I have been to Queensland several times over the years but each time I’ve never had the chance to visit the Great Barrier Reef. It has been on my “bucket list” for a very long time. During my latest trip earlier this year I was fortunate to finally be able to visit this reef, certainly one of the planet’s most inspiring underwater and above water destinations.
During my time exploring the reef I met an engaging individual, Nick Lynch. I’ve heard some interesting stories on my travels but several of the stories he shared with me are rather incredible and he has the photos to prove it.
Nick loves the ocean having grown up around it in Melbourne, Victoria all his life before moving up to the Great Barrier Reef. His home now is literally surrounded by coral atolls, ribbon reefs, diversity of underwater life and aquamarine waters that show so brilliantly on clear days.
Nick enjoys the thrill of underwater spear fishing. I tried my hand at this a few years ago in the Philippines but never had any luck. Course I was trying to spear rather small fish and it was my first attempt. Nick is good at it and his playground supports giant mackerel, barracuda and a menu of other delicious sashimi ready fish. He regularly catches fish over 6 feet long. His spear is tied to his spear gun as well as to a floatie on the surface. When he spears a large fish he lets go and the fish swims around until it tires and or dies – Nick keeps a sharp eye on the floatie and when it stops racing around the surface he moves in for the final catch. Sometimes he makes a good shot and spears the fish perfectly and it dies soon after being speared. Other times, he waits much longer.
Still, other times he is not so lucky. He described one story where he speared a giant Tuna and immediately tons of sharks moved in and frantically started attacking this large fish. Nick was having none of that – so he dove in, right into the middle of these sharks and fought them off with his bare hands. He then pulled the half eaten fish on to his small boat. He showed me a picture – this huge fish was missing half its body. Now that takes some guts!
But the really interesting story started out like any other day fishing in the Great Barrier Reef. During a random outing with a friend in their small boat they motored out about 5 miles from the island where they live. They anchored their boat in about 50 feet of water and then swam out to do some snorkeling, general underwater sightseeing and spear fishing. They were away from the boat several hours – popping up occasionally to look over.
After the last look at the boat Nick and his friend were ready to head back to shore. They popped up and saw no boat, nothing but open water with the closest land 5 miles away. I’m not sure if fear settled in their stomachs upon realization their transportation had disappeared but I know that would be my first reaction. Quickly they realized that their boat had sunk – especially when they saw a tiny piece of the bow bobbing in the water.
Much of their gear had fallen to the bottom of the reef so they had to free dive 50 feet down to locate it including emergency items such as flares and their EPIRB device (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon). Luckily they found these and activated the EPIRB. A signal was sent to Canberra broadcasting their general but not specific coordinates – then this signal was sent to Cairns which is the closest larger city near the Reef. Fisherman and other boats in the area were notified.
Meanwhile it was becoming later in the day and Nick and his friend were just swimming around in open water waiting for rescue. Several hours passed and finally a boat came into view but did not see them – they shot off their light flares – no reaction. Fortunately they had smoke flares and this finally attracted the attention of the boat. They were soon rescued! Later they returned to salvage the boat and ultimately determined a seal between the bottom of the boat and the deck had failed which let the water in – and when it failed, it happened very quickly.
Here are a few “help me” photos (courtesy of Nick) from this capsizing plus the Giant Tuna he “rescued” from sharks: