All good expeditions must come to an end, equipment must be returned to its owners, expedition members returned to their families, friends and employers, charter vessels have to be cleaned, resupplied, the crew changed over and then sent back out to sea with a different set of passengers seeking different diving locations and sites.
The same applied to the Mermaid 2009 expedition. On Thursday morning we had to have everything and everyone of the vessel by 8.15 to allow the crew and the vessel to prepare for its afternoon departure.
After a hasty breakfast the packing of gear continued and cabins, storage areas, the dive deck and saloon were checked for left items, books, electrical cables, cameras, misplaced T Shirts and lost toothbrushes. While all this was going on I organised a vehicle to pick up all the offloaded equipment and arranged accomodation for those expedition members who were staying over nght in Cairns.
Peter Illidge said his goodbys and commenced his drive back to Townsville ferrying equipment we had borrowed from James Cook University and the Museum of Tropical Queensland. We also said our goodbys to Dr. Nigel Erskine and Dr. Lloyd Fletcher who were also leaving us today in Cairns.
Whilst the remaining crew were seeing the sites of Cairns – Paul Hundley, Lee Graham and I were playing material conservators – packing the artefacts recovered from HMCS Mermaid in absorbent gel and protective boxes – before they made their long trip to Sydney and into the care of the conservation section at the Australian National Maritime Museum.
In the evening the remaining crew members got together for a final meal before flying out to their respective States. Like all good things expeditions must come to an end BUT as the evening meal progressed talk moved onto other wrecks on other reefs off the coast of Australia.
Expeditions such as this one are only as successful as the crew are experienced, innovative and hard working. A very big thankyou (in no particular order) to Peter Illidge, Warren Delaney, Ed Slaughter, Wayne Morris, Grant Luckman, Lloyd Fletcher, Elaine Cuzens, Alice Lafferty, Megan Blacker, John Mullen, Jacqui Mullen, Jenni Mullen, Stephen Day, Lindsay Birley, Greg Tanner, Scott Northcutt, Anne Northcutt, Christina Koh, Andrew Turner, Grant Bowering, Xanthe Rivett, Nikki McNicole, John McNicole, Lesley Howlett, Laurie Carrico, Mark Stewart, Cathy Stewart, Meyric Slimming, Fred Pakoa, Lee Graham, Paul Hundley and Nigel Erskine.
and a big hats off to Trevor Jackson, skipper of Spoilsport, Kerrin Johns, Spoilsport Cruise Director and all of the crew at Mike Ball Dive Expeditions including Craig Stevens, Stirling Robertson, Warren Boast James, Richard Kennedy, Alex Mitchael, Tristan Brighte, Bre Jenkins and Katrina along with the crew of Nimrod and Pirate for all their hard work, professionalism and sense of humour.
I would also like to thank the expeditions sponsors the Silentworld Foundation without whose assistance this expedition would not have been possible.