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South Australia Adventure - Leafy Seadragons and Pyjama Squid

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I recently traveled to South Australia to capture photos of the rare Pyjama Squid and Leafy Seadragon. The trip down under did not disappoint.

 

"The Diving"

 

The diving was in Australia's summer time so the water was between 68-70 degrees. The week before I arrived it was 120 degrees. However, the week I arrived it was 68 and windy. Fortunately for me I packed (6) pairs of shorts and (6) t-shirts (insert sarcasm). We did (6) dives at Edithburgh Pier, including (2) night dives, (2) dives at "The Bluff", (1) dive at Noarlunga Pier, and (1) dive at Rapid Bay. All dives were around 30' max depth and 60-90 minutes long. The Edithburgh dives were amazing, viz varied and the site was similar to our hometown waters of Redondo. Morning dives were dead, and life picked up throughout the day. The night dives were absolutely amazing (see below). The Bluff was a very tough dive, but it was the only place with Leafy Seadragons. Dives at the bluff required a long surface swim, it was very turbulent, and a ton of surge. The visibility there was about 5-10 feet too. However, we did find a few LSD (about 10 total), but they were very tough to photograph. However, I manage a few good shots. The two dives at Noarlunga and Rapid Bay were absolutely beautiful. Sunny, warm, and excellent viz. Not as critter friendly, but still beautiful. Here are a few shots before I get to "The Dive". 

 

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Pygmy Squid, this is recent discovery and is extremely tiny. About the size of a popcorn kernel.

 

“The Dive” (For this dive recap, I actually mapped my shots (by looking at the time taken) to the dive computer. Behind each photo, the minute of the dive is displayed.)

 

There are times in life where the stars align, everything works out, and the scuba gods bless you with a dive to remember. After traveling for more than (2) days, I was finally at the Edithburgh Pier getting ready for our first night dive. We dove earlier that day and it was great. I got to see some very cool critters, but they were skittish and were not ready to come out under the bright Southern Australia sun. As we slipped under the turbulent water, the action started immediately. About 2-3 feet down, Daniel signaled me. I swam over and saw a really cool nudibranch in the water column. I tried to steady my camera rig, but I was simply not ready to shoot. I was a little disappointed and thought, hopefully I don’t get skunked on this dive.

 

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As we descended to about 11 feet, we spotted a very active Southern Sand Octopus. These octos are extremely active and dart around the eelgrass. In addition to the playfulness, the sand fleas were out in mass numbers (especially in the shallows), which made macro photography even more challenging. I managed a couple shots and decided to move a bit further down the pier. As I hit the first piling, we spotted our first of many Southern Blue Ringed Octopus. I had only seen one in the Phillipines, so to see the southern version was a huge treat. Just 10 minutes into the dive and still at 11 feet in depth a Maori Octopus darted towards me. This octo was also extremely active and hunting in the shallow waters. Since I had my macro lens, I could only manage an eyeball shot of this large octopus. Although they are not as big as the Giant Pacific Octopus, they are pretty good size. After this brief encounter, I decided I needed to start down the pier. However, I spotted two more BRO, and decided to capture a few more shots before heading down the pier. Still at 11 feet and 15 minutes in we encountered Nudibranch, Southern Sand Octopus, (3) Blue Ringed Octopus, and a Maori Octopus. Off to a great start.

 

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As I continued to scan the rubble and rocks for more treasures, I spotted something in the water column, a sea spider! My heart raced a bit and I lined up for a couple shots. I squeezed off about (4) shots before the spider curled up and decided to play “invisible”. As I turned to continue down the pier, I spotted (4) Southern Calamari Squid dancing around, just outside my light. I patiently waited for an opportunity and captured a couple of nice images of these amazing critters. Daniel, noticed me shooting the squid and waited for a chance to point out a juvenile giant cuttlefish. It was really cute, hovering over some rubble, flaring up its tentacles as a defense gesture. Right next to the cuttlefish, was a beautiful decorator crab. Snap, snao, snap! I was in the zone. Out of the corner of my eye, Daniel gave me another quick flash and pointed out (3) Pot-belly Seahorses. I spent the next 5 minutes with them and was only 30 minutes into my dive and now 14 feet deep. 

