22 January 2011

Back to the Pelican

Dianne and I met Luis at the beach. We geared up and entered the water a little North of Tower 20 and swam ESE, looking for the Ledge of Turtles. We found the staghorn coral forest and swam SSW right to the Ledge of Turtles. I shot a video of the approach, but there were no turtles to be found. Pity.

We did find a little eel and lots of reef fish, but no turtles. I headed South and ran a large rectangle pattern that brought us back to the Ledge after locating some distinctive features to the South.

As we swam West to the beach, we found a Florida Regal Sea Goddess and this time, I got a picture.

Also on the way back to the beach, we found an Octopus tucked in with some rocks, but otherwise exposed. If you look to the bottom of the pictures, you can make out the animal's eye. According to Wikipedia, the octopus "has two special organs, called statocysts, that allow the octopus to sense the orientation of its body relative to horizontal. An autonomic response keeps the octopus's eyes oriented so that the pupil slit is always horizontal."

It was a long dive and I was chilly, but not miserable. We did spend about 80 minutes warming up before making our second dive, however.

Dianne was convinced that we would find a turtle if we dove in front of the Pelican Grand, so we did. We swam much of the way on the surface, then descended and continued North underwater. Somewhere near the Sun Tower, we turned East and headed out on the reef. We found some eels and tried to feed them the Vienna sausages, but there were no takers. Turns out that the sausages float unless you break them up. The eels reacted as if we were lobbing hand grenades at them.

We got back to the sand with plenty of air, so I headed North to burn some before going in. Luis got concerned that I was mis-oriented and set me on a due West track. We ended the dive with plenty of air.

21 January 2011

Diving North of Tower 17

Luis and I met just North of Tower 17, but well North of where we dove on Wednesday. I double checked the strobe connection and used a freshly charged Canon battery this morning. I even changed the battery on the strobe.

Unfortunately, we saw no turtles and I had no real shots, which was just as well, because I had no strobe on the first dive and the lens was set at 50 mm, so I got a lot of the port. We saw a Sea Robbin early in the dive and I got a short video.

Next, we saw a small purplemouth moray eel, but he ducked under the coral head. I put a piece of sardine hear the opening of the coral and he grabbed it, but did not hang around for a photo session.

We found a coral knoll that rose about 5 ft of the sea floor, but there were not a lot of reef fish on it. I did see a Green Sea Turtle after we turned back. I shot some video of her, but could not get very close.

We continued due East, but I turned around at 1450 psi without reaching the end of the reef. It was not a bad dive. I was warm the whole time, but there wasn't much to see.

For our second dive, we entered the water South of Tower 17 and at about the same place as we dove on Wednesday, but we did not see the large rocks or the coral knoll. We swam all the way to the Eastern edge of the reef and I got some video of the ledge, which drops from about 20 ft to 35 ft. Also got some shots of a couple of Smooth Trunkfish. I also got pictures of a Giant Anemone and a Shark Sucker catching a ride on a Parrotfish. Still, not an eventful dive.

19 January 2011

Wednesday Afternoon Looking for Turtles

Luis called to say he could dive this afternoon and we arranged to meet near Tower 17, again. We geared up, swam to the swim buoys and descended. I forgot my weights on this dive and had some trouble staying down at the end of the dive, but otherwise did just fine.

Worse than forgetting the weights, I did something to the camera and the strobe connection when I put it in the housing because the strobe would not fire. I took some pictures, anyway, and they came out okay, but only because of the intermitant sunlight.

We also ran across a Shortfin Pipefish just lying on top of the sand. I got several shots, but really needed a macro lens. There is not much to look at with the 80 mm lens.

When we got to the end of the reef, we found a lionfish and Luis speared it with his Lionfish Tamer, though it took four tries. I cut its head off with my knife to kill it. Tough little buggers.

We also spotted a purplemouth moray eel swimming in the open and I got a picture despite the lack of a strobe.

Not a bad dive, but no turtles.

