Tuesday, February 28, 2006

New IMAX film, Deep Sea 3D, features 2 Kona dive sites.

Here's IMAX's link

IMAX has just released thier latest 3D film. It was filmed in 9 locations, one of them being Kona. Apparently it features 2 of our better known dives... Turtle Pinnacle and the night Manta Dive.

The IMAX in Waikiki was shut down recently so we're kind of out of luck for seeing it in this state, but for those of you near an IMAX theater, you can get a pretty good idea of what these dives can be like, without splurging on a plane ticket.

The picture above is of a Whitemouth Moray (Gymnothorax meleagris). These are our most common morays. Reaching to a bit over 3 feet in length, they can come in a variety of shades and spot patterns, but the white mouth is a giveaway on indentification.



Monday, February 27, 2006

Here's another Hawaiian green sea turtle picture.

That last post just looked wrong... lot's of words, with the pic down low in the post. Thought I'd give people a pic at the top of the page to look at. My slow week ahead just got buiser, I set up three bookings today.



A little South Kona news, there may be a settlement on Hokulia

Possible Hokulia settlement, click here You may have to sign up to read the article.

I can't recall if I've mentioned one of the ongoing land use issues here in Kona, so I'll provide a brief description. It's an issue that is pretty prominint locally as it involves development, land use and traffic issues....

Several years ago the County approved a luxury subdivision on "agricultural land" located just south of what is now the Keauhou Sheraton. Lots of strings were attached, most prominent of them being that the developers would provide Kona with a highway which had been on the books for around 4 decades.

Construction began, and as you can imagine, the anti-change/growth groups, as well as native Hawaiian activists, tried to find a way to stop it. Several legal efforts failed as the courts upheld Country agreements and found there were no puposeful attempts to desecrate artifacts or burials. Anyway, at some point a group challenged the development on grounds of inappropriate use of agricultural land, and the Judge upheld the argument. The development, along with the much needed highway, has been stalled for a couple of years now.

There have been several attempts at a settlement, as well as trying to push for a State Supreme Court ruling on the Judge's ruling, and Legislation to clarify agricultural zoning and what is allowed on it (apparently most land in Hawaii is Ag land by default, even rocky land that is basically inappropriate for agriculture, and there are some 140 other "illegal" subdivisions in the state). Anyway, apparently a settlement is in the works. I'm not sure if that will necessarily mean the Judge would vacate his decision and allow the development to continue. The outcome of this will be awaited by the majority of South Kona residents.

Just thought I'd pass that along, as it might be of interest to those familiar with the area.

Can't forget to add a picture. This is a Trumpetfish (Aulostomus chinensis). This fish can get to a bit over two feet long and can come in a variety of colors. It's not uncommon to see yellow, red, brown or silverish trumpetfish at the same dive site. They have a neat mouth. From back in my aquarium days, if you watch them feed, you'll see that their mouth has an elaborate boney plated hinging system that will allow them to catch and swallow their food. I've never seen one catch anything in the wild, I have seen them attempt it though.



Another Kona Hawaii turtle cleaning station photo.

Hey there,

Sorry about the sort of strange titles (I don't normally say "Kona Hawaii" a lot) to some of these posts... it's all about giving search engines appropriate phrases to find me.

We had four manta rays on the manta dive the other night. A good time was had by both the diver and the snorkelers. I've done the manta dive a couple hundred times now and it's still a very neat experience each time. It truly is a great adventure.

I've been doing a bunch of diving the last few days. I'm off today and have another manta trip tomorrow. I have someone I've been playing phone tag with who's looking at diving for about 4-5 days coming up, then we should be getting into spring break and busy times again for a few weeks.

