The Needle of Prony

All details are below (click for direct link) :

1°) Dive site description
2°) The ITINERAIRiES to take you to Goro
3°) USEFUL INFORMATION about the day (timing,cost, lodging, meals, etc...).


The Bay of Prony is situated in the south of the mainland, near to Woodin Channel, which separates it from Ouen Island.
This channel is not only a passage for navigating, but also for amazing underwater animal life (whales, sharks... all you count as "big"). The drop-offs here are very steep.

The "Cathedral", a very profound formation
The Bay of Prony is huge with luxurious vegetation all around like a jungle.
Within the bay there are 3 inlets : The great inlet of the west, with the "village" of Prony built for the prison on the north bank and, in the middle of the inlet, Casy Isle with a colonial style hotel/restaurant. Half way between the village and the island, there is the famed "Aiguille de Prony" (Needle of Prony) . The North Inlet, with its small Gabriel Isle and drowning in jungle is only accessible by sea. There are still remnants of the convict prison all along the winding river up until some beautiful waterfalls. The East inlet (Bonne Anse), with a favourable mooring behind "Cap Ndoua", is an excellent point from which to see the whales.
A view of the needle at 30 metres, with a diver near the summit
On the left you can just see the Cathedral
After 2 hours travel from Noumea, we enter the Bay of Prony with a strange impression of finding ourselves in a high mountain lake. Surrounded by hills of green and ochre, strewn with colonial pine trees, which gives this characteristic stamp of the massive mines of the Caledonian South mainland.

We slow down to attach to a buoy. We are at a geological vertical phenomenom unique to the world. Imagine a large underwater structure in the shape of a pyramid being many metres around at the base, 38m deep and culminating just 2m under the surface with a flat plate surface of 4 m2.

Suspended in the void, the divers can put their hands into hot holes of the crumbly material.
This natural formation is one of three major thermal outlet sources of the area. By analogy with the other structures within the lagoon, this construction was for many years incorrectly thought to be like a coral reef. However, formation was started by a chemical reaction mixing thermal water with the sea water. This was producing brucite, associated with calcium, aragonite and a small amount of burbankite. Jean Launay, a geologist at ORSTOM in Noumea studied and sampled much of this phenomena.
These loose edged holes trap fresh hot water coming from the heart of the needle.
The surface is like oil. From time to time, the noise of water rippling from hunting bonitos, or the cries of a tern (local bird) tear the silence. With a last check of my lights, I grab the end and jump in. A little school of small trevally approach unafraid. I start a spiral around this enormous pyramid completely covered by bivalves. There are masses of coral here and there that have found strong standing on the pyramid.

Following the descent, I enjoy the company of many groupers and numerous tropical scorpion fish. There ia a red carpet of dust sweeping sideways from the land along the bottom of the bay. The smallest knock from a fin lifts a cloud, not allowing even the slightest view. I make a second needle, 5m high, shifting from the main structure. A look to the surface and it's an amazing impression, unreal, like from another planet. I don't have the words to descibe it! These stalagmites are surrounded by very colourful fish, showing us we are well in their tropical marine world and not in any old land cave. From the bottom, I go to explore in a direction leaving the centre of the needle. I can only find a bottom of monotonal coloured mud. This pyramid dominates a desert... of sludge.

There are many fishing lines tangled in the unevenness of the walls, thick nylon cords, testifying that here there is a seasonal phenomenon - the spawning from the "mother groupers". In December, the groupers are swarming and and attract many fishermen. In a desert environment, the Needle of Prony provides an oasis around which there are an exuberant number of marine animals. On the oldest lines there are clusters of zig-zagging oysters.

An unused anchor lies at -27 metres, its weary all over the needle
The "Cathedral"
seen from below

The Needle of Prony is the result of hydrothermal activity at 33°C causing on contact with the sea water, salt precipitations of calcium and mangesium, making a white colour

This phenomenon of nature, especially interesting for the geologists, has no less affected the french film maker Luc Besson. After having fitted out the circumference of the "Cathedral" with a battery of lights, he directed an amazing sequence that you can see in his film "Atlantis".

The Needle of Prony offers divers the assurance of a most unusual visit. Of a ghostly spectacle, truly original, like nowhere else and causing strong emotions.

Texte : Pierre Larue.

This cell wall has been opened by the effect by the sliding mud - a invitaton for freedom..
Beautiful marine life revolves around the Needle, a real oasis in the middle of this quiet and primitive bay
The "Noumea Diving" against the bank of the North Inlet
A walker feels his way along the banks towards a rewarding waterfall
The water contained in this carnivorous plant is a trap for insects

2°) How to get there?

NOUMEA DIVING is the only company offering dives on the Needle of Prony and in the Woodin Channel.

The Imperator docked at the Casy Hotel
Photos : Raoul Monthouël.


Length of stay: 1 day
Booking time: 3 weeks before, payment at booking (not cashed before departure)
Number of Dives: 2 dives
Sites : Needle of Prony, Woodin Channel (drift dive)
Meals : BBQ on board IMPERATOR
Minimum dive experience : Open Water + 20 dives
Dive package: 11 400 F (tanks and weights included) - 15 % if also booking for Goro (4 dives 19,890 F).

Transfers by personal/rental car (travel times are: Noumea-Prony about 1 1/2hrs via Plum; Port Boisé-Prony about 30 min.)
8H00 Rendez-vous at Prony wharf
(all your equipment can be left aboard the boat in Noumea the day before)
9H00 Dive n° 1 on the Needle
11H00 Dive n° 2 drift dive along the Woodin Channel
13H00 BBQ on board (2,500 F), or pic-nic in the village (prior reservation)

We advise people to rent a car so they can enjoy many nearby attractions and destinations, either on the journey or while spending extra time at the Bay of Prony. There are many english maps detailing things to see and do. If preferred, however, with group bookings we can arrange transfer by minibus.


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