Michael McFadyen's Scuba Diving - Middle Ground North
The southern side of Sydney has literally dozens of dive sites, so many that even we do not dive them all. As there is now no dive charter boat that dives out of Port Hacking, the only way you can visit these sites is with a private boat. Our dive club, St George Scuba Club, does most of its diving south of Botany Bay.
One of the spots that we dive is called Middle Ground. This is located straight out of Port Hacking, in a direct line with Oak Park. In the early 1990s my friends and I started diving this spot, having noticed its location on a new Department of Public Works and Services seabed chart. Les Caterson, who used to own half of my boat, remembered diving it then and we found it without too much trouble. Les, who has been diving the coastline off Royal National Park since the 1950s, tells me that he used to dive this site back then but over the years people stopped visiting it.
Anyway, the main local dive operator then, Max Western in Seatamer II, started diving the site, but after a while he used to dive a bit to the north-east of the site we preferred. I dived it a few times with him and also in our boat, but I doubt that I have dived it since about 1995.
Over the past few years we have talked about refinding that reef, so on 18 February 2015, we decided to have a go. We headed north-east from the Middle Ground GPS spot and 130 metres later we found the reef. A bit of running around found the best spot to anchor so we hooked up. The GPS is 34ΒΊ 04.301'S 151ΒΊ 11.526'E using WGS84 as a datum. The bottom rises from 32 or 33 metres to about 29 metres. The reef runs from the north-west to the south-east. Note that the reef is not very big, so you may need to drop your anchor on the sand and hang back in the wind/current onto the reef.
|One of the thousands of tiger anemones
|A gorgonia on the western wall
As mentioned, the reef runs north-west to south-east, so once on the bottom, if you cannot see the edge of the reef, head at right-angles to this direction and you should find the edge within 20 metres. The best wall is on the eastern side of the reef and especially at the northern end. From the GPS spot, follow the reef to the north (assuming you are now on the eastern side). The wall is two to three metres high and there are some small overhangs all along it. There is a sort of inlet near the northern end and then a couple of larger boulders on the reef top.
Go to the north and then around the top and come back along the western side. The wall here is much lower, but there are still some small overhangs. The reef top has lots of sea tulips and sponges all over the place. There are also plenty of gorgonias, probably more than I have ever seen off a southern Sydney dive site.
The reef top is covered in sea whips, most of which have resident tiger anemones. Some have up to half a dozen. This is one of the few spots in Sydney where you can see them.
Follow the western edge towards the south-east. You might see eastern blue devilfish and pineapplefish here. After about 50 metres the reef lowers a bit and there is also a bit more reef off over the sand. You will see a large crack that runs to the north. Follow this and you will come to the eastern side of the reef after about 25 metres.
Since 2015 I have started diving the site a bit more. It has always been good.