Dark Descent

One of the great things about scuba diving is that you get to meet interesting people from all over the world.  On a dive, at Ulong Channel in Palau, I looked over my shoulder and saw Gabriel Ganme descending into the cavern.  Taking a quick shot, without flash, I didn't think anything more about it until I reviewed it later.  Notwithstanding the fact that the fins merge with the coral and reduce the balance of the composition I really like this silhouette because it adds a  perspective of ominous surrealism to the underwater scene.

Gabriel Ganme is an instructor in Sao Paulo, Brazil at the Diving College.  Mary and I dove with Gabriel's group in both Palau and Yap.

Eel Wars at Watamula

At a dive site called Watamula, in Curacao, Mary had spotted a free swimming spotted moray eel so I moved in to take a photograph.  I was framing a shot for one eel when suddenly another one popped up from the sand, giving me a unique photograph of two spotted moray eels in one shot. Immediately upon taking the photo, one eel attacked the other eel. A fierce battle ensued, resulting in an lightening attack that displayed the strength and agility of these magnificient creatures.  One of the eels came out of the coral at lightening speed headed directly toward me and a part of my anatomy that shall remain nameless.  I put my camera down to block him, from the aforementioned nameless private parts, as he rushed past me and circled back to engage in another heated exchange, that I was just able to catch on video.  It all happened so fast that I really was lucky to get any of it.  Of course, Mary was laughing at me the whole time!

Black Brotula - A Lucky Find

At a dive site in Curacao, called Jeremy, I was struggling with focusing my camera on a juvenile trunkfish, the size of a green pea, when Mary banged her tank and gave me the come here sign. She was pointing excitedly toward an opening between two coral mounds. You almost had to stand on your head to see into it and at first I could see nothing. Mary shined her light into the tunnel and we waited. Suddenly a small creature, no bigger than 1-1 ½ inches, darted across the light beam. Its locomotion was ribbon like with a blunt head and tapered torso surrounded by continuous dorsal and anal fins ending in a pointed tail.

Humphead Wrasse

Diving Palau aboard the Aggressor Liveaboard, Mary and I came across this Humphead Wrasse, also called a Maori or Napoleon Wrasse. They are one of the largest fish and can live up to 30 years. They are friendly and not afraid to approach divers. Threatened by overfishing they are knocked out with cyanide gas and served live in some Asian countries. Going for over $100USD per kilogram it may not be long before there are no more Humphead Wrasse.

The Humphead Wrasse can grow to over 7.5ft (229 cm). You can get an idea of how big this one is in relation to the diver. It is huge...the fish not the diver!

Man House - Hidden Art of Yap

The island of Yap is located in Micronesia, between Palau and Guam.  Mary and I had travelled to Yap to see manta rays after a week of diving Palau.  On a surface interval Gordon, our divemaster, took us to see a Man House.

Each village has a man house, sort of a community dwelling like a city hall, where official business of the village is conducted.

On our visit Gordon relayed a story that the night before the elders of the village had held a council, at the man house, to discuss the the fate of two teenage boys.  They had apparently damaged someones property and it was up to the elders to determine how the boys would be punished.

Curacao Underwater - A Photographic Selection

Mary and I just returned from Curacao where we stayed at the Kura Hulanda Lodge on the West End and dove with Ocean Encounters West.  To view a selection of photographs of Curacao Underwater please click on the link below.

Photographs of Curacao Underwater

Sergeant Major Egg Feeding Frenzy

Sergeant Majors are damselfish, feisty little fish, with five distinct vertical black stripes from which they derive their name. They lay their eggs in round patches on hard structures and the male generally guards them like a pit bull.

We found this purple nest of eggs on a dive in Curacao called "Airplane". Someone had the brilliant idea to sink a Fokker Fairchild 27 airplane onto an otherwise healthy reef not realizing that in a few years time it would become a junk pile of aluminum and wire. What we found interesting was that surrounding the "junk pile" were a myriad of sergeant major nests where high drama in real life was taking place.

This nest was being guarded by two sergeant majors, male and female, but they were quickly overwhelmed by the ferocity of the feeding frenzy. Yellowhead wrasse, bluehead wrasse, parrotfish, other damselfish and even a graysby join in the feeding. The poor sergeant major loses his eggs in a matter of seconds.

First Lionfish Sighting On West Side of Curacao

Watamula is the northern most, and most pristine, dive site in Curacao. At the mooring you can see the white-caps from the windward point to the north and the rock cliffs to the east. Upon descent you see a sandy bit of bottom with robust giant soft coral surrounded by an expanse of hard coral not yet damaged by human encroachment.

Hovering near a giant soft coral, Toni McNally, our dive master with Ocean Encounters West, got my attention and clasped her hands with interlocking fingers and then excitedly pointed at the base of a soft coral. Not recognizing the sign I swam over to look and found a juvenile lionfish.

Toni later told us that this was the first sighting of a lionfish on the west side of Curacao. So I had, in another Forrest Gump moment, taken the first photograph of the first lionfish sighting on the west side on Tuesday, October 27, 2009 at 11:00a.m. If I had known the significance I definitely would have composed a better photograph, but, I was really focused on finding a seahorse we had seen on a previous dive, and didn’t give the shot due consideration.

While excited at the find we are also concerned with the damage the introduction of an alien species may cause to the local reef system. In a previous posting, Lionfish – Alien Invasion, we discussed that the lionfish is a prolific breeder with a less than discriminating appetite. With no known predators its presence, unfortunately, may create unintended consequences to the health of the reefs.