Diving with the navy

Exmouth Travel Blog

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I am getting up way too early this morning. I want to go diving. This dive site is the reason I stayed in town for another couple of days. Apparently it has been named as the sixth best shore dive in the world according to a British dive magazine. Hence I am expecting a great top class dive.

The reason why this dive site is supposed to be so special is it has been left alone for a very long time. The Navy Pier became a US military area during the Second World War. Hence it was illegal for non-military personnel to go to the area around the Navy Pier. So there has been zero fishing boat around the pier for almost 70 years. The marine life in the area has developed undisturbed during all this time.

It isn’t straight forward to go diving on the Navy Pier.

There are all sorts of restrictions on diving the area. Only one dive shop got a license to go diving on the area - no other civilians are allowed to go to the Navy Pier - either the pier itself or the water around it. Even when you are diving with the only licensed operator you’ll need to get cleared by the Australian police who have taken over the control of the pier from the US navy.

Due to the many security requirements you need to give your name in advance to the operator so they can get you cleared with the authorities. And the briefing for the dive takes almost two hours in total. First we need to sign a number of documents, make sure we got a picture id and give proof of sufficient knowledge of diving - after this the dive briefing starts.

The briefing for the dive is really really long. We get a very detailed introduction to the dive sight - so detailed you will most certainly forget most of it before you get to the pier. Then we get to a very interesting part of the briefing. They start to tell us about some trouble they have had the last few days with a big fish which tended to attack the divers - a fish attacking divers :S this is a first for me I never tried anything like this before.

Because of this fish they have increased the requirement for the divers they let in to the dive site. They used to do intro dives here - but now they have cancelled the intro dives. Instead we get a dive master to go with us - he will try to keep the fish away from the rest of us - using a spear.

In case he isn’t able to control the fish and it starts to attack us we get a quick introduction on how to behave if you get attacked by a fish. In case the fish attacks us it will try to go under us and push us up towards the surface - if it do this we must under no circumstance go up towards the surface. Instead we need to decent instead and push the fish down - this should in principle make the fish give up its attack and go away. I am not totally confident about the situation with a crazy fish going on the attack - and I am not the only one - but all of the divers decide to take the change and go for the dive.

After the long briefing we get our equipment and we drive to towards the Navy Pier. At the entrance to the restricted area we need to show our IDs and in case anybody is on some sort of watch list or have overstayed a visa they will get picked up.

I end up getting cleared through the check point - so I can now inform the world that despite a strange travel partner the last decade I haven’t made it to either the American or the Australian terrorist watch lists.

We go into the water - and it is pretty choppy on the surface. We go down and the dive is nothing like I expected from the number six shore dive in the world. The visibility is somewhere between bad and non-existent - in the beginning we can see maybe 5-7 meters but during the dive the visibility drops to only 2-3 meters. But we see lots of sharks and other giant fish including one big hiding in the sand on the bottom. The sharks come pretty close - we can see them so this must be within 3 meters.

We get to the end of the dive - and we haven’t seen the crazy fish so we will probably all survive it.

When we are getting out of the water we need to go up a ladder from down in the water. It sounds pretty easy but there are some pretty big waves of probably 1-1½ meters so you get pushed around a bit in the water and when you got full scuba gear on your mobility is somewhat limited. I get to the ladder and try to take off my flippers while holding on to the ladder with one hand. Of course I end up dropping the flipper so I need to catch it at the same moment another wave hit me and I get smashed into the ladder. I don’t really feel anything but when I get out of the water I realize I smashed my foot and probably should get it fixed. After the dive we get back to the city and it is nice and early. So I got the time to go exploring in the city. Even though I been in the city for almost a week I haven’t really seen much of the town so I look forward to finally see it all.

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I get back to where I stay and I want to go out at once and out to explore the town. So I start walking towards the exit of the camping lot. But I get distracted before I get close to the exit - a big group of cockatoos is hanging around a campervan fooling around. They seem like they are doing make believe fights and tumble around on the ground - others just hang by the beak from a chain on a boat and others hang from a branch in a tree with their head down. The birds are just so funny I can’t really pull myself together and go out. After a while I decide it is time to move on and leave the birds even though they are really funny.

I walk down the main street through town - and just before I am actually turning away into the centre of the town I meet a couple of walkers going towards me.

It is two emus - I have never seen native wildlife like this within the city limits of any town during the daylight hours. Even in a tiny town like this one I didn’t expect to see emus walking on the main street.  The emus don’t seem to be scared of me and they pass by less than ten meters away from me - they go through ditch and then they cross the main street. I decide to follow them as they pass the street and go into a grassy area which house the local ball park. The birds walk across the park and then cross under a robe before they get to the area between the town and the beach. This is sort of an outback area without any kind of developments except a few hiking paths. The emus stand eating the crass for quite some time and I stand watching.

Finally I decide it is time to go on and explore the city - I mean I wanted to really explore the entire town today. I start walking up the main street - and there are not much to see. After about ten minutes I realize I have seen everything there are to see - which isn’t really anything at all. Instead I walk back towards the place I am staying - from behind this place is an access way to the beach through the outback area. I walk down there and then I see two emus - probably the ones I watch earlier in the day. I go down to the beach to have a look.

photo by: rollerblading