Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Whitetip Shark, Dragon Eel, Blue Dragon Nudibranch, Manta Ray....

That's what our group saw on one dive yesterday. I was captaining the dive so I missed out. I haven't seen a dragon moray in quite some time, I'm hoping it was at a spot it calls home and Bob can give me directions.

I haven't posted in a while, been very busy. Early in the month I was afraid it would be "slow", but I'm in the latter stages of working 15 days straight with several double shifts. Bob and I were both getting tired and since we didn't have anything scheduled for tonight as of yesterday, we agreed to pass on a charter for tonight if it came up... wouldn't you know it, I got a call last night.. I hate turning away business, but at some point I have to not overwork myself and Bob. Last minute bookings are never a guarantee, especially during the busy season. I do have a couple of extra people I bring on from time to time depending on their availabilities, but with the slow season coming soon I'd be a jerk for hiring someone as a "regular" and then laying them off 10 days later, I've seen it done elsewhere. If it turns out there is no slowdown, it's time to look to hire again.

Here's a shot of a Stripebelly Puffer (Arothron hispidus) I took on a night dive. These guys just seem to lay on the sand at night and are quite approachable, sometimes we will see small clear cleaner shrimp working them over when they are on the sand, but I didn't see any on this fish.

I'll try to pick up the posting pace if I can.



Monday, August 14, 2006

Great viz yesterday....

A little more about how nice diving is right now. On the first dive we moored off the north mooring at Golden arches. I could look down and see coral heads and pretty much under the archway from on the boat - now that's clear. Bob said the viz was spectacular. On our second dive we did a spot in next to the harbor that is gentle on the ears, one of our two students (just students that day) had ear clearing isses on the earlier dive. This site has a very gentle slope so is very easy to get to depth without struggling. I'm not exactly sure how far the mooring balls are apart there, but you could see the next one from just about 10 feet away from the one we were moored at.. and that was in the shallows where the viz was poor. We probably had 150' plus viz at depth. We did the 58 foot dive with no ear issues and saw some great stuff... three eagle rays, a huge school of Heller's barracuda, a leaf scorpion and a bunch of other neat stuff.

Today I was starting another class with academics and a pool session, Bob got the day off but it's back to the water for both of us tomorrow. We've got the students and some certified divers from last week signed up for another 3 days of diving.

Here's one of my favorite Hawaiian eels, a Zebra Moray (Gymnomuraena zebra). You don't see them out often, usually they are mostely buried in large coral heads. This one was actively poking around on one of our dives the other day. Neat looking fish.



Sunday, August 13, 2006

Great diving conditions in Kona Hawaii right now

We had great viz and other diving conditions today. I'm sort of on the front end of working at least 13 of 14 deys, likely will see that stretch lengthen before it slows down again later this month or early next month.

We've been going out with a couple of certified divers the last few days, and then had some Open Water certification students yesterday afternoon and today. We had lots of nice diving in that time.

This is a picture of an eagle ray that was at a cleaning station. We've got a spot where the eagle rays occasionally lay down and take a cleaning from the cleaner wrasses. You can see at least two wrasses, the little yellow and blue fish, picking parasites off this ray. I think there were actually four working the ray over at the time. I didn't really get all that close so as not to bother it while it was getting cleaned. This shot was probably from about 15 feet away, I used manual white balance to keep from getting too much of a blue cast which is so common in underwater pictures. I then did a little doctoring of the photo in photoshop, so the colors are a bit off/exaggerated.

I did the second dive today. We had all sorts of goodies. 3 eagle rays, large schools of fish, a school of probably 200 or more Heller's barracuda... lots of neat stuff.

I've got to head to bed... another class starts tomorrow.



Thursday, August 10, 2006

Ocean Rider, the Kona Hawaii seahorse farm....

We've had family in the last week. Pat had a day off and we all went out to Ocean Rider out at the Natural Energy Lab for their little tour.

The Natural Energy Lab is out on Keahole Point, just south of the Kona airport. It originally was a science lab where they were working on using cold water piped up from the deep to try to create electricy. Nowadays the water is more used for various aquaculture projects, although I believe they are putting in another electric research project.

One of the aquaculture projects is Ocean Rider, which concentrates on raising seahorses for the aquarium trade. They've started offering tours of the faciltiy. It's sort of interesting from an aquaculture standpoint, it's pretty much a typical hatchery setup, with more atypical creatures being raised. Not sure what my family thought, it was kind of a spendy tour, but worth it once. Probably the highlight for most taking the tour is a chance to get to stick your hands in a big vat and have a seahorse hang on to your fingers.

The pic above is of a bunch of Bluestripe Snapper (Lutjanus kasmira), known locally as tiape. These fish were introduced back in the late 50's with the theory that the original Hawaiians came from the Marquesas (although the large majority of Hawaiians actually come from later waves of immigration from other polynesian island states), the Hawaiians would love this fish as it's a popular food fish in the Marquesas. Dumb idea. It's considered to be a pest by local fishermen. They eat everything and really don't make much of a good food fish. Anyway, they are quite common in some spots and often hang out in large groups. This group is part of a group that is pretty much always under the south arch at Golden Arches.


