18 January 2014

Luis, Leo and I dive off Tower 17

Luis, Leo and I met on the beach at Tower 17.  We geared up and swam out to the concrete blocks, then headed East.  I passed all of the usual landmarks up to the Gray Mid-way Rock, and then kept going East to the Fish Camp Rocks.

Got this shot of a Sharpnose Puffer.  I really like the decorations around the eyes.
This Porcupine Fish was timid and tried to avoid getting his picture taken, but he waited just a moment to long before swimming off.
 These Sergeant Majors are delightful.  Found a bunch of them at the Fish Camp Rocks.
Found this Sharptail Eel after the Fish Camp Rocks and on the way to the Ledge.
 Same with this Bluestriped Grunt.
This little Bicolor Damselfish was one of many protecting their territory on the way down the Ledge.
This Redband Parrotfish came out of nowhere.  I was lucky this shot turned out.

Not long after taking this picture, I signaled to Luis that I was down to 1000 psi and needed to head back to the beach.
 Plenty of Spotted Goatfish on the way back to the beach.
 Plenty of Porkfish, too.

This Flamingo Tongue was really vertical and it ate its way down the sea rod, but the picture looks better this way.

     I was really blowing through my air. I surfaced with 212 left after only an 87 minute dive.

14 January 2014

Couple of Dives on the Euro-Jacks off the Yankee Clipper

      I thought that the computer transmitter had a dead battery, but I finally changed it and none of the batteries I had made it work.  I even tried putting them in changing polarity.  Nothing worked.  So I switched from the Oceanic to the Suunto.  I continued to take the Oceanic computer along on my dives, but it no longer has any tank pressure information.

      Vaughn De Agrella has been wanting to begin his Divemaster course for a while now.  One of the prerequisites is that he have 40 logged dives, and as of this date, he has 39.

      The wind is light and out of the SSW, so the ocean is pretty flat.  The air temperature is about 78 degrees.  I set up my Canon 5d Mk II with a 100mm macro lens and the dome port, which is often the setup I use diving.  We swam out and descended just to the West of the Jacks.  Almost like I knew what I was doing, though, of course, I did not.  There was a single Jack just South of where we descended.  We swam a bit East and found two more, then more and more.  Finally, we were on the wall.

 Soon after we started East along the Jacks, I spotted a small Nurse Shark.  I tried to get really close, but he was so timid.
 Had a little Balloonfish stop and pose for me.
 Then a Gray Angelfish came along and seemed to want some attention.
   The Jacks are full of Trumpetfish like the one to the right.
       Spotted a couple of Atlantic Spadefish cruising along and got the picture to the left.
   This Almaco Jack hung around for a bit, probably trying to decide how likely it was I might kill something really big so he could pick up scraps. 
 I haven't seen many Scrawled Cowfish this year, though it seemed they were everywhere last Summer.
 The picture to the right is a Trumpetfish but this guy has a blue variation for just his face.  Seen him a couple of times on the Jacks, but this is the first good picture.
 Just left the Jacks on the way to the beach when I spotted this hogfish.  They often turn so I can get a good shot, but this guy wasn't having any of that. Still, its not a bad picture.

At 60 minutes, Vaughn signalled that he was down to 1000 psi, so we headed back.  While we were still over the algae, he started using my alternate air source.  We breathed my tank down to 200 psi before I called a halt to the dive and we surfaced to swim the rest of the way in.

 Vaughn and I warmed up a bit in the sun, then got in for a second dive.  I switched from the 100 mm macro lens to a 28 - 105 mm zoom, but I set it at 50mm.  Got some good shots of the Jacks.
 The pile is about 10 feet high and goes on for quite a ways.  Swimming slowly, it takes about 30 minutes to go from one end to the other.
 Vaughn hanging above the Jacks.  Need to get him to adopt the horizontal attitude.  He spends a lot of time "standing" up underwater.
Vaughn over the sand immediately before the beach.  This dive was better from an air-use perspective.  He didn't need any of my air, but just made it to the beach for a 69 minute dive.  I still had 1300 psi in the tank.

