Christmas Island’s First Underwater Digital Shootout

It is a fact that Christmas Island has some of the best diving in the world, with warm waters, healthy corals, abundant marine life and forever vis – just ask a local! So for a bit of fun and a chance to show off the underwater world a digital shootout was organised as part of Territory Week.
Christmas Island became a part of Australia on 1 October 1958 and celebrates this late entry with a week long (actually 10 days or so) festival of dance, music, art, and games fusing the local mix of Chinese, Malay and European cultures.

So it was a rather hyped band of divers who took to the waters over a weekend in late September to get these magical shots.

Cave by Hama, Christmas IslandA healthy competition ensued with the first divers taking to the waters on Friday night at Flying Fish Cove. This 'house reef' provides excellent night dives with loads of critters coming out to play and is an easy dive from the shore. Imagine – just after dark donning your dive gear, then strolling across a small beach to plunge into the blackness and watch the night time world come alive. After an hour of moseying around and taking photos returning to the shore to be enveloped in the tropical air, take a warm shower where you left your dive gear, cook a hot BBQ and sink a cold beer. It's all possible and that was the start of the weekend.

Garden Eel by Robin Hughes, Christmas IslandOver the next two days, divers took to their favourite spots on the shore or from the boats. The support from the dive boat operators was excellent with a series of slow dives being on offer. With most of the photographers using the compact digitals now readily available the slow dives were a little shallower and a little longer to enable the photographers to find the perfect shot.

Christmas Island diving is usually relaxed with little current, warm waters and many dive sites only a short boat ride away. The options are immense. Walls and steep drop offs, after all the Island rises dramatically from the sea with steep cliffs reaching upwards to tree covered terraces. These provide a home for many birds and crabs, including the endemic red crab and the world's largest land crab – the robber.

Family of Tobis by Linda Cash, Christmas IslandThe coral gardens and bommies harbour many colourful tropical fish and hide critters including dragon and ribbon eels. There are anemone gardens, caves and even wrecks, the Eisvold and the Nissei Maru both sunk in the Second World War. Something for everyone, and for people who like their subjects big, Christmas Island has whale sharks - although they did not arrive in time for this paparazzi event. Must have mislaid their invitation!

And amazing shots were taken, judged and shown. A good crowd, including many non-divers, turned up at the viewing to see the best of the macro and wide angle shots and to judge the peoples choice.

The clear winner was our regular international guest Rob Hughes with his stunning shot of a garden eel. This image was also judged the best overall photo, much to the delight of the audience, and the dismay of the local divers (only kidding Rob – through you we have now seen a garden eel close up). Rob had only just flown in for a diving holiday from England and will leave with a range of Christmas Island goodies donated by local business, great memories and an invitation to join in again next year.

Porcelain Crabs by John Jaycock, Christmas IslandLocal divers Linda Cash won the best wide angle for a family of Tobys and John Jaycock snapped some snapping porcelain crabs for the best macro photo. A special prize was awarded to Hama for the quality and range of his portfolio.

The Shootout was supported by local businesses including Wet'n'Dry Adventures, Indian Ocean Diving Academy, National Jet Systems and the Christmas Island Tourism Association. Territory Week will be celebrated next year in late September and all are welcome to join in the fun.

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