Fujikawa Maru

The Fujikawa Maru is one of the most dived wrecks in the lagoon. It was also our favorite! So much so, we dived it twice. This impressive ship underwent a drastic upgrade from her pre-war, passenger-cargo role to a full blown armed aircraft transport ship and seaplane tender. She now sits in around 35 meters of water, and is home to incredible schools of fish, and her holds are packed full of fascinating artefacts.

Fish schooling at the bow of the Fujikawa Maru. This wreck was so spectacular, we dived it twice!
Zero fighter planes in the hold of the Fujikawa.
Sam, contemplating the bow gun on the Fujikawa
The old outboard engine. Sits in front of ordinances and an old machine gun, propped up on some more guns. A typical kind of scene to expect in Chuuk Lagoon.
“Off in to the blue”
The growth and fish life on the beautiful, old Fujikawa were just astounding. After both dives, we all came up with incredulous expletives about how stunning the wreck was.
The Fujikawa super structure is amazing, and on our second dive to the wreck, the viz allowed us a greater scope of the size of the ship.
55 gallon oil drums in the hold. Jumbled, falling but stuck in time, covered in delicate and super fine silt.
Trinkets and artefacts found and collected in to one place over the years, only to be consumed by the silt, algae and time.

Rio De Janeiro Maru

The Rio De Janeiro Maru was a 137 meter passenger-cargo liner, built in Japan before WWII. She was a work horse of the pre-war world, carrying emigrants from Japan, to South Africa, Brazil and on to the West Coast of America, before returning home, on many voyages. However, during the war, she became a submarine tender, and then a cargo transport vessel. She arrived in Chuuk six days before Operation Hailstone, full of munitions, and desperately needed supplies. She languished in a slow death, after being hit by several 1,000 pound bombs in the first strikes of the day. It apparently wasn’t until about 3 am the following morning that she finally sank to her current resting ground.

Stacks and stacks of beer bottles sitting in hold number 5 of the Rio. Some of them are still in their original wooden boxes!

Bottles in crates on the wall, no wait, spin around, it is actually the floor, or is it the ceiling, it’s easy to get confused in the gloom. Large letters sitting proud in the lopsided bow, spelling the old name, in both Kanji and Roman lettering, amid the sediment and fish. Swim through in to the large cavernous storage decks, taking a peak in to the last moments of the ship, frozen in time. The static prop, once propelling the tons of steel and men through the water to destinations unknown, now sitting, coated in pristine and colorful coral and fish.

The coral growth along the Rio is very beautiful. As she sits reasonably shallow (10-15 meters on the port side of the hull), one can spend a long time admiring the young ecosystem that has formed.
A lantern that has carefully been placed on the deck of the Rio, to try to encourage people not to scavenge. Sadly, for the future divers, it still happens.

Maximum depth to the seafloor is 35 meters, but her port side sits in a nice shallow 10-17 meters. The holds took us to about 28 meters, but there is so much to look at on her hull, one can spend ages ascending slowly.

On the wreck, directions get changed around, up is port, down is starboard, the floor is the wall and the walls are the floors. This is the portside hand rail.. who knows, someone may have farewelled a loved one holding on to this rail over 80 years ago.

Shane Breen

Tasmanian underwater photographer, Shane Breen, joined us for the weekend. Shane spends a lot of time diving the beautiful waters of Tasmania and really appreciated a weekend dedicated to diving Port Arthur.

Shane taking time out from his subject to smile at the camera… He’s not used to being one the other end of the lens!

I have been diving with Shane for a few years now. Shane started diving in Tasmania over thirty years ago, and then took a break. When diving with Shane, you will always find him behind a camera.

Beautiful zoanthids, gently framed by the fascinating featherstars (Comanthus tricoptera) and sponge gardens. Image: Shane Breen
The intricate structures of feather stars like these ones make great photographic subjects. Image: Shane Breen

Shane had a really great weekend and enjoyed diving with a focus on photography. For him, it was really refreshing to be able to take time over a photo and look up and see your buddy doing the same thing and not swimming off into the distance. Out of the water, Shane found the opportunity to discuss equipment and techniques also beneficial. Thanks Shane for joining us over the weekend!

