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Saturday, 28 June 2014

Why drones were invented

Finally, a good reason for drones to exist. Check out this video epic footage below shot by Captain Dave Anderson of Capt. Dave's Dolphin and Whale Safari in Dana Point, California.

Taken with a drone from the air, it show a huge mega-pod of thousands of common dolphins stampeding off Dana Point, California, three gray whales migrating together down the coast off San Clemente, California, and heartwarming close-ups hovering over a newborn Humpback whale calf snuggling and playing with its mom as an escort whale stands guard nearby, filmed recently in Maui.

Friday, 27 June 2014

All about the stonefish

A fascinating video looking at the stonefish, how the venom of it works and is delivered into another animal (or human). And of course how to milk the venom to help produce an anti-venom to help the 700-1000 people who are stung by the stonefish each year.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Where eagles dare

Overcast with a 12-14 knots wind and a bit lumpy at the surface. That's what the forecast predicted and that's exactly what we got as we steamed away from the docks. Captain Nige, Nat and Linda had the dirty job of keeping the reprobates in line as we headed up to Babylon for the first dive. We had the opportunity to spend a lot of time at depth today to make the most of the spectacular scenery.

Babylon is not a difficult dive to navigate but as always you must keep a constant eye on your bottom time and SAC as it's all to easy to be lulled into a false sense of security by how easy the dive can be. Unless you've got the experience, always follow one of the excellent dive guides that Tortuga.

Huge sponge and sea fan formations litter the walls and pinnacle here so plenty of opportunity to get creative with the camera. Plenty of fusiliers and grunts hanging around but a lot of the bigger stuff was a bit skittish today and despite my best whisperings, I couldn't entice them in front of the camera lens.

My biggest fans. Ho ho ho.
We headed out into the blue for a bit just to see if there was anything interesting but unfortunately not much was happening so we just headed West for a little bit and dropped down to get some shots of the fantastic fans and hard coral and just lots and lots of sponges and sea whips. Awesome.

Towards the end of the dive we got a visit from a nice little turtle as it cruised by the pinnacle and up onto the top of the wall for a little bit.

"Hello Mr. Turtle. Carry on regardless."

The safety stop also proved to be entertaining as a barrel sponge headed for the surface before gently cruising back down to to rest in the sand. I could have sworn that something had picked up to eat and dropped it and was looking everywhere to see what it was. Turns out it was Captain Nige pulling one of his tricks and trying to confuse us. Shame on you, sir, shame on you.

For dive number two we motored back to spitting distance from the dock and jumped in on Rogers Reef. And if your a Python fan then its Wogers Weef. "Welease Woger. He's a wobber. And a wapist. And a pickpocket!"

Anyway, Nige and Linda gave us a good lead on a nudibranch hot spot with Linda quoting seven nudis on the same rock earlier in the week. I only managed to find five, but there were at least another four on a rock just North of the mooring pin, all of them elysia crispata as well.

Some nice hermit crabs on the hard coral were happy to pause for a quick shot before scuttling off under a rock as there was a bit surge in the shallows not to mention the viz not being the best at this point.

But that didn't deter the little critters from making brief appearances out of theire various nooks and crannies like some lovely little blennies and some pipe fish.

But the best was yet to come as one by one everyone else vacated the water and as we were about to make our way back to the boat to start our safety stop, I looked back to see a trio of eagle rays cruise by and then swing back round to do a fly by before disappearing off into the blue again.

And in typical fashion, all I had was my ultra macro lens and small arms on the rig.  I'm sure they do it on purpose. It's a conspiracy I tell you! Still, I got a couple of "ho-hum" shots and a little video so it wasn't a complete loss.

The trio on the first fly by

One of three on the second fly by. Lens too narrow to fit all of them in.

It was an epic way to end the day's diving. There should definitely be more rays at the end of a dive. We'll have to pre-book them for next time!

Home again, home again, jiggity-jig.

Nige and Linda catering to the unruly mob

Friday, 13 June 2014

This fish sucks!

The Northern Clingfish (gobiesox maeandricus) is one of the weirdest animals ever seen. It has a suction cup on its belly that can tightly hold onto anything, no matter how rough and irregular the surface is. The cup's grip is so strong that, if you had them on your hands, you would be able to climb a wet vertical rock wall—during a hurricane.

The fish uses its suction cup to rip apart mollusks from the rocks to which they are attached—and it works even underwater! The cup uses a device that is similar in structure to the gecko: nano-filaments, tiny hairs that provide with the mechanism to attach to surfaces. 

But unlike the gecko, whose hairs provide with multiple points of contact for dry adhesion on vertical surfaces, the Northern Clingfish's filaments provide with friction around the suction cup. The filaments are flexible and adapt to the structure of the uneven surface, making an air-tight wall that makes the seemingly impossibly strong suction possible.

Unlike the gecko, its study will result in suction technology that can work under any kind of weather conditions in any kind of environments, even under water. That means that you would be able to attach anything to your shower walls and, unlike current plastic suction cups, have it secured no matter what. 

Check out the video below to get the whole story on why this fish sucks!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Little bitty pretty one

Up at the crack of dawn and straight to Lighthouse Point before the weather moves in was the order of the day. As it stood, the viz was fair to middling at around 20 metres with a 4-5 knot Easterly wind at the surface and a reasonable Northerly current down below.

As it was all macro work today, hunting up the little stuff was the priority scouting the hardpan and miniwall provided an absolute bounty of little fellas, with a couple of guest appearances of course. But lets start with some roughead blennies for your delight and delectation.

But blennies weren't the only thing hiding in the hardpan today as we also found a nice little elysia crispata wroking it's way over the algae.

Working against the current and heading down and along the wall offered a carnival of crustaceans, starting with a very well camouflaged juvenile decorator crab. Can you spot it?

