comfort for our winchmen and women. At last I was rolled onto the aft platform, rescued and then thrown back. Rescue over.

Dive two, if you went deeper than 8 metres you could see Jack. Not the fish but the close relative of Richard III, Tony Torpedo and Mr Brown. The seafloor is shallow sloping, close in were some rocks and lots of shells. Several people saw octopus, hiding in holes surrounded by the remains of their lunch. We saw a small moray, but the visability was a shocker, coming in an out from maybe 1 metre, but closing to nothing in waves of cloudy muck (Beaufort viz 11). To compound the issue was a long string of abandoned ghost net. A reminder of the importance to carrying a knife or cutters. It was easy to swim into and we had a bit of a tangle on our way up. We did stay down for a fair amount of time, but the waves of muck put an end to sucking the tank dry.

Back on-board we had a big rain storm and squall, which was fine, as it rinsed the gear. By the time we got back it had stopped, so we unloaded in the dry. Thanks to DM Rob and everyone making it an enjoyable day in testing conditions.

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