Thursday, June 18, 2009

Blackwater Dive 6-17-09

Wednesday 6-17-09
Company: Big Island Divers
Boat: Moana Olapa
Capt: Russell Brown
Divemaster: Joshua Lambus
Location: No GPS
Current Strength: Moderate to Strong
Highlights: Large schools of squid, Snake Mackerel, Venus girdle, Large siphonophores, Pyrosomes.

After a great manta show in shallow we dropped off our manta-only folk and then the adventurous/crazy/dumb divers ,myself included, head out into the dark. Yet another night without a GPS but none have been disappointing, so I guess we've been guessing right. It is hard to miss way out here though. When I got in I noticed the tethers were not hanging in there usual straight down position, the wind was up this night, and I had known before getting in this would make it hard to keep up with the boats movement. A diver lost a fin getting in so I swam into the dark by myself to retrieve it and bring it back to her. Then Russ began flashing a light off the side of the boat in my direction a little while later. I surfaced, and was told a diver had lost a light and it was drifting away fast. Of course it was. I looked around and saw it out in the dark, At least 50 yards from the boat already. I can’t say I didn’t contemplate just letting it go and hoping we found it after the dive. But under my divemasterly duties, I ran it down and then turned around and made the very long swim back to the boat. Once we had settled into place we began our dive looking for what we came for. The current was moving things past us very quickly and we had to be keen in our search so as to find things far in front of us and get a better look at it. I struggled to stay ahead of the group so if I saw anything of interest, i could have more time with it, as well as show it to the other divers. The heteropods are still in abundance. And tonight there were squid everywhere. It was one of the first things I saw. Throughout the dive they would dart into the group then back out again, sometimes they would just hover amidst us, before rocketing away, or inking. At one point in the dive one of the squid froze in a diver’s beam of light and began inking... and inking... and inking. It didn’t move at all... just inked. Eventually it moved off into the dark giving little ink squirts as it went. We had a couple of very long siphonophores, one at least 10ft, and the other about 20ft. A venus girdle moved through the group. We also saw many Pyrosomes. One of the girls looked through my photos and said she believes she saw a brotuloteania, but I did not see it (But there's lots of things I don't see but am sure are out there every night). The highlight of my night was a large fish I had never seen before, maybe 3 to 4 feet long. It swam underneath me only about 3 feet away, coming into view in my periphery, scaring the hell out of me. The animal looks like a mixture of fish I’ve seen before. Its Head looks like that of a barracuda, it body that of a large needle fish, or cornet fish. I believe this is a fish identified by Matthew J D'Avella as a Snake Mackerel. After my initial surprise faded, I took aim with my camera and fired. The strobe flashed brilliantly against its silvery skin, and in a flash just as quick, the fish sped off into the night. A beautiful and new addition to my blackwater memories.


Blackwater Dive 6-16-09

Tuesday 6-16-09

Company: Torpedo Tours

Boat: Na Pali Kai II

Capt: Nikki Milligan

Divemaster: Mike Milligan

Location: No GPS

Current Strength: Moderate, but used parachute.

Highlights: 2 Seahorses, Larval Squid, Worms, 20ft siphonophore.

Torpedo Tours invited me (Joshua Lambus) along for one of their blackwaters so I could see how they do things. They differed mostly in that they use a parachute. This keeps the boat from being moved by the wind. Rochelle, from Kona Honu was there, as well as some of her freinds and a few out-of-towners. 7 divers in total including Mike and me. Once we arrived at our destination we suited up and jumped in. With the chute it’s a very different feeling. The boat seems stationary, but is actually anchored in the current, that you too are drifting in. This made me feel much more comfortable when following an animal into the dark. Since the boat was not moving away from me I knew I wouldn’t lose it or have trouble catching back up. Almost right of the bat, I saw a seahorse, which Mike had been hoping to sea. So off we drifted with it, into the night photographing and watching the little guy. It was the smallest seahorse I've seen yet, measuring in at just over two inches. After that we came back into the group. A fish about 1 foot long and cylindrical swim in another divers’ light. My immediate thought, was that it was a cookie cutter, but I did not get a closer look to confirm. Mike found a very large worm of the Tomopteris genus, maybe 6 inches long... these look like leaf shaped centipedes crawling their way through the water. I came across a squid. Very small only 2 inches long maybe and completely clear, except a few multi-colored spots. I could only visibly see two tentacles, and later looking at the photos I can only see 4. The body was oblique with the two swim fins sitting so far back on the mantle, they seemed to almost be removed entirely. It's eyes were at the end of stalks, similar to that of a crab. At one point I could see mike videoing a very large siphonophores, that stretched out about 20 or 30 feet. We came across another seahorse shortly before the end of the dive. One of the divers accidently dropped her light... off into the abyss it sank. It was a bummer, as it was a very nice light, but we all had a contemplative moment, at the thought that an hour after we were geared down and back on land, it would only just be getting near the bottom.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Blackwater Dive 6-12-09

