Friday, August 31, 2007

My First Dives on Tinian

No, that's not a mermaid on the front of the Aquajet boat, it's Bev. You probably know her better as our Canon wrist accessory model, and yes she was on the job on this dive as well. This past Sunday, I went with Ken, Crystal, Eric, Dixie, Bev, Greg, the captain from the USS Bonneyman and one of his crewmembers and Atsuko. It was a perfect day to go to Tinian as the water was as close to flat as it ever gets around here. I was a bit apprehensive about taking the trip, as I'm very prone to getting sea sick, but Crystal promised she would give me a little blue pill that would take care of that problem for me. It could have been a Tic Tac for all I know, but I didn't get seasick, so I was happy - thanks Crystal.

We were all hoping to see dolphins on the trip over, but no such luck, all we got was flying fish. The trip went fairly quickly though and then we were at the Tinian Grotto. The first thing I noticed was that the visibility in the water seemed so much more clear than what I usually experience on Saipan. I don't know if it's always that way, or if it was just because of the conditions on this particular day, but it was amazing. I was the first one to roll off the boat and as soon as I did I saw this guy. This huge stingray was just sitting on the bottom and didn't seem to care that we were there. He was very accomodating and let us take all the pictures we wanted. Very cool seeing something like that up close and personal on a day dive!

Unlike the Saipan Grotto, the Tinian Grotto is completely underwater. You drop down through a hole that is probably about 6' wide and maybe 15' long and it opens up into an underwater cavern that is much smaller than the Saipan Grotto, but similar in many respects. The walls are lined with purple and pink fine lace coral, and the ground is covered with small stones and rocks. Aside from the first opening we went in, it also has a big wide open mouth facing out to the open ocean and then it has another opening on the backside with ridges and rock outcroppings. And just like the Grotto on Saipan we managed to find Halgerda guahan and malesso nudibranchs in this one too. There must be something they like about places called Grotto. Either that or they just prefer caves and caverns.

This little fire or electric oyster is one of the first things I saw in a hole inside the Grotto. You usually find them tucked way back in where they are protected. When they are open and your light hits them, it looks like there is an electric current in the opening, very cool to see. I was looking on the outside wall of the Grotto when I saw this nudibranch egg ribbon. The ones I've seen from Halgerda guahan and malesso on Saipan were more of a tan color, but this one was a bright white, so I was a little stumped as to what may have laid it, until I looked a couple inches away and saw the suspect. Sure enough, it was Halgerda guahan, but why was the egg ribbon snow white on Tinian when it is tan colored on Saipan? Difference in diet? I don't know, but it will now be one of the questions that I'll be looking for answers to. Greg actually managed to spot a Halgerda malesso over on another part of the Grotto, so it was a good nudibranch day. And then Bev decided to try getting the Canon gig once again by being the perfect Canon wrist accessory model. It was kind of funny, as I was snapping away taking pictures of her camera floating on her wrist, Crystal was trying to get her attention and warn her that I was taking more of these pictures. Fortunately I got a few good ones before Crystal got her attention. But seriously, Bev got some amazing pictures on this dive and I encourage you to go check them out on her blog. Well except for the picture she has of some kind of a shiny object just breaking the surface of the water, that one you would be well advised to ignore.

After diving the Tinian Grotto, we went to the military dump site. Not nearly as impressive, because it's....well it's a junk yard. Yup, old military vehicle wheels, chasis and axles mainly, but you occasionally see a nudibranch crawling around on it. Not a whole lot of coral has grown on it surprisingly though. I did manage to find a few other things to take some pictures of though. This octopus wasn't being very shy around me at all, so we spent a good 15 minutes together, him going up and down, me just snapping away with my camera. And right before my battery died in my camera, I discovered this very cool scorpion fish. He was just sitting there posing for me as pretty as could be. So I made sure to point him out to our official Canon wrist accessory model so she could get some good shots of him too. It was a great day of diving in the waters of Tinian and it won't be the last for me. I was totally impressed with the Aquajet dive boat owned by Scott and Atsuko Eck, and would highly recommend it. A 2 tank dive to Tinian was only $50, which I think is quite a good deal. And Scott doesn't have one price for tourists and one for locals, he charges everybody what he has to in order to cover his costs. Great diving, great friends and great pictures, what more could you ask for?


