Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Bee's-eye view of Kona coffee....

It's spring time again, we've had a little rain and now the coffee is blooming all around our area. We'll probably see the coffee load up with flowers at least a couple times a year depending on what the weather's doing. A couple months after the flowers are gone, the green coffee bean will start to show and then later as the coffee bean turns red it will be ready for harvest.

Kona coffee is prized by many as some of the best in the world as it is hand picked, as opposed to machine harvested. This leads to a finer grade of coffee, surpassed only by the coffee bean picked by Indonesian marsupials - Click here if you don't believe me - Civet cats pick only the ripest coffee beans, eat 'em, then the remaining specially pre-treated bean is harvested off the ground by locals and sold in the US for upwards of $300 a pound - and to think people cringe at the price of Kona coffee!

I'm personally not a coffee fan, but if I was hosting some kind of a coffee drinking party, it'd be a tough choice... Kona coffee or the specialty Indonesian stuff???



David Blaine holds breath for 17 miutes and 4 seconds... wow!

Ok, I usually don't post non-Hawaii news items, but this one's sorta related to diving, freediving anyway. He had to hyper-oxygenate (I think that would be the phrase) himself for 25 minutes first to do it, but it's still nuts.

Here's the story.

...and a somewhat related video...

I'd be happy to be able to comfortably hold my breath a minute and a half or two. Quick story, a few years back at DEMA, there was a freediving organization that held classes in the display pool offering to get people to where they could hold their breath for 4 minutes. I think 5 or 6 took it on and I saw the final round... one participant popped up 20 seconds short and took about 3 breaths and was fine, the others all made it and a couple said they were very relaxed and probably could've done another minute... Mamalian diving reflex is an interesting thing.

I don't think I've posted this particular pic of a Ghost Shrimp (also called a "fountain shrimp" in some parts of the world) before. These are a larger shrimp than the Banded Coral Shrimp pictured a few posts below. They typically hang upside down in clefts in rock.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Stout Moray Eel

Here's a Stout Moray (Gymnothorax eurostus) from today. We see these on occasion, they tend to be smallish and less conspicuous so they may be more common than they seem.

We've got a big south swell coming in right now. Our second dive today the viz was much more limited than usual, probably 50-60 feet at depth and 30-40 feet in close to shore- quite poor by Kona standards. In general we can just pull around a point and avoid sandy spots, but we may have to cover a bit more ground than usual to find a protected spot. The water temp was still 75 by my computer today... I'm still keeping my fingers crossed that the swell will bump the water temperature up.



Monday, April 28, 2008

Orange Gumdrop Nudibranch....

These little critters are something I can usually (OK, often anyways) find on our night dive at the manta site up north if the night dive gets longer because the mantas don't show. I have a shot from years ago with my old mx10, but hadn't seen one with any of my digital's in hand. I did a night dive for fun last week and found this one. They're pretty small and often overlooked. I'd like to get a different angle on them some day so you can see the horns more readily.



Sunday, April 27, 2008

Island Fever??? Living in Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii....

I'm soliciting questions, and blog reader Mel asked this question... "Do you ever get "island fever" living on the Big Island?"

For me it really didn't hit for several years, but I'm starting to notice it more now, my wife said it really didn't hit her for 4-5 years.

If you live here, you're fairly busy with everyday life... working, cleaning, cutting down the fast growing green stuff if you have property - all the usual things you deal with everywhere else.... you can go quite a while without noticing any feeling of being cooped up. The one thing where it's completely different from life back on the mainland is that if you really want or need a break from the routine, getting in your car and driving to a location that is totally different is more or less impossible. The circle island tour is fun, to a point, then it gets the same. You can't get in a car and in a day or two or five be a world away. I think it took Pat and I three days to drive to Texarkana, Texas from Corvallis, Oregon and there were any number of places we could've stopped and spent a week exploring. You can do plenty of day trips here, but it's not quite the same. To really get to something completely different a plane and fair amount of planning is involved.

