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Whyalla Adventures 

July 22, 2010


It's amazing how much you can get done in a day, especially when you have someone like Tony Bramley (Whyalla Dive Services) making life easy for you.

My friend Natalie and I zipped down to Adelaide for a quick holiday to get some real winter temperatures and so I could go see the annual Australian giant cuttlefish (Sepia apama) mating aggregation at Whyalla.

Despite taking the long way down Cuttlefish Drive , as opposed to coming down the road along the Santos fence line, we went for a morning dive (snorkel for Natalie) at Stony Point.

The visibility and weather were both better than when I last photographed the cuttlefish here two years ago, so my goal was to get a few pics with the sun rays streaming through the water.

I knew we were here late in the season but I was still surprised to see how badly some of the cuttlefish looked. I found this one that had had the lower half of all of its tentacles ripped (or bitten) off. Poor guy.

Australian giant cuttlefish (Sepia apama)

There also weren't as many cuttlefish but I found a few going through the usual dance of larger males guarding females against their smaller, but more numerous and desperate competitors.

This is one of my better shots from the morning.
There's no major behaviour going on but I like the sun and colours in this shot the best.

Australian giant cuttlefish (Sepia apama)

I also had a play with my external strobe sensor, taking one of my two strobes off the arm and wedging it between two rocks behind a large male cuttlefish guarding a female.

I then swam around to the other side to try to get a bit of back light, combined with the natural light and light from the other strobe, on the edge of the cuttlefish's skirt while at the same time using the cuttlefish's body to block the strobe from view.

Australian giant cuttlefish (Sepia apama)

It worked pretty well in a few shots but ideally I need to get a third strobe so I can still have two on the camera and a third on the remote sensor. I also need to figure out a weighting system so the Ikelite strobe doesn't roll (it's heavier on one side than the other) and I can position it however I want.

I felt a bit of water getting in through my wrist seal but I didn't realize how much water got in my dry suit until I got back to the benches. Natalie was drier in her semi-dry, expertly fitted by Tony, than I was in my dry (wet) suit. Luckily it was a sunny.

With me dry, or at least partially dry, we drove for a quick look at Fitzgerald Bay (well, more because I took the wrong turn) and then met Tony at the boat ramp and loaded up the boat for the quick 10-minute boat ride out to the kingfish nets.

It was a perfect sunny day and the water was glassy, so despite the water temp hovering at 12C we didn't get cold.

No sooner had we pulled up to one of the nets than a pod of eight or nine friendly bottlenose dolphins
(Tursiops truncates) greeted us.

I leaned over the side of the boat to take a few shots with my camera in its housing.

Thanks to the calm conditions and decent visibility of the water, we could clearly see the dolphins peering up at us from just below the surface.

Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncates)

I think the distortion of the fish eye suits this image and gives the impression of looking into, or through, a fishbowl.

Unfortunately when we got in the water we saw it wasn't quite as clear as it looked from the surface, 8-10 metres, but it was still better than the 5 metres vis I had last time I was here in January.

We had a good hour with the dolphins. They were clearly in no rush to leave and seemed to enjoy swimming circles around us.

I couldn't see them until they were quite close but they would keep a certain distance, so they only fill the frame in a few of my shots with the fish eye.

Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncates)

I tried to get some above/under shots of them hovering just next to the boat, watching what was happening on the surface, but they take a more vertical position when they do this and it was hard to get the boat and all of the dolphins' bodies in the shot at the same time.

Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncates)

After a quick snorkel in the kingfish nets we went back around the lighthouse and I got a few more shots of the cuttlefish but the afternoon light was too low and my shots from the morning were definitely better.

All that and Natalie and I still made it back to Whyalla to have a quick look in the local op shop before getting some dinner.

Gotta love the Eyre Peninsula ….

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