At some point recently we went to "Turtle Pinnacle" and there were 3 or 4 turtles present. Turtle Pinnacle is probably our most well known turtle cleaning station. I've described cleaning stations before and shown a couple of pictures and the video earlier. This is a picture of a turtle in full bloom, so to speak. They'll hang out on the ground and present themselves, occasionally they'll move off but the tangs will follow and continue to clean thier shells. One of the neat little things that occasionally happens when a free swimming turtle is being cleaned, is that a turtle without any tangs on them may purposefully swim up to the turtle being cleaned and attempt to steal his cleaners. It's fun to watch, and I don't think the other turtle really is annoyed by this.



Thursday, February 23, 2006

Doing the Kona manta ray night dive tonight off the Kona airport.

I'm running errands, doing some boat maintenance and such today. Tonight I have 1 diver and 4-5 snorkelers for the manta dive. We've (Kona dive operators in general) been seeing 3-5 mantas off the airport site the last few nights.

I've got a couple of "not quite good enough to call keepers" pics, of some fish I've been wanting to show, that I'll post. All of these guys are fish that my camera's focusing system has a tough time tracking. Between that and the shutter delay in low light, it may be a while before I can post a "keeper".

The first is my best shot so far of a flame angel. We saw this one yesterday and I managed to get a shot of it as it came out of a hole. Flame angelfish are found throughout the tropical indo-pacific and are a popular aquarium fish. I'd heard during my aquarium shop days that the Hawaiian ones were a deeper red than what you generally saw in fish shipments from elsewhere, and this seems to be true from what I've seen diving here vs. what I had been getting when I was bringing in non-Hawaiian flame angels.

The second shot is of the fire dart fish I've been talking about seeing this year. These guys are just small enough that my camera tends to focus on the background rather than the fish.

Yesterday's dive was a blast. We had both of these guys, plus buterfly fish galore, including a Saddleback Butterfly I got a real lousy picture of, a tiger cowry, an unusual leaf scorpion way back in a hole that I really wish I could've got a picture of, and all sorts of goodies. Along with that, there were whales singing throughout the dive. It was great fun!

Well, I'm off to get some work done.



Monday, February 20, 2006

Had a group of manta rays on the surface today.

Today we had one certified diver and a couple of intro divers so we had 3 instructors/guides (If you include myself acting as captain) on the boat... 3 passengers, 3 crew, not a bad ratio.

On the way to the first dive site there were several manta rays feeding on the surface. We stopped the boat to let the customers get their snorkel gear in and slip over the side to watch the mantas. After about 10 minutes it dawned on me that I had an extra Captain on board so I ought to slip over myself and get some daytime manta photos.... unfortunatly they were moving off as I was moving in. I did get this pic. Nothing too special, I wish I'd jumped in earlier. We're doing a manta dive on thursday evening so I can get my manta fill then.



Sunday, February 19, 2006

Kona's water temperature is still 74-75 degrees.

I'm hoping this is about as cold as it'll get this year. When I first moved over here it was 74. I thought it was bath water. 2000 or so dives later, it just seems cold. I've met a lot of people who've moved here and dove without a wetsuit for a while, then moved up to a shorty, then a full 3 mil... and so on... a fair number of the full time DMs and Instructors here are even wearing 7 mil full suits. I've got enough built in insulation that I can tolerate a 3 mil full as long as I keep the number of dives down to one daily. The second dive of the day I really appreciate throwing on a shorty under the full suit. My primary employee is also a Captain and Instructor, so we generally rotate duties and each get 1 dive in and 1 on the boat.

The last couple of days have been nice diving for me. The water's been settling down after the most recent swells, but it's still kind of murky for here. Viz at the sites I dove ranged from about 50-70 feet. Today the whales were singing quite loudly at our first dive site, which I dove. I thought I'd be real clever and turn the camera to video mode and record the songs... I'd forgotten that I turned the mic off, so it didn't turn out. Maybe next time. The whale songs made a nice soothing background for a 75 minute dive though.

I've been seeing more Flame Angels (Centropyge loriculus)this year than ever. I'm hoping maybe they're going to become even more common. I saw three total between yesterday's and today's dive. One I expected to see, the others were new to me. Here's a little pic, a bad pic anyway, to prove I saw one and give you an idea of the color of these guys. They are quite shy and dart in and out of the corals, one of these days I hope to get a good pic.

