Following a sunset on smooth seas, by 2am the wind had increased and shifted to the northeast causing the boat to buck on its anchor. Despite the inconvenient timing, Captain Matt decided it was time to move the Braveheart before conditions deteriorated further. Those who weren’t woken by the changing motion of the ocean, were jarred from their sleep by the sound of the anchor chain clattering into its locker and the rolling of the ship as she turned side on to the northerly swell. An hour later, to the relief of those trying to sleep, the Braveheart pulled into Denham Bay of the southwest coast, tucked up under the shelter of Raoul Island and slumber once again returned to the RV Braveheart.
When the sun rose we were greeted by a scene very different to that of the previous evening. There was a heavy mist and a persistent drizzle and we could barely see the island. But, as the day progressed and the mist burned off a little, it became apparent that we were anchored beside steep lava formed cliffs capped by a primordial forest that disappeared into the low clouds hovering above
Although the winds were gusting more than 30 kts on the northern side of Raoul Island, in Denham Bay we were sheltered and able to continue our sea urchin and habitat surveys. The reefs we had dived over the previous days were dramatic vertical walls. The charts indicated the reefs in Denham Bay were much shallower in their gradient. We were unsure what to expect as the last surveys conducted here were done more than 25 years ago. Our first dive of the day exceeded all expectations. What had previously been described as a reef dominated by coral was now a low lying forest of red algae with patches of emergent hard and soft coral. We recorded four species of urchin living in close proximity and numerous Crown of Thorns starfish. The Crown of Thorns is a tropical species responsible for the demise of coral reefs on the Great Barrier Reef and throughout the Pacific.
In the afternoon we dived Parson’s Reef. A narrow pinnacle of rock jutting up from the sea floor. The high current made the dive challenging. Tom was also having trouble counting the blue maomao as there were hundreds of them circling around him like a fluorescent blue tornado.
The highlight of the afternoon were four humpback whales meandering through the bay and past the boat. There were two mother whales and their two young calves. The youngsters put on a great display rolling around on their backs and slapping the water with their tales. The film crew captured some amazing footage from their drone, hovering only meters above the water’s surface.
By evening, the wind had died, the rain had ceased and the swell dropped to almost nothing. Tomorrow will undoubtedly be a good day.