Getting sub aquatic in the freezing cold part III

After the previous night’s failed attempt at getting in the water, Rick and I had decided to attempt a morning dive back at Portsea. Only a minute’s walk from the Dive Victoria Group’s dive shop, we once again dropped into the muddy water at the shore end of the pier. The murk was considerable, visibility improved slightly as we headed for the shallow reef nearby.

Rick under pier

Soon Rick tugged excitedly at one of my fins. I turned around as he jabbed his finger in the direction of three bedraggled looking male sea dragons sitting in a small sandy depression. It was like a divorced weekend dad’s meeting, all of them were missing fins or parts of their tails, yet carrying the unhatched eggs under what was left of their tails – females nowhere in sight. Rick was ecstatic nonetheless, they were his first ever sea dragons. The dragons weren’t so pleased and promptly packed up and moved to another spot to continue whatever they were doing.

Rick and sea dragon

Rick observes a sea dragon

The shallow reef had loads of nooks and crannies, most of them had a resident scaly fin guarding egg masses, but under the deeper ones there were several stingrays, hidden from the surge and sunlight while swarms of bullseyes (Pemphris spp) awaited nightfall to come out and feed. Sponges and bryzoans of all colours carpeted the ceilings.

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The stingrays were tucked right in under the caves. I could not get the camera far enough in…

Bullseye school

Bullseyes under a ceiling of sponges

But there were no cuttlefish to photograph, so we headed for the pier. On a pylon, a beautiful blue and yellow nudibranch (Tamjba verconis) crawled over a red sponge.

Blue and yellow sea slug (Tamjba verconis)

Blue and yellow sea slug (Tamjba verconis)

Red sea tulip

Red sea tulip – a sea squirt – also on the pylonn

Red sea star

Red sea stars were common amongst the rubble

Orange biscuit star

Biscuit stars are never in short supply either.

One fish did catch me by surprise, and it was a lucky find. A small fish about 12cm long moved just enough for me to see it. Incredibly well camouflaged, the velvet fish (Aploactisoma milseii) is rarely seen though probably common. I don’t know much about these cool little fish, though they are probably ambush predators.

Velvetfish (Aploactisoma milseii)

The enigmatic velvet fish

So that was about it for the dive. Here’s a seadragon’s head. Just because.

Weedy sea dragon head

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