Olivia Lee: How big, how blue, how beautiful

I happened to be at the right place with the right photographers given the opportunities I had this lecture recess, and what an amazing time it has been.

First off, I had a 3am start on Sunday to Orpheus Island for the Coral Reef Ecology (MB3190) subject and we had to lay down transects to count/identify various fish and coral species. Aside from losing my snorkel and nearly dropping the slates and transect line, our lecturer brought us to some amazing sites to snorkel and we even had a fun dive to look for rare species.

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On the way to Orpheus.

Accommodation on the island was hostel-like and we were supplied with 3 meals a day between jumping in and out of the water. Those on the JCU Dive Register were allowed to dive but even with snorkelling it was good enough to see the thriving reef life. All students had to bring their own gear but if you were missing a few items like me, I rented my fins and wetsuit from the JCU Dive Club for only $45 for the 3 days I had to take it out.

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We even had some down time to lie on the beach and catch the sunset before dinner.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What you don’t see is post-dinner data entry for all the species we saw and were trying to identify. Photo Credit: Kessia Virah-Sawmy

I had to come back to do a few RA shifts and help organize a BBQ with some friends but on Saturday we were back out on a stargazing trip with the Townsville Astronomy Club. It was the time of year where it was starting to get cloudy and we were all a bit hesitant that the night might not turn out to be as nice as it could be. We did get to see the sky slowly change colour to its darker brethren and even if we didn’t get to see clear stars, the sunset was something quite beautiful to witness.

However, the night did clear up and there weren’t enough clouds to have us cursing that we drove 40km out of Townsville for nothing. The Townsville Astronomy Club were nice enough to answer our questions and point out interesting constellations such as Scorpio (I will never see that scorpion “tail” the same way again), Lyra, and Cygnus as well as bringing out their cannon-like telescope to let us have a look at some nebulae and planets (Hello, Saturn!).

227Photo Credit: Saskia Hottentot

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Photo Credit: Carl Tanner, TSV Astronomy Club (http://astronomytsv.org.au/)

We didn’t stay out too late as I had to sleep early for a dive trip the next day. The world famous S.S.Yongala shipwreck was waiting 25m below the surface at a spot just 20mins from the coast of Ayr but more than an hour from Townsville by boat, and praise the nudibranch lords that I didn’t vomit from sea-sicknesses because having to stand on that rocking boat in between dives was…difficult to say the least. But that was probably the worst part to an otherwise beautiful dive where we saw how a thriving coral ecosystem had grown on the skeleton of the shipwreck. Marble rays, turtles, and hundreds of schooling herbivores and trevallies were swimming around us and it was so calm to witness all 100m of this living piece of history. There was a group of schooling rays and it was majestic to see them swim past us as though we were just another piece of plankton in the ocean.

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A little piece of the shipwreck, it’s difficult to take a full-view picture of it.

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Photo Credit: Julia Hung

Sometimes I can’t believe how tucked away these hidden beauties in Queensland are. Fair enough, we all share the same sky, but I hadn’t seen how grand it could be till I came here. How is it we just become witnesses to everything in the end? (Oh please, Olivia, can you end one post without being sappy.)

Note: Borrowed lyrics from Florence and the Machine

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