14 January 2011

Diving the Sea Emperor with Dixie Divers

Luis has some gift certificates to dive on the Lady Go Diver out of Deerfield Beach and had been eager to use them before they expired at the end of this month. It has been cold, and there are not a lot of divers eager to pay $60 for a 2-tank dive in cold weather. Pavan needs 6 paying divers before he will run the boat, but he had a trip going on Friday morning. Luis invited me to go with him.

I got to the park early: about 7:45 am. No one was there. The boat was not there. Luis came at 8:00 am. He called the shop, and they assured us the boat would go. Captain Nick brought the boat in at 8:30 am. We waited for the other divers, but everyone was aboard by 9:00 am and we departed. We got to the Sea Emperor about 20 minutes later.

As I stepped off of the swim platform, I saw a crab swimming in the water right below me. I looked around once I was in, but the crab was long gone. There was very little current and Luis and I dropped down to the wreck. The first thing we saw was a dead nurse shark just below where the line was tied. We swam under the stern and penetrated the wreck, swimming from compartment to compartment from stern to bow. I spotted a Green Moral Eel on the top of the wreck and we went up to get some pictures.

By this time, the other divers were gathering around, so we headed East through the culverts, where we spotted a Goliath Grouper. As I turned to get Luis' attention, the Grouper left the culvert in which he had been hiding and we got some parting shots. Then we swam to the rocks where there were lots of reef fish, but I could not find any stingrays in the sand. We turned back at the end of the rocks, and a large Southern Atlantic Stingray swam up underneath me. I shot video of him as we went back to the wreck.

When we got back to the Sea Emperor, the ray swam up on the top, then swooped down at me and pushed his shoulders into my thighs, looking for food. I had nothing for him, so I pushed him back and petted his belly and he swam away. After the long swim back, I was low on air, so we went up the line and were the last divers back.

Our second dive was a drift dive along Moray Bend, just North of the Boca Raton Inlet. The surface interval had been brutally cold and I was not looking forward to getting back in the water, but I did. We dropped to the reef and swam to the Western Edge, where we found a large Green Moray Eel. There was a lot of life on the reef, but little that was exceptional. As we were coming up, Luis watched a Loggerhead Turtle come by to check me out. I was busy with the flag line and did not notice the turtle. Luis got a picture, but you can barely make out a dark shape which is the turtle. He did get my attention and I watched the turtle swim to to the sea bed and then disappear from sight. I could tell from the shute pattern that it was not a hawksbill and it was much too big to be a Green Sea Turtle.

12 January 2011

Octopus Redoux

Luis and I went to the beach at Tower 19, looking for the rocks were I found the octopus on Sunday. We swam out past the swim buoys and went down. The seas were calm despite 5-10 knot winds from the North. Visibility was not bad, but could have been better.

We found several of the round-hole amphipods, but were unable to lure any of them from their holes. Most dashed way down in the dark and could not be seen at all.

As we left the sand, a small Green Sea Turtle swam past us, but was moving too fast for me to catch him. I took some pictures but they were all backscatter.

We just got on the reef when we spotted a small purplemouth moray eel. We also swam into the staghorn coral forest, where we found all manner of reef fish and a cute little reef urchin, as well.

What we did not find were the rocks where I saw the Octopus. We swam to the Eastern edge of the reef, then went South before turning West and heading back to the beach. They were large rocks and there were several of them, but we must have swam right by them in the limited visibility.

As we got to the beach, we saw a second Green Sea Turtle. I swam after it, but could not get close. The photos I took were filled with backscatter from the strobe. I was cold and Luis had things to do, so we stopped at the single dive.

09 January 2011

The Octopus at the Eastern Edge of the Reef

I did not dive on Saturday, so I was not sure if Luis would be at the beach this morning. Just in case he was not, I got up early enough to make two dives before the Lifeguards got there at 9:30 am. The air temperature was 62 degrees, but the water was a bit warmer at 68 degrees, and it felt good during the first half hour of the dive.

Luis was not at the beach, so I went in by myself. I entered a mild surf near Tower 19, and went looking for the Staghorn Coral Forest Luis and I swam through on Friday. I did not find it on this first dive. I saw very little on my way to the Eastern edge of the reef, but on the way back, I found a grouping of several large rocks with lots of reef fish, a large Red Grouper and an octopus.

The Octopus was apparently dining on Conch and was so engrossed in his meal that he did not notice me until I was very close. At first, I did not notice him either. Instead, I was focused on the large Red Grouper that was following him. Then I saw the octopus swim towards a large rock right next to me. I got some pictures, then swam away and watched as the Octopus went back to the Conch shell on which he had been working. The second time I approached, I held my breath and was able to get very close to him. He was large, much larger than other octopus I have seen on these reefs.

I was pretty excited and surprisingly still warm, so I was eager to change tanks and make a second dive before the Lifeguards showed up. I got out of the water and walked back to the truck. I propped my dive flag up against the truck and some older woman hit it then tripped on it and broke it. I couldn't find any way to fix it, so I packed up and went home.

When I got home, I had an email from Luis, who had wanted to dive this morning. I called and we agreed to meet at the beach for an afternoon dive. I had to first go to the shop and get a new flag, however. I got to the beach a little after 1:00 pm and there were no parking spots from Sunrise North. I lucked into one South of Tower 19 and grabbed it. Luis was parked just North of Tower 19. We geared up and met in the middle, then went diving.

We headed East from the beach, but started somewhat North of Tower 19. We ran into the Staghorn Coral Forest and found the coral supports. Still not sure what these things are. I was looking for the large rocks from this morning and the octopus, but we did not see them. Probably South of where we were, but in low visibility, it is very difficult to know.

By the time we got back to the beach, I was shivering. I was too cold to make a third dive.