The winds picked up overnight leaving the sites of HMS Porpoise and Cato exposed to heavy seas. The teams were once again divided into four groups with specific tasks. Our team was tasked with swim-line searches of the eastern lagoon. Swim-line searches are conducted in order to cover the maximum amount of seabed. They are typically run using a single line or rope which snorkelers or divers are evenly spaced along. The line moves forward at the same time as divers scan the seabed looking for anomalies (i.e. cultural materials).
The high winds and heavy surf produced strong shifting currents in the shallow lagoon. While drifting above what seemed like coral forests, the team kept a keen eye out for any cultural material. Unfortunately the unusually strong currents made marking artefacts with buoys a difficult task. However the team was able to locate a few shipwreck artefacts that had been scattered into the lagoon over the fringing reef.
During the surface interval the crew of Nimrod Explorer treated the researchers to an excellent meal of grilled prawns, chicken kebabs and salad. This is by no means a special occurrence as the crews of these vessels have taken amazing care of us from the start of our voyage. While we are conducting research, they are hard at work ensuring fresh snacks and fresh towels are available as soon as we exit the water.
Although the weather prevented us from diving the suspected wreck sites, the teams were able to gather a good deal of preliminary data concerning the extent of artefact scatters. The reason the Coral Sea received its title is obvious from the moment one looks below the water’s surface. Staghorn coral stretches as far as the eye can see interlaced with numerous other coral species and all the associated marine life one would expect to find in such a diverse ecosystem.
Contributed by Shawn Arnold and Kieran Hosty.