Febrina Dives Calypso Reef

By Mike Scotland

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The remote Calypso Reefs are off the South Eastern tip of New Guinea in Milne Bay. Few divers witness Calypso’s magical mystery tour, but those lucky few who get to experience it treasure it as one of the best dive spots on our planet.

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We dived here from TSMV Febrina on its annual Milne Bay pilgrimage. The skipper, Alan Raabe, has dived in New Guinea for twenty-five years and knows these reefs intimately. Calypso Reef is pristine with nearly perfect coral and vibrant fish life. It is amongst the very best reefs I have ever had the privilege of seeing in my forty years of diving. Everywhere I look there is life in profusion. Calypso Reefs is exploding with life!

I gaze at the variety of staghorn corals in amazement. Some are bright yellow, others blue and hot pink. Some are three metres across. Most are in perfect health. Massive barrel sponges dot the coral landscape along with elephant ear sponges and bright orange sponges. On my descent along the coral ridge, twenty-five rainbow runners came in to escort me down. This was my official greeting: welcome to Calypso, Mike. Enjoy!

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Flashing schools of fairy basslets rise up into the current to feed on the never-ending passing parade of plankton. They dive for cover as hunting trevally zoom in for a kill. It surprises me that even the fastest trevally are usually too slow. Life and death here on the reef depends on speed and being quick witted. Danger is always looming. All creatures have to be on full alert every second of the day. Wits and vigilance mean survival here on these deadly reefs.

I follow a golden trumpet fish hunting across the coral. It moves with stealth and purpose. Its enormous gaping mouth reminds me of the mouth of a pelican as it can open very wide to engulf prey. They are incredibly agile and scoop up prey with ease.

The seas are calm. I am pleased to hear that we are anchoring overnight, right here in the open ocean. We hit the water for the six thirty night dive. We located one of my all-time photo favourite subjects, a large Saron Shrimp. The crazy colour patterns of Saron shrimps hypnotize me. The blue and white striped legs contrast with the bright pink star like patterns on its pale orange carapace.  They are creatures you would expect to find in a circus, impossible combinations of colour and patterns, bright and showy. I look at the bundles of spikey bristles covering its body and the brutal looking rostrum, a defensive retro-barbed spike on its head and wonder how any fish could even stand having its mouth and throat shredded to bits trying to eat this large shrimp.

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Alan moved the boat a short distance to Balaban Bommie. We descended to twenty five metres down a saddle to a soft coral garden. This was a place of real magic, filled to the brim with life. I tried to get some diver shots while becoming intoxicated by the incredible beauty around me.

I rose up the wall and found a school of bumphead parrotfish. The biggest was bossing a smaller one into submission as if to confer some correctional behaviour for a misdemeanour. This little drama of dominance and submission went on in front of me for several minutes.

Corals and sponges have been in a struggle for dominance in the world of the tropical oceans for millions of years. Every square millimetre of a coral reef ecosystem is colonised by some wonderful life form in this silent battle for living space. Massive barrel sponges the size of mini cement trucks are interspersed with two-metre mauve elephant ear sponges. Fan corals grow at right angles to the prevailing current, giving a handy navigational aid for the observant diver. Many enormous green Tubastrea microcanthes coral trees grow here, dominating this ecosystem. Tubastrea corals are carnivorous.  They must capture all of their food from the currents as opposed to most corals that usually get up to ninety-five per cent of their sustenance from the photosynthetic activity of the zooxanthellae inside their polyps.

Calypso reef is close to the pinnacle of my diving experiences. After diving on sixty liveaboards around the Barrier Reef and the Pacific, I find myself dreaming of a return trip to Milne Bay to sample more of the fabulous marine life, balmy seas and clear waters of Calypso reef.

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Ocean Geographic Explorer (OGX) is a diving adventure resource with a special focus on marine photography and ocean conservation. Our content is divided up into six primary categories: Travel, Sea Science,  Equipment, Photography &Video, Conservation, and Lifestyle. We endeavor be a portal for people with all levels of interest in the marine environment  to learn about and become part of a community of like-minded ocean lovers who enjoy sharing their knowledge of and experiences in our fascinating ocean world.

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