Then we had a scatter shot of yellowline arrowcrabs all over the sponges and  and wall. I got a nice shot of this little fellow just coming out of his cup sponge for a little look see.

And then there was this little pinstripe hermit who stopped to get his mug shot taken. What a nice crab.

And as mentioned earlier, a couple of the big boys came out to play whilst we were busy with their miniature brethren which was nice but always a pain when you've got your macro lens on!

After that brief interlude, back the hardpan and the little guys where there was a couple of really nice banded jawfish, sadly no eggs at this time though.

And some great little secretary blennies hiding in the coral heads bring the dive to a well rounded end.

Just as we got out the water, the weather we had avoided all morning hit with a vengeance as we could see the curtain of rain coming at us from Macabuca. Chef Jen whipped up a great breakfast as the thunder storm rolled over us. Perfect.

You can't see it, but it is raining cats and dogs out there.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Super predator Pt.2

The smart folks in white coats think they may have the answer to what ate the 3 metre great white from the previous blog entry.

The scientists claim their new data matched all of the tracking information from the disappeared shark: The body temperature they registered was the same and the size of the cannibal great white shark—which they estimated to be 16 foot long and weigh over 2 tons—could easily pull off the same speed and trajectory captured in the tracking device.

It makes sense: The only thing that could reasonably eat a shark is something that resembles a shark, only bigger. The bigger the shark, the bigger the bully. The studies show how smaller sharks immediately vacate the waters when they sense a giant one is nearby. Well, that and krakens and kaijus and secret weaponized alien megalodons.

As for why a larger shark would cannibalize a smaller shark, the study suggested theories about how it could have been attacked. Maybe it was a territorial dispute. Perhaps even a hunger induced attack. Finally it settled on a hypothesis that makes the most sense: Big sharks eat little sharks.

Friday, 6 June 2014

A new super predator?

We now have a new mystery, and one that’s quite exciting because it may lead to the discovery of a new super predator in the oceans around Australia.

In order to better understand the movements of great white sharks along Australia’s coast line, cinematographer Dave Riggs was tasked with tagging a number of them. These tags hold information about movement patterns, depth, and temperature. So even if they become dislodged from a shark, they still hold valuable information.

The video below details an incident where a tag from a 3-meter-long (9 feet) great white shark washed up on a beach. The data it held about the shark’s last known movements are quite unbelievable, and suggest some kind of super predator we have yet to discover is feeding in the ocean near Australia.

There’s not much in the ocean that will mess with a great white, especially one that’s 3 meters long. So a sudden large depth change and huge temperature increase both suggest an attack. The temperature change happening because the tag has been ingested by something else.

The collective scientific minds  have been weighing up the evidence. An even larger great white shark or an orca whale have been put forward as possible attackers, but the depth and temperatures don’t tie up well enough. Another suggestion has been that it’s a giant squid.

For now the mystery still remains, do we have a new super predator in the oceans waiting to be discovered?

All about the sponge

Everything you wanted to know about sponges but were too afraid to ask. They're not just for looking pretty in photographs, they are far more complex than we could have imagined. For example, did you know they are actually animals? and that they can hunt prey and spawn too?

Check out this pretty interesting footage below for more sponge info. Fascinating stuff!

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Another brick in the wall

Well it was that time to brave the elements and head East once again to jump of a perfectly good boat. Fortunately the wind was running ENE at around 10 knots so Captain Nige did us the honour of throwing us off at McCurley's Wall on the North side, which you can never get enough  as it really is part of the best section of wall on Grand Cayman.

Regardless of how many times you do it and which direction you go, there's always such fantastic scenery with some epic sponges and colours both East and West, on top of the wall and at depth, take your pick!

There was a mild Easterly current pushing against us but is was easy enough to drop down and use the wall for cover whilst getting some shots in. There was a hell of a lot of barracuda, snappers and fusiliers hanging around on the wall, as well as some really nice big channel crabs and neck crabs which was just the icing on the cake for this dive.

With the rest of the group on the turn around at 18 minutes, we still had plenty of bottom time and gas to enjoy the wall all to ourselves for a while before shallowing off and watching some stingrays having a play in the sand on top of the wall.

Captain Nige reliably informed us that there also an eagle ray hanging around as well but had cleared off into the middle distance as soon as it saw the horde of divers approaching.

Vibrant red sponges
Upon surfacing, the clouds that had been gathering like an evil cloak of darkness had buggered off and we had blazing sunshine for the rest of the day which my sunburn will attest to. Thank goodness for aloe aftersun!

So we had Sarah doing her "shoop shoop song" dance-along on the boat ride down to the Fish Bowl with Linda being the sensible one and staying well back out of the way.

The Fish Bowl was an ok dive, but it made you work really hard to find the good stuff, especially when it had a pretty stuff surge in the shallows which made macro work even harder. But on the upside there was an absolute riot of tritonia hamnerorum and elysia crispata everywhere. I thought there had been an explosion in a nudibranch factory!

Lovely little tritonia hamnerorum and eggs
Some more tritonia hamnerorum on a different sea fan
And one of the many lettuce leaf slugs strewn all around
The coral heads proved to be rewarding with some lovely roughhead blennies hiding our amongst the algae and some broadstripe gobies on the hard coral to while away the dive time.

Ans lets not forget the gratuitous sex scene ably provided by two flamingo tongue cowries. Cue the 70's porno music! wacka-chaka-wacka-chaka-wacka-chacka, bow-chick-a-bow-wow! Ohhhhh yeahhhhhhh..........

Thanks as always to the boys and girls at Tortuga Divers as always, even if Kate did have to get up early and be fluffy and bouncy for everyone on a Sunday morning...........