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Alex_Mustard

Buyat Bay: North Sulawesi

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I have just returned home after a wonderful 4 week (well almost) trip to Indonesia, mostly in Raja Ampat, and you may have already seen my mimic octopus pictures from Lembeh. Anyway, before all that, for the first day and a half of the trip I photographed a new diving area called Buyat Bay. There is currently no diving infrastructure there, but Lembeh Resort (about 5 hours by boat to the north) are planning to start taking small groups of adventurous souls there soon.

 

buy09_12.jpg

 

It is an exciting new diving area and I wrote a report on it from the field for Dive Photo Guide. The coral is amazing and the area is a total contrast to Lembeh, see the picture above. This was a single coral colony and was immense. I have seen several of the corals claiming to be the largest colonies in the world and this one certainly gives them a run for their money.

 

Photographically these are far from my most original underwater photographs. With just a day and a half of diving, straight off the plane, I wanted to take fairly standard images to show what the diving is like. Nonetheless, the number of pleasing images I got in such a short time, shows the potential of this new destination.

 

buy09_11.jpg

 

You can see a gallery of my images from Buyat Bay here.

 

Alex

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Hey Alex,

Welcome back. The area looks quite pristine from your gallery, but there's a sense that the fish life may not be quit as healthy. Is that the case or is there a lot more than there appears. If not has it been overfished as usual?

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The corals seem simply amazing!

Thanks for sharing this Alex!

 

Karel

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Indeed the diving seems to be in marked contrast to the diving at Lembeh Resort! Thanks for sharing these lovely images taken at Buyat Bay.

 

Several of the images looked like they should have been entered in this week's Picture of the Week contest for schools of fish :aggressive:

 

Ellen

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Just lovely,wow. Hope to go back to indo some day, must have been a wonderful trip. Scott

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Alex, you had to bring up Buyat and Newmont didn't you? :notworthy:

Controversy is right. The results of the court case against Richard Ness only brought up more controversy. Having read the reports in 2004 and dived the area, the evidence pretty much points to somewhere in between the 2 extremes. WALHI & JATAM originally had some cause to pursue Newmont, but somehow things got unravelled. Newmont, a MNC with vast resources, then began a very comprehensive greenwash campaign, which includes this underwater guide for the area:

http://richardness.org/media/buyatbay/

FYI, Richard Ness was the boss of Newmont Indonesia and was on trial for his role in the Buyat Bay affair.

The shots in this guide aren't Mustard spectacular but it does give a good idea of the area. :)

If you're really bored while there, go out and try to find that thermocline Newmont claims to keep the tailings down and away from the top end of the reef. WALHI found one thermocline which wasn't consistently there, and it didn't cover a great area either. Gotta love environmental controversy. :aggressive:

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Drew, keep smokin that crack eh?

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It's happiness viewing your fantastic photos with coffee in Sunday morning!

 

Beautiful series. thanks for sharing Alex! :aggressive:

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Thanks all.

 

Jeff, I would say that my pictures don't show the amount of fish life that well - doing model shots (in a hurry) you tend to scare away many of the fish while you are setting up the shot and getting the model in position!

 

The shots without the model tend to be much more fishy! Although I'd say it was the corals rather than the fish that really seem to be the signature of this area.

buy09_06.jpg

 

I don't know as much about the area's checkered history as Drew does - but a quick scan online reveals that it was a pretty controversial place. Going there now as a diver there is zero sign of impact on the reefs - but with heavy metal poisons - you might not see anything but you won't want to eat local fish (particularly the larger predatory ones) on a regular basis.

 

I thought that the photos in the guide were pretty decent and they do give a good flavour. The main drawback for me is that it is in Indonesian! Here are the guys pouring over the guide book, planning where we are going to dive:

buy09_39.jpg

But know you say it, it does make sense that the guide book was motivated more by environ PR than a desire to identify the best dive sites. Despite listing about 40 dive sites for the area, the site where I made my longest dive and the only site I dived twice were not in the book.

 

Alex

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Alex, the link shows the flash book which is in english. I've seen the English version once but it could've been a sample. It is published by Newmont and the pics were taken by 2 Newmont execs, Kojansow and Humberson, who were among those arrested.

I followed it only because STDs (which Mike would know alot about :notworthy:) in Indo is one VERY contentious method of waste disposal. It was also the first big case after the Freeport/Rio Tinto disaster(where Richard Ness also worked for) in Papua Barat (then Irian Jaya) in the 90s . Newmont was spending up to $1million dollars a month on the positive spin PR campaign at one point.

Anyhow, hurry and get those R.E. pics up. No slacking :aggressive:

And just in case Mike is running for his antibiotics yet again, STD is Submarine Tailing Disposal.

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Thanks all.

 

Jeff, I would say that my pictures don't show the amount of fish life that well - doing model shots (in a hurry) you tend to scare away many of the fish while you are setting up the shot and getting the model in position!

 

The shots without the model tend to be much more fishy! Although I'd say it was the corals rather than the fish that really seem to be the signature of this area.

buy09_06.jpg

 

I don't know as much about the area's checkered history as Drew does - but a quick scan online reveals that it was a pretty controversial place. Going there now as a diver there is zero sign of impact on the reefs - but with heavy metal poisons - you might not see anything but you won't want to eat local fish (particularly the larger predatory ones) on a regular basis.