We had a short surface interval and got back in for a second dive. The sun was going down and I did not want to be coming in after dark. It worked out just fine.

We found the group of large rocks from this morning, but saw no sign of the Hawksbill despite having brought sardines and vienna sausages for her. Oh well, maybe tomorrow.

We did see a Hermit Crab coming out of his shell and also a school of Atlantic Spadefish that were just marvellous in the light. I got video, but, of course, I cannot upload it to Blogger. It is available on Picasaweb.

Wednesday Morning with a Hawksbill Turtle

Luis Monroy and I decided that we will dive and explore the reef off the Fort Lauderdale beach from Tower 14 to the Pelican Grand. We have already found and explored the Coral Knoll just North of Sunrise and the Ledge of Turtles just South of the Pelican Grand. Makes you wonder what else is out there. This morning we agreed to dive just South of Tower 17.

The sea was calm. There was a very slight wind from the South, but the current was from the North. We swam out past the swim buoys and descended and almost immediately ran into a Striped Burrfish. I got a couple of good pictures, but we swam for a while without seeing anything significant to shoot. I did get some pictures of Luis exploring a rock and a juvenile Gray Angelfish.

I spent some time last night and again this morning reading the manual to learn how to shoot video with the Canon 5d and then setting up the camera. I switched from the 100 mm macro lens to a 28-105 mm lens set at 80 mm. I put new batteries in the strobe and in the camera. I thought I was ready. I watched a medium sized Triggerfish follow me, so I turned the tables on it and began shooting video. Everything seemed to work as anticipated and I got some good video. Unfortunately, Blogger will not upload it. You can go to picasaweb and see the Triggerfish video in Quicktime format.

We kept going East and found a group of several large rocks probably 50 yards West of the Eastern edge of the reef. I found a Hawksbill Turtle sleeping on the bottom and she got up to swim with us. We spent quite a little time with her. She was not afraid of us, but swam very slowly and let us box her in while we took pictures. I wish that I had some sardines or squid for her. I shot one video swimming with the Hawksbill, but my camera battery died as I was shooting a second video of her swimming. That video was not saved. It did not get loaded into a file. It was just lost. Fortunately, Luis got some good pictures, which I have included here.

From the rocks, we swam to the Eastern edge of the reef. The sand was at 34 feet. We explored the ledge for a bit, then headed back. I was below 1800 psi when we turned around, but figured that would be plenty, and it was. On the way back, Luis found two Florida Regal Sea Goddesses. Unfortunately, his batteries had died and neither of us got pictures. We saw a lot of reef fish and I swam after a small Green Sea Turtle, who was curious enough to swim in a circle but not so curious that she let me get too close.

I was cold when we reached the beach, but warmed up quickly in the warm air.

18 January 2011

Tuesday Afternoon at Tower 16

My mask had a small tear in it and leaked. It has been leaking for over a week. It's not impossible, mind you, but it is annoying. So I went to the shop and got a new mask before meeting Luis at the beach this afternoon. It was a warm and sunny this morning, so the beach was packed this afternoon. I found a parking spot just South of Tower 16 and the fellow in front of me left as soon as I got there. Luis showed up just as he was leaving. It all worked out well.

The wind had come up since this morning and the air felt cooler because of it. It was now in the 80's, so it really was warmer, but it did not feel warmer. We geared up and got it, swam to the swim buoys and descended. Then we headed due East to the Eastern edge of the reef. Along the way we saw patches of staghorn coral, some of which were quite developed and thick with fish. We also saw rocks and coral heads. There were lots of reef fish, but nothing spectacular or unusual.

The Eastern edge of the reef drops another 10 feet to 30 ft on the floor. We spent a little time on the floor, exploring the edge, but turned back after about ten minutes. I was doing well on air up to that point, but I started getting chilled as

we headed back. By the time we got to the beach, I was beginning to shiver. It felt good to get out into the warmer air.

