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The New Diver Day was cancelled – well mostly

The Curse of Pope’s Eye Rescinded

The curse you say – how can such an innocuous piece of landscape generate a curse! To understand you have to cast your mind back to the early nineties when…..

Picture a young (okay – younger) man newly arrived from the NSW mid coast. Offered the potential to become a Mexican or Sandgroper he had chosen the armpit of the earth over its fingertip and eventually settled in Macedon where at least the air was clear.
He had heard that there was some diving in the muddy pond that accepted the rubbish out of the Yarra so hesitantly booked a dive with QDC, expecting the worse. After boarding the charter and having his experience level determined the tour operators enthusiastically announced the destination was a fascinating dive site that was also a marine sanctuary – Popes Eye. Forty minutes later he retuned to the boat and politely responded to the host’s enthusiastic wrap up of the dive – concealing his smug condescending attitude best expressed by the thought that Victorians don’t understand what good diving is about…

For 17 odd years these same Victorians continued to enjoy world class diving on the Nepean and Lonsdale walls, the offshore wrecks and reefs while he smugly packed his diving gear for the annual pilgrimage to Forster and other NSW coastal areas for ‘real’ diving.
All due to over selling Popes Eye…
17 years of diving missed…(sob)

Back to the future….
Last weekend the weather was looking very ordinary so our new diver day was cancelled. However Pam’s daughter (Merri) was keen for her first dive in more than 6 years and it seemed significant to me that she was prepared to step out and do it at this stage in her life. With only 2 of us and high winds the only option was Popes Eye, that curse of my youth. I went out of my way to explain to the returning diver (who had only dived Queensland and Fiji) that this was a very ordinary dive, pretty boring and only entry level compared to the wonders that waited only hundreds of meters away. To make it worse that morning hosted a flood slack with very low maximum currents both before and after the slack. What a perfect day for the wall…..and we were diving Popes Eye.

So the two of us headed off on the 70 min trip to Queenscliff with the boat. It seemed a good chance to train up the ‘decky’ so we went through each of the launching steps and had the boat ready in far from record time. I was still preaching Popes Eyes defects as we left the channel and headed across the narrow strip of water to the mooring in Popes Eye.
Merri has always wanted to do the Swim with the Dolphins tour and as we entered the mooring we passed them preparing to start snorkeling. Our day out was now at least equivalent to an experience Merri had always looked forward to. The day came off rock bottom from my perspective! Just before we entered the water another tour type charter pulled up with more swimmers, confirming we were at the right place at the right time.

The conditions were ideal for preparing a new diver and we slipped over the side and then started to descend the 2m to the bottom. A bit of a panic attack stopped the descent but we had another go a few minutes later and as we descended I pointed out some wrasse that had approached us. Fascinating to watch the tension leave a new diver as the focus moved from being in a ‘threatening’ environment to absolute engagement with the fish life around us, particularly as we approached the inside wall in great vis. With all concerns evaporated we headed off for our boring dive.
I had timed the dive for the flood slack and so the turn around the NW corner was into clear, still water with lots of fish and fascinating sea vegetation. It was refreshing to watch Merri dart about exploring the wall and finding the anchor etc. The vis was superb and the multi coloured box fish were my favourites, followed by a couple of good sized cuttlefish. With plenty of air (thanks Greenie) I decided we would do the cir(edited)navigation rather than crawl over the rocks half way round and we kept moving steadily. By the time we were heading up the eastern side of the U I could feel the ebb flow building but knowing the peak current was going to be less than 2knots allowed us to push on. Soon after we rounded the corner and swam up into the pool like conditions inside the U to find our boat where we had left it – always a good feeling.

After a quick lunch I sprang my bonus for the day – a trip to the Chinaman’s hat to find some seals. The chop was building with the westerly but Merri was keen so we headed east to the structure. The seals did not disappoint and Merri spent around half an hour snorkeling around the structure. She found it surprising how these friendly seals can look so big under the water where they move so fast….
So back we came to the hot showers at Queenscliff.

Afterwards I found myself reflecting that the site that turned me off diving in Victoria for 17 years may well have paid its debt to me by perfectly hosting a new diver introduction. The secure mooring, easy entry with immediate fish life to distract a new diver and then such still conditions for most of the dive combined for the perfect beginner day
Debt repaid

Posted by DavidG on Wed, 21 Apr 2010 10:17 AM (2048 reads)

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