13 January 2014

Solo Dive on the Ledge of Turtles without a pressure guage

      Soaked the housing for the Mark II, greased the buttons and cleaned the O-rings.  Everything worked.  I did not change the strobe battery, but it was fine.  The Oceanic computer transmitter battery apparently died yesterday.  No signal.  No tank pressure information. I should have changed it last night, but I didn't.  I brought the wrong  batteries this morning, so it was dead on this dive, too.

      I swam out to the reef and descended on the large rock pile then swam out at 120 degrees, but still did not find the Ledge.  I swam up a slope and found Shark's Rocks East and from there went to the Nipple Rock and then West to the Ledge.  No eel today, but, on the other hand, the camera worked.

 Found a small school of Atlantic Spadefish while I was looking for the Ledge, and got this shot.
Got this shot of a Sheepshead heading South from Shark's Rock to the Nipple Rock.
 This little Three Spot Damselfish got right in my face when I approached his cluster of Staghorn Coral.

 I got several shots of these two French Grunts going mouth to mouth apparently over some territorial dispute or maybe a female, but who really knows?  Usually when I encounter this behavior, the fish break off once I take my first photo.  The strobe scares them, I guess.  But these two fellows just kept after one another.

      Got a nice shot of this Sand Diver just lying on the bottom of the reef waiting.  
     Saw some Midnight Blue Parrotfish, but did not get close enough for any good shots.

     I did get a few good shots of some Bluespotted Coronetfish on the way back to the beach.

      I don't know what changed between yesterday and today, but the camera seemed to work just fine.  Now if I can only remember to change the battery in my computer transmitter.

12 January 2014

Luis, Leo and I dive the Ledge of Turtles

      I met Luis and Leo behind Tower 20 at 8:30 am.  Water was flat and visibility was good, if hazy at 15 feet.  We swam out to the reef before descending, then headed ESE at what I thought was 120 degrees, but must have been closer to 100 degrees because we ended up at Nipple Rock.  Fortunately, I recognized the landmark and we immediately turned West and swam to the Ledge.

      We found fish, lots of fish.  Schools of Porkfish and French Grunts, with several small groups of Angelfish and Balloonfish.  Unfortunately, I was continuing to have problems with my Canon 5d Mk II.  It wouldn't focus.  I tried changing the ISO and I tried using the movie strobe to assist the auto focus.  Nothing helped.  Fortunately,  both Leo and Luis had their cameras and those cameras worked.  They got some good shots of the dive, which I have added here.   Leo posts his photos on Facebook:  Leonardo Paez Underwater Photographer.  Luis posts his on Picasaweb:  Luis Monroy Photographs.

      In particular, they got some shots of a battle between a 7 foot long Green Moray Eel and a small Balloonfish.  I watched a large Green Moray Eel swim between me and Leo, while Leo was turned away photographing something or other.  As you can see, my attempts at a photograph was less than successful.  Unfortunately, neither Luis nor Leo saw the eel coming.

The eel ducked into a turtle hole in the reef, where  he found a ballonfish.

The eel went for the Balloonfish, but the Balloonfish blew up and the eel could not swallow him.

The problem was that the Balloonfish could not swim away, either.  Puffed up, the Balloonfish was too big to get out of the same hole he got in.

He was trapped and the eel was holding on.

The three of us were taking pictures and the flashing strobes coupled with the noise from our breathing apparently scared the eel, who let go of the Balloonfish.  But the Balloonfish still could not get out.

 Luis shot this video of the Balloonfish trying to get out of the hole and the eel waiting near the bottom for his opportunity to kill the Balloonfish.

  I broke off a bit of the rock super structure of the reef and the Balloonfish was able to slip away.  I think he lost an eye in the fight, but he swam away