Friday 6-12-09
Company: Big Island Divers
Boat: Moana Olapa
Capt: Mike Mayne
Divemaster: Joshua Lambus
Location: GPS was not on
Current Strength: Light
Highlights: Cookie Cutter, Jacks, Squid, Brotuloteania, Lots of Heteropods.

Tonight my GPS' batteries were dead, so we were flying blind. As we left the harbor we could see at least 3 fishing boats in the distance. This was a concern for me since they tend to be in the habit of attracting large fish, and the last thing I am wanting to see on a blackwater dive is well.... A BIG fish! Once we decided we had reached at a suitable and found a suitable spot I noticed two more fishing boats. I'll be honest, I was a bit nervous on this particular night, 3 miles off-shore, 7000ft of water beneath us, and 5 fishing boats in the surrounding area, possibly all chumming the waters, and us right smack dab in the middle. Oh, joy. Once we got underwater I did my usual "scary things sweep" and then got on with my "crazy critter" hunt. Initially there was no current, and barely anything was to be seen. Soon came the usual string of siphonophores, salps, and ctenophores. Also there were heteropods everywhere. It got to the point that I was wishing they weren’t there so I could see more easily the more rare and unusual animals. We had 4 divers in the water including myself. Part way through the dive two large Jacks swam by, I couldn't be sure but they looked like GTs. Many times throughout the dive a cloud of squid ink would float by. I could only imagine the Jack's were having a calamari breakfast. At one point in the dive, a group of about 20 squid came into view in front of me and darted back and forth in my light. As soon as they showed up they were gone. Non e of the other divers had seen the squid despite my attempts to get their attention. A while later, a heteropod that was cut in half drifted by and cause me to turn around. There in front of me was the highlight of my night. A beautiful fish, with many flowing appendages, colored shades of yellow, orange, and green. The closest thing I could describe this as is a graceful peacock of the seas. I've seen this animal twice before, and have been told this is a fish in the genus Brotuloteania. I followed it into the dark until I realized was alone in the dark far from the group. After that we also saw a venus girdlle curled into a marvelous, technicolor, rolled sash. As the dives came to an end the sounds of dolphins filled out ears. As i peered out into the darkness in search of that familiar dolphin shape, I saw a reflective green orb that I knew to be the eye of a Cookie Cutter shark. Sure enough as it move closer it revealed itself as such. The smallest brasiliensis I’ve seen, it was probably less than a foot long. It was probably less then a foot long. It moved towards the group and then descended under us disappearing into the dark. That was the last thing we saw on the dive. We exited the water and began our journey home all stunned and in awe of the wonderful creatures we had the privileged to encounter.


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This is my favoite dive of all time... ill never get tired of it. Let me explain the nature of this dive.... we are about 2 miles off the coast of the most remote land mass in the world (Kona Hawaii).... drifting with a current at about 2 knots ...tethered to the boat by 50 foot tethers... (well im not, but everyone else is)... the water under us is between 2000 and 7000 ft deep.... or 700 to 2500 meters , which ever you prefer..... These animals live on the bottom by day in complete darkness only to travel to the surface every night.... this is the largest known migration of any group of animals on the planet... and it happens nightly. Many of these creatures float past us in the night (between 7pm or 12am depending on when we got our start...) and most are no larger than a postage stamp. Occasionally we get some larger animals... (thresher shark, broad bill swordfish, oceanic white tips, and Galapagos sharks....) but that's certainly not what we are out there for.

"Anyone who has actually seen this universe will keep an image of it in his memory forever; for its isolation, its cosmic cold, its eternal obscurity -- and above all, for the indescribable beauty of the denizens of those regions." -William Beebe