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The last time I dived near the
big bommie on the southern side of Flat Rock, off Point Lookout, was in 1972. In
the last few years, I have dived on other sites around this rock including the
shark gutters, the turtle caves and the fish garden, but this was the first time
I had returned to this place that I remember so vividly. I was diving with Neil
Harris and some friends from Absolute Scuba, and suggested that we anchor in the
shallow water on the inside of the bommie.
We entered the water in a big
group and headed southwest. We swam down into a circular area like an arena that
the locals call “The Bowl”. On the seaward side of the bowl, I looked for
the “V” shaped gully, a deep cleft in the rock close to the bommie. There it
was, running south to the edge of the rock and opening out into a spectacular
vista with a steep drop to over 30 metres. As this was our second dive, we did
not go down the wall, but looked out for kingfish and mackerel out in the blue,
and smaller territorial reef fish around the rocks and boulders that form the
wall. One of the new divers signalled that he was low on air, so Neil waved
goodbye and took him back to the boat. We swam around the outside of the bommie
until it was time to go. Nick signalled, “Where is the boat?” It is like a
road map down there: back up the gully, across the bowl (which seemed to have a
lot more sand than the last time I was there), up the hill, and there was the
New Dive Boat
After three overseas trips last
year diving “The Coolidge”, the Isle of Pines, and in Fiji on Princess II, I
have managed a few trips this year at home in Brisbane on Absolute Scuba’s new
boat. On a recent trip with my son, we headed across Moreton Bay to Point Lookout, which forms the rocky
N.E. corner of North Stradbroke Island. We departed from the Air Sea Rescue boat
ramp at Raby Bay, through the channel north of Peel Island, up the Rainbow
Passage, over the bar at Amity Point near the 1942 wreck of “Rufus King”,
and out to Point Lookout. We anchored at “The Group” which is a shallow
rocky reef area near the Point. The water was clear and about 26 degrees
My father and I started diving
out here in 1970 using the new alloy 72s in simple backpacks. I had a CO2
inflation buoyancy vest but BCDs were unheard of. These days, Dad only gets to
read about it! On this trip, we had a few alloy 88s on board, but most of the
tanks were fat little 100 cu ft steel cylinders. The experienced divers with appropriate equipment
use a Nitrox mix instead of air. I usually dive with an EANx 36 mix giving me a
conservative maximum operating depth of 29 metres. It is lovely stuff! (EANx 36
is a mixture of 36% oxygen and 64% nitrogen.)
During the dive, we encountered
manta rays, bull rays, stingrays, octopus, small morays, and leopard sharks on
the sand. It is mainly rocky terrain covered in shellfish, with gullies and
sandy patches at around 12 metres. A great dive site for everyone. After a
50-minute dive, we located the boat and ascended the anchor line for our
three-minute safety stop. The boat was riding in a bit of chop which caused the
anchor line to jerk, so I hooked on with the carabineer on my homemade Jon Line.
Once we were all on board, the skipper moved the boat out of the uncomfortable
chop to Shag Rock for our surface interval.
We anchored on the sheltered
northern side near the gap between the two main rocks that form Shag Rock. Here
we enjoyed our lunch of chicken and salad with a soft drink and Mars Bar for
desert. The entry point for the dive was on top of a wide valley which narrows
into a steep gully, with a large submerged rock forming a cave which makes a
good swimthrough. A torch makes it more enjoyable because you can then see all
the creatures hiding in the narrow gaps. This little tunnel has been the first
undersea cave dive for many people.
Emerging on the southern side, we
turned right and headed west towards our pickup point. On the way, we chopped up
a few of the plentiful black spiny sea urchins and fed them to the fish. They
love them! Flipping them over requires a fair amount of skill and dexterity with
a diving knife to avoid those sharp pointed spines! It would seem that the
absence of natural predators has caused a proliferation of these urchins.
One diver was getting low on air
so I gave him a few shots of Nitrox from my AIR II regulator. 36% Oxygen has a
wonderful calming effect! The boat was to pick us up on the southern side of the
rock, so I attached my safety-stop anchor to my reel, and sent it to the surface
to mark our position. We performed an open water ascent with a three-minute stop
at five metres by locking off the reel at this depth. On reaching the surface,
the boat was right there to pick us up.
Other dive destinations in an
around Moreton Bay include Boat Rock, Curtin Artificial Reef, Tangalooma Wrecks
and Flinders Reef. I have only dived at Boat Rock a few times, but I consider it to be
the top dive site in the Point Lookout area. The best time to dive here is in
calm conditions with little current. It is suitable for advanced divers because
the rock drops steeply to a depth of thirty metres. On the eastern side of the
rock, there is a wide ledge like a narrow road, about halfway to the bottom.
From there you can sit and watch the eagle rays cruise past.
Curtin Artificial Reef
popular dive site was created over many years by members of the Underwater
Research Group of Queensland. It consists of about twenty good-sized wrecks
which lie at 20-25 metres on a sandy seabed between Bulwer and Cowan Cowan Point
on the western side of Moreton Island. There are several self-propelled barges,
gravel barges, two tugs, two whale chasers, the massive Cairncross Drydock Gate,
concrete pipes and a Brisbane tram. A detailed chart of the
reef is available from the URGQ for studying the positions of the wrecks. The
reef makes an excellent night dive at the top of the high tide.
I went along on a recent night
diving course to Curtin Artificial Reef as a pleasure diver. Here is an extract
from my log.
“At the top of the tide,
everyone was ready with their torches and safety lights. The dive crew attached
strobe lights to the anchor rope making it easy to descend to the wrecks in the
clear water. Neil took the pairs of students through their specialty skills on
the deck of the old gravel barge, Estrella del Mar, and then sent them off
to explore the nearby wrecks. Meanwhile I poked my torch and helmet lights into
the openings to see all of the marine life that appears at night.
“We then explored
where there were many large fish, wobbegongs, a big hermit crab, and tiny
shrimp. Since we were lit up like a pair of Christmas trees, it was easy for the
students to find us, and we all moved down a little to the tug Loevenstein.
This wreck lies on its side in about 20 metres, and is full of fish! SPG checks
showed that air was getting low, so we returned to the Estrella for a slow
ascent to the boat. Altogether a fabulous dive!”
Tangalooma Wrecks make a good
dive near the top of the tide. The boat drops you off on the northern (upstream)
end, and picks you up at the other. You can drift leisurely through the wrecks
and enjoy the fish life, but watch out for those nasty stonefish! Take time to
penetrate the old “Morwong” suction dredge. A torch is essential to light
the long tunnel that slopes up from between the twin propellers. The interior is
well lit and it is easy to follow the passageway and emerge over the port rail.
This old dredge has been the first wreck penetration dive for many people.
Unlike the other reefs off
Moreton and Stradbroke Islands, Flinders Reef is covered in a variety of hard
and soft corals. It is classified as a “Protection Zone” which extends 50
metres seaward from the exposed reef. Boating and diving are allowed in this
zone but NO FISHING. There is also a “Buffer Zone” which extends 150 metres
from the protection zone. Trolling for pelagic fish is allowed in this area. I
have noticed a definite increase in the quantity and size of fish in recent
years with the total ban on spear fishing. The recent introduction of permanent
moorings is a welcome addition to protect the coral from boat anchors and chain.
As with all of these rocks and
reefs near our coastline, they need to be protected for the future from over
use. In order to achieve this, all of these dive sites near Moreton Bay should
be given the same zone classifications as Flinders Reef.
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