Day 3 - Mating Cuttlefish, 12 degree waters and one smartass seal
We kicked off Day 3 at around 6:00am - we geared up cameras, packed the car and set towards Cuttlefish drive. We had the inside scoop of where find the biggest and friskiest Cuttlefish and within around 20 minutes we were at our location.
There were quite a number of other divers gearing up and a group that had just gotton out looking a nice shade of purple. I geared up and we did a few to-camera segments before strapping on what felt like 100kg of weights around my waist and made the difficult and clumsy trip down the stairs, across the rocks and into the shallows. The mission of getting your fins on, whilst wearing thick gloves and avoiding smashing the cameras on rocks was more difficult than I had ever imagined. On the up side, it sure provided ample entertainment watching one-another attempt it.
Once out in the depths - and by depths I mean 3 meters - we all gave an okay and headed for the sea floor. The minute my head became fully submerged by the water I got an instant brain freeze but other than that the cold wasnt horrible. It could be because I had hyped up how freezing it was going to be that it wasn’t as bad as I presumed... or, I’m just tough as! Either way, it wasn’t long before I saw my first Australian Giant Cuttlefish and I forgot all about the cold.
Once I saw one of these guys, all of a sudden they were everywhere. It was incredible the way they could change appearance in an instant and not only in colour but they were able to change 'textures' to become bumpy or ridged to blend in even further to seaweed and rocks. Strangely enough though, I think the thing that had me the most compelled was just how beautiful the habitat was. The sunlight ray protruded through the water and all the rocks were covered by fluffy yellow seaweed that moved just about as gracefully as the cuttlefish themselves.
I have previously written a blog about Cuttlefish mating and the behaviours they show and the team and I were lucky enough to witness all the behaviours that they exhibit. Mating, banding, facing-off, fighting, eggs and of corse the cross-dressing! Keiren even stumbled across a Cuttlefish whose feeding tentacle was stuck on some weed, with a bit of gentle coercing the cuttlefish came out from under the rock and turned to face Kieren and let him pull the weed off.
Despite the many people that flock to Whyall-ian waters to witness this unique, out-of-this-world event BHP Billiton are now planning to build a desalination plant at Point Lowly which is basically right on top of the cuttlefish breeding site. We spoke to a number of locals about this and it seems everyone is doing all they can to stop this plant from being built. The desalination plant will dump immense amounts of brine water in the area and thus increase the salinity levels of the surrounding water. Cuttlefish embryos will die as the salinity levels rise and as this area is the only known breeding aggregation for this species in the world the population could easily be wiped out in just one season.
As the water is so shallow, a 45 minute dive left us with over 100 bar left in our tanks so we jumped out, chucked our stuff in the car and drove to another location.
Our friends from Ocean Guardians, Jim and Cherie had just done a dive with a playful, inquisitive seal that swam around them and hung out with them for a while. We got to the location and could see the seal basking in the sun with a flipper in air. I try not to play favourites with animals (apart from Sharks - they are in a league of their own!) but I am a sucker for a good-humoured seal so I excitedly geared up and made the trek down the rocky shore to go meet him/her. By the time I got in the water, he’d disappeared. We did another 30-40 minute dive and at this new location we saw a lot more mating than any other site.
We crawled out on the rocks, trekked back up to the car, dropped the gear and the 100kg of weights and sat down buggered, cold and very hungry. I turn and looked back out to the water and guess whos lying right there, floating under the sun with a flipper in the air - my smart-ass seal. We got dry, packed the car and headed back to town for food, air-fills and a few more scenery shots around Whyalla.
When we got back to our lodge we hosed off the gear and hung it out praying that it would be at least a fraction drier for our early morning start out to dive the Kingfish Aquaculture Farms.