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Albany Dive Weekender Trip Review

Nov ’11
8:00 am

written by Belynda Parker

Perth Scuba Crew receive their dive briefing in AlbanyThe last weekend in October 2011, the long weekend, our Queen was in town along with the dandy CHOG’s so what better way to escape the debacle that was the city of Perth than to venture south to Albany for a weekend of diving? A quick briefing on the Wednesday night for all the divers to touch base with Perth Scuba, meet our fearless leader Garth Schumann, make sure we all had correct gear, tanks etc.

Having obtained my open water ticket in 1996, and only completing about 5 dives since then (excluding my recent refresher), it was quickly established during the meet and greet that I was the single most inexperienced diver in the room. Despite my excitable nerves, I would like to insert here that the group were an awesome bunch, very welcoming and not at all intimidating. Some were going to Albany just for fun, others were going to be completing their wreck and/or deep diving specialty and I was completing my advanced open water ticket. A diverse bunch we were, singles, couples, Swiss, Pommies, young, old (well not real old but Richard you were estimated to be…49 was it? Only 16 years out. Awkward). The stage was set for an entertaining weekend none the less.

We all made our own way to Albany on the Thursday, to the ‘Cruize-Inn’; neat and tidy accommodation with everything we needed…including a bar that looked like it had been transported from a tropical island of some sort. The group trickled in over the afternoon, a few stragglers who couldn’t get away from work earlier and then there was Garth who chose the scenic route, adding several hours onto his trip as he meandered through the winding forest road – visibility reduced to less than 2m with the pelting rain; let’s just say he was unimpressed, an angst only a beer on arrival could quell.

Day 1; Our boat wasn’t due to depart until lunchtime so we had a leisurely morning, breakfasting, playing around with dive computers, discussing what was required for the various specialties, filling out paperwork and discussing the plan for that day’s dives. Needless to say, by 12pm, everyone was pretty keen to get out on the boat and into our first day of diving – the HMAS Perth.

Located in the King George Sound, the HMAS Perth is a 133 metre decommissioned guided missile destroyer, she was scuttled in 2001, in such a perfect way that the majority of the ship is still intact and most of the equipment and machinery aboard the ship was kept in place. The wreck is suitable for a range of experience from beginners (me) to the most advanced divers, with depths ranging to about 35m.Solving the worlds problems a beer at a time

The first dive was a bit of a fun, reconnaissance dive. We buddied up, into our gear and ALLONS-Y!…The first diver in the water loses his weight belt, a rapid spiral through about 40m of water ending most likely in a burial of mud. Not a great start but this was soon forgotten once we were paddling over toward the mast of the wreck, which sticks several metres out of the water. Guide wires extended from the top of the mast to the bow and stern of the ship; these could be used for descent and then one can journey back up through or around the levels of the wreck. My first dive was with Garth. Given his experience I was quietly stoked, remember it’s been a long time between drinks for me, and it was awesome. Almost the entire wreck had something living on or in it. A plethora of sponges, ascidians, molluscs and a myriad of fish made for a visual feast during the entire dive. The highlight of this dive was the school of large Sambo’s cruising just beneath me on the ascent. The crow’s nest, at a depth of 5m, made for a perfect safety stop, as both a visual depth marker and plenty of marine life to keep us entertained.

Back on the boat, our trusty captain Karl handed out cup-o-soups; gratefully received as the water was a fresh 18 degrees, and I, the fool with no hood or gloves, was feeling the pain! During the surface interval we played with a Tupperware Shape-O; four of us timed how long it took each of us to re-stock the ball with its shapes; then we repeated the task on the deck of the wreck at about 24metres. An interesting lesson illustrating how cognitive thinking and ability to perform tasks is affected at depth. During this time, other members of the group sketched a map of a portion of the wreck on their slates; which they later presented to the rest of the group back at the house. A few budding artists amongst them and humorous seminars.

After the second dive we were all absolutely ravenous; some of us more so than others with the motion of the ocean urging us to burley-up the water, voiding our stomachs of any goodness. So, packed into the troopy (big cheers to skipper Matt :)) we ventured into the thriving metropolis that is Albany, and despite the bustling crowds we were squeezed into the upper section of “Nonna’s” – a few lonely souls up there who were holding some sort of (MAL)function as not many of their party had arrived; we ate the plates of food they offered us with gusto as they had largely over catered and our hunger pangs must have been obvious. After a great meal, a few drinks and plenty of discussion on that days dives we headed home and had more drinks and attempted to solve the world’s problems, as one does.

Garth Schumann, Perth Scuba Tour LeaderDay 2; Garth cooks us bacon and eggs for breaky and then we return to the HMAS Perth again. Exploring different parts of a now familiar wreck, my dive buddies and I entered the wheel house and took some great shots at the helm; a bit of a look around and effectively silted up the entire room for Garth who entered not long after we left. Amateurs, ah well, can only move forward from here! Our dive continued into other sections of the wreck, including the control room which housed the dinosaur like computers. Brilliant. My last dive of the day was nothing short of a debacle. During my paddle over to the mast a blue bottle decided to entangle itself around my regulator; it’s sticky blue legs, unbeknownst to me, were busy caressing my mouthpiece, so it was a fiery hot surprise for my lips and tongue when I put the reg in my mouth. After a flurry of spluttering and WTF’ing I decided to descend with my group anyway, a fin malfunction at the bottom, slight current and my buddy and I were lost in a sea of milk, no sign of our group or the wreck; back to the top we slunk. Trusty skipper Karl gave me some first aid, which despite suggestion from fearless leader Garth, did not involve urinating on my face.

The evening saw us produce a barbeque of awesomeness, with enough leftovers for lunch the next day. The night ended with more drinking and solving of world’s problems, the undeniable fact that humans are destined for intergalactic travel and did you know dolphins can recognise their own reflection? It’s true, they have been seen practising pouting for their Facebook profile pics.

Our final day was an early start, but we were all frothing for it none the less. Today we were headed to another wreck, the Cheynes III. It was scuttled in 1982, a messy affair apparently involving a bucket load of dynamite which effectively blasted it in half. After entering the water, and heading off in a westerly direction, the Cheynes eventually loomed before us (thank goodness). The visibility was amazing, at least 20m, swimming up the side of the wreck and peering onto the deck was like looking into an aquarium, beautiful fish everywhere, colourful sponges and various corals. Our eyes were peeled for the wonderful leafy sea dragons but no such luck. No sign either of the large wobbegongs who loiter beneath the bow. An awesome dive all the same on this wonderful artificial reef. The second dive was along the rocky wall of the island; after navigating a square as part of my assessment, my buddy (and fearless leader) Garth cruised over the mesmerising fields of seaweed. Again, the water clarity was divine. Plenty of fish about but the ever elusive dragons were not sighted. Back on board and back to shore, we ate the leftovers from our barbeque of awesomeness for lunch and our weekend had come to an end. Well there was still the 4 – 5 odd hour drive back to Perth but that parts not included, and I have a very foggy memory of it anyway to be honest, the fatigue monster had well and truly kicked in.

If anyone reading this hasn’t been on one of Perth Scuba’s dive trips I thoroughly recommend it, I had an absolute blast, and drew so much from the experience of others around me. Being surrounded by people with a similar passion is incredibly rewarding; so, to the awesome group of my new diving buddies, I look forward to more diving adventures with you all in the future! Huge thanks to Garth for all his guidance and advice. This world is so new to me, I have always had an affinity with the ocean, however SCUBA diving was never able to be a great part of it; circumstance and opportunity have steered me onto a new path and I am loving it.

Dive in! Carpe diem. BJP xxx

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