Image: Shane Breen
Shane was lucky enough to find one of these beautiful and rare species, the weedy seadragon (Phyllopteryx taeniolatus). Aren’t the colors stunning! Image: Shane Breen

Be sure to check out Shane’s other images at: facebook.com/SBreenunderwater or
instagram.com/shanebreenunderwaterphotos/

Andreas Modinger

Find out a bit about one of our Tasmanian Underwater Photography Weekend participants, Andreas Modinger. Andreas travelled to the Tasman Peninsula, all the way from Victoria to join us!

Andreas concentrating on one of his many subjects over the weekend.

Andreas, you’ve been diving for a while now, what got you in to diving?

I had a friend who was a commercial diver who actually got me interested in diving. Originally it was for crayfish and abalone but it quite quickly developed into just for the love of diving. Recently I just became a PADI Instructor because I now want to teach my kids who also want to see the world I keep showing them photos of.

The superb feather hydroid (Gymnangium superbum) is actually an animal! They’re relates to jellyfish, anemones and corals! Image: Andreas Modinger

What is is about underwater photography that you love the most?

The macro world always shows something different than what you see with your eye. This is why I love the closeup view of the aquatic world.

Some of the beautiful sponges that can be found deeper than 18 meters depth around the temperate waters of Tasmania. Image: Andreas Modinger

When asked what he liked most about the weekend, Andreas said he enjoyed having a full weekend to practice different types of shooting.  He also really loved the relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere.  I think we can all agree, the second day was fantastic!

Feather stars like these (Comanthus trichoptera), are easily mistaken for a type of plant on Tasmanian reef systems. Image: Andreas Modinger

Andreas shoots these stunning images with an Olympus TG-5 with Ikelite housing and optically connected Olympus strobe. Check out more of Andreas’ awesome shots on his Instagram page: instagram.com/andreas_diving

These yellow zoanthids (Parazoanthus sp.) cover large swathes of rocky overhangs, and are extremely fascinating to watch. Image: Andreas Modinger

Tasmanian Underwater Photography Weekend, 2019

Happy Tasmanian photographers!!

Sometimes, planning diving weekends in Tasmania is a good lesson for over-coming adversity. I have wanted to run an underwater photography weekend in Tasmania for the last year now. To me it sounded like a great opportunity to go diving and spend the evenings talking with like minded people about photography. However, as the weekend loomed closer, the predicted forecast got worse and worse. My lovely day dream of photographing sea caves, sea dragons and deep sponge gardens on the East Coast of the Tasman Peninsula, were slowly being eroded! Fortunately, the best thing about the Peninsula, is that there is almost always a place to dive in everything but the worst conditions. Consequently, as I was heading down to the dive lodge on Friday night, in the driving rain and howling winds, I was trying to think of our plan B.

We can NOT be stopped from diving!

Saturday morning and the divers start to arrive. After a few jokes about the weather, a coffee or three and the suggestion of breakfast, we got our equipment ready, cameras set up, and in to our dry suits (or wet suits for the not so faint hearted). We had made a decision on our dive location. Port Arthur. This south facing, deep water port is a treasure trove of colonial Australian history and surprisingly enough, great dive sites! It is also reasonably protected from the terrifying, 4 meter easterly swell that, at the time, was lashing our usual dive sites.

Some of the beautifully colored sponges found on Tasmanian rocky reef systems.

Even though the conditions were less than favorable, we explored two new shallow dive sites on the eastern shore of the port. The dive at Surveyors Cove gave the divers the opportunity to work on strobe placement. The boulders in between the sand patches were covered in Caulerpa species (a type of green algae that has many different physical forms, but all are captivating) giving the impression of a nicely mown lawn. There were few fish, but lots of abalone, feather stars and sponges to try for nice composition shots!

The second dive for the day was at Denmans Creek. Here, the macro photographers were having a field day. Lots of magnificent biscuit stars (Tosia magnifica), in interesting positions, with their delicate tube feet slowly propelling them along the reef surface. Ascidians crowned the highly colored, rock faces, and big brown kelp species topped off the canopy.

Just a couple of cameras chillin’ in the wash bin.

After returning to the lodge and doing the usual wash down, pack up and warm up, we closed the evening with a very Tasmanian barbecue, sitting out side in the frigid, early spring air until we all decided it was too cold and had to head in side.

I love the sponge diversity found past 18 meters in Tasmania!