The pic at the top is of a Divided Flatworm (I've also seen them referred to as Tiger Flatworms), they are a type of sea slug we have here.



Thursday, February 16, 2006

West Hawaii Artificial Reef Foundation

I was doing some work on the boat amongst my errands today, and ran into Rick from WHARF. He notified me of a community meeting at the Sheraton that's coming up on the 3rd of next month.

This group has been making an effort to build an artifical reef in Kona by sinking a large vessel. It's fairly common practice in many dive destinations, having passed governmental muster in San Diego, Florida, British Columbia, even Oahu and Maui. Apparently there is some local opposition, as there is to virtually everything. This is definitely a winner for Kona divers, dive operators, fishermen and all tourist related businesses here.

You can click on the headline to this blog article or go here: http://www.wharfpacific.org to find out more information on their efforts. The outreach link has a powerpoint presentation that pretty much outlines everything.

The picture above is not a rock. It's not the best pic, but it's about the only one I've got of this fish. This is a large Titan Scorpionfish (Scorpaenopsis cacopsis), they're related to the "stone fish" you hear about. They have venomous spines, so they aren't one to mess with. They are pretty difficult to spot, since they blend in with the reef so well, hopefully I can get a better picture at some later date.


New scuba gear today.

Today I was running errands. I went to the UPS depot at the airport to pick up a shipment of regulators to replace everything I currently have in rental. The goal is to try to keep the gear in nearly new condition.

After the airport, I went and picked up some Nitrox for tomorrow's dive. Nitrox is an oxygen rich mixture for diving. It changes some of the nitrogen concerns, but most people dive it because they feel better afterwards - it used to be referred to as "geezer gas" when it first became popular. I personally only use it if I'm doing multiple days of more than two tanks, but I definitly notice I'm feeling better at the end of the week if I'm diving on it. You generally need a special certification to use nitrox, but we can also do nitrox intros for those who want to try it.

Tomorrow is the beginning of a busy stretch for me, basically most every day 'til the end of the month. I did have a cancellation today which opens up a day or two, but I suspect I can get something to fill in those dates also, we'll see.

This is an image taken just outside of "freeze face" up in the surge zone. Unlike many older tropical locations where the islands have eroded away enough to where they are ringed with beaches, much of the immediate shoreline of the Big Island is rocky and will have a lava flow which meets the water. We often have little 20'-30' high drop offs to explore where this occurs. We do still hav beaches though, just not as predominant as on the older islands.



Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A gray day around the Captain Cook area today...

We finally got a shot of much needed rain, but not enough to really green things up, I'm hoping it starts up againg this evening. We ofen have our dry season during the winter in Kona, this has been the driest in a could of years. I'm probably going to have to water plants and part of the front yard for the first time in 2 or 3 years soon.

Our last charter was with a fun group. The weather was strange. When we came out of the harbor there was a north wind and a bit of chop, so we went south to get out of it. As soon as we got around the point, the wind couldn't decide which was it was coming from. We took a mooring spot and did first dive. The wind was coming in from all directions, with the boat switching directions on the mooring every 5-10 minutes or so. By the time the second dive was going we'd moved to another mooring and the wind had decided to come in from the South. I Captained so I got to enjoy the surface chop. The dives were still quite nice, with good viz. Highlights were Bandit Angels and a little yellow frogfish, apparently not all noticed the frogfish.

Here's the black phase of the Yellow Longnose Butterfly. This apparently happens nowhere else in the world but Hawaii, and is most common in South Kona. We have dive sites on our longer charters that we can pretty much guarantee seeing these guys. Nearer to town they do not seem quite as common, but they are still found fairly regularly. I'm not sure if they've yet determined why some will go into a black phase, it's one of those things where if you put the fish in an aquarium, it'll turn yellow again in short order.



