Thursday, May 8, 2008

Post #200 - Wing Beach Season

I thought it was pretty cool that my 200th blog happened to coincide with my first Wing Beach dive of the year. Wow, has it really been 200 already? How did that happen so fast? It seems like I just started this thing yesterday! But I guess we have covered quite a bit of ground in that time: there was the creation of Marianas Dive by a couple of dive bums sitting at Oleai one afternoon, Harry's Crab Shack was born out of a local controversy, Axe Murderer Tours started getting to be more well known, the lost land of Lemuria was discovered, and of course there were literally hundreds of dive pictures from about 200 dives during that time. I have really enjoyed sharing my passion of diving and everything underwater with you, and as long as there are a couple of people out there who enjoy it, I'll keep going.

I noticed when I was recording the weather Tuesday that there was going to be a -0.6' low tide that afternoon, so I decided it was time to go out and see if I could dive Wing Beach. I couldn't find anyone to go with me, so I did a solo dive. And don't even think about lecturing me about solo diving, all the dive instructors I know do solo dives too. That is not to say that it's for everyone, it's definitely not. But when you have thousands of dives under your belt and you know the location and conditions like your own back yard, well you do what you have to when you can't find anyone else willing to go. You can see from the picture above, that the tide was indeed low, and there were hardly any waves washing over the reef at Wing that day. I have gone there several times in the past and called the dive off because the conditions were not right, but not Tuesday, it was on!No sooner did I lay down in the water and start to head out when I ran into the scorpion fish in the picture above. He was laying right in the beginning of the cut where you head out for your dive. That's the best reason I can think of to wear felt bottom dive boots out there. You do not want to step on one of these guys, it's excruciating!To me, Wing Beach is like a fairy land, much of the coral is pretty shallow, so it gets well lit by the sun and the colors are vibrant. There are also a bunch of very cool holes in the coral, like this one where you'll find fish swimming in and out of. There are dramatic coral turrets sticking up looking like they belong on a castle, there are steep underwater cliff walls that have holes and hiding places everywhere. When you look in the holes, you might see a big moray eel (his name is George by the way), lionfish, bubble coral, shrimp, golden cowrie shells or any number of other exotic things.This is the view as you look down into the crevasse at Wing Beach. It is a long cut in the ocean floor, the top of it is in about 30' of water and the bottom of it is about 85'. If you go down and swim through it, it comes out on an underwater cliff line and continues to drop off to about 120'. Inside the crevasse you'll almost always find lionfish, and quite often green moray eels. When I dropped to the bottom, there were 2 big red lionfish just waiting for me to take their pictures.This was one of the lionfish waiting to greet me, they were both just hoving above the sandy bottom, and both made for great picture subjects. The lionfish have a very potent poison in their quills, which is also excruciatingly painful, however they are not agressive at all, and will do everything they can to avoid you if you get too close.This is the other one that was sitting there at the bottom just waiting for me. I can just sit there watching these guys for quite a while, they are so graceful and exotic looking. I usually just lay there for quite a while waiting for the sediment in the water to calm down so I can get nice clear, clean shots of them. It's not always as easy as just going down and clicking the picture, sometimes you have to be very patient waiting for just the right angle, or for the sediment cloud to settle down.This is the view looking up from the bottom of the crevasse. It is just such a unique dive spot, and usually always has some unique critters to see and take pictures of, but even without the critters, the scenery of the landscape is quite amazing all by itself. Views like this one are just one of the many reasons that Wing Beach is my favorite Saipan dive.As I was swimming along the bottom of the crevasse, this guy came out of his shell and walked right up in front of me. It was like everything down there was volunteering to get its picture taken, which was just fine with me, I was more than happy to snap away.Just as I came out the cliff end of the crevasse, I saw this 5' Napolean wrasse just hanging out there. Unfortunately my camera was set for macro mode, and by the time I got it switched over, he decided to start swimming away, so I just got this fleeting shot of him. But it's always exciting being in the water with something that big.And of course it wouldn't be one of my dives if I didn't find a few nudibranchs to spend some time with. This is a Phyllidia madangensis. He was in about 80' of water just crawling around on a rock.And this was the first time I've seen one of these nudibranchs at Wing Beach, it's a Philinopsis gardineri, I usually see them at Lau Lau. When I first saw him, he was completely above the sand, but was in the process of burying himself so that he could spawn his egg strings which look like cocoons attached to the sand. It was a great dive, and because there is a -0.7' low tide later this afternoon, I think I just may have to go back out for another dive.