Underwater Race (Almost) at Goat Island

My friend Konstantin had an important visitor last April. His brother Aleksandr came from Russia. As both of them are scuba divers, they did not want to miss the opportunity to dive together. New Zealand is famous for its landscapes and outdoor activities, but not so for its underwater environment (we need to change that), yet it offers top temperate diving. No diver paying a visit should miss that.

Anyway, we went for a shore dive to Goat Island, the first NZ marine reserve and certainly the best shore diving spot near Auckland. You know, to ‘warm up’, adjust to the new conditions. The weather was not great on that morning, cold, grey skies and not much light. Also it was dirty underwater, especially close to the shore. We did not swim to the island, but took the direction about 30° to the left (west) from it. The plan was simple: Swim in a straight line following the compass, turn 180° when the first of us reaches 120 bars of air in the tank, swim to the shore. Observe anything interesting on your way.

Immediately after entering the water I realised how different our diving styles were. Both guys are sportsmen, outdoor enthusiasts with good stamina. I am a lazy person, more an observer that a performer. Plus I was pushing my heavy camera with two strobes through the water. And of course, my plan was to make pictures. You can see from my pictures I was well behind most of the time. The pictures of divers got reduced to studying their finning technique.

It was a very pleasant dive. The water got clear when we got deeper. We could see big schools of fish chased by kingfish. We saw plenty of eagle rays, snappers and reef fish. We reached the area where the kelp and sponge countries overlap. And by the way, it was warm and the sun was shining when we got out of water. Thanks, guys, for allowing me to join you. It’s a pity I could not go diving with you to Northland. Perhaps next time. In the meantime I need to work on my speed and stamina 🙂

Red moki in dirty water

Red moki at the rocks in dirty water close to the shore. Aleksandr behind the rocks.

Aleksandr swimming away

Aleksandr swimming in front of me. Water is dirty, we are still too close to the shore.

Konstantin underwater

I worked hard to get in front of Konstantin so I could capture more than just his fins. Water gets clearer, yet the bottom is still flat and not very interesting.

School of silver fish

School of fish circling around us. Note how the fish turned away from the diver’s bubbles in far right. The reason for their wild swimming is not obvious yet.

Kingfish in distance

This is the reason for the frantic swimming of the school of silver fish. Kingfish torpedoes circling around us (and them) in the distance.

Sponge country begins

We’ve got to an area where kelp forest slowly ends and the sponge country prevails. Also the visibility is much better. Both Aleksandr and Konstantin in the background leaving me behind them … again.

Orange finger sponge

A nice orange finger sponge in the shadows under the kelp forest canopy.

Aleksandr portrait

My chase was successful, I’ve got to Aleksandr from the side to make this picture.

Two eagle rays

At depth the terrain became more rugged with kelp on top of the rocks, big sponges on their vertical parts and eagle rays on the sandy bottom in the gutters.

Back to shore

A typical view from my camera during most of the dive … a study of Konstantin’s finning technique while he is swimming above the Ecklonia radiata kelp forest.