Bev said...

I'm so Happy you came! I'm even more happier that you didn't get sick! Great dive buddy =)

Ken & Crystal Pierson said...

It was fun, Harry! We'll have to do it again. Great stingray find too! He was awesome. Glad my "tic-tac" worked for ya. heh, heh...! ;-)

Brad said...

Harry, great photos, thanks for sharing! I was reading about this dive in the Micronesia dive book and told my wife we'll have to make the trip to Tinian sometime before the end of September. I'll pick up some tic-tacs in case you think you can join us! (Do they have to be blue?)

Harry Blalock said...

Bev - I'm glad I went too, I had a great time!

Crystal - As long as you bring me a blue tic tac, I'd love to do it again.

Brad - Yes, it does have to be blue, and it needs to come from Crystal. Although if it's calm enough, you really wouldn't have to twist my arm very hard to get me to do that again, it was a blast. So we're under one week and counting now huh?

Bruce A. Bateman said...

Sorry I missed that dive. I was looking forward to it for 2 weeks. Thanks for sharing your experience, Harry. At least I get the vicarious pleasure of seeing your photos.

Mark R has sworn off organizing the next one so this is a request to whoever is going to set it up. Please email me or stop by my blog and let me know. I want to go next time.


Bruce A. Bateman said...

Sorry I missed that dive. I was looking forward to it for 2 weeks. Thanks for sharing your experience, Harry. At least I get the vicarious pleasure of seeing your photos.

Mark R has sworn off organizing the next one so this is a request to whoever is going to set it up. Please email me or stop by my blog and let me know. I want to go next time.


Brad said...

Richard, although I can see why Speedy Tertle or a Chamber of Commerce member dive shop might be upset, I think you've got to understand that there are issues here besides just being a CoC member.

For one thing, Harry is helping raise interest in Saipan diving among the military. More than anyone else is. Through his blog, his axe-murderer tours, his new articles for Stars & Stripes, etc. He obviously isn't taking out every member of the U.S. military who wants to dive Saipan. And if more of the service members and their families start making the trip from Guam then everyone should benefit. Maybe they'll need to take classes, maybe they'll want to buy some gear. When I dove the Grotto with Sasha there was a U.S. Navy pilot diving with us. He'd come to Saipan with his family. They were spending money at a hotel, restaurants, and lots of other places. The money he spent with Sasha was probably the least of his vacation expenses.

Quite frankly, about a week before I came to Saipan I sent emails to the 3 dive shops I found info about online. My first morning in Saipan I got my first answer from Eric at Speedy Tertle (so they got my business). One of the shops never answered my email and the 3rd answered about 2 weeks after I'd returned to Korea.

On ScubaBoard (the largest online scuba diving chat/forum) another regular visitor to Saipan complained about the same thing. He spoke Japanese so he didn't have much of a problem. Well, it doesn't sound like those guards had a week or so to wait for an email reply and didn't know where to go to get plugged into the diving.

Okay, again, I can see how Speedy Tertle would demand the Chamber of Commerce refer them. Also, I can see why some divers would want to dive with a professional shop that can insure them in case of an accident.

But the bottom line is, Harry was just being a nice guy to some out-of-towners. He's from the Midwest, right? And if I'm not mistaken his son is in the military now too. As an American there are all kinds of reasons to want to help our servicemen and women out. Try to understand that too...we're involved in two wars right now and anyone in the service should get our support. Harry's just trying to do his part for them. He's not trying to put dive shops out of business and I don't think taking a few guys out now and then is going to kill all the dive shops on the island.

Those guys might come back to Saipan and they might not. But either way they're going to be talking about their dive experience on Saipan and that's not a bad thing, is it?

Janet King said...

Harry! Next time you're near Tinian, let me know! :-) BTW- awesome camera. Take me with you next time. :-) Janet.