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Australia: Far North Reefs 2017

October 10 2017

Exploring Australia's Far North and Great Detached Reef from a new perspective with the Trident OpenROV. Very near Papua New Guinea, there is a wilderness of coral reef there that is very rarely visited, including a rookery for green sea turtles.

October 10 2017


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Debriefing Stage

Everyone that saw the Trident was excited by what we are doing with it; however, conditions on board did not allow others to interact much with it except as observers.

Mission Underway

Check back soon for some video from the Trident as well as video taken topside while preparing and operating the Trident.

Dive 2

Day 4

On the 4th day of the trip we were able to make the second test dive. As mentioned in Trident Dive 1, I found and added the ballast weights (due to the salinity of seawater).

Again there was surface current due to waves. Although there was an anchor line to the coral beds there was no other reference. The wind and surface current caused the Trident to be easily bobbed around and I easily lost visual to the reference line.

The balast weights definitely aided in getting below the surface quickly without "diving" at a steep descent. After several minutes of not getting very far from the boat, one of the crew jumped in the water (with scuba gear) and took the trident to about 2 - 3 meters. As it turned out that ended up being the end of the 25 meter cable. We had no way of communicating that so once he gave the signal that he was letting go of the trident (waving hand directly in front of camera) I did my best to keep the trident lined up with the underwater reference. But being at the end of the tether created additional challenges of maintaining direction and depth.

The Trident swung back around (operator issue I am sure) and took a really nice clip of the "assistant". Shortly thereafter I lost visual reference to the line and was once again in blue water. Shortly thereafter I ended the dive.

I will post the short video once we are back to land.

There were no more opportunities to dive the Trident on this first half of the Australian expedition. To continue following the expedition pick up the expedition for the Sevengill Sharks in Australia.

One comment I have have is that a depth gauge reference on the monitor would be extremely useful.


Dive 1

Day 2 aboard the Spirit if Freedom

The first half of the Australia expedition is on a live aboard dive boat leaving Cairns and heading to the Coral Sea and then the Far Detached Reef. Due to wind typically above 15 knots there was a lot of wind current. The vessel was never closer than 50 meters to the reef so the 25 meter cable only allowed for blue water diving.

On the second full day of the trip, we were able to make a first test dive; however, we had a number of challenges.

First, because the boat crew has not had experience with these devices I was required to wait until Cod Hole (3rd dive site). In addition, I was only allowed to dive the Trident between the dives when scuba divers were back on the boat.

In addition, I misplaced my ballast weights. The water here has a higher salinity that San Diego and I am guess the Trident is neutral for fresh water. That is definitely something to properly plan for.

Test Dive We had a lot of surface chop and some current. Without the ballast weights it was difficult to get the Trident below the surface. Had some success but I had put a screen protector and the tablet and we having challenges, especially since my finger were damp due to the wind blowing salt spray around.

I had a GoPro on as POV of me operating the Trident but there was too much back light and you can't really see the screen. I did not record the video as it was very murky because the Trident didn't get to the proper depths. Upon reflection I should run the video no matter what.

The dive crew members were very intrigued and assisted me with the reel.

I realize that you really need a reel tender.

Ocean salinity — Science Learning Hub)

Also see, Map of ocean salinity

Almost back to land. We will be dropped off at Lockhart River mouth by dinghy. Then bussed to the remote town of Lockhart. We then go to a tiny airstrip in the jungle, in order to get back to Cairns. I will be there for 2 nights before heading south to Melbourne, Victoria to seek Sevengill sharks.

I will post details and video of the Trident test dives when I get to Cairns (pronounced "caans")

Almost back to land. We will be dropped off at Lockhart River mouth by dinghy. Then bussed to the remote town of Lockhart. We then go to a tiny airstrip in the jungle, in order to get back to Cairns. I will be there for 2 nights before heading south to Melbourne, Victoria to seek Sevengill sharks.

I will post details and video of the Trident test dives when I get to Cairns (pronounced "caans")

Day 2, Ribbon Reefs 9 and 10
This will be updated to indicate which sites the Trident dives

  • Dive 1 Coral Princess Bommie
  • Dive 2 Pixie Pinnacle
  • Dive 3 Code Hole
  • Dive 4 Cod Hole

Day 1 Successfully reached the live aboard dive boat, Spirit of Freedom, an hour before departure. Cellular access has been very limited dispute what my carrier said.

Evening was all about briefings, setting up gear, and settling in. Plan is to drive all night to out first destination.


Domestic flight to Cairns boarding was interrupted due to threat of lightening. Upon final equipment checks a fuel pump was found to not be working. Thank goodness for the lightening threat! We deplaned and are changing planes. They have to transfer all of our luggage.

Now I am very thankful for ensuring the most critical equipment is in my carry-on even if my feet are hurting from all of the extra weight.

Just landed in Sydney. I have to clear customs then take a domestic flight to Cairns.

Preparation Stage

Final preparation for an intenational flight was a bit challenging. Things to consider:

  • Do your connecting domestic flights allow for the same number of checked and carry-on bags?
  • Are the allowed weights the same for all segments?
  • What must you carry on and what can you check?

I am also going to be scuba diving. So I have a lot of gear that weighs a lot. I had to make the following hard decisions:

  • Carry-on must include the entire Trident system, including the table, chargers, and memory cards
  • Carry-on also needed to include my top-side backup cameras
  • Underwater housing, lights, and even regulator went into my checked bags. I would not normally do this.
  • Minimal change of clothes, tioletries, etc.
  • Pretty much anything that can be replaced or bought at the destination went into the checked bags.

An alternative that can also be helpful when travelling internationally is to bring along a sherpa/tender. Not only will they help you with getting the gear around but you can use their bags to distrubute the gear, and get more into the carry-ons.

Here is the video for packing all of the other "must have" camera gear for carry-on.

Packing must have camera equipment

Received the Trident OpenROV underwater drone yesterday. Tonight I will set it up and make sure it talks to my laptop. I'm not sure if I will be able to dive it before getting on the plane.

So excited!!

Thank you to the entire OpenROV team for helping me get setup for this expedition.

With just a few weeks to go on an international expedition to the opposite side of the world and the opposite hemisphere there are a number of things to consider:

  • Flight time
  • How to adjust to sleep to a 14 hour time difference
  • How to pack camera equipment when you have a charter flight weight limit that is more than 50 lbs less that your internatiional flight
  • Cellular providers and data service
  • Packing lists (with weight, see above)
  • Dietary concerns
  • Weather in both the North and South of the continent (trip part A and part B)
  • Local contacts and resources
Expedition Background

Look at a map below and see how near the northeast quadrant of Australia is to Papua New Guinea. There is a wilderness of coral reef there that is very rarely visited. Definitely no day boats, and this liveaboard only a couple of times per year will visit.

We start the expedition in Cairns, a wonderful destination in itself. This allows us to sample the best of the Ribbon Reefs, including the iconic Cod Hole and Pixie Bommie, as we dive and motor to the north. For more detail on the tropical coral reefs of Queensland, please see [Alert Diver - Tropic Queensland] (

Eventually we cross into the Great Detached Reef region. Aside from the pristine coral reefs and abundant marine life, this is also the location of Raine Island, a rookery for most of the green sea turtles in the Great Barrier Reef region. We will be there at prime nesting time, and as you might expect, we won’t be allowed to go onto the island and disturb the nesting, but we will be able to dive offshore to see the predators that tend to congregate that might feed on an adult green sea turtle or the hatchlings. This includes tiger sharks, which would indeed be a fortunate photo opportunity, although unlikely. Our time at sea will be 7 days