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Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Tower of Song

Well being that I'm Scottish, I like a good bargain from time to time so when we got offered some cheap boat diving on the North side, it was hard to say no. As much as I like my shore diving here, it''s hard to resist throwing yourself off a perfectly good boat from time to time.

It's even better when the crew let you do what you want and stay down as long as you want, none of this "you come up when I tell you to" crap other operators enforce just for the sake of getting back to shore so they can skive off the rest of the day. We had our pick of any of the Northern sites (within reason/distance) so it was an easy choice when we jumped in on Babylon first.

Diving the towering pinnacles and sheer drop of the wall never gets boring here and the sponges and coral formations here just make everything that much more scenic.

Playing hide and seek with the snappers is always entertaining not to mention the massive shoals of triggerfish cruising along the top of the wall.

Given the depths involved did limit our bottom time however but we did get a couple of laps around the main pinnacles and swimthroughs before it was time to head back up topside for the half-time oranges  and a bit of bullsh*t and banter back on the boat.

Dive number two saw us jump in on Black Rock reef which is my first time here and it looked to be quite a promising site with a lot of potential. As I had swapped over tot he macro lens, the hunt was on for the little gems.

Just for the record, they had some of the biggest lettuce leaf slugs here that I have ever seen so far, they certainly grow them big on this site!

There was a good selection of blennies and gobies to get some shots of along with the usual yellowline arrow crabs hiding out in the sponges.

There was also a great little juvnile orange sided goby which was busy trying to catch something. It was till I had a closer look that I relised it had caught and was busy munching on some sort of worm. Greedy little tyke.

We all had a great day out on the boat with a great crew, so I think we'll be back there again a time or two. For this weekend, it'll be back to shore diving as usual. Safe diving!

Friday, 23 August 2013

Running silent, running deep

Well Bob Ballard is at it again! If you haven't heard of Bob, then shame, for without him, the Titanic wouldn't have been discovered. Whether that's a good thing or not is up to you but for now, he's reading for a deep water expedition to the Cayman trough to see what's down there. The Abyss anyone?

Link: HERE

"Deep-sea explorer Robert Ballard, who discovered the wreck of the Titanic, is leading an expedition to explore the Cayman Trough. Mr. Ballard and Katherine Croff Bell, both of the Ocean Exploration Trust, are heading a team of researchers aboard the Exploration Vessel Nautilus, which docked in the Cayman Islands this week to take on new crew members before sailing to the Cayman Trough on Tuesday."

"The team’s mission is to map the geological, biological, chemical and archaeological aspects of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.  Using remotely operated vehicles Hercules and Argus, the team is taking high definition video, environmental measurements and collecting samples of the ocean floor."

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Robotic search for lost WW2 airmen

Link: HERE

Last year, local spear fishermen diving on Palau’s western barrier reef stumbled across one of the most impressive finds: an intact plane. They alerted the owner of a dive shop, who passed photos of the wreck along to BentProp. Scannon’s team eventually identified the plane as an American Corsair.

When [they] reach the Corsair, engineers lower the [autonomous underwater vehicle], now equipped with GoPro HERO3 HD cameras, into the water, and it once again begins a methodical sweep. Back in California, [the team] will use the thousands of captured images, plus hundreds of photos taken by human divers, to build a 3-D reconstruction of the plane.

For a group like BentProp, the use of advanced oceanographic instruments is a huge technological leap forward and one it couldn’t afford on its own. The vehicles come from the University of California, San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the University of Delaware, which received a grant from the U.S. Office of Naval Research. The funding enables oceanographers to test new technologies while helping BentProp locate World War II airmen—an effort they named Project Recover.

“Historically, on unmanned underwater platforms, you might spend the better part of your experimental time just ensuring the sensors were functioning, tracking the vehicle navigation, and charging batteries,” he says. “The systems now have matured to where we can run them hard, like outboard motors. The oceanographic community is engineering new sensors for them and having them do smarter things during their searches.”

My little town

Nearly six hours spent underwater today to try and beat the bad weather jinx and get some shots . The current has died slightly but the water is pretty turbid just now making things a little tricky in the photographic department but what would life be without some challenges?

Wide angle was a b*tch to light today and no matter how wide I went, the particulate always caused a bounce here and there. Damn you mother nature!! But the angelfish, triggerfish and snappers were out on patrol with a good selection of sergeant majors to boot.

Still, not to be thwarted we waited till the sun got low in the sky and went out to see what we could see in the night time.

Scuba cat continues to provide surface support from the best (warmest) vantage point.
We spent a little time in the hard pan checking the usual places before dropping off the wall to see what was lurking in the sand patches. And lo and behold there was a lovely little pipehorse fish.

There was a fair few adult octupus roaming over the wall tonight as well as the usual culprits of peacock flounders and yellow spotted rays. There was also a healthy sprinkling of juvenile sharpnose puffers asleep in the sponges just ripe for a photo or two.

Not to mention the plethora of gobies and wrasse hangin in and around the coral heads, the tricky little devils. they were no match for my macro lens and snake like reflexes however! (note: snake like reflexes are an optional extra).

I see you. There is no escape!
There were also a fantastic array of hemit crabs out fighting each other tonight. It must have been closing time the pub or something but there was one hermit that caught my eye because of the unusual pattern shell.

Looking closely I noticed a small movement about an inch up from it and found a fantastic juvenile gold line sea goddess! A stroke of luck or what?