Sunday, February 12, 2006

A bit of wind on the water in Kona today....

Not to be confused with the TV show back in '98 or so called "Wind on the Water" or something like that starring Bo Derek, which was filmed in Kona. I think the show lasted 3-4 episodes before they yanked it. The beach where they filmed it is one of the nicer little beaches here, you have to go in to Kehaka Kai Park (north of the airport) and walk in a few minutes towards the north from the parking area to get there.

I had a charter today. We had a nice stiff breeze for a good portion of the day, but it didn't really do anything to water conditions, which were quite nice. I played Captain all day so no diving for me though. I have another charter tomorrow, I think I'm staying up top then also.

We've been a bit slow the first half of the month, but the last half is scheduling up nicely. It was time to catch up on the yardwork and such. We cut down a 20 some odd pound bunch of ripening apple bananas today.... yum yum. I had a bad "banana experience" in the first or second grade - my sack lunch was over the radiator and my banana turned black and mushy, the mean (aren't they all) cafeteria lady made me eat it before I could go play - I'm not sure if I ate another entire banana in one sitting 'til I moved here.

This is a Longnose Butterflyfish (forcipiger longirostris). Much of the indo-pacific region has a common variety with a shorter nose, we have that one and this guy which has a very long nose. In Kona, and pretty much only Kona, we have a very rare coloration of this particular fish, I'll post it on my next post, assuming I can find my one good shot of one I've got filed somewhere in the depths of my hard drive. The long nose on these guys helps them reach inside coral heads to pick at foods.



Wednesday, February 08, 2006

3-D photography? You can do it!

Ok, some of you are going to hate this post, some of you are really going to think this is cool! Stick with me long enough to read the information and instructions.

With the image above, you should be able to see the flower in amazing 3-D!!!! You may have to click on the image and enlarge it to full size to really see it well.

Warning, some of you will probably get headaches and hate me for this.

Anyway, these images are of an iris from the yard and were taken with a normal digital camera, but from slightly different angles. One image was taken slightly from the right, the other slightly from the left... then you reverse the order when looking at the images, so I've put the right image on the left and the left image on the right. You now have a stereo image pair.

To see the 3-D image you will need to back up from your monitor say 18-24 inches and start crossing your eyes. If you cross your eyes so much you have 4 images, you've crossed them too far. You will need to slowly uncross your eyes 'til the middle 2 images merge into one. Once you have a solid image in the middle, with 2 ghost images on the sides (making for 3 images total), the middle image will be in 3-D!!!!

It may take some practice. For most people this is actually easier than those funky poster things that require you to look through an image, so your focal point is beyond the plane of the screen, to see a 3-D effect, in this your focal point is in front of the screen (since you are crossing your eyes) and most people can do this easier.

Feel free to comment as to whether this works for you. I may throw some other pairs I've tried later on if I get a positive response.

Water conditions the last couple of days - bad, although it's settling down right now we are supposed to see another swell tomorrow.



Monday, February 06, 2006

Hawaii scuba diving rocks...

Well, today it rocks, and rolls. Surf is up. Once again, we are having what is supposedly the biggest swell of the year according to the TV stations. It's not that bad from my place, but I haven't been down to the harbor (no charter today) to check it out. We'll be getting fewer and few of these types of swell as winter passes and we get into spring.

Since I'm not diving today, I think I'll put up another photo of tangs or surgeonfish. These guys are yellow tangs (Zebrasoma flavescens), with a few other assorted fish mixed in. They spend their days picking algae off the reef. The scalpel on these guys isn't as predominant as on the unicorn style tangs. Instead of two fully extended scalpels, they have a single retractible scalpel on each side. Notice the white spot near the tail, that will flip out and give them a blade for defense if needed.

