Sunshine, Star Wars, predators and pirouettes all in one afternoon… by Casey Carlisle

Your breathing resembles sounds made by Darth Vader… and try as you might, you can’t silence the noise as you stare at a predator, sinuating in a languid fashion toward you with hungry black eyes.

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It may sound like a line from a horror story, but in fact I was having the time of my life – I thought, since posting about many of the research trips I’ve been involved in under the ‘HeadUnderWater’ tag, this time I’d post about something more recreational…

Stealing away a Sunday on a friends sailboat (how’s that for alliteration), we headed for secluded waters along the Great Barrier Reef to make the most of the sunshine and high visibility waters. There is nothing like cruising along the ocean with a warm salty breeze playing through your hair while enjoying a good book!

Our Skipper, Paul, knew of a great dive spot for coral canyons – a fantastic spot to get an eyeful of the plethora of marine flora and fauna. I’d been visiting small reef crops, grass beds and sandy Bay floors quite frequently and was really looking forward to the experience.

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This day, the water was freezing (because we were close to the outer edge of the reef) and I donned a full-body wet suit. There were five of us on the dive, including two avid underwater photographers (hence the brilliant photos) I met for the first time. As they flippered excitedly about, my buddy, Jasmine and I were content to wade along the canyon wall, ogling and admiring the various familiar species and coral formations. I couldn’t help thinking how amazing this would look during a night dive under a blacklight.

A highlight was the visitation of a curious Grey Nurse shark, meandering in the periphery for a while before heading off to more appetising morsels. Our site consisted of a series of shallow canyons cutting into the edge of the reef that often have large schools of fish and numerous turtles (and the occasional shark). Along the ridges between the canyons, groups of big fin reef squid swim in vertical formation in the water column, rippling with changing colours as they reacted to our presence. I couldn’t help but think of Luke Skywalker zooming through the gully of the Death Star on his bombing run as I paddled in the anemone encrusted ravine. At least no one was firing pot shots at me!

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Taking a break from the fascinating biology, Jasmine and I amused the others with our take on an underwater ballet. And I’m sure if fish could laugh, that is exactly what they were doing, watching our clumsy attempt at pirouettes and jetés in the viscous water. I may admit to many photos being taken of our performance, but then I’d be asked to post them here – so let’s just leave it to your imagination.

Swimming down and out over the gently sloping sand towards 18 metres, you can see some large scattered bommies, each with their own individual makeup of species and each worth a visit – if only we had the time… Jasmine, with her charade to return to the surface reigned in my curiosity.

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Waving to a scaly friend, who looked suspiciously like JarJar Binks, I made my way back to the yacht; looking forward to a hearty meal before heading back to solid ground. A lovely day with new and old friends on a boat aptly named ‘Hyperdrive’ all that was missing was a dog named Chewbacca and someone wearing their hair in side buns, Princess Leah-style.

© Casey Carlisle 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Things that go bump in the night… by Casey Carlisle

Have you ever been woken in the shroud of night, instantly alert, but couldn’t recall what had stirred you from the depths of slumber? 

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This happened to me a few nights in a row, until one evening when I was just about to doze off there was an eerie scratching coming from somewhere in my bedroom. Instant scenarios of wicked little troll-demons hiding in shadows and under the bed worried at my grey matter until I realised I was, in fact, and adult, and such things did not exist.

Upon careful and tentative investigation I discovered the clawing came from inside the roof.

The next night I managed to catch a glimpse of the culprit clambering across the power line to the other side of the street at dusk… a possum – more than likely out for its nocturnal scavenge for food. Good, I thought, problem solved!

Not likely…

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Later, in the early hours of that morning I was again roused from tap dancing, scratching, and wild shrieking. Standing on the bed I pummeled the roof in a declaration of war – now it’s on!

Recruiting my best mate to chase the little critter out, find and patch it’s entry point, I was assured that a good night’s sleep was imminent… and then two weeks went by. Every night accompanied with the frolicking and hissing of possum–play above my head. The problem was we had to wait until the possum went out before we could climb up and fix the roof.

I was at my wits end, about to check into a hotel just to get some peace when I spied my fury nemesis, now with baby clinging to its back, scuttling along the power line once more.

Immediately phoning my ‘go-to’ guy to race over, humming delightfully to myself with satisfaction. I couldn’t wait to get a full nights undisturbed rest.

After the work was completed and a congratulatory dinner, I retired for the night. Before an hour had passed, just as slumber was about to take me, the faint drag and scrape of marsupial claws alluded to the fact that we had sealed the delinquent rodent in, instead of locking it out! The hissing, chittering and banging against the roof was even louder as my housemate attempted miserably to breakout.

The next day we removed a few roof tiles to let it escape, and I took up surveillance at the window as soon as I got home from work. The day had turned dark, cold and churning clouds rumbling with thunder threatened to not only flood rain water into the open hole, but deter the mangy critter from sneaking outside for another nights foraging. Just as I was busting for a toilet break, I spotted my rambunctious neighbor scuttling across the power line once more. Now in the full blackness of night, rain sheeting down heavily, I couldn’t see to know if, or when the possum would return. Anxious that I wouldn’t get another shot at boarding out the stubborn squatter, I prayed that my ‘fix-it’ man would arrive soon and be able to help in my battle.

Minutes later a familiar blue car pulled into the driveway, and geared up with ropes, harnesses and wet weather gear, my knight in shining armor was clambering along a slippery roof. I should have felt guilty for sending my friend up to the second story rooftop, risking life and limb on slimy roof tiles, braving gale force wind and rain, lightning crackling across the sky filling the air with ozone… but I didn’t. I wanted – no, needed – that possum gone at all costs. My sanity was at stake!

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Half an hour later, completely saturated and task complete, no crispy fried humans welded to the roof tiles from a stray lightning bolt, we tentatively celebrated again. No possum, no rain damage, and no broken bones!

You think that I’d get the good night’s sleep I so desperately craved for now, right? Not quite – every morning for the following week I was startled awake by desperate attempts between 5 and 7am as the possum endeavored to breach the roof. I actually heard it crack a tanty – hissing and jumping and stomping along the roof in a frustrated rage. Thankfully now, though, I’m sleeping soundly, my noisy little friend evicted and probably dancing away on someone else’s roof. And the only noise going bump in the night  is the sound of my rummaging through the refrigerator for a midnight snack.

© Casey Carlisle 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.