Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Nick Ferris New Britain and New Ireland Papua/New Guinea
CUPS Trip Report

Where: New Britain and New Ireland Papua/New Guinea
When: 05/06/2001 - 05/20/2001
By: Nick Ferris

Type: Live-aboard
Accomodations: M/V FeBrina
Dive operator: M/V FeBrina

1. The ship is 73 feet long, sleeps 12 in 6 rooms, most of which have “en suite” facilities. Fe is the chemical symbol for iron; Brina is sort of a feminized (well, she’s a ship, y’know) word for brine, i.e. as in the briney deep. It translates as Iron on the Ocean. Now you know.

Except for strobe recharge, voltage was 240. The only serious drawback in topside design was that there was (maybe still is) just one dogged hatchway from the living and eating quarters, thru the edge of the galley, to the dive deck. It was a constant bottleneck, and a painful one until you got used to the foot-high combing.

2. This was a typical Papua/New Guinea trip, run between New Britain and New Ireland, two fairly large volcanic islands east of the main island/nation of Papua/New Guinea. In our case we left Walindi Plantation on the north shore of New Britain and meandered northeast to New Ireland in 10 days; we then flew back to Port Moresby, while a fresh bunch of divers came aboard at New Ireland. The Airport Hotel at Port Moresby is new, beautiful, has a fantastic view, and is within a guarded compound. Personnel pick you up at the airport nearby, and take you there for your flight to Cairns, Australia.

3. The weather was decent nearly all the time, but there was not much sun, so those artsy shots with the sun in them were rare. The one squall we encountered was after the last dive of the day. Waves and swells were not a problem. Current was usually not a problem, except at certain times in the passages (which are topographic constrictions) of New Ireland. The weather is probably like this much of the year. Trips run in October are popular. Visibility was always good but seldom more than 80 feet. Water temperature was about 84; a 7 mil Farmer John should be more than sufficient.

4. Alan Raabe, the legendary Aussie captain and part owner was in Australia drying out or getting medical attention, so the entire operation was under the command of Matt Johnson. He is excellent – a good sailor and a good dive master. Cooking, humor, and smart-ass remarks were the domain of Hannah Wilson. With her presiding over the culinary arts, you get what you want the way you want it. With wine, no less. The biggest challenge was surviving Hannah’s “Death By Chocolate” (Kathy O., pay attention).

5. Diving is via “giant stride” technology, not from “tinnies” or pangas. Most tanks aluminum 80s, some larger and smaller, filled to more than 3000 psi. Most of the divers were photographers, some quite serious. They and the crew were careful with the photo gear. There were two large water barrels for photo stuff, and a large work bench for working on them.

There were nearby shelves for stowage between dives. Strobes could be recharged on those shelves at 110 volts. The photography is given high priority, and the dive masters were on the lookout for favorite targets. On board E-6 processing was available, albeit irregularly. This is important if you wonder whether the camera, strobe, or you are organized correctly.

There were lots of colorful fish, with occasional sharks (white tips, silver tips, gray whalers), coral in good condition, a nice variety of invertebrates, and the odd sea snake or turtle. Books on board identified the wildlife. One dive was a designated shark dive, with a bag of frozen fish and a rubber chicken. The sharks were quick to tell the difference. Night dives were popular, and generally in shallow water. A light was attached to a line from the boat for guidance.

The last dive was the pier at Kavieng, New Ireland; could have spent all day there. Piers seem to be without peer when it comes to attracting a great variety of critters, e.g., the Navy Pier at Exmouth, Western Australia, or Bonaire’s famous Town Pier.

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