My wife managed to make it back to the mainland for short periods just about every other year, I don't recall even leaving the island for two years and then it was to go to another island. I started going to the big scuba show about my 3rd year here and now I tend to get over there (the show, wherever it is) or back to Corvallis (only twice in the 9 years I've been here) once a year. I'm finding I'm looking forward to getting away a little more each year.

Early on we did miss many of the conveniences we had on the mainland. If we needed a new ceiling fan, they started at about $200 in town and there was limited selection... our first trip to DEMA (the dive show) was to New Orleans and we brought back two ceiling fans from Home Depot for 50-60 bucks each that were 4 times that here. Over the years Kona has been building up, so now many more of the things you can pick up easily on the mainland are more readily available, but we can still be amazed when we go out for a day of window shopping on vacation that there's so much we don't see here.

I have known a number of people who succumb to "island fever" fairly quickly and end up moving home... I think I've heard somewhere that something like 30% of all new arrivals are back where they came from within 1-3 years. I suspect the fit may not have been the right one for them from the get-go in many cases, but in many cases it can be a matter of economics... this place isn't cheap for living. Pat and I were surprised at the difference in prices on groceries between the mainland and here, much more so than when we first moved over here.

Difficulties can exist for anyone with very strong family and friend ties, and for those who need all of the things available that are often taken for granted, but most people seem to work through it, and some greatly enjoy the difference in lifestyles here.

For each person it's going to be different... I'm loving it, but then again sitting on a boat or diving most every day isn't exactly the most stressful way of spending one's life.

Yesterday Pat, Cathy, Bob and I went for a holo-holo trip to check out some sites we haven't been to in ages or at all. It was a blast to do some new spots. I've been wanting to get a decent shot of a juvenile Commerson's Frogfish (Antennarius commerson) for years, and I finally had a camera in hand this time. This guy was hanging out under a small ledge. I noticed some yellow so I thought I'd check it out... the little ones are generally bright yellow, then add a touch of red in the middle as they grow. It sort of mimics a sponge. This particualr one is about 1" to maybe 1.25" long.



Friday, April 25, 2008

Ask Steve a question????

Just for fun, I thought I'd solicit questions and see if anyone actually asks questions. I may or may not be able to answer them, but I can give it a try.

A few basic guidelines: Questions can be about the dive biz, my dive biz, Kona, Hawaii, diving, living here, opinions on places or activities here, and things related to them. I'm not going to answer questions about other specific dive businesses, you'd need to contact them to answer questions about them. Personal questions may or may not be answered. I'm staying away from religion or politics, there's plenty of other blogs for that. I reserve the right to not answer anything I feel inapropriate... or that I just don't want to answer for whatever reason...and repetitive questions may be dealt with as a single response.

Getting questions from outside sources may help me cover some different, yet related, subjects... so ask away. Before you ask, I do ask that you look at the very top of the blog, where you'll find a search function that you can search for the subject matter you are curious about to see if it's already covered ad nauseum and refrain from asking something I cover often (like water temperature, today's dive, etc).

I'll do my best to answer questions, and I'll try to be honest about not knowing the answer.... I know a few things, I'm pretty clueless about others.

Feel free to ask questions in the comment section of this post. I will try to get to them as I can, and anything that requires more than a very quick answer will probably appear as a new post. If I get overloaded (I'll be pleased if I get any questions at all, amazed if I get a lot) it might take some time to answer everything.

The critter pictured above is a Hawaiian Red Reef Lobster (Enoplometopus occidentalis). We see them from time to time on the night dive. I was very lucky to get this shot... these guys don't like light and generally will back down into whatever hole they're in front of when you hit them with light for more than a couple seconds or approach too closely. They're sort of tough to show customers because of that, I probably show them to a diver or two about every third time I find them as they'll scoot away before the divers figure out what I'm trying to show them generally.



I've enabled comment moderation on the blog...

Just a quick note. I've been getting a lot of SPAM the recently, primarily from 3-4 companies trying to sell thier product via my site, and I'm tired of cleaning it up after the fact. From now on, all comments will have to be approved by me before they appear. Don't be afraid to comment if you are not peddling something or are just plain obnoxious (only had that happen once or twice so far). I will approve and respond to comments as quickly as I can.



Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Took some underwater video with my Canon G9 on the manta ray night dive tonight....

Kona manta ray night dive April 08 from Steve on Vimeo.

Tonight we had two mantas show up for the night dive. I took my camera down to see how it does with video in low light - I'm quite pleased, it seems to do better than the other point and shoots I've had.

Water conditions were pretty good today, it's still cool though... 75 degrees. I was hoping the big south swell we had the last week would bump it up a bit higher.



Tuesday, April 22, 2008

It's "slow season" for a bit....

I looked back at my calender a couple days back and realized I'd had charters scheduled most every day the last 60 days. I did have 4 cancellations in that stretch because of the ATA and Aloha airline closures. Now I'm into a 10 day dead period with little (I have a charter tonight) scheduled and then I have another stretch where I'm working at least 10 days straight. A couple days off now and then is fine, but it's always fun to be working. So far though, it's been a busier spring than in years past and May is looking much better than last year.

I have had a couple of inquiries for charters this week, and I guess it's maybe a mistake to say "I'd be happy to dive with you, I'm wide open so let me know when you'd like to go out". I guess some people are afraid to be the only one's on the boat, like they'll get shortchanged or something, which is the just about the opposite of reality as when we have our lightest loads are the times we can really cater to the individual divers (We're lucky that we only take 6 passengers max, as it's been my experience that the more passengers a boat has on the greater the likelihood there will be some limiting factors), we don't scrimp on the diving just because it's a light load.

Locally, the vog situation in Kona has improved for a couple days at least. We've had huge south swells that have just come down. I'll be looking forward to tonight's charter to see if the water temperature came up because of the swell.

A little Kona news... I may have mentioned that Hooter's closed, if I didn't then here it is. They closed a couple months back saying something along the lines of their target audience apparently wasn't visiting Kona in the numbers they'd expected. Not a big loss for me, I went there once with Pat and wasn't impressed by the food - lackadaisical chicken wings and a very average burger in my opinion. A bigger loss will be the Hard Rock Cafe. They've announced they'll be closing early this summer. They've got fairly decent sandwiches, burgers and salads (good salads are hard to come by here, we see a lot more rice and macaroni salad mixes here than greens). With the loss of those two, of course there've been rumors that Bubba Gumps is on the way out and Kona is soon to be a ghost town.... that rumor was quashed in the local paper by Bubba Gumps management this weekend. It will be curious to see how long the spots held by the two that have or are leaving fill back up.

The underwater photo above is of a Hairy Yellow Hermit Crab (Aniculus maximus). This one wasn't a big individual, say smaller than a golf ball, they can get roughly the size of a softball. I was happy to see it as I hadn't seen one in a while. Take a close look and you can see it's eye stalks... cool looking critters.

That's it for now, time to get a few things done before the afternoon charter.



Monday, April 21, 2008

Just discovered Animoto slide shows...

this is a quick test of's slide show program

They give you a 30 second slide show for free, longer ones cost something supposedly (I haven't tried it to find out). By the looks of it I tossed on a couple too many photos so everything went by real fast. I may have to see what the longer ones do, as well as if there is a cost involved, at some point. It's pretty interesting as far as a slideshow product goes... lots of action.



Friday, April 18, 2008

OK, I'm excited about white balance... just stumbled across...

a blog by a guy who's into photography and diving and found this post. Apparently Photoshop has had a white balance, a black balance and a gray balance dropper in their program all along... go to image>adjustments>levels and then look for the droppers in the lower right of the box that opens... whohoo!!!! You can experiment using this on photos that are bluish and get them much closer than you'll likely get them by other means unless you're really talented at Photoshop. I managed to "save" a few old photos in just a couple minutes' time that I couldn't do a whole lot with earlier.

Save your originals! You never know when you'll find out something that'll help you fix a problem you didn't think you could overcome.



