DC relaxing with North Paw rocks in the background and Grant's boat approaching

Dive sites: North Paw (Northern Pinnacle)

Tony has dived North Paw before (while I sat, sick with jealousy, in front of an Excel spreadsheet at work). This time I went with him and some students, and we were to explore an unmapped pinnacle to the north of the site, which seems to be quite extensive. It rises to within 10-12 metres of the surface, and doesn’t actually have a name yet…

Tony and Cecil on the surface
Tony and Cecil on the surface

Grant’s best suggestion (which some on the boat were keen to override) is “Bokkie’s Rump” – the idea being that the lion (Lion’s head) has its two paws (North Lion’s Paw and South Lion’s Paw) resting on a little springbok that he’s caught. The bokkie’s rump (ahem) sticks out beyond the northern paw.

DC relaxing with North Paw rocks in the background and Grant's boat approaching
DC relaxing with North Paw rocks in the background and Grant's boat approaching

Grant put the shot on top of the pinnacle, which according to Peter Southwood, is about 8 by 10 metres. We descended next to it – a lovely sheer wall – down to the sand at about 20 metres. There are rock lobsters galore, and rich invertebrate life.

Rock lobsters at North Paw
Rock lobsters at North Paw

Georgina pointed out a large cuttlefish, well camouflaged on the reef. When he moved, he changed colour to match his new background. Tony also found four tiny cuttlefish – fingernail-sized – lined up as if for a race. When he turned to call me with the camera, they scattered, invisibly, on the sand.

Cuttlefish at North Paw
Cuttlefish at North Paw
Same cuttlefish, different colour
Same cuttlefish, different colour

I found a few different nudibranchs – black, gas flame and crowned – and Tony also found one for me, much to his delight. He claims to have been having a “nudibranch drought” lately!

Gas flame nudibranch under some coral
Gas flame nudibranch under some coral
Black nudibranch at North Paw
Black nudibranch at North Paw

The site is rocky with lots of crevices for rock lobster to hide in. We saw some large ones, but, Gerard assured me, no HUGE ones. He should know! We were highly amused to see one big guy eating a sea jelly – the ocean floor was littered with a few dead (or incapacitated) ones, and apparently rock lobsters enjoy that kind of treat. I also saw a large rock lobster carefully carrying a cluster of mussels!

Hungry rock lobster eating a night light sea jelly
Hungry rock lobster eating a night light sea jelly

At the safety stop I saw no fewer than four different kinds of sea jelly – the largest being a night light sea jelly that was almost as long as Tony, with a huge purple bell. He obligingly swam behind it to give some perspective to the photo but I carried on photographing the jelly as it swam off into the distance.

Night light sea jelly
Night light sea jelly

Gerard had gotten low on air earlier, and returned to the boat… While he was waiting for a pick-up, something bumped his leg hard, and he was convinced it was a shark. Instead, it was one of the friendly seals that had visited us during our dive. His comments on the subject are unprintable – suffice it to say he got a bit of a fright!

Brittle stars on a sponge
Brittle stars on a sponge

When the rest of us surfaced we got to chill for a while, looking at the magnificent scenery, because we’d come quite far from the original pinnacle. We had drifted with the current, roughly towards the Atlantic seaboard. It must be – as I announced when the boat arrived – the most beautiful place in the world to surface. The diving’s pretty good too!

Anemone at North Paw
Anemone at North Paw

Dive date: 20 February 2011

Air temperature: 27 degrees

Water temperature: 8 degrees

Maximum depth: 23.6 metres

Visibility: 10 metres

Dive duration: 36 minutes

Rocks and sand at North Paw
Rocks and sand at North Paw

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Clare

Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

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