30 March 2013

Another Cold Cold day diving the Big Coral Knoll

I arranged with Katie to meet her at the beach at 10:30 am on Saturday morning for her last two dives.  In particular, we needed to make a 400 yard surface swim to the Western edge of the First Reefline.  A surface swim to avoid any excess nitrogen buildup and to the Western edge to find 35-40 feet of water so she could make her ascents.  Saturday was supposed to be a warm day, so Luis and I arranged to meet at 8:00 am to make a dive before meeting Katie.

As agreed I met Luis at 8:00 am on the beach.  We geared up and got in, but even if the surface temperature was warmer, the water was not.  In fact, the water was as cold as I have ever seen it:  64 degrees.  
 After 10 minutes in the water, the time it took to go from the swim buoy to the reefline, I was cold.  I was shivering.  Luis was having camera problems, so I asked if he wanted to go back.  He did not.  I then gave Luis the flag and I went back to call Katie and tell her not to bother.  Luis stayed in the water.
 I had set up to shot supermacro, with the 100 mm macro lens and a +10 diopter.  Got some okay shots.  I like the shot of the Neon Goby, but wasn't as excited about the Flamingo Tongue.  The Freckled Seahare to the right reminds me of some of the wilder parites from the early 70's.  Can't tell which body part is which and what its doing. 
We headed back shortly after I photographed the seahare.  I was shivering and so was Luis.  It took well over an hour to warm up and try a second dive. 

When we got in, the water temperature had risen to 66 degrees, which is still not warm, but was warmer that our first dive.

I think the guy above is a Molly Miller.  Handsome lad.  Found him on the edge of the reefline just past the sand. 

The Arrow Crab was a good shot except for the stray gray line on the left.  
 This is another shot of the Molly Miller from above. 
 This is a picture a 3 Freckled Seahares stacked together. 
 Saw lots of these White Encrusting Zoanthids, at least that's what I think they are. 
Finally found this little White Speckled Hermit Crab inhabiting a Conch Shell that was really too big for him.  He could barely carry it. 

This second dive was definitely warmer.  I didn't start shivering until after an hour and warmed up pretty quickly once we got out. 

29 March 2013

Diving off the Yankee Clipper

Spoke to Lifeguard Bill last Sunday, who suggested that we dive off the Yankee Clipper using the South Beach parking lot.  I pointed out that the sign off Tower 19 relegated "non-motorized watersports" to the area between Towers 15 and 20.  He told me not to worry about it so long as there were two of us and we had a dive flag.  So Luis and I agreed to meet at the south beach lot.

 I think the "cells" above are White Encrusting Zoanthids, except that they are not white.

Also found and photographed a small White Speckled Hermit Crab in a medum sized Conch shell.  He didn't look big enough to move the shell, but he did just fine.  Got a shot of the little Seaweed Blenny below.

The parking lot was virtually empty when We geared up and got in.  There were no signs prohibiting diving.  We walked out quite a ways, but there was no discernable sand bar, just sand and deeper water.  We descended into algae and sand in 14 feet of water.  Since we were exploring, I was using a diopter, though I was still using the 100 mm macro lens.

Found a Bearded Fireworm in the algae and spent some time taking photos.  Difficult to get a good shot of him with all the algae around.  Hard to see all of him, something was usually in the sand.

Just East of the algae was a patch of sand that looked like the end of the reef.  We kept going, however and found some limestone ledges not unlike the area just East of the concrete blocks off Tower 17.    Photographed some Fire Coral on the ledge

 and a Balloonfish  in one of the holes. 


 Spotted a rather large Spotted Scorpionfish still on the algae, but right on the edge of the sand between the algae and the limestone shelves. 

Found a number of lobster under several large flat rocks on top of the limestone.  Five or six under each rock.

Also found a Spotted Cyphoma, a relative of the Flamingo Tongue, like the Fingerprint Cyphoma.  Haven't seen many of these this year.

The limestone shelves had numerous holes and some small swim-throughs with lots of larger fish, including some Rainbow Parrotfish like the guy to the left. 

It was an interesting dive and certainly worth exploring some more.  There is a lot of life here.

24 March 2013

Chasing the Flag and Katie's second Open Water Dive

Luis and Katie were going to meet me on the beach at 9:00 am, early enough to get a parking spot, but later than yesterday so it might be warmer.  I got there early to make a dive shooting supermacro.

The weather was better:  bottom temperature at 70 degrees and surface temperature at about 74 degrees.  The wind was up and surf was rough, but not outrageous.  I got in and got some okay shots then felt a very strong jerk on the flag line.
 I was busy shooting so I didn't think much about it, then I reached for the reel and it wasn't there.  I surfaced, but could not see the flag anywhere, so I swam back to the beach hoping to locate it.  Luis was there and I explained my problem.  He spotted the flag and took my camera while I chased after it.  I walked along the beach until I spotted it then swam out, but the surface current was strong and I ended up chasing the flag almost to the Pelican. 
I finally caught it and swam back to the beach where Luis was watching.  We then walked back to the truck to meet with Katie.  By the time I got there, though, I was beat.  We didn't get in the water until almost 11:00 am.
We swam on the surface out to the swim buoy and then descended.  Katie had some trouble clearing her ears, but eventually made it down.

We went through the various skills and she did fine, even clearing her mask without incident.