Diving the Kamikaze Drop Off

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Photo by Martin Wallis

This is where it all started. This was the preparation dive to check out our safety procedures and protocol with Yukon Dive Charters before undertaking the Puriri and Niagara dives which I covered in the previous two editions of Dive Pacific.

This was also the most technical of the three dives due to our surface support and boat crew needing to look after two separate teams of divers.

Photo by Martin Wallis

The Kamikaze Drop-off is a smallish reef about 200-300 metres east of Serpent Rock at the Poor Knights Islands, and while it has obviously been named I don’t believe it had ever been properly dived before. A pity, because in my opinion this is the most picturesque, diverse, photographic, and hence best dive sites at the Poor Knights.

The Kamikaze Drop-off at the top is a plateau with a diameter about 40m across and which is at a pretty constant 67-70m depth.

Our two teams were made up of three divers each and we separated the descents of each team by 30 minutes, perfect for this reef. Having two small teams do separate dives meant we would not excessively clutter the reef, and leave plenty of opportunities for taking wide-angle photos.

We were keen to spend as much time as possible in this untouched place so we planned for a bottom time of 40 minutes, which required a total run time, using our chosen gases, of just over three hours. It meant we had to carry plenty of OC (Open Circuit) bail-out gas between each team.

Shot line

Glenn Edney, our favourite technical expedition skipper, put a shot line down beside the reef, not on top of it, so as to not inadvertently damage any of the abundant reef life there.

Team One consisting of myself, Guy Bate and Dave Pearce, went down the shot line, spent our allocated time on the reef, and on the way back were passed by Team Two – Andrew Simpson, Darryl Lowndes and Ian Skipworth – who came down the same shot line that we ascended.

Photo by Martin Wallis

Marker buoys deployed

From the first decompression stop, Team One deployed the SMB to which the surface crew then attached our floating deco buoy with additional bail-out gases. There was next to no water movement so keeping the floating deco line attached to the shot line was relatively simple.

This was indeed part of the plan so that Team Two would meet up with us during decompression, release the floating deco line from the shot line, and have all six divers decompress together under the floating deco buoy, and this would allow the surface crew to follow us in the tender if we should drift.

Photo by Martin Wallis

The one unforeseen scenario that occurred was that the deco buoy pulled on the shot line somewhat, dragging it out across the sand away from the reef, so Team Two found they had to follow its drag marks in the sand to find the shot line.

Photo by Martin Wallis

The reef

There is basically nowhere on the reef not colonized by some form of life. Black coral with snake stars, jewel anemones and leopard anemones live here, a myriad of sponges and other encrusting life, barrel sponges, pink maomao, scorpion fish, butterfly perch, splendid perch and a good-sized school of golden snapper! Yellow gorgonian fans and Oculina coral smother the place.

With the significant bottom time we had planned for we found the time for Team One to traverse the plateau twice. No part of the reef was left unseen or unexplored. Nevertheless I for one can’t wait to get back there. The site definitely deserves to be dived multiple times.

Photo by Martin Wallis

Big thanks

A big thanks to Kirsten Henry, Marcel Groonheim, Nahuel Kondratzky. These technical dives simply can’t be done without surface support provided by people like these with the technical diving know how.

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