Saturday, July 21, 2007

Nudi Sex Day

I figured since my blog is already banned in PSS anyway, what do I have to lose, and besides, it's the truth. Mike Tripp and I decided to go diving together today, for the first time ever. I know, it was long, long overdue. How can two guys who basically live underwater not have gone diving together up to now. We were going to go to Wing Beach, but it was still too rough, just no point chancing it on a day like today. If you don't believe me, you need to read the earlier post talking about my best dives ever. Then we were going to go to Lau Lau, up until Mike read the post I put up about my dives yesterday. I threw it up right before I walked out the door to get my tanks filled. Since I took DJ diving yesterday, and we did 2 Grotto dives, which were absolutely perfect and calm, Mike suggested we go to Grotto. So Grotto it was! Greg thought about coming with us for about half a second, but he opted for the lazy Saturday morning instead. Since Greg was sitting it out, I knew it was going to be a good dive, but of course it also meant my chances of finding a lost camera went down significantly. Greg just got his brand new camera to replace the last one he lost, which he only got a few weeks ago to replace the one he lost before that. Now you can see why I wanted him to come along with his brand new camera. I wouldn't mind upgrading.
The first critters we saw when we left the Grotto were a small school of barracuda. I'm really not afraid of anything like them, I always want to get closer so I can get a better picture. They are lightning fast though, and only come closer if they think you're not paying attentin to them.
Then I spotted this green sea turtle sitting on the bottom just munching away on the algae. I tried keeping a good distance between us and coming down from behind him, but he got spooked anyway, and started swimming toward Mike. Needless to say I didn't get a very good shot of him, but I'm hoping Mike's video of him turns out good. This was all within the first 5 minutes of the dive, a very good sign that this was going to be a good dive. There was a pretty strong current outside the Grotto trying to blow us back toward the Grotto, so I just went with it and started slowly drifting back toward the fan coral cave. I was hovering just above the bottom so I could see what was hiding in the holes.

Next, much to my surprise I saw this pinkish Leaf Scorpionfish. Up to now the only place I've seen them is Wing Beach, and they are usually a chocolate brown color. This one was definitely more colorful, and he was in a spot that I could get some good shots of him. He was wedged in between a couple rocks, but I had a good view looking down on him. I'd take a few pictures of everything, then turn it over to Mike to shoot some video of.
While Mike was shooting the Scorpionfish (only with the camera settle down), I saw several octopus all tucked in various holes. I thought this one was going to come out of the hole and put on a show for me, but no such luck, he came out just far enough to tease. Now after seeing all those things, this would have been a great dive for most people, but it was really just getting good for me. If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know that I love taking pictures of nudibranchs. You also know that my some of my nudibranch pictures are going to be in a couple upcoming books about nudibranchs by renowned underwater photographers and authors. The nudibranch pictured above is a Halgerda guahan. I've also seen them a couple times, and before yesterday only had a handful of pictures of this particular species. There was one on the rock the rope attaches to in the Grotto on our dive yesterday, so I shot a couple hundred shots of it. Then today as we were coming across the bottom in the Grotto, both Mike and I started spotting several of them in various spots. I was shocked, I have never seen that many all in one spot before. We both took a ton of pictures of them, but we had been down quite a while and had quite a bit of decompression time to burn off, so we started heading back up to the safety stop rock. I thought I'd take a good look on the rock just in case there were any of them hanging out on the rock again, and sure enough, there were several. Since I had a bunch of deco time to burn off anyway, it was perfect, I could just sit there and snap away as many shots as I wanted. The Halgerda guahan only has the yellow lines on it, and doesn't have any yellow lines going around the rim of the animal. Then I spotted this Halgerda malesso also on the rock. The distinguishing factors of the malesso are the yellow or orange dots at the end of the yellow lines, it's gills are darker and it has two yellow lines running around the rim of the animal. They are both very distinctive and once you know what to look for, you know which one you're dealing with. I read that Halgerda guahan was only discovered in 1993, and that there was only one picture of them until the year 2000. Until I started getting lucky with them, there were still only a few people that actually had pictures of them, which is why my pictures were in such big demand for the photographers putting together nudibranch books. Today I took over 400 pictures of both the Halgerda guahan and Halgerda malesso. We also saw a few different pairs of them mating. Now I have seen two of them mating before, but 2 that was it. Now all the sudden, they were all over in the Grotto, and mating like there was no tomorrow. So is July 21st the official nudibranch mating day, or is it only for these two species of Halgerda? Does this have anything to do with the recent coral spawning? Or was it just because Greg sat this dive out and they all wanted their pictures taken? I don't know and I don't care what the reason was, but it was a morning like none other.

And this was just the first dive of the day! Oh yes, there is more to come, much more. And we'll talk Greg pretending to be a good samaritan, talking to a Russian tourist, while he had me jacking her car up to change her tire. He may actually do a blog entry about the whole thing himself, and you can read it for entertainment sake if you'd like, but you can read the truth here. But that's going to have to wait until tomorrow, frankly I'm whipped after 3 Grotto dives today! After all, gotta rest up for a day full of dives again tomorrow.

Being Paid by the Ocean for Cleaning Up!

It's official, Axe Murderer Tours had it's second official diver yesterday. DJ, who lives in Japan and who found my blog on the internet contacted me about diving on Saipan, came and went diving with me Friday afternoon. We were hoping to do Wing Beach, but the waves there had other ideas, so we wound up at Grotto. He's an American who's been living in Japan for the past 12 years, and is an awesome guy and diver. If he ever contacts you about going diving on Saipan, I'd highly recommend him.
The conditions at Grotto were perfect and we had a couple great dives. As we came back into the Grotto though, it was obvious that the Budweiser drinking pigs have been back. I'm fairly certain that no rational person would carelessly throw their empty Budweiser cans in the Grotto when finished with them, knowing how many tourists come here just to dive the Grotto and see the beauty of it underwater. Therefore I come to the conclusion that we must have a problem with pigs who have acquired a taste for Budweiser. Obviously pigs would not think about or care about the effect that throwing their empty cans in the Grotto would have, after all, they're pigs, they wallow in the mud and all. So even though I certainly done condone the action of the swine, I pick up after them in the Grotto and try to keep it looking clean for everyone who enjoys the Grotto as much as I do.

Now you need to keep in mind that I do this every single time I dive the Grotto, look for the garbage the oinkers leave behind. So you wouldn't think there would be that much from one dive to the next, but you would be wrong. I picked over over a dozen cans, bottles, flip flops, gloves and a few other items we won't mention as well (garbage items lest anyone get the wrong idea). Anyway, after making a pretty thorough sweep of the Grotto, I went through the washing machine looking for garbage as well, yes it was that calm yesterday. After I had picked up some more garbage, DJ came up tapping me on the back and handed me a wet $20 dollar bill. After we got out of the water, he told me it was just floating behind me. Now was this the ocean's way of thanking me for taking all the garbage out of the Grotto, or was it just a clever ploy by DJ to slip me $20 for the air fills and make me think he found it floating in the water. I'm not sure, and I don't think he's telling, but for now we'll assume it was the ocean showing it's appreciation. You know the old saying, good things happen to good people, well this time, something good even happened to me - so you just never know.
Anyway, my garbage bag was full when I got out of the water, and was a bit heavy to lug back up the steps at the Grotto, but trash belongs in the trash cans at the top of the Grotto, not in the water in the Grotto. Well it's time to go diving again, more pictures later I promise.