Sunday, November 25, 2012

Diving With Dimwits

Today's adventure was a day aboard the SilverSonic visiting the Agincourt reefs. We've relocated up the coast slightly to beautiful Port Douglas and as a perk we can access some of the less visited sections of the GBR marine park.

Though the day wasn't a total disaster, I can certainly say I've learnt my lesson.

  • One day trips that cater to all types of reef visitors = bad.
  • -Multi-day trips (liveaboards) for divers = better.

This isn't a slight on the SilverSonic, her crew or their business model in general. It's just that the one day trips need to be lowest common denominator type affairs.

I heard that if ignorance is bliss, then tourists must be in heaven. Well, that certainly applies to some of the people on our dive trip yesterday.

The boat has a policy that all divers must be guided (even if you are certified). So, the boat puts six certified divers together with a guide. In hindsight, this is a good policy as it means there will always be a bit of supervision. But it's also like group work in grade school, where you're assigned a 'team' and the decent students have to pick up the slack for the incompetent ones.

Our group included one person who was a beginner. From a diving perspective she couldn't swim, had serious buoyancy control issues, and most importantly had no self awareness of her gear or body position in the water. As part of our pre-trip briefing we have all been lectured on the delicacy of the reef. If you're a beginner, keep your distance and don't touch anything. That message didn't sink in though.

For example, here she is milliseconds from bumping into the reef, and again as she turns around wondering what delicate coral she's just crushed.

It's one thing to be a beginner, that's forgivable. It's another to not care at all.

Near the end of our first dive you're required to wait around while the photographer takes your picture. This person, so intent on getting a photo with her buddy, uses a coral covered bommie to push off so she can swim about 5 meters. While I'm watching, completely shocked, she then sits down on the reef for her photo.

Fin contact with reef

Pushing off the reef

Sitting on the reef.

Let's recap. She SITS DOWN ON THE REEF. It's the great barrier reef folks, the world's largest single structure made up of connected organisms, visible from space, containing 1/3 of the worlds soft corals, it's a cornerstone of our entire planet's biodiversity. And she's sitting on it. What's worse, neither the guide nor the photographer did anything about it.

I just don't have the words. The GBR is a is also a gigantic tourist draw (we're here) and a significant part of Australia's tourism industry ($5 billion per annum). In the last 20 years, it's lost 1/2 of it's coral coverage. Wikipedia lists climate change, pollution, crown-of-thorns starfish and fishing as the primary threats to the health of the reef system.

So sad as it is, I guess the message here is that if you want to  come see it, visit soon. And if you do, please don't sit on it.


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