What lies beneath

A piano. Yes. A piano. Not playable now, of course, as its demise happened quite a few years ago, but what remains of it is resting underwater somewhere off the south-west side of Scotland Island. Why it’s there is something of a mystery, but it joins many, many other items that aren’t exactly native to the environment. 

“It was the norm years ago to get rid of stuff in the water. People thought it would go away. It doesn’t. It never, ever goes away, ” says Ken Noble, who before retirement spent a fair bit of time working underwater as a diver and running his business Broken Bay Diving Services.

Ken has seen motor bikes, bits of slipway, tyres, 44 gallon drums, old bottles, you name it. He used to tell people that if they accidently dropped something over the side to just tell him – he’d bring it back up. Not everyone did.

Brent Taylor of Broken Bay Barges tells similar stories. “The bottom of Pittwater is beautiful in places but unfortunately everywhere you look is something that shouldn’t be there. Earlier generations and even some people now have used it as a dumping ground. It’s sad.”

To Ken’s list of items Brent can add toilets, washing machines and stoves along with the inevitable sunken boats (which are legion). “The attitude was it makes a home for the fish,” says Brent. “It does create structure for the fish to live in and around but the thing is, they don’t need it. Fish were there a long time before this stuff was thrown in.”

Brent echoes Ken in saying that what goes in there mostly stays in there – forever. Old timber boats would break down but things like fibreglass and aluminium dinghies, solar panels, porcelain and plastic aren’t biodegradable. “It’s all still there.”

What’s also there is a rich array of sea life. There are seals, stingrays, turtles, penguins and octopuses in this very special place, and fortunately the community is becoming more attentive to them and the need to make Pittwater hospitable for them.

One of Pittwater’s small but perfectly formed creatures. Photo by Andy Mueller

“People are more aware,” says Brent, who attributes some of this to the development of fish finders that can show in detail what is beneath the surface. A device that was once the preserve of game fishers in big vessels is now within the grasp of people in tinnies.  “People with a kayak can see what’s on the bottom of the ocean where previously they couldn’t.”

If you look on the positive side the bay is certainly getting a lot cleaner,” Brent says. “There are oysters everywhere, you see starfish and sea dragons and turtles. Octopuses love the place. There’s a lot of sea life if you’re willing to have a look.”

Brent has been a professional diver for nearly 25 years and salvage and disposal are an important part of his business. Spending his working life on the water has made him passionate about what’s under it and in recent months he’s got rid of nearly 100 boats that perhaps in earlier times would have been given a watery grave.

It’s a job, sure, but keeping this glorious place as pristine as possible – well, it’s also close to being a calling.

Story By: Deborah Jones

Feature Image: A denizen of the (not so) deep. Photo by Sara Nimmo

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