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Video: Diving the ex-HMAS Brisbane on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast

Music by Nick Stevens

My local waters have finally warmed to what I consider reasonable for scuba diving: the magic 20°C’s! While I prefer the temperature bouncing around the high end of the 20°C-scale, I can do 20°C—albeit with layers of neoprene… and girlish squeals on entry. Yes, I am soft.

What lured me into the water this week was the steady stream of great conditions here on the Sunshine Coast: flat seas, no swell, and good vis. I joined Sunreef Dive Centre for a double dive on the ex-HMAS Brisbane, a scuttled Australian Navy Adams-class destroyer which has fast become the focus of the local dive industry.

Compared to days prior, the vis was down slightly on my day out, but still a very inviting 15m or so. The fish life on the wreck was its usual standard: abundant. But with a slight current, most of the fusiliers and the associated big pelagics were out away from the wreck, feeding just on the edge of visibility.

The ship was sunk as a dive site in 2005. Each time I’ve dived here, the diversity of fish has increased. I am continually impressed by the various new species arriving. This week I found and filmed my first Sergeant baker (Aulopus purpurissatus), a common species for southerners but a rare sighting for warm water divers.

While I’ve dived the Brissie a dozen time before, this was my first double dive with Sunreef and their very juicy Nitrox mix—pushing 37%! This generous mix gave me loads more time at the bottom (approx 27m), my favourite place to film.

I started as always checking under the hull. There are usually plenty of fish lurking in the shadows, and the ambient light is perfect for filming with bright LEDs to fill in the foreground. Maori and Estuary groupers (Epinephelus undulatostriatus and E. coioides), Red emperors (Lutjanus sebae), and schools of jacks and snappers filled every void… jostling for the prime ambush locations, or just resting after a full night of foraging the surrounding sand flats.

With the extra bottom time the Nitrox offered, I decided on an extra-wide swim around the wreck’s perimeter, where in the past I’ve seen bull rays and guitar sharks. This time I came across snappers getting stuck into a large jellyfish—most likely having a go at the juvenile jacks sheltering among the tentacles.

There were also plenty of nudibranchs out in the sand, and one in particular was in a feeding frenzy. It was a shame that I noticed too late that it was eating tiny nudis as I was filming… I missed the good angles and was too wide when the action happened. But hey, these things happen when filming critters that are eating 5mm prey, while your eyes are tuned into the big stuff.

I spent much less time than usual inside the wreck, but stayed long enough to film some beautiful Dendronephthya soft corals that are growing at a steady rate and should have the placed filled in a few more years. Again, plenty of nudis. As more encrusting species move in, the diversity of small fish continues to grow.

Cruising back along the deck, a variety of herbivores were keeping the surfaces grazed clear, perfect for new coral and sponge recruits. The wreck’s superstructure allows divers to explore all the way to the surface. I spent my safety stop with an approachable school of Butterbream (aka Diamondfish, Monodactylus argenteus)—although there were loads of other species around that I might have chosen to film.

I thoroughly recommend a double dive on the ex-HMAS Brisbane. I love the extra room for divers’ camera gear on 2Ezy, Sunreef’s boat. Thanks to Bill, Karyn, Paul and Greg for a great morning.

—Josh

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Jay

“girlish squeals on entry” … hahaha, know what you mean 🙂

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