Sketches from Week 41 (Dec 16-22, 2013)

Didn’t get much sleep during my last 60 or so hours in Australia… not that I wanted to! We worked hard on Monday at Lexi’s farm and then left for Phillip Island on Tuesday before dawn. Cape Woolamai, the eastern end of the island, was our eventual destination and we arrived there around 9 am after a brief visit to Pyramid Rock on the south side of the island.

Cape Woolamai is incredible… not only are you afforded views of the entire island and surrounding country but the diversity of wildlife is astonishing. We only walked about 4-5 km from the parking area to the small cove on the northeast side of the cape but saw lizards, snakes, some cranes, lots of wallabees, butterflies, etc… and that was before we even dove into the water. Our cove was all pebbles and boulders and sheltered from the SW swells so underwater clarity was very good, perhaps 20-30 feet. Apparently this area is a shark breeding ground but we never saw any.

We encountered mostly sweeps and kelp fish during our dives… I misidentified the Australian salmon and had the guys shoot the wrong fish! So they (justifiably) ridiculed me about the “epic Australian salmon” that I’d led them to find… but during my last dive and last shot of my OZ adventure, a school of salmon did, in fact, whiz by me and I managed to spear one, just one, true Australian salmon. And, as Billy had earlier testified, it was DELICIOUS! So I redeemed myself… barely :)

We met up with Billy on the south side of the cape around sunset, where we found him digging up sand with his friend Cooper… crab hunting! Just scoop out a few inches of sand with your foot, feel them trying to pinch your toe, and then grab them from behind so they don’t actually inflict any real damage with their pincers. Then toss them into a bucket and voila… crab stew!

By this time there were 7 of us in two cars and we headed off to our next destination: Evening sharkfishing at The Punchbowl, along the Bass coastal walkway directly east of Phillip Island. The site is boulder strewn with a large ledge that extends out from a cliff into the ocean… this is where people do their rockfishing. It’s actually a bit dangerous with the waves crashing up in the dark, slippery, and you’re not exactly sure what you’re catching with rod and reel. A big fish can move in awkward ways and throw you off balance easily. We were there all night, catching and eating fish, maintaining the campfire and simply enjoying the experience… I left with Billy and Cooper around 6:30 AM for the Melbourne airport to catch my ride home to California…

It’s always a bit odd being back home after a long time abroad... 5 weeks passed oh so quickly. A lot colder here, it’s dark at 5:30 (as opposed to 8:30 in Oz) and a quick dive in the ocean before heading to a family reunion in Vegas revealed a vastly altered wintertime marine environment. So many fish! New ones, too… Schools of olive rockfish, halfmoons (or blue perch) and another species that I have yet to identify. Even the calicos seemed different… they didn’t run as quickly as before for some reason. Maybe the cold water is making them sluggish? Not sure. I still haven’t seen the legendary white sea bass, however…

Now I’m in Vegas with 16 family members and 4 California coastal fish to share with them that I speared on Sunday. This week I really need to advance the design work for BOOM festival… the dance temple awaits!