Back to the Ledge of Turtles

Yesterday's dive was so delightful, that I decided to try it again. I was late getting going, so I did not get in the water until about 9:30 am, just shortly before the Lifeguards usually arrive. I got out and descended immediately after the sand bar. I entered just North of the Tower, so I swam slightly South. I found the staghorn coral forest and explored that a bit. I then found the large rocks under which I had spotted the two nurse sharks this past Summer. There was a 6-ft nurse shark under the forward rock. She kept and eye on me, but did not flee. I got a couple of pictures, but without a strobe and not in the sunlight, so they did not come out. The TTL connector was not fully connected. Great.

Then I swam WNW from the Shark Rocks and went right to the Ledge of Turtles. Two for two! As I approached, I was looking for the Hawksbill with whom I swam yesterday, but she was not there. Instead, there was a small Green Sea Turtle under one of the rocks just West of the Ledge. I headed for her, but she took off. Quickly. I never got close enough for a shot.

I spent the balance of the dive looking for crabs and eels. I did not find any. Then I decided to check out the reef to the South of the Ledge to see if I could find the Hawksbill, but I could not find her, either. It had been an hour, so I headed back, again swimming NW to avoid the lifeguard. As I got to the sand, I again encountered a school of Tarpon. They began to circle me and it was pretty amazing. I took some pictures, then swam in to the beach. I was cold by the end of the dive, but the surface temperature was in the high 70's and dried off and warmed up.

17 January 2011

On the Ledge of the Turtles

Just a bit South of the Pelican Grand and off the beach from Tower 20 is an area the size of a large room raised up with old staghorn coral. There are a few coral heads on it and around it. I call it the Ledge of Turtles because the first time I stumbled upon it, I saw six turtles there. Almost every time since that first time, when I am lucky enough to find it, I see turtles on the Ledge of Turtles. Today was no exception.

The visibility was poor. There was a mild wind from the SE and the sand was stirred up. There was some surf, but it was not difficult to get out. I left the beach just South of Tower 20, by the showers. I swam NE and swam right to the Ledge of Turtles. Under a small ledge, I saw the

two-barnacled Hawksbill we swam with this past Summer. She was resting, but got up when she heard my bubbles. I took a few pictures, but tried not to disturb her too much. I spotted a small school of Atlantic Spadefish off in the distance, so I swam to them for a couple of shots, and the Hawksbill followed me.

We had a leisurely swim back to the Ledge of Turtles and she settled back in under the ledge while I explored the rest of the Ledge, looking for eels and crabs. I did not find any, so I went back to see her and get a few more shots. Then I took off for the beach, taking care to get out of the water near the Pelican, where the lifeguards do not patrol. It was a terrific dive.

16 January 2011

Diving Across from the Park

Dianne and I met Luis on A1A across from Hugh Taylor Birch State Park. We planned to spend the day, and we did not leave the apartment until around 8:30 am. We got to the beach just as Luis was turning from Sunrise onto A1A and parked near Tower 15.

We walked a bit North of the Tower to enter the water for our first dive. There was a little wind, a slight current and a mild surf. The entry was easy. We then headed East, but with three people taking pictures, it was a logistical nightmare. I'd take a pictures and look around to find either Luis or Dianne setting up for a shot, so I'd find something else to shoot while I waited. I'm sure they were encountering the same thing. We spent over 80 minutes underwater and barely got on the reef. We saw and photographed eels and a lot of reef fish. We got separated from Dianne once, partly because she did not bring her compass and did not follow us to the East.

We spent well over an hour warming up before we made a second dive. This time, we entered from South of the Tower and we made it to the Eastern edge of the reef. Dianne left the camera in the truck since she could not both take pictures and keep track of Luis and I. We got separated from Luis on the way back and he somehow swam past us in the poor visibility. He got to the beach first while we were waiting for him at the surface near the swim buoys.

While I had tanks to make three dives, neither Dianne nor I were interested. We went home.