 

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The next encounter would come at the :33 minute mark. Yes, a 3 minute break in the action. We found (2) really cool bottom dwelling fish. I need to get an ID on these fish, but they reminded me of my home town Buffalo Sculpin. I took a few shots and ventured down the pier. At this time, I started thinking “I have not seen the infamous Pyjama Squid, I hope I see one.” Around the 40-minute mark at a depth of 25’ Daniel pointed out a Skeleton Shrimp. I did the best I could, it was tiny. Later he told me “I’ve never seen that kind before.’ The Skeleton Shrimp forced me to look small, and thank goodness I did. A jellyfish in the water column, followed by a tiny nudibranch, and an extremely small bobtail squid. As I checked my air and gauges, 45 minutes, at 25’, and I still had a ton of air. 

 

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The next 15 minutes were the quietest of the dive and we encountered a large Bobtail Squid, a Stingray, a Southern Keeled Octopus, a South Australia Catfish, (2) Giant Cuttlefish, and (2) Nudibranchs (one on eggs). In that 15 minute span the large Bobtail squid was amazing. The coloration was similar to the Puget Sound Stubby Squid, but it had a bit more blue coloring. We were now an hour into the dive and toward the end of the pier, so we decided to head back. Still no Pyjama Squid and we are at the 60 minute mark. 

 

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As we turned to head back we found a really neat looking Ringback Pipefish. It was camouflaged so well and was really difficult to photograph. I managed a couple shots before moving to the next critter. Shortly after the pipefish, another treat in the water column. This time a sea slug wiggling around and floating by for a photo opportunity. Every kick seemed to churn up another photo opportunity, a  cool Anemone, several BRO, Nudobranch,  Then wow, another species of octopus, this time a Southern White-Spotted Octopus. Although this one was also hunting, it was a bit more docile than the other (4) octopus I encountered during this dive.

 

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As we hit 75 minutes and 15 feet, still no Pyjama Squid. I was starting to think. “How could this amazing dive end with no Pyjama Squid? Oh well, still had a great dive.” Daniel found a nice little Squat Lobster to take my mind off the lack of Pyjama Squid. After a few more kicks, boom! A Pyjama Squid at the 77 minute mark in 15 feet of water. After about 5-6 shots I could tell the squid was agitated from my flashes and bright lights, so I moved on. Another Pyjama Squid, this time a little smaller. Excited, I positioned for a few more shots of this amazing critter. After several photos, Daniel signaled again, a really large cuttlefish. I swam over and took a couple shots, but wanted more Pyjama Squid photos. I encountered another Pyjama Squid and Cuttlefish. At the 84 minute mark, I decided to head back up as I was getting a little chilled. However, Edithburgh was not finished delvering. A Southern Velvetfish, curled up and ready for photos sat in 12 feet of water waiting for me. (2) more BRO and (2) more Pyjama Squid. Edithburgh kept the magic going. As we headed toward the ladder to exit, the dive ended with a Coffin Ray (or Numbfish) swimming right under me. I managed one shot and later found out these electric rays can deliver 220 volt shock!

 

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As we drove to the caravan park, we recounted to night. Daniel even said, that was amazing, about the best Edithburgh can deliver. Over the 92 minutes, I averaged about 1 photo per minute and we had roughly (50) unique critter encounters. I barely slept that night, dreaming about the barrage of cool critters. What an amazing dive and trip.

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Great photos and an excellent writeup!  Thanks for sharing

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It is indeed an amazing dive site, Jesse. Glad you got to dive it. Beautiful photos!
 

Thanks Brandon, was a great experience for sure. :)


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Great photos and an excellent writeup!  Thanks for sharing

Thank you very much.


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Great photos ! Really sharp !  Was the diving in Adelaide or a bit further out ?

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Great photos ! Really sharp !  Was the diving in Adelaide or a bit further out ?

Thank you very much.

We dove in Edithburgh (about 3 hour drive) and rapid bay (about an hour drive). Adelaide was my home base for the trip.


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