Sunday, August 06, 2006

Aliens Found in Hawaii Cave!!! Not quite, actually these are a shrimp

These are a really cool little shrimp. I took an underwater photo of them at an undisclosed location sometime in the last few weeks. I think many of the dive ops know of this particular pair, but everyone keeps it quiet.

These are Harlequin Shrimp ( Hymenocera picta or Hymenocera elegans, depending on who you read) aka Clown shrimp. They are one of the most unique and colorful shrimp we see. I first came across these guys in the aquarium trade. They eat nothing but starfish, unless maybe the occasional feet off urchins. Back in the day when I was keeping and selling marine fish we would see these on occasion. People would actually set up an aquarium for them and another for starfish, then throw a starfish into the shrimp tank 'til they manage to rip off a leg then pull it out. Several days later they'd throw another starfish into the tank while the earlier victim recovered. Starfish can grow back limbs, so theoretically, several relatively inexpensive starfish could keep a pair of Harlequin Shrimp going indefinitley.

In Hawaii, these shrimp likely feed off blood stars (I think I have one pictured somewhere in the archives) and the occasional linkia star. We had a pair of Harlequins near an arch just north of High Rock for several years that various DMs used to feed blood stars on a regular basis. One year we had particularly large surf and the spot they were living at was damaged and we never saw them again.

Several years ago there was a teacher at one of the local high schools who actually bred them, had a web page, and sold them. He apparently fed them crown of thorns stars. These are huge stars, so I bet one could feed a pair for a looooong time. I haven't looked at that site in years. If I can find it again, I'll post it here.

In other news... I recently started a mailing list. It's an opt in system and tonight I sent out a bazillion confirmations, one to most everyone who's contacted me over the years... I hope nobody was offended. If you are reading this and you've contaced me before and receive the message... just ignore it if you aren't interested, or sign up if you are curious, you can opt out at any time. For anyone else who's curious, I have a link on the right side of the blog where you can opt in for my Wanna Dive mailing list. I won't be giving the info to anyone else, and likely won't be putting out an e-mail more than 3-4 times a year I suspect. I don't want to bombard anyone with SPAM, I get 150-300 pieces of junk mail a day myself I have to filter through. It gets to be bothersome because occasionally I probably miss legitimate e-mail.



Hawaiian Garden Eels. Ever seen 30-40 eels at once?


These guys are found at depth off Kona by the thousands. This short eel video was taken in a single spot, there are acres of these guys at this location.

Hawaiian Garden Eels (Gorgasia hawaiiensis)are a plankton feeding eel which spends it's life buried in the sand with it's head sticking out feeding all day long. According to divemaster/instructor/boat captain Bob, these guys grow to about 70 feet long - Prove him wrong! Actually, we usually only see about 12-18 inches of these critters sticking out, they'll back down into their burrows as you approach and they never do seem to get their entire body out, so you never know. The books put them at maybe a couple feet long.

This was taken at Garden Eel Cove, which is also home of the Manta Ray night dive. It's one of the locations we tend to see Garden Eels shallower than their typical 80 feet and deeper. At this location they are relatively used to people so you can slowly approach to within a few feet without them completely backing into their holes, in other areas you are lucky to get within 15-20 feet of them and still see them.



Saturday, August 05, 2006

Hawaiian Ghost Shrimp.

OK, I finally took a reasonably decent pic of a ghost shrimp (Stenopus pyrsonotus). They are also known as Flameback Shrimp or Fountain Shrimp, depending on who you are talking to. This shrimp and it's mate I'd only recently found at one of our more popular dive sites, in fact, I found another pair about a hundred-150 feet away just yesterday. Both pairs seem to be very good posers, coming out of their holes when divers approach, so I suspect there will lots of photo opportunites of these guys at that site assuming all the other DMs find them too (the first set is hard not to find for someone who does the site regularly). These shrimp will often set up house in the same spot for a couple years at a time as long as storms don't knock them out of their holes or something else get to them.



Kona water temperature has bumped up to 81 or so...

We've had a pretty big south swell the last few days, but it seems to have brought the temp up a bit.

Sometimes you just gotta work for your dinner! Here's some turtles eating (or attempting to anyway) algae off the rocks on a mildly surgy day down at the Place of Refuge right near the "2 Steps" entry point. I sometimes wonder what they do when the surf is really up. I compressed this video a bit more than I should have, so pardon the pixellation.

I've been doing primarily students the last couple of weeks, seems sort of odd because I've really only had a couple sets of students the last several months and have been taking out certified divers primarily. My business has changed over time. When I started my shore diving business, it was primarily instruction. Now that I've added the boat I appeal much more to the certified crowd.

Something I did last week which was kind of neat was an open water student who had certified family and friends that hadn't dove in years. We did the class for her, and mom and friend also joined in for the entire class as a refresher. I cut the divers a deal on the cost of the class to where it was essentially cost a little more that just going out and doing the 4 dives would've cost. A lot of people would benefit from doing this type of thing after having been out of the water for several years. It's easy to forget some things, especially the important stuff involving handing emergencies that you probably will never need to use... but it's nice to know what to do if needed. They're all back in the swing of it now and ready to go if they decide they want to get back into the hobby on a regular basis.