Yellow tangs are one of our more recognizable reef fish. We can have large schools of them working the reefs, although you don't seem to see as many of them in the areas near town as you do further out. Part of that could be harvesting pressures from the aquarium trade - that in itself is worthy of a few posts. The tropical fish collection trade is more regulated these days than in the past, and it seems to be benefitting everyone... fish stocks are increasing, and harvests are increasing... but it can be a hot topic with divers on both sides. Anyway, Kona is likely the top producer in the world of yellow tangs for the home aquarium trade (I may touch on some of this later).



Friday, February 03, 2006

Surf's up a bit,but still good diving

We had another nice couple on board today for intro dives. One actually had been certified years ago and never dove since and had lost proof of certification, which is quite common - that's no reason not to dive though. There are ways to replace a lost dive card, and intro dives can be done on the spur of the moment. Our intro dives are pretty much the same dives as our regular certified dives, only you have to be with and instructor, perform a few basic skills, and we have a 40' depth limit.

The surf was a bit higher than I expected as we were coming out of the harbor, but luckily the side of the island isn't a straight line - there's usually a point we can go around that'll have flat water behind it. We headed down to Pawai Bay. If you've read the blog thus far and kept track of the swell direction, you'll probably notice that Pawai Bay and the Pinetrees area are usually the most dove spots on northwest swell days we get on occasion during the winter. Pawai Bay was quite reasonable. We had roughly 70-100 foot viz and no surge for the dives today.

I did the second dive. We saw lots of Pyramid Butterflies (Hemitaurichtys Polylepis) and other goodies, as this is a particularly fishy dive, as well as one of the resident Flame Angels (Centropyge Loriculus) we look for in this area.

Here's a reasonably closeup shot of Pyramid Butterfly fish, along with their cousins the Thompson's Butterfly fish, I took a couple months back at a spot around the corner from this site. These guys are one of my personal favorite butterfly fish. They tend to hang out on points or dropoffs, where there are currents or upwellings, in large schools. This particular group of fish was only a small portion of the butterflies in the area and was waiting by a coral head to be cleaned by a cleaner wrasse. It's neat seeing hundreds of the same fish in one spot, on some dropoffs we will see clouds of them.



Thursday, February 02, 2006

Online scuba instruction and training?

So I need to respond to a phone call I received last night which involves a specific inquiry I've been asked once or twice a year lately. The gist of the inquiries involve a specific online scuba training program offered by a specific business, not scuba certification agency, whose name I shall not mention. This business has a website promoting inexpensive online training that will give you a referral form for your open water course that is good "anywhere". BEWARE of such claims, do your homework. I told the guy on the phone to be careful, as I have been warned by PADI about a specific shop offering such a program - that indeed was the shop he'd run across.

There is a legitimate online open water training program offered by SDI (one of the large training agencies - by training agencies I mean structured organizations which produce training programs and have shops and instructors specifically affiliated with them worldwide - not an individual business), but so far this is the only one and I believe they make no clamis that ANY Instructor will honor it, it's an SDI program.

Most all of the scuba certification agencies do offer some sort of computer based self study, such as CD ROM or DVD instruction, SDI offers this and the online option.

I do know for a fact that PADI (the world's lagest scuba training agency) has at least at one point instructed their Instructors not to accept the referrals from the particular business this post is about. I corresponded with them about this last year and they said they had lawyers working on getting these guys to knock off with their claims.

So this post is not a plug for SDI, just a warning that if you are looking into online open water scuba training, do make sure that it is backed up by a specific recognized training agency with affiliated shops and instructors worldwide which offers that program. Also do remember, that most all agencies offer self study programs via book, CD or DVD... you have lots of options for legitimate dive self-instruction.

OK, rant over.

So here's another surgeon fish. I know it as a Naso Tang (Naso literatus) from the aquarium trade. It's also called Orangespine Unicornfish, Lipstick Tang, and probably another name or two. Notice the prominent twin set of orange spines on these guys. Surgenfish are primarily herbivores and spend their days scouring the reef of algae.

