A male Weedy Seadragon with eggs under Flinders Pier, Victoria (Photo: Jules Casey)
On a visit to Victoria, Australia in December 1998 Hayley and I took the opportunity to do some pier dives with her sister Melanie at Portsea, Flinders and on a different day at Queenscliff. Melanie lived in Melbourne at the time but later went back to Brisbane. In particular at Flinders we had high hopes of seeing seadragons, endemic to the southern coast of Australia. The seadragons are a subfamily of Syngnathidae which also includes seahorses and pipefishes.
Flinders Pier is a hotspot for the Weedy seadragon that is the marine emblem for the state of Victoria. The Leafy seadragon is the marine emblem for the state of South Australia. We were very lucky on one of our dives at Flinders also to get to see a Leafy specimen and I became very fascinated by these incredible fish. Unfortunately, these days the Victoria State Government have announced plans to demolish the 180 metres long pier instead of keep maintaining it. The pier dates back to 1864 and is a historical landmark worth preserving. It is the habitat of these rare creatures and Flinders Pier is the most accessible place for any diver to go and see them. Naturally, this has generated a petition to save the pier. So far it has passed 39 000 signatures and they’re trying to reach 50 000.
It’s a cause I believe it’s well worth supporting! Sign the petition
EDIT: In May 2022 the Victoria Government reversed its decision to demolish the historic Flinders Pier and instead to fund the restoration.
The painting on the left of a Weedy seadragon was done in 1832 by one of earliest artists in Australia, the English convict William Buelow Gould. His SKETCHBOOK OF FISHES from that year, consisted of 36 different water colours on paper, many of them of exceptionally high standard. I first discovered this picture on a postcard but have realised since that it’s become quite well known. The picture on the right is of another male Weedy seadragon carrying eggs. Like seahorses it’s the male seadragons that care for the eggs after the females lay them under their tails.
Pictured above left: Hayley and F-T (still in our late 20s!!!) in front of Flinders Pier, December 10th 1998. We also dived Portsea that day (and Queenscliff on the other side of the narrow port entrance on the 19th). The map on the right (zoom to enlarge) shows Flinders with Portsea and Queenscliff slightly to the NW. Seen on the far right of the map is the small township of Nyora, where I interviewed the naturalist & pointer breeder Owen Dawson on December 15th.