Navy Pier Dive

Near Exmouth is a renowned shore dive site off a pier operated by the Australian Navy  The pier’s intended function is to allow diesel supply ships to dock every few months to offload diesel for the dedicated power station that supplies power to the nearby very low frequency (VLF) transmitter.    The VLF facility was built in the 1960’s by the US Navy to support communications submarines while underwater which requires both a low radio frequency and enormous power to penetrate under water.    In fact the town of Exmouth owes its existence to this facility as it was originally founded to support the US Navy Base associated with the VLF transmitter.     Although control was handed over to the Australian Navy in 1999, the facility still supports underwater communications for both the US and Australian Navy.

vlf antenna info
Information sign for the VLF communication station.  It was renamed by the US Navy in 1967 in honour of the Australian Prime Minister who famously disappeared one day while swimming in the ocean.    The antenna structure is quite impressive with towers taller than the Empire State building and to put it in perspective, the 1 megawatt RF transmission power is of a similar magnitude to the transmission power of all the mobile phone towers in Sydney combined.  
navy pier
The Exmouth Navy Pier

Although it was built as a naval facility, this is probably only its tertiary purpose as it is used by the Navy only once or twice a year when a supply ship docks.   On the other hand because the pier is normally closed to the general public (hence no fishing takes place) and it seldom sees shipping traffic, it has become a haven for wildlife both above and below the water.   So I would say its primary purpose is seagull perch/toilet and fish shelter.

Fortunately the Navy allows divers to access to the pier under very controlled conditions on days when they are not using it, which is most days, so its secondary purpose (based on frequency of use) is a dive site.   According to some references, it is one of the top ten dive sites in the world, so how could we possibly miss the opportunity to see for ourselves?

dive ed
Although it is a shore based dive, the Navy has licensed only one operator to run dives there. Before heading to the dive site a video explains the process of getting permission to dive, where photographs are permitted and prohibited etc.   Everyone needs to have their ID ready in case there is a spot check.    
navy pier exmouth
Looking back after arriving on the pier.    The 350+ metre high radio masts can be seen behind and some of the many thousands of gulls can be seen on the pier.  Consequently the place was rather smelly.
bird perch pier
More secret navy seagulls.   While there were thousands of them, it was merely a foretaste of the number of fish we were about to see.

 Getting ready to go

The entry involved jumping off a platform 2 metres above the water.

about to giant stride
Ready to jump
looking gorgeous
Made it – let’s go
barracuda
We were immediately struck by the sheer numbers of fish congregating around the structure – In this instance barracuda
come look at all the fish
Come – there are more fish over here.   Normally the nutrient rich waters and tidal currents stir up the silt and limit visibility to about 5 to 7 metres, so we were exceptionally lucky to have relatively clear water with visibility extending to 15m.    It made the schools of fish appear even more impressive.   We were told that conditions like this occur only a few times a year. 

The interesting thing was how relaxed the fish were.  Normally I am not able to get close photo’s of angelfish and butterfly fish like these side on as they usually swim away when I approach to take a picture.

long fin bannerfish
Long fin banner fish with striped snapper below
bad hair day
There was so much to see that Maddy forgot she was having a bad hair day.   As for me – well all I can say is that it’s not surprising that fish normally swim away when I approach.  S 
the mob
The place was a fisherman’s nightmare – huge shoals of spangled emperor, all off limits to fishing.  
bfg 4
The highlight of the dive was when this giant grouper came over to greet us.
bfg 5
He was not ashamed to give eye contact.
bfg 6
He was huge, probably about 2m long and definitely heavier than either of us – even with all our scuba gear.
maddy and batfish
Our old favourite – the batfish.
its amore
A moray eel lurking 12 metres down on the bottom

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