In September of 2016 I was lucky enough to go and swim with humpback whales in Tonga. It is an amazing experience just seeing them from the surface. To now have seen them underwater was just that much more amazing. Over the 6 days we swam, we saw many mums, calves and males. The calf in this image was quite inquisitive and came in to take a look at us, wondering what these strange things bobbing around on the surface were.
Young Fur Seals are often seen at Chinaman’s Hat in Port Phillip Bay. Chinaman’s Hat is a man made structure where male seals that did not find a place in breeding colonies come to rest and hang out. They are very funny to watch as they squabble and play. Do yourself a favour and get out and have a swim with these cute creatures.
Nudibranchs are sea slugs. When you say sea slug people often thing grey and dull… However many sea slugs or Nudibranch are really colourful. There are 1000’s of different types and they live all over the world. Victoria is lucky enough to be home to this colourful species called Vercos Nudibranch. This image was taken under Blairgowrie Pier.
One of my favourite things to see underwater in Victoria is Weedy Seadragons. Underwater, the rule book gets thrown out the window, this is actually a male that takes care of the eggs while the female goes about her business. These can be seen by chucking a snorkel and fins on and having a look under Portsea Pier.
Gannets are a regular site in the bay where I dive. Amazing birds that nest on man made islands and structures. You can often see them dive bombing into the water for fish. This image was made in Popes Eye a tiny marine park in middle of the bay.
Sometimes there is not a lot to do when waiting on your safety stop. I took this photo of divers coming up from a dive and waiting for my safety stop. For those non divers out there a safety stop is where a diver will stop acceding for 3-5 mins at 5 meters. This is not “necessary” however training teaches to do it for extra safety. Hence the name safety stop.
Once a year spider crabs gather in the shallow waters of Port Phillip Bay around Rye or Blairgowrie. They come together to malt in the relative safety of large numbers. This amazing site is equal parts unpredictable and spectacular. It happens some time in winter in this part of the bay. However other areas are known to have aggregations at other times of year. And before you ask no they are not really good for eating!
Most fish are scared of the bubbles and noise you make as a diver. Getting a good shot requires patients and knowledge of behavior. Not on this occasion! This six spine leather jacket was very interested in my camera and fingers. In between taking photos I would have to quickly take my hands of the shutter so they did not get bitten.
One of my favourite sites on a night dive is squid. Not the rarest creature, but incredibly fascinating to watch. You can often see them hunting using the dive lights. They strobe and change colour in a showing their moods. The eye and the semi translucent body makes for great photos. These guys can grow up to 50cm and are found in shallow waters generally no deeper than 10m.
One of the things that has stayed with me is the idea that great photographs are made not taken. It comes from a quote from Ansel Adams, an American photographer and environmentalist. I had the idea for this photograph for some time before all the tides, sunset and weather all aligned at the right time. I sat in chest deep water dunking my camera in and out of the water about 100 times to “get the shot”. I was rewarded with on of my favourite images of an area I really love in Port Phillip heads marine park. When I show people I don’t tell them about the time effort and planning that went into the image. I just let them enjoy the image as it stands with the beauty of nature speaking for itself.
One of the really special creatures to inhabit the shores of southern Australia is the weedy seadragon. This special creatures can be found under a number of piers in both Port Phillip and Western Port.
Port Phillip Bay is home to a healthy colony of male Australian Fur Seals. These male seals are the poor souls who were not able to establish themselves in the breading colonies in other parts of the Victorian coast. They now occupy Chinamans Hat. A man made structure in the middle of the bay specifically built for the colony of bachelors. It’s a great place to go for a snorkel with these playful marine mammals.