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Seasquirt

The adventures of Fe & Chris

Archive for January 20, 2008

Poor Knights

We recently went diving in one of the world’s “top-ten” diving spots - the Poor Knights Islands off the east coast of Northland - we had been warned that the swells may make the trip out there a bit grim, but with two bits of crystallised ginger for breakfast, my stomach behaved very well.

We had a lovely day and had our first experience of ‘cold’ (21 degrees C) water diving, complete with 2-piece 7mm wetsuits (so 14mm total around our torso) they were a hassle to get in and out of, but they kept us nice and toasty, and we were probably warmer than in Honduras. They also affected our buoyancy somewhat, and I ended up with 10kg of weights, and still couldn’t sink that well!!

The marine life was amazing - there were literally hundreds of fish around us, and even as the boat arrived we saw shoals of trevally and blue maomao at the surface. Underwater we saw lots of pretty damoiselles and snappers, three types of eel and a few black angelfish to name a few. After finally getting to grips with my buoyancy I was able to relax a bit and do some impressive spots - two stingrays, a packhorse crayfish, and the only poisonous fish in these waters - the well camouflaged scorpion fish. We also saw lots of funky nudibranchs - some stripy blue and yellow, others bright orange with white spots. Oh and a cool firebrick starfish. Ah, if only I had an underwater camera….

As the skipper told us, this was different from diving on coral as we could handle things and not worry about kicking the bottom etc. We were therefore a bit peturbed on our first descent by the number of spiny urchins along the seafloor and walls - definitely a good reason for avoiding any surfaces!

A marvellous occurence

After a pleasant evening in Auckland and mildly frantic search for somewhere to live we spent a relaxing morning strolling the shores and headlands of Mahauangi, a touch north of the big smoke. We found lots of curious and new beach fauna and admired a tall ship that was anchored in the bay.

Offshore I could see hundreds of seabirds, but they were too far away for satisfaction. Most vexing. Some time later we clambered up onto a headland and much to my surprise, a few thousand feeding shearwaters had surrounded the aforementioned tall ship.  This was most unusual behaviour; shearwaters are normally offshore feeders.  As the raft of birds was slowly making its way towards the shore I pegged it off down the hill as fast as my little legs would carry me (I confess to abandoning my flip-flop clad beloved atop the hill).

By the time I reached the beach the birds were just metres from the shore. These were Fluttering shearwaters (a poor choice of name I’m afraid). I waded into the water to obtain closer views and was sorely tempted to strip off and go for a swim with them, however just as the urge became strongest, the fishy-things they were feeding on drifted away and so did the shearwaters.

They had caused quite a commotion. Even the local rangers stopped and admired the show, having never seen such a display before (then they asked me what they were!).