07 January 2011

Exploring Tower 19

Luis Monroy and I decided to check out some new portions of the reef, so we went in at Tower 19, which is the second Lifeguard Tower South of the Pelican. The water was relatively calm, but cold. The air temperature was colder, though, so it felt warmer, at least at the start of the dive.

On the way out, we spent a lot of time in a dense Staghorn Coral Forest. Although it was a clear and sunny morning, the visibility was poor, with lots of back scatter in the water. I found a couple of Frecked Seahares. I think they are mating, though it is a little difficult to tell with a Seahare.

We swam past the staghorn coral and found 3 huge rocks then three rebar driven into the bottom. Just past the rebar, we found several medival looking racks that looks as if they were designed to hold the coral while it was growing.

Not long after that, we came to the end of the reef. While there were lots of reef fish, there was not much that was unusual and the visibility was so poor that I hardly got any pictures. I did find a new fish: a juvenile Creole Wrasse. This is a hamlet sized, blue fish with four distinctive bars on its back.

We swam South along the Western edge of the reef, then headed West to the beach. I was interested in how broad the staghorn coral forest was, but it proved to be not so large. Somehow, we got back to the sand without passing any of the staghorn coral. We did come across the same Sea Robbin we saw a few days ago, however.

By the time we made it back onto the beach, I was shivering from the cold. Not even Luis was interested in a second dive. We both elected to take Saturday off, too.

06 January 2011

Looking for the Ledge of Turtles

Temperatures are still in the high-70's to low 80's and it has been several days since Dianne has been diving. This morning, she decided to come. We met Luis Monroy on A1A near Sunrise, then decided to head up the beach to the Pelican. As usual, we were looking for the Ledge of Turtles, but did not see it. We did see a lot of reef fish and a pair of Freckled Seahares.

We swam to the Western edge of the reef and back. The water was generally clear, but hazy about 20 ft out. The wind was fairly stiff from the NW, which meant the seas were calm. It was a good dive.

I took my Canon 5d Mk 2, Luis had his Nikon and Dianne had my Intova, but could get get the camera to work since I had managed to get the batteries in wrong. Still, we had an interesting time taking pictures and exploring the reef. By the time we got back, though, I was chilled and Dianne was cold enough to pass on the second dive. I got this picture of a Doctorfish sporting a Cymothoid Isopod. These Isopods start out as tiny free-swimming males who attach themselves to a host fish with their several pairs of legs and eat food they find floating in the water. Once attached, they loose the ability to swim and become attached for life. If they are not paired with a female, the males may transform into females. On the way in to the beach, Dianne spotted a Sea Robbin and I got a few pictures, but the battery on my strobe was dead, so only a couple came out.

After drying off and warming up, Luis and I made a second dive. The wind had come up some, but the sea was still quite calm. This time we entered slightly North of the main entry point. We headed due East, but still did not find the Ledge of Turtles. We swam over some pretty barren sea bed. We did find a fish neither of us had seen before: a juvenile Creole Wrasse. The fish was hiding in some Staghorn Coral, but I got some pictures and ultimately identified it because of the coloration and the distinctive pattern on its back. I was shivering by the time we got to the beach.

05 January 2011

Enjoying the Coral Knoll off Sunrise and A1A

Luis got hung up in traffic and called about 7:45 am to tell me he would be late meeting me at 8:00 am. The water was still and clear, so I parked just North of Sunrise on A1A, planning to dive the Coral Knoll. I have had some trouble in the past finding the Knoll. It's only the size of a large room and a very short swim off the beach. In limited visibility, however, it is very easy to swim right past it. I know because I have done it. Several times, but not today.

Luis got to the site shortly after 8:00 am and we got in, swam beyond the buoys and descended. There was very little wind and not much wave action. We headed East and found the Knoll in a few minutes. Lots of reef fish. Found a crab, a few anemones and even a squat anemone shrimp, which I only found while editing my pictures. We found a Green Sea Turtle, which I chased for some pictures. While chasing the turtle, I lost track of where I was. In a few minutes I lost the Coral Knoll and could not find it again.

The second dive was a little more challenging. The wind came up from the Southeast and stirred up the waves. The visibility was still good, but not as clear and there is some doubt that it will be good tomorrow after a night of SE winds.

We missed the Coral Knoll and swam to the Western edge of the reef, where we found a lot of a small nurse shark under a coral head. The water temperature was 71 degrees, but I was chilled by the time we got out.

Back to the Pelican

Luis Monroy and I met at the Pelican Grand early this morning. I hoped to make a couple of dives. I brought the Canon 5d Mk II and Luis got a Nikon point and shoot for Christmas, so we seemed set for a couple of photography dives. The wind was gentle and the water calm. We swam past the swim buoys and descended, then headed East looking for the Ledge of Turtles. Of course, we did not find it.

We found a few fish and I got some photos, but saw nothing unusual, except maybe a small Sharptail Eel, which we found on our second dive. Check out the pictures below.

03 January 2011

Alone Again at the Pelican

Debbie and Clayton Bonnell came to town on Christmas Eve. Miriam and Gunter had arrived with their son, Chris, a few days before. Dianne and I dove with Clayton and Debbie on Christmas Eve, then spent Christmas in the Storm Belt with Miriam and Gunter. The weather was cold and windy following Christmas, but we dove with Debbie and Clayton twice on Wednesday and once on Thursday, despite some rough wave action. On Friday, Gunter and his son Chris joined us, as did Luis Monroy. Miriam was along to look after Chris and to hold the hot chocolate. The visibility was terrible and the waves made getting out a challenge. Debbie and Clayton came over and we cooked Dianne's vegetarian spaghetti for dinner. Clayton and I bought a bottle of Oban. Between the scotch and a cold I had been fighting off all week, I spent Saturday in bed. I got up Sunday, but lacked the heart to go to the beach. Finally, on Monday, I got back in the water.

I went to the beach early to avoid being hassled by the lifeguards, who besides believing that the flag is protects divers, also think that diving solo is a bad thing. Most of my dives are solo dives, not because I dive alone, but because the students with whom I dive are not in a position to recognize any problems I might have and certainly are not in a position to render assistance. Besides, when I take the camera, I get in my own little world and there are not many people who will watch me as I wait for just the right shot. More about solo diving later.

The wind was slight and the water calm and relatively clear. There were no waves and there was no sand stirred up, but there was a haze about 15 feet out. I brought the Canon 5d Mk II. I headed for the Ledge of Turtles, but, as is too often the case, I missed it. I found a Porcupinefish and tried several shots with the strobe in different positions. I got several good pictures and learned a little something about strobe placement.

I also found an Orange Spotted Filefish that posed for several pictures, a True Tulip and a tightly curled Basket Star. While it was not a remarkable dive, it was a pleasant dive and very peaceful. I was in the water for 75 minutes and chilled when I got out. The lifeguard arrived before I had warmed up, so I stowed the gear and headed for home.