Day two was much kinder to us. The sun even came out, and the wind had dropped to nothing over night. We still were diving in Port Arthur, however we were able to head to one of the deeper sites, near the heads of the port itself, The Gardens. This site was named so, due to the stunning sponge gardens found around 18-30 meters depth. Despite the sizeable swell still rolling just outside the heads, we managed to get a fantastic 15 meters visibility. The five of us descended through schools of butterfly perch (Caesioperca lepidoptera) and straight in to 25 meters depth, spread out and started shooting. Due to the drastic reduction of light at these depths, various invertebrates such as sponges, feather stars, soft corals and anemones, as well as coraline algae species now dominate the system. And the color show they put on, is absolutely spectacular! I don’t think anyone wanted to return to the boat… but you have to change tank at some point!

Surface interval on day two at the historic Port Arthur Penitentiary site. Some pretty happy divers after our morning dive.

Our last dive for the weekend, was a lovely cruisey dive under the Port Arthur Golf Club. This site is a hidden little gem, weedy seadragons (Phyllopteryx taeniolatus), friendly draughtboard sharks (Cephaloscyllium laticeps) and lots of cow fish (Aracana aurita)! This was a beautiful way to finish a fantastic weekend. Stay tuned for the next couple of blogs where I introduce all the photographers who joined us for the weekend.

Waves crashing in to the 40 meter high sea cliffs near the area we normally dive!! Good thing we chose beautiful Port Arthur.

Underwater Tribe Photo Week at NAD Lembeh

The thing I most want to do at the end of a cold winter in Tasmania, is head to some beautiful tropical island and go diving for a week!  The next best thing, is undertake a photography course.  Well, I was lucky enough to do both of these, in Lembeh, Sulawesi.

I stumbled across the Underwater Tribe website as I was looking for some lightroom tutorials to edit some of my diving photographs at the start of the year.  I still hadn’t planned my Tasmanian winter getaway by this stage, so I scrolled through their website.  The Photo week looked like too good an opportunity to pass up, three fantastic photographers, Mike Veitch, Luca Vaime and Doug Sloss, in a beautiful resort, NAD Lembeh.

Tropical paradise at my fingertips. Here are two of the four dive boats that NAD Lembeh undertake all their dives off. Really well set up run by an extremely helpful boating crew

Flights, and workshop booked, I dragged myself through a mild Tasmanian winter, with the sweet optimism of a week long, tropical holiday at the end of it.  After 22 hours in airports and planes, 2 hours across Northern Sulawesi’s roads and 15 minutes by boat, I arrived at NAD Lembeh.  Over afternoon tea we were introduced to NAD Lembeh’s manager, Sonja, the three instructors, Mike, Luca and Doug, and Stenli, our dive guide.

This boat felt like my home by the end of the trip. It is named after the Wonderpus, a very fast little octopus that I was not quick enough to get a good shot of all week.

A typical day from that point consisted of an eat, dive, eat, dive, nap, eat, dive, eat, workshop, eat, sleep.  Honestly, a SCUBA crazy ladies perfect holiday.   The diving, oh the diving was paradise!  It is not like your typical tropical holiday, coral reefs, lots of fish etc, instead it is more like a permanent treasure hunt.  The black sands of Lembeh Strait had so many critters hiding I lost count of what I had and hadn’t seen by day two.  Tiny nudibranchs half the size of your little finger nail, various species of frogfish pretending not to be there, as well as octopus, flamboyant cuttlefish and seahorses, just to name a few.  I did a blackwater dive and a night dive over two nights (as three dives a day just wasn’t enough), and was amazed by the animals that came out.  I think one of the most memorable and scariest things I saw on these dives however was a hunting bobbit worm.  The voracity with which this terrifying creature consumed its prey was chilling, even if it was only a couple of centimeters across.

The afternoon workshops were fascinating.  Personally, I got the most out of Doug Sloss’ workshops about editing images in Lightroom, but the other instructors also ran workshops on composition, lighting techniques and more advanced techniques including snooting (maybe next time) and bokeh.  Thankfully, we were gifted with copies of all the workshops, there was so much to learn I am still sifting through the information.

If I wasn’t sleeping or diving, I was in here, NAD Lembeh’s fully equipped camera room. Every diver had their own station, with a global power boardto charge batteries.

Having a dive guide who could basically take you straight to an interesting subject, and then instructors who would assist you in taking the shot in situ, massively improved my photography over the week.  I was sad to leave the island, and all the funny little critters, but I am fairly certain I’ll be back again  soon.  If you want to mix having a tropical dive holiday with learning A LOT about underwater macro photography, book in for 2019’s photo week.

Leaving NAD Lembeh was pretty sad, You can even see Sonja waving from the end of the jetty!