 

I thought that the photos in the guide were pretty decent and they do give a good flavour. The main drawback for me is that it is in Indonesian! Here are the guys pouring over the guide book, planning where we are going to dive:

buy09_39.jpg

But know you say it, it does make sense that the guide book was motivated more by environ PR than a desire to identify the best dive sites. Despite listing about 40 dive sites for the area, the site where I made my longest dive and the only site I dived twice were not in the book.

 

Alex

 

Alex,

As you know Danny sent his exploratory crew (the top 4 guides at LR) in early December 08 (unfortunately during my 10 day trip there :aggressive: , but still had a great dive trip!) to check out the area for 1 1/2 days at least. When the group returned, they said they checked out the places and found some new ones, too. Since you got to go to Buyat (and I didn't, as I didn't want to go for the entire 5 days) you got to see the area.

 

What's your opinion of the muck sites they found and the overall fish health and diversity? Could there be "seasons" there for the Amt of fish/crittters? Aside from the huge corals (which Danny had told me all about prior to his exploratories), is this place worth the time to travel from Lembeh down there?

 

Thanks,

Robin

Edited by secretsea18

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What's your opinion of the muck sites they found and the overall fish health and diversity? Could there be "seasons" there for the Amt of fish/crittters? Aside from the huge corals (which Danny had told me all about prior to his exploratories), is this place worth the time to travel from Lembeh down there?

 

The muck sites were nice, but I think that everyone felt that there was nothing there you couldn't see more easily in Lembeh. I think that the excitement about the area is really to do with the ways it differs from Lembeh - i.e. the impressive coral gardens in clear water, rather that the muck diving.

 

Alex

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After discussing with Alex, I thought I'd post some very relevant information for those considering diving in the area. First of all, I know Danny and Murex for years and it is not my intent to damage their operation or spread panic. However, I do think it is important for those going to the area to know what is happening there and the possible consequences of diving in the muck/sediment around Buyat Bay.

http://www.walhi.or.id/eng/buyat_team_summary

The above link is a summary of the official report from Nov 2004 by the Indonesia goverment. WALHI/FOE merely wrote the summary, just as Newmont wrote a summary, choosing each data point to prove their side of the story. What is undeniable is the fact that the villagers were and are still suffering after the mining STD started. It's not hygiene related, unless the village was suddenly the ONLY village to become quickly unhygienic just as the mining started, after decades of cleanliness.

Anyhow, the issue at hand is the high inorganic arsenic and mercury level in the muck sediment and the possible exposure to divers. Since most medical definitions of arsenic poisoning is put under acute or chronic exposure via ingestion, the extent of exposure is minimal, with ingestion via scuba regulators and diving in the muck being the big issues. It is a very minor risk for visiting tourists. However the risk of exposure still exists and could complicate existing conditions (but we're all certified super healthy for diving, aren't we?:aggressive:) The EPA and other studies have shown minimal absorption via dermal exposure for activities such as showering and bathing. However, diving exposure is extended to sometimes over 80mins per dive, 3 to 4 times a day vs the test subjects of 30mins per day. The estimated dermal absorption is about 0.0015-0.0021cm/hr, or about 2µg/hr for metals as determined in fresh water containing 100ppb arsenic. The dive guides are much more at risk than tourists due to constant exposure. EPA recommends 0.01mg/l(10µg/l) content in drinking water as maximum allowable limit. Arsenic is a known carcinogen.

Alex and I both agreed that while the risks are minimal, the diving public should know about the existence of such exposure.

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Good info, Drew, and valuable to post it.

 

I have to say that personally I would have no hesitation in diving the area again and I intend to. The Friends of the Earth summary says 5 years ago a child can eat 50kg of fish a year from the Bay and still be within safe levels. Which is potentially a lot of fish introducing pollutants directly into your body. Considering diving would be massively lower exposure than even eating one fish, then I have to agree with you that the "risks are minimal". Of course, staying at home would be safer!

 

Alex

 

p.s. One thing you posted that does not make sense to me - I think that your units might be wrong. The "EPA recommends 10mg/l content in drinking water as maximum allowable limit". This would be 10,000ppb arsenic! :aggressive:

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Thanks Alex. What a difference a 'µ' makes... same key with an option :notworthy:

But that does draw attention to the 666mg/kg (highest sample found, not the average!) level of arsenic in the sediment. As we've discussed, swimming around in the sediment and muck is probably not the smartest thing to do in the area, due to dermal absorption and accidental ingestion of suspended particles via scuba. The corals are very healthy and with short visitations it shouldn't be an issue for most people. Statistically, it's probably safer than a shark feed dive :)

I'm sorry to detract attention from the photography, but as a friend I thought I'd cover your butt! :aggressive:

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Oh I know. Sulawesi coastline is beautiful once you find a place with no plastic slippers, bottles and other human refuse. My plans are still in effect for you know where. :aggressive:

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probalby more of a risk getting on the plane to get there !!

 

sure does look like an awesome area in general, hoping to get my ass over there in the next few years .. too many things to do and see !

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