Pelican1 headed off early (6am) to pick up her passengers for another day at Ricketts Point Marine Sanctuary . (Note the tea-coloured water against the hull). In Victoria there are 13 Marine Parks and 11 smaller Marine Sanctuaries. This adds up to 5.3% of Victorian waters that are protected. It is a good start, especially when you consider that the oceans world wide only have just less that 1% protected compared with 25% terrestrial. It is surely the ocean's time to catch up!


Arriving at Black Rock to pick up our guest we took 28 people on board and lots of equipment. Part of the day's activities was being coordinated by Wendy Roberts from Reefwatch Victora who also had invited volunteers from SA Reefwatch. In the photo above on the right is John Gaskell who is one of the contributors to a fantastic book about Port Phillip Bay called Beneath our Bay. We have it as a constant reference on board Pelican. It is inspirational as a beautiful photographic record of the biodiversity of the Bay taken by a few enthusiastic individuals with basic cameras and a snorkel. 

Reefwatch ran a get to know Marine bingo on Pelican's tramp to introduce volunteers to one another.


On the way to Ricketts we travelled through the front of the flood plume and spent some time taking the boat through the front multiple times. Since 2007, Pelican 1 has been sampling water quality for the Two Bays program, using equipment on board set up by the Environment Protection Authority. It continually samples water to generate high resolution maps of water quality showing salinity, temperature, dissolved oxygen, turbidity and fluorescence.

Past surveys reflected prevailing drought conditions of low catchment input and high evaporation; water salinity higher than ocean levels, low nutrient and suspended sediment levels and good water clarity. With above average rainfall for the first time in 13 years this Two Bays expedition is experiencing vastly different bay conditions. One of the scientists jokingly said that the port Phillip Water was nearly good enough to drink. It is not quite there but amazingly fresh with the influx of fresh water.


Looking at the water quality as we sail through the plume.


The profoundly changed water really could have taken a shine off the diving and all participants were warned by the vigilant dive master Chris Hayward from Parks that there were many increased risks from entering the water. These included the nasties from the catchment like dog poo! It took the optimism of Mark Rodrigue, pictured smiling, above to turn this event into a positive. Mark pointed out the huge opportunity to experience the bay under these extreme conditions. The inflow of fresh, turbid water was actually sitting on the surface with the marine environment still visible, in almost a busgfire haze underneath. This meant the divers could actualy see once they got below the murk.


Another focus of the day was run by Dale Appleton from Parks Vic who ran the sidescan sonar to add to the habitat mapping of the Marine Sanctuary. This machine has a torch-like sonar ray which accurately gives a portrait of the texture of the marine floor. 


Chris Hayward from Parks monitoring the dive into the gloom.


And into the bushfire quality underwater land below


Photo: Dion Anderson


A mass of native (purple) sea urchins who also played a role in the day as we had on board Paul Cartrell who is currently writing his PhD on the proliferation of these animals in the Bay. Their increased numbers are causing barrens which create problems for the rest of the food web. It could be that they do not have enough predators or the conditions are for some reason favourable to them. These questions may be answered by the research. Paul has found minimal prior research on these animals in the Bay. Sea Urchins are interesting in themselves and I recommend this site, specially for kids from Stanford Uni .
The volunteers managed to map 90 quadrats of data, looking at their densities in the Sanctuary.


Short-tailed nudibranch - Photo: Steve Leske


Marine Pest ID- Northern Pacific Sea star- Photo: Jill Bajut

Pictured below is Peter Menkhorst, wearing the very sensible bird-watching hat. Peter as also on board to record the roosting of seabirds on navigational aids. This is an ongoing project that Two Bays has been involved with the last two years. Peter was very exited to see seven or eight arctic jaegers out in the Bay. 


After dropping everyone off at Black Rock jetty the Pelican crew's day continued as we made our way down the bay. Heading for our to berth at Martha's Cove- rumoured to be one of the most expensive marinas in Australia. I suppose this will increasingly become a problem as real-estate agents start to manage marinas. 
AuthorMichelle Quach