I had planned to make a series of night dives this morning from the South Beach parking lot, but just could not get motivated. It was 64 degrees this morning. I went back to bed. I got up about 7:00 am and loaded the truck and headed for Birch State Park. When I got there, I discovered that although I had set up my camera, I had not loaded it in the truck. So I dived without the camera. Big mistake.
I swam out the to swim buoy and the Big Rock to start my dive and noticed a fin in the water. I held my mask on my face and looked to find a dolphin swimming next to me. I quickly put on my mask and descended. This lone dolphin swam around me, clearly curious, then swam off, only to return in a few minutes and circle me a little closer and a little slower. He made three such trips, then returned with two other dolphins. They swam together and made a complete circle around me. I held my arm out, but they stayed out of arm's reach, then simply swam away. While it would have taken me a little time to get the camera set up, I missed some really rare and possibly good shots of dolphin in the wild.
I headed along on my zig-zag path to the Little Coral Knoll and found a small Green Sea Turtle sleeping beside and partially underneath the tipped coral head on the NE corner of the knoll. Another missed photo opportunity. I hung with the fish and explored a little to the East and South of the knoll, then headed to the Porthole Rocks, checking along the way to see if there was an octopus on the tall coral head. There wasn't. There were a lot of reef fish on the Rocks, but nothing unusual. I surfaced at 54 minutes.
Bottom temperature was 75 degrees; dive time was 54 minutes; consumption rate was 25.93 psi/minute at an average depth of 18 feet and my SAC rate was 16.78 psi/minute on an aluminum 80.
During the surface interval, I tried to take a bearing over the Porthole Rocks, but it was more or less due East of Tower 14. Might try to navigate from the beach to the rocks some day. After the surface interval, I descended and back tracked to the knoll. I found the biggest Pederson Shrimp I have ever seen next to a corkscrew anemone on the back side of the knoll. It was easily twice the size of the ones I have photographed before. Another missed photo opportunity.
When my tank got down to 900 psi, I started back from the knoll to the Big Rock. I spent some time looking for Gaudy Naticas on the Sand Sea, then swam to the smaller rock, turned North and swam to the Big Rock, where I spotted a Lionfish. Really need to fix my spear. Then I swam in to the beach.
Bottom temperature was 75 degrees; dive time was 56 minutes; consumption rate was 26.66 psi/'minute at an average depth of 17 feet and my SAC rate increased to 17.60 psi/minute on an aluminum 80.