Skip's Underwater Image Gallery
Jimmy's Black Coral Reef 2

2 December 2007

It had been several years since we'd attempted to dive on Jimmy's Black Coral Reef.

Being located in open water, there's no shelter from the elements and good sea conditions are required to successfully dive on the reef. On a previous occasion we descended down the anchor line only to find that the wind and current had dragged the anchor out onto the sandy bottom with the reef nowhere in sight.

On other dives I felt the effects of nitrogen narcosis had left me with only a vague recollection of what I'd seen on the reef. For this dive, I'd be using a closed circuit rebreather with 18/45 trimix diluent to allow me more bottom time and to reduce the effects of nitrogen narcosis.

With a calm sea, little wind and a good forecast all seemed to bode well for the dive. After steaming out from Tairua for about an hour, Jim quickly found the reef with the help of his chart plotter and sounder. Taranui was soon at anchor and we were hurriedly readying ourselves for the dive.

I was first in the water and immediately began my descent down the anchor chain.

The helium in the trimix diluent felt cold and whistled effortlessly though my mouthpiece as I sucked it into the breathing loop.

Conditions were almost ideal with no current and 20 metre visibility. As I continued my descent, darker shapes appeared from the blue below as the reef started to come into view.

After just three minutes into the dive, I touched down on a sandy bottom at 52 metres. The rebreather was functioning perfectly and I manually added some oxygen into the breathing loop before switching the controller to high set point and starting to take in the surroundings.

The anchor was perfectly positioned on the sand just a few metres from the reef. From previous dives I had an idea of the shape of the reef but was keen to take it in with a clear head.

For a few minutes I was alone with the fish before my bubble blowing buddies arrived.

I swam out along a finger of the reef but there were no coral trees here and I turned to swim back to the highest point of the reef.


My 90 cubic foot side slung bailout tank bumped awkwardly against my leg as I swam but it was a small price to pay for having the security of a backup life support system.

I can hear a faint high-pitched crackling sound and check to see whether any gas is leaking from my rebreather. All seems well with the machine and I reckon the sound I'm hearing is somehow created by the fish life which is swarming around me.

The black coral trees are what we've come to see and I spend plenty of time snapping three or four of the largest trees.

Schools of blue maomao (
Scorpis violacea), butterfly perch (Caesioperca lepidoptera), demoiselles (Chromis dispilus), leatherjackets (Parika scaber) and oblique swimming triplefins (Obliquichthys maryannae) swarm around the trees. Dead branches of the trees are cover with beautiful magenta jewel anemonies (Corynactis australis).

Neil remained down with me for longer than the other open circuit divers but after about 20 minutes on the bottom it was time for him to begin his acsent up the anchor chain and I followed soon after.

I hang on the anchor chain at about 6 metres decompressing for nearly half an hour before ascending to the surface.

Cool dive!

Jimmy's Black Coral Reef location map (from chart NZ534).    
Link to other Jimmy's Black Coral Reef page.    




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