Several years back while on an intro dive just outside of the harbor, I saw a veritable river of these guys grazing it's way down the reef in a big school. I'm not talking a dozen or fifty, I'm talking a 6-8 foot wide and 80-100 foot long school of these guys, I figured at the time 600-900 of them in the school and I could've been underestimating the numbers. I can't think of a time that I've seen more than 8-10 together in all my other dives here. I guess it was ono of those one time occasions, I wish I had a camera of some type in hand. It's still one of the more amazing encounters I've had here.

Have a nice day,


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Beer Can Chicken....... Non-Diving related

OK, it's blabber time. Hawaii is blessed in that it's comfortable to barbeque here year round. Tonight I am making beer can chicken. The ingredients are simple... Chicken, beer cans, spices, smoking chips for the barbeque and either onions or apples.

I generally soak my chickens in a brine of soy sauce (sold here by the gallon for a coupld bucks), black pepper and garlic poweder. I mix up a concoction of spices: I use cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, black pepper, red pepper flakes, basil flakes an anything else that strikes my fancy at the time. Soak the chicken, spice it up, stuff an open (we're not making beer bomb chicken) beer can up it's rump and an onion or apple quarter down it's neck and barbeque it. Smoking chips make it all that much better.

Use your choice of beers, preferrably it should be one that you would enjoy the leftovers if you buy more cans than chickens. You could also try soda cans, although I've yet to make a taste test trial. It is VERY important to cook the birds over indirect heat - I've fried numerous chickens to the point that they were charcoal through and through. Once I figured out to heat the other side of the grill only, it got much better.

This chicken can turn out very good, or very bad. On a good day, it's way up there as far as chickens go, on a bad day you might as well eat burnt toast and drink some chicken broth, you might enjoy it more. On a good day, the beer, or whatever you use, steams the inside of the chicken and flavors it a bit, while the smoke and barbeque heat cooks it and flavors it from the outside. It can be very good... I'm ignoring mine right now as I write, I hope it turns out....

.... Ahhh, it turned out



Today's Kona scuba outing... Anyone like Unicorns?

It was another day off today. I've got a lot planned for the last half of the month, but it's quite slow right now. I'll get the occasional call the next little bit and fill in some days. I had someone call this morning and we set up some intro dives for Friday. Anyway, today was a fundive day for me. Another trip down the hill to take some photos. I didn't get anything spectacular, but managed to take a couple of photos which'll probably show up on the blog some day. I had high hopes of being able to record some whale singing, but no such luck.

This is a Unicorn Tang (Naso unicornis), also known as a Bluespine Unicornfish, from today. Tangs are a member of a family of fish also known as surgeon fish. They are named so because they all have some type of "scalpel" for defense where their tail joins their body. Scalpels will vary from species to species, some are obvious, such as the large blue blades of this fish, while some are retracted and only come out for fighting.

Here's a little Unicorn Tang story for you... When I was a kid, I think right before the ninth grade, my family went to Maui. We ended up at a beach and my sisters and I went snorkeling. At some point I went off on my own and saw a Moorish Idol and dove down to follow it. I was probably 8-12 feet down and followed it around a truck-sized rock, turned around and suddenly there was this 18 inch fish (it seemed bigger at the time) with a horn on it's head looking straight at me from about 12 inches away.... All's I could think at the time was "that coulda been a shark"... I was on the beach in 30 seconds and didn't go deeper than my waist the rest of the day.

Speaking of sharks... A NOAA researcher saw a great white shark up off Kohala recently and it made the papers. Here's the link to the local paper's article, you may need to sign up..

Sharks are not really a problem here in Kona, even if we see them. Our water's so clear there aren't cases of mistaken identity. Kona has 2 verified shark attacks EVER, both happened about 2 months after I moved here - 1 was a boogie boarder after sundown, the other was a swimmer quite aways offshore at dusk - not the best times to be on the surface of the water splashing around. Both victims survived, but I do think the kid on the boogie board nearly lost his arm.

I love ending posts on a happy note!