Current Kona water and air quality conditions.....April 18th, '08

We've got a huge south swell right now. I should've taken my camera with me downtown today to take a picture in Kailua Bay... lots of water pounding against the sea wall. The winds have been coming up the last two days also so it's been pretty sloppy on the water.

The volcano is still actively putting out lots of gasses. They've been off and on issuing voluntary evacuations in communities near the park the last couple of weeks. Wednesday morning they even had a sulfur dioxide alert in HOVE, which is on the west side of the island, and were calling for a voluntary evactuation of the whole area... luckily that was shortlived and called off in about 2 and a half hours. Here in Kona we haven't had the sulfur dioxide issues, but the vog has been very thick for the better part of two weeks now - yuck, we haven't had a good horizon in most of that time and sunsets have turned into a big orange ball with orange sky.

Here's a pair of Banded Coral Shrimp I found the other day. They've set themselves up in a hole that used to house a pair of Ghost Shrimp at Turtle Pinnacle. Hopefully they'll stick around and it'll become a nice eel spot - eels often go into holes where these guys live so the shrimp will clean them, the shrimp will climb on the eels looking for parasites to pick off.



Thursday, April 17, 2008

Hawaiian Yellow Margin Moray eel....

We saw this guy on a dive a couple of days ago. It swam right across our path and into a hole on the wall, then turned around to watch us pass. This was a big and thick eel. You can see the yellow margin on the tip of it's tail quite nicely in this pic.



Monday, April 14, 2008

We were skunked on the manta dive the other night...

It was a fun dive, but alas no mantas a few nights back. As much as we'd like to, we can't guarantee mother nature.

Bob sent me a couple of pics from the other week of a good sized frogfish he found on a dive. This guy's still got a fair amount of yellow in it despite pushing 7-8 inches in length. Bob reduced the size of the photo for email to send it to me, by the time I reworked it for my blog posts the resolution leaves a bit to be desired, but you still get the drift of what the fish looks like. They're neat looking critters.



Saturday, April 12, 2008

Been busy....


I've been reasonably busy with Wanna Dive the last little bit, so I havn't been posting as much. I've been doing more of the diving the last while, which has been very fun.

Today we had a couple of very nice dives, lots to look at and pretty reasonable conditions, although the last little while the water temp has cooled off a hair (I'm seeing 73-75 on my computer). We had several nudibranchs, banded coral and ghost shrimps, a male psychedelic wrasse and it's harem of females, a pair of flame angels (in a spot there was only one last year... dating is alive and well in the reef world), several eels and other neat animals.

Here's a baitball of opelu we saw today. It was a pretty thick swarm of opelu. Fishermen catch them for use as bait for larger fish or for smoking, they're a popular snack item when smoked.

I'll try to post a bit more frequently (I'm five or six photos ahead right now so even if the post is worthless there'll be an OK picture).



Friday, April 04, 2008

First Aloha Airlines shuts down, now ATA does the same....

Hawaii has just lost roughly 15 percent of it's mainland arrivals in the last few days... that's pretty big news here.

I've already had to juggle my schedule next week to accomodate divers who were delayed a couple days trying to get here, may lose a charter or two out of it. I currently have customers who are diving with me who just found out today (from Cathy and I) they might not have a way home set up at this point... the ATA flights are going to be tough to replace right away. Apparently Hawaiian is trying to add what flights they can, but they can only do so much.

It'll be curious to see how this all shakes out. It was very quiet at the harbor today, several of the boats I see regularly at the boat ramp and boat wash at the end of the day weren't on the water today. I know at least one of them had to cancel today's charter as they're customers were caught up in the closings.

Interesting times, so far other than a little schedule juggling I'm not feeling the sting too much.

The underwater photo above is of a divided flatworm that Pat took on a dive a couple weeks back. I'm back to diving regularly again and I'll have the camera in hand when I'm not teaching, hopefully something interesting will happen by (I generally don't actively shoot when I'm leading dives, maybe a few shots a dive if any, most of my shots come on my day off or if I take a "Captain's dive" during the surface interval) that I can capture on the camera.

We're very busy 'til about the 17th or so, I'll post when I can.



Tuesday, April 01, 2008