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Natsuko, on the same trip from Adelaide to Perth, turns out to be a diver, so on arrival in Esperance on the south coast of WA we make enquiries about diving the wreck of the 'Sanko Harvest'. This is an ore tanker sunk 20 nautical miles off the coast, and apparently the worlds second largest diveable shipwreck.

However, it is early spring, we are the first people in three months to express an interest in diving the wreck, and no trips are running. Not to be put off, we hire some full tanks and gear, and set off to do a couple of shore dives from Cape Le Grand national park.

Mon 18 Sept. Lucky Bay.
Max depth 18.2M, 46 min. Viz 10m

Kit up on a beach of white sand so fine it looks like plaster of paris, watched only by a couple of curious seagulls and a Kangaroo, eating seaweed.

Wading out along the point, icy trickles of water make their way into our booties. Surface swim out over beds of rippling sea-grass until it gets deep enough to submerge. Visibility is maybe ten metres, but cloudy topside weather makes the underwater light green and mysterious. Keeping the rocky wall of the headland to our right, we swim down a gentle slope of sargassum weed. A large grey morwong starts up from his bed, and ripples off into the murk.

Bulges and folds of the rock wall are covered in sponges, ascidians sea-lettuce and anemones, red velvet sea-stars hug the rock. As we work our way down the fish life starts to appear - some old friends from Sydney diving: Sargeant-majors, Leatherjackets, Old Wives, Eastern Blue Grouper; and some new faces: Thornfish, Cowfish, Zebra Fish, schools of large silver Queen Snapper and small silver Skippy. Nine rare, beautiful Weedy Sea Dragons drift among the weeds.

At one point I catch something out of the corner of my eye, and turn to see the silhouette of a roadsign away in the gloom. Check my depth - surely I can't be narked enough to be seeing things at 18 metres? Swim over to check. A large, almost perfectly round sponge has colonised the top of an iron post.

After half an hour or so we are both starting to shiver in our wetsuits (oh for a drysuit), so we swim back up the slope to the sea grass, eventually surfacing in the bay and letting the gentle waves carry us back to the beach.

Tues 19 Sept. Rossiter Bay.
Max depth 6.6M, 49 min. Viz 5m

Another dazzling white beach into cold blue water. A short distance out along the headland, a collection of boulders form a labyrinth of minature canyons about five metres deep, and we spend a while surfing through the channels in the amplified surge, watching the encrusting plant life wash back and forth as white capped waves roll overhead.

Back in the open, we find a giant sea slug hiding among the weeds - a foot and a half long purple body covered in white scribbles, topped with a soft green 'shell'.

in the gloom behind Natsuko there is a flash of light. Suddenly, like a wall of London commuters pushing off a rush hour tube, a school of at least a thousand tiny silver Skippys rushes at us. Natsuko, looking the wrong way, frowns at me with mild concern as I point over her shoulder, until she sees the school engulf us. The mob circle us for a couple of minutes as if giving each member a chance to have a good look at these strange creatures, everywhere we look is a disorienting shimmer of gleaming silver bodies, like a kaleidoscope on speed, until with a collective dismissive tail flick they vanish onwards into the green distance.

All content © COPYRIGHT Huw Porter.