Southern Ocean Coastal Reef

The Southern Ocean relentlessly pounds the exposed west coast beaches and cliffs.   But every now and then, the roaring forties settle for just being the forties for a few days, the swell abates and relative calm descends on the ocean. The reefs close to shore are thriving with an abundance of marine life in these often wild seas. Cue the reef snorkellers.

These often inaccessible local reefs are a wonder to behold. The pictures below are the most eloquent offering I have to convey the colour and magic of a local reef on the exposed beach where I snorkelled one evening earlier this week.


A reef on the coast beside the Great Ocean Road

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The moment of immersion. The quiet and seamless slide from one world to another.
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The Otways, the Great Ocean Road and the Southern Ocean.
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Liz wondering where and when I was going to surface.

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Port Jackson Shark and a few fish

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Juvenile Port Jackson shark.
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There were plenty of fish about. They weren’t in any particular hurry to swim away from me as I drifted overhead.

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It was disappointing to see a discarded plastic ring floating in this otherwise pristine place.  OK, it’s not the Pacific Garbage Patch, but it is a piece of plastic that will resist biodegradation for centuries or longer.

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This piece of plastic whilst solitary and small, actually served a useful purpose in triggering me to find out a few facts about plastic pollution in oceans. Apparently over 100,000 sea creatures die annually from plastic entanglement and approximately 1 million seabirds die annually from ingesting plastic. Over 8 million tonnes of plastic enter the oceans every year. I was not aware of the magnitude of the plastic pollution problem, nor of the major contribution to the problem of discarded single use plastic objects such as plastic straws, bottles and bags.


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This is the fish that was peeking out of the lair in the previous photo, now heading off.

17 seconds of video of the Port Jackson shark cruising around.



Still waters and marine gardens on the inner reef

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The waves passing over the reef were visibly aerating the water. That together with the shallowness of the water allowing so much light to penetrate have probably contributed to the dense proliferation of marine plant life.
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The reefs provide endless nooks and crannies for small fish.
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Another small fish in the centre of this image. Much more interesting seabed topography than flat featureless sand that I swim over at the main beach in Apollo Bay.  The colours were as shown.
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Beautifully rich marine gardens in the quieter reaches of the rock pools away from the wave action. It’s doubtful that there is room here for even one more plant. This is a luxuriant garden by any standard.

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Waves and currents on the ocean side of the reef

A little further offshore on a slightly more exposed area of the reef there was more water movement. The following three photos are a sequence showing a wave rolling over a section of the reef rich in plant life. The video after that shows the action of this wave in slow motion. The video goes for about 20 seconds.

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The next couple of photos show solid but short-lived currents under the ocean waves creating a Mexican wave over these pliant kelp beds. (Technically this plant may not be kelp, but I stand by my identification of the Mexican wave).

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The visibility was reduced where the wave action was more noticeable, as floating nutrients and bubbles swirled around in the currents.  The perfectly straight and still rays of sunlight provided a nice counterpoint to the constantly moving curves and swirls through which they shone.
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The dome shape of the water on the top right  is the underside of a small wave passing overhead.


This video clip was taken while I was swimming in water beneath waves  away from shore over a ridge covered in swaying marine plants. I was heading to that rocky outcrop with some large kelp on it.


This clip shows me being unexpectedly carried backwards by the current as a wave carried me away from the kelp and over the swaying kelp fronds. I just went with the flow, having no other choice really.


In this clip I was once again being unexpectedly relocated in reverse, by a slightly stronger current.  All that plant life shown in the clips was very soft to touch, whether I was brushing past it or coming into firmer contact when bumped into it by currents. It was a very friendly feeling environment.


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This image conveys better than words why I’ll be returning to this reef and these rock pools very soon – swell and tide permitting.



4 thoughts on “Southern Ocean Coastal Reef

  1. That Port Jackson shark is beautifully camouflaged against its background. The colours are extraordinarily well captured by the GoPro. Mexican Wave! All day and every day.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Port Jackson shark is a beautiful streamlined creature. I love all those fins, each one with a job to do.

      The GoPro was not used on this snorkelling expedition. The above photos and video were taken with my iPhone 8+.


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