This morning we were surprised to see two more people in the boat when they picked us up. One was diving with us, the other would be snorkeling. Christi and Jaime were going to go deeper into the Coolidge to see “the lady” with the same dive master we went in with yesterday. Eric and Darren were going out with another dive guider to do the promenade deck dive.
Eric and Darren descended from a nearby sand patch and followed a line that runs from shore to the bow, instead of going down the mooring line. Eric is more comfortable starting from shallow water and going deeper than he is starting in deep water. The descent was scary for him since he couldn’t see the bottom, just a nothingness of blue below. He was relieved when the ship came into sight. Eric made it abundantly clear that he did not want to go inside the ship at all he only wanted to swim around the exterior areas. They did the same the same route Jaime and Christi did the day before, except that they didn’t go into any of the cargo holds.
Christi and Jaime and the dive master again descended down the line to the bow. This time they continued over the starboard side of the boat, which is now the top since it is leaning on it’s side. They passed over a long series of portholes with the glass long gone. There was a cluster of colorful, pretty corals of assorted varieties at the edge of all the portholes. There were quite a few small clusters of coral over the top. Christi spotted a lionfish, which are neat to watch.
They came to a blast hole in the metal hull, where they descended straight down into the relatively dark interior. Once again, only the local dive master had a light. They followed a few narrow, enclosed corridors with few areas to escape from should anything go wrong until we got to a pitch black shaft. This was the dining room. They descended the long drop to the opposite end where the famous painted sculpture of the lady on her white horse laid on its side, probably still intact from where it hung when it was an elegant cruise liner. They were at 36 meters (130 feet).
It was almost anti-climatic to see it. The room is gloomy and eerie, with a small amount of light coming in from what used to be a skylight. The sculpture is about 3 foot squared, much smaller than Christi was expecting.
They headed back up the shaft, getting ready to exit the wreck. They took a different route out, exploring more cargo holds as they headed towards the chain locker. The cargo holds were quite dark and the spaces they were passing through were very small. Jaime was growing more and more concerned about Christi’s safety, worried about a new diver going so deep for so long and swimming amongst some serious potential hazards with few escape routes. Jaime realized that the local dive master planned to take us all the way to the bow of the boat where we would exit out of the chain locker through the small hole the anchor chain used to come out of. Jaime put his foot down and insisted they go up immediately, and they exited from the next opening that would take us out of the interior. They ascended into the brightness of the open water where the colorful fusilier fish greeted them.
As they made our way to the decompression stop, they passed Eric and Darren and said brief hellos and snapped a quick photo.
At the decompression stop, Christi again had to hold onto the bar for dear life to keep from floating away. She had on 18 pounds of weight and it still wasn’t enough. Good thing the bar is there.
They took us to a nearby beach and served us lunch. There were tuna sandwiches, taro chips, raw peanuts, papaya, and bananas. After lunch, all 5 divers and 2 local dive maters did a shore descent into Million Dollar Point. Just as we had been told, it was an underwater junkyard. The top of the junk pile is only a few feet below the surface, making it a popular snorkeling site. Who knows how deep the pile goes. We went down to 90 feet and still were not at the bottom of the heap. It is also pretty long. Seeing the extent of the junk was almost upsetting. It is sad how much of our taxpayer dollars were literally thrown into the trash. We wonder how toxic this site is.
Amongst the tangle of trucks, wires, batteries and other debris, nature is doing it’s best to reclaim the area, but we were all pretty disappointed with what we saw. We were expecting a lot of coral growth after 60 years, and there isn’t very much at all. Here is a cool looking plant growing on some wreckage.
We did see some amazing sea life, just not tons of it. We found four species of nudibranch (sea slugs — Jaime’s favorite). He got photos of three of the four.
We also saw a crocodile fish, a cuttlefish, and a couple of long fin lion fish. Here is a photo of a translucent prawn hiding in some coral.
One of the guides poked at a sea cucumber. When attacked, they spew long white strands of guts out of their rear and then grow new innards. He wanted us to see what it looked like. This horrified Jaime, who is a big believer in leaving the underwater environment completely untouched. By the way, as you may have guessed, Jaime has a dive camera and took all the underwater photos. He has also taken a lot of the photos we have posted since he arrived. Thank you, Jaime!
After the dive, the guys went and hung out at the resort pool while Christi started cooking all the meat on board. She made meatloaf and mashed potatoes, pasta with meat sauce, chili and rice, and chicken with Moroccan rice. She divided everything into individual serving sizes, along with the beef stew Jaime made, and froze it all. Thank goodness they don’t confiscate fish in Australia. We have so much fish that we’d never be able to get it all cooked in time. The freezer is now packed with food for our next passage, maybe even two passages.