Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Virtual Dive

I had so many good dives and took so many awesome pictures that I decided it was time for another virtual dive for you, especially for those of you having to deal with snow and winter right now. I saw this baby dogfaced pufferfish outside of the Grotto Sunday morning. He was playing hide and seek with me in a hole. He didn't want to come right out and let me get a full picture, but he did come far enough out to capture the cute face at least.
Of course it wouldn't be one of my dives without a nice assortment of nudibranchs. This guy was perched on top of this little outcropping of rock, they are only about an inch long so you really have to be looking carefully to spot them. When I do manage to spot one, I'll spend 5-10 minutes with him just shooting a bunch of different shots and different angles to see which ones come out the best. This is probably the most common nudibranch that I see on my dives, I think it's a Phyllidia Varicosa. The purple bumps actually look green underwater without light directly on them. You will see these guys just cruising around on the bottom and on rocks. But again you have to look closely, they aren't very big.
As I was just skimming the bottom outside of the Grotto I caught this attempted murder on camera. The colorful crab in the top shell was trying to kill the spider conch in the bottom shell so he could move into a bigger house. Was this just another case of shell envy or did the crab really have need of a bigger house? I don't really know, but I did carry the crab about 50 yards away and I set the spider conch on the base so he could crawl away.
I was also very excited this weekend to discover a couple Halgerda guahan and malesso's back in the Grotto. I haven't seen any of them for about 3 months now, so it was a very cool sighting for me. I'm thinking that they may vacation in Tinian for the winter months and have just started their return. I don't know if they go into hibernation for a while or what, but it's great to have them back out to photograph once again.
I was really excited when I discovered this Halgerda malesso in the same general area as the guahan. This is my favorite nudibranch to photograph. I love the design on it and the way it contrasts with the deep blue of the ocean in the background. I think they start kicking in with their mating season again in June or July, so that's when to start really looking for them. Right now they are still an unexpected surprise whenever you stumble across one.
I was just floating fairly shallow outside the Grotto burning off my decompression time when I found myself in the middle of this school of Tuna. I could have sworn that I saw Charlie in the middle of it. It's always an awesome feeling to be completely surrounded by fish like this though, especially when they're all fairly good size.
Another thing I always enjoy taking pictures of are the big sweeping orange sea fans that are inside and outside of the Grotto. If you see them in the Grotto without a light, they will just look dark, and you don't realize what a vibrant orange color they really are. But when the flash of the camera goes off, all the sudden you get an idea of just how spectacular they really are.

I also enjoy capturing them with the blue of the ocean showing through when you take a close up of them. I hope you've enjoyed this little virtual dive, I'll post a few more dive pictures over the next day or so, and then it's off to Bali for 10 days. Kelli and I will be doing a little diving down there and of course taking a ton of pictures. I'll try to make a couple posts while I'm down there, but I'll have tons of pictures to post when I get back.

1 Weekend = 7 dives

I managed to get in 7 dives over the long weekend, 1 on Friday and 2 each on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. I saw turtles, nudibranchs, lionfish, eels and tons of other things, but by far the most impressive was this Napolean Wrasse at the Grotto. I managed to see him on 2 different dives on different days, which I hope means that he's considering making that area his new home. While not as big as the ones that were speared and appeared in the newspaper recently, this guy was probably a good 60-70 pounds anyway. He made the Bluefin Trevally above him look small, and the Trevally was a good 2 feet long. I'm not about to go jumping into the debate about spearing such a fish and whether or not they're actually endangered. I just want to say it was extremely awesome being in the water with such a huge fish.
While I may be staying out of the spearfishing debate, I am not staying out of the illegal fishing at the Grotto issue. The illegal fisherman have been hitting it harder and harder lately, but this last weekend it was absurd how much fishing line, lead sinkers, pieces of rebar, bolts, nuts, and chunks of concrete that are used for sinkers I cleaned off the coral and the cliff line outside the Grotto. On my Friday dive I noticed that the entire cliff line on the outside between holes #2 and #3 was spider webbed with fishing line. It was also stretched across the opening of the little canyon that divers swim through between the cliff and the big boulder outside of #2. It would have been very easy for a tourist to become entangled in this fishing line and not be able to get loose. Those kind of situations are the ones where panic sets in and tragedy is usually the result. Think I'm exaggerating about the problem at the Grotto? Well take a look at a few of these pictures, and keep in mind these are from this weekend alone. I cleaned the same areas last weekend, so this is all just from one weeks worth of illegal fishing. I pulled over 25 lead sinkers out of the water this weekend, and that's not counting all the chunks of rebar, bolts, concrete and everything they use for sinkers.
Here you see the fishing line tangled in one of the coral formations. Sadly this is what our tourists are seeing more and more when they dive the Grotto. Before they head down on their dive they read the signs about how this is a Marine Sanctuary and protected, and then they get down there and see that we really don't mean it, there is fishing line everywhere.
Fishing line isn't the only thing still littering the Grotto, the Budweiser drinking pigs still seem to be making their visits to the Grotto. I generally pick up 3-4 of these cans during each weekend as well. I guess it's just too much work for these beer guzzling weeneies to carry their own empty cans up out of the Grotto, so I carry them all out with me, in addition to my 75 pounds of gear and all the fishing line and sinkers. My apologies for the blur in the picture, I used my underwater camera and it still had a drop of water on the lens. This was what I brought up out of the Grotto after my Friday dive.
This is what I cleaned off the cliff line Saturday morning after just having cleaned it the day before.
On my 2nd dive Saturday afternoon I pulled this fishing line and sinkers off the cliff line and the coral. Sunday morning I went back out to the same places I had cleaned the day before and this is what I pulled off the cliff line and the coral the very next day. Obviously it wouldn't be rocket science to catch these lawbreakers as they seem to be fishing every single night, so why isn't anybody with the authority doing anything about it? I also saw a fish swimming around inside the Grotto who had been hooked and had a long piece of fishing line trailing from his mouth. Is this really what we want our diving tourists to see at the Grotto? Once again, we have made the laws, but we don't have the desire to enforce our laws and to have them do any good, the proof is in the pictures.