Our time in Port Lincoln and the Neptune Islands is hard to summarize succinctly. So much happened on the Rodney Fox liveaboard that I don’t know where to begin! From the ridiculous up-close wildlife encounters, to beasting the winter solstice out on the open ocean, to eating every meal with diving industry legends, this 10-day leg of our expedition was nothing short of epic.
We saw giant cuttlefish mating in mass; observed endangered Australian sea lions in the shallows and; had encounters with four meter (13 foot) great white sharks while suspended in ocean surface and bottom cages. With such a jam packed adventure and so many sites seen in South Australia, it’s simply impossible to determine what was the highlight of our time in the downest of the under.
When it came to the giant cuttlefish, this was something we wanted to document for a long time. Meeting with quite a few cuttlefish scientists and experts in preparation for our dives, we were enthralled with these weird, squid-like creatures and their mating process. As Adam put it so eloquently, Australia’s biggest aqua rave goes down once a year off the coast of a town called Whyalla, and we were lucky enough to catch it in full swing. Beholding perhaps the most “alien” animal on the planet, it was hard not to say “take me to your leader” into my regulator while following these Cephalopods around their mating grounds.
The endangered Australian sea lions were obsessed with my white fins and wouldn’t stop going for them. Curious and cute, juveniles were swarming us like they were trying to figure us out. Food, friend, foe—they were unsure—but they wanted an answer to their question. There were so many times our cameras got little kisses from sea lions coming in for a closer look.
Meanwhile, the great white encounters were far from cute. There were a few times we got into the surface cage and a huge female continued to cut our cables, releasing us from the dive vessel into the open ocean. As the cage slowly began to sink, the team on deck had to act quickly. They improvised solutions as they attempted to reel our cage back in. Not fully processing the severity of the situation, we were still filming her jaws opening right in front of our faces.
On this particular liveaboard, we were surrounded by die-hard underwater photographers. They came with rigs the size of my body and impressive expertise on optimizing and perfecting the use of their beloved machines in these environments. These guys were the definition of gear heads. Every conversation started and ended with cameras, and anything that was in between had to do with diving, scuba gear or marine life.
To kick start the bonding process early on journeys where we are living on diving vessels together, I like to ask people to take a personality test. The test takes 10 minutes, and once complete, the person taking it will know what marine animal they most identify with. Based on personality, preferences and values, the test’s matching is pretty dead on. We played this game around the dinner table, which actually got us going a lot deeper than a simple personality test that likened us to an octopus or starfish. As I’m sure you’re all wondering, I got the GREAT WHITE SHARK! I’ve taken these tests 100 times before, and every single result has me equated to a shark.
As the week went on, groups formed, as they tend to do in all kinds of social settings. Everyone found a crew to call their own. Mine consisted of our expedition team and some newfound friends. This included Matt, a friendly swim teacher, artist and avid surfer from Sydney; Doug, a world traveler coincidentally from my hometown; Russ, an older gentleman who had done this particular expedition 15 times and; Rob, a sweetheart from Brisbane who was the gear-head of all gear-heads. This was my selected family for the next 10 days.
Our motley crew took to the sea as if it were our second home. Braving the temperate waters, we buddied up and had once-in-a-lifetime experiences together, observing nature at its finest. But like anything in life, good things must come to an end. You start relationships on dive boats as quickly as you end them if you’re not one to keep in touch. We were wondering who we were going to see again from this crew, and where in the world we might run into each other next. As the experience we had on the Rodney Fox expedition was simply put, legendary.
The great thing about the dive community is that if you want to connect with someone again, it’s as simple as asking. If you send out that one little message saying, “want to do another dive trip?” the response will likely be an eager, “YES!” Of course, this is contingent on whether or not you had a good time on the first one together. Assuming you did, these types of people can become your life-long dive buddies, with minimal friendship maintenance required. You both love scuba diving and camera gear, what else matters?!
When there’s hardly any access to the internet and you’re forced to put your phones and computers down, you instead play in-person games, talk about the deeper things, survive rocking seas, roll out of bed and plunge into the chilled water together. This real-life, human interaction makes it hard to forget these incredibly good times.
There was another crew onboard that consisted of some of the dive industry’s legends. It was fun to listen to their stories, watch them in action and take their advice. These were the guys who stayed in the cages for hours on end, only exiting when they were forced to due to the setting sun. They were the original thalassophiles who put scuba on the map for less experienced explorers like us.
A month earlier, I had reached out cold to an expert-level blackwater diver named Scott “Gutsy” Tucson about meeting in the Philippines to get deep and dark together. Gutsy mentioned he’d be off the grid for a bit going on a 10-day expedition in South Australia, so we’d have to continue the conversation when he got back. Figuring it was not possible to be on the exact same wavelength here, I enquired. And low and behold, we were in fact on the same boat, going to the same place, with the same goal in mind—to share stories of conservation through our respective platforms.
The universe has its weird ways. I’m happy to report that our expedition team will be visiting Gutsy on his home turf to talk about his decades worth of blackwater diving and learn from the best how to navigate the underwater world in the darkness. Gutsy is THE guy who brought blackwater diving to the eastern hemisphere, as it originated in Hawaii.
Beyond the marine interactions we witnessed in South Australia, this expedition underscored a profound truth: the scuba community's strength is immeasurable. And cultivating and nurturing relationships within this network can open horizons one might never have envisioned. On to the next.
To be continued …
The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.
A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!
Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.