Monday, September 17, 2007

Awesome Weekend of Diving!

I wound up diving by myself all weekend, which is not at all unusual for me, but it really paid off this time. When I'm by myself I tend to take more time looking in every little nook and cranny to see what might be there. The main theme from this weekend seemed to be turtles, and I've got some very cool turtle stories to tell, but you're going to have to wait a day or two for them. All my turtle encounters happened at Lau Lau Bay, and I want to talk about my Sunday morning Grotto dive first. It was a beautiful sunny morning so I figured visibility would be amazing and the colors would all be standing out. When I jumped into the water it was like jumping into a bowl of pea green soup, visibility was horrible, maybe 30'. I couldn't even see the exits to the ocean from the rope rock. I wondered if there had been an earthquake that had sealed off the Grotto or something. But no, the openings were still there, visibility was just that bad!

I headed out #1 and went down to the turnaround rock to see if I could find any turtles, but again visibility was so bad I really couldn't see very far away so I had to go fairly close to the bottom. On the way back to the Grotto though I saw this big red Lionfish under a shelf just sitting there on the sand. He looked truly majestic just floating there with his feathers all flaired and rippling in the current. There was so much debris floating in the water I wasn't sure if any of the shots were going to turn out or not, but surprisingly this turned out to be some of my best Lionfish shots ever - things were looking up!

I got back into the Grotto and started looking for nudibranchs. I looked in all the usual spots and didn't find any, not a single one. That's very unusual for me, I seem to be able to find these things no matter what. But I was getting skunked, I couldn't believe it. I was looking over some of the red algae covered rocks just down from the rope rock a little ways when all the sudden I caught what looked like nudibranch gills swaying in the current. Sure enough I got a little closer and this is what I saw. I had to do a double take, shake my head a few times and then pinch myself to make sure I was really awake. You can't even begin to imagine how excited I was. I have been looking for that nudibranch in the top of the picture for over a month now. Mark James got some great shots of it a while back and up until now I still hadn't been able to spot one, but now I finally had him. But that's not all, not only did I have him, but I caught him in the middle of having sex with a Halgerda guahan! This new one is a Halgerda johnsonorum, but what was it doing mating with a Halgerda guahan? I sat there for over an hour just watching the two of them, until they eventually came apart and each wandered off to their separate bedrooms. And no, they didn't just happen to be next to each other, they were definitely coupled together. So just how significant is it to have pictures of two different species of nudibranchs mating? Well, I've read where the experts have hypothesized about this happening and that's how we get some of the unique variations of nudibranchs that don't fit into any of the current classifications, but I've never seen any pictures that proved it actually happens. They may be out there and I just haven't run across them, but I seriously doubt there can be that many. So I've sent the pictures off to a couple of the experts and I'm eagerly waiting to hear back from them about it. I had several groups of Japanese divers come over to see what I was taking pictures of over and over so I showed the frisky interracial nudibranchs to them and let them get all the pictures they wanted too.In the next couple days I'll tell you about my turtle encounters and show you some very cool video and pictures. Here is one just to give you a taste of what is to come.


Tamara said...

totally awsome post! Im so looking forward to the turtle tales! Looks like you had as much fun under the water as I had on top :)

Ken & Crystal Pierson said...

Hey! You saw the black lined nudie I found a month ago! Cool! Glad you finally saw it too!

Bruce A. Bateman said...

Any idea what caused the normally clear viz at the Grotto to be reduced to only 30 ft?

Amaziing photos of interspecies mating, Harry. Thats like getting a lion and a cheeta to mate, only with fewer claws and fangs. This is some big news. Please let us know wht the experts have to say on the subject.