I love my nudis
And then just to an additional layer of icing on the cake, there was a nice little fringe back nudi on a rope sponge a few feet away. Shame there was a blood worm that had to photo bomb the shot, the little bugger.

I hate blood worms
Anyway, back to the hermit crabs fighting. In this case, this one was having an argument all to itself.......

"Are you looking at me? are YOU looking at ME???"
I must mention that the squids from last week were still around although in much smaller numbers and they didn't want to stay put for a picture tonight, but there was a plethora shrimp around and this one had a juvenile in tow. If you look carefully above the topp antennae, you can just make it out, it's titchy.

Mother (or father?) with squalling brat in tow..... 
And with the surge bouncing us off the hardpan in the shallows that was out cue to foxtrot alpha and get out the water before we incurred the wrath of scuba cat, but not before grabbing a final shot of this little fellow.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Perfect Circle

Well this is the first time I've seen this. Crop circles underwater anyone?

Link: HERE

"On the seabed a geometric, circular structure measuring roughly 6.5 ft in diameter had been precisely carved from sand. It consisted of multiple ridges, symmetrically jutting out from the center, and appeared to be the work of an underwater artist, carefully working with tools. For its resemblance to crop circles, Ookata dubbed his new finding a “mystery circle,” and enlisted some colleagues at NHK to help him investigate."

 "Underwater cameras showed that the artist was a small puffer fish who, using only his flapping fin, tirelessly worked day and night to carve the circular ridges."

Monday, 12 August 2013

A hard day's night

Well to try and beat the jinx of the ridiculous Northerly currents we've been having the last few weeks, we headed out late afternoon to try and break the run of poor luck. Luckily we were rewarded with next to no current, unluckily, the marine life just didn't wan to play with us too much which was a real shame. Ah well, you make do with what you've got........

There were quite a few stingrays and eagle rays cruising around and at one point we had three eagle rays circling around us but when you have a 16mm wide angle fish eye, you're not going to get the best of shots. I caught one of the eagle rays as it was heading off into the deep, so I got something. It was still worth it just to watch them glide around in the water.

With a lot of particulate in the water natural light was at a premium on the main wall so we ended up with about 10-12 metres viz tops. But we were rewarded with massive shoals of squid hanging around in the first couple of metres of water right off the dock. We lost count after 40.

Heading back in for the night dive we had a bit better luck with the marine life as it never fails to deliver an abundance of small stuff to shoot.

And as it turns out the shoals of squid were still hanging around well in the evening time which made for a fantastic light show under strobe flash.

The juvenile octopus were out and about for a scuttle again with on poor little blighter trying to get shelter under my camera port from the onslaught of bloodworms that get attracted to the lights which are a huge annoyance when trying to do macro shots.

Not as many nudis out this evening as I would have liked but still managed to find a tiny little fringe back making a break for it across the open sponge as well as a nice lettuce leaf slug.

And not to mention this super lazy little fellow lounging around, which reminds me that it's nearly past my bed time..........

Shame, shame, shame

Link: HERE

Don't need to explain this one to you, just click the link, look at the info graphic and prepared to be saddened. The picture says it all.

"While the shark is the ocean’s apex predator and the most feared animal on the planet, in the time it takes to scroll to the bottom of this graphic 73 more sharks would have been killed."

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Till the end of the day

With a spring in our fins and a gurgle in our regs it was once more in to the water, again with a ripping current. It's been quite bad the last couple of weeks but you got to work with what you got. Maybe next weekend we'll get lucky.

"I see you, do you see me?"
The hardpan and wall was crawling with life. Literally. That's the most juvenile octopus I've seen on a dive, they were everywhere.

Just one of many, many baby octopus
Not as many nudibranchs around today but there were a couple of lovely examples of fringe back nudis. Really nice bright orange colours on them.As they were in the shallows the surge was knocking them around so the poor little tykes would go bouncing along the rock every 5 seconds.

Hanging on for grim death
There was some really nice examples of pea crabs and rubble crabs but I found a really nice little juvenile plumed hairy crab. The white tipped claws and speckled eyes really caught my attention.

"In the immortal words of Despicable Me, "IT'S SO FLUFFY!!!"
And not to mention lots and lots yellow sptted stingrays which as always were happy to come undulating up to the camera and say hello before rippling off to look for their next meal.

"Hello, goodbye"
There were a couple of whacking big peacock flounders hanging in a shallow depression but they were happy to let me get close to them for a shot or two and some video.

Aye, aye....
And something that I still find surprising here is the fact that brittle stars are so few and far between. Back home the dive sites would be blanketed with the things and the wolfie used to love feeding on them as well so that was an added bonus when you were trying to get a shot. But here you'll get one or two popping up here and there, makes for interesting shots 
when they're taken individually though.

When you wish upon a (brittle) star

Friday, 2 August 2013

Unicorns of the sea

Now this is pretty spectacular. Reminds me of the tentacle alien from The Abyss film. This would be one of those rare encounters you'd definitely remember for a long time.

"So they’re giant, terrifying looking, and trolling through the depths of the ocean, waiting for you to swim in one end and get stuck.  Maybe. But fortunately, in addition to being slow moving filter feeders, they’re also delicate and fluffy. One diver described a pyrosome saying “it felt like an exquisitely soft feather boa”. And this is why I almost cried when I saw my first wee pyrosome.  Despite their improbable nature, these horrifying giants, the spawn of the worst movie villains, are actually delicate and fragile. The bizarre unicorns of the sea."

Link: HERE