Monday, April 27, 2009

Man, is our shower ever hot!!!!!!!!!!

We've got solar hot water at home, so what this means is that it's been real sunny here in Kona the last several days. You almost couldn't ask for better weather. Lots of blue skies, flat water, and great viz (although today was down a bit even though being very flat - some kind of plankton bloom had the viz down).
We've been busy with a class and several certified divers the last several days. Yesterday was a long day for us, with dives in the morning and the manta dive at night. There were 20 mantas on the dive last night! The divers were STOKED! I've got dives in the morning, and we have two more night trips scheduled for later in the week... the manta dive has been very successful all month, hopefully it'll continue for a while.

The shot above is of an Arc-eyed Hawkfish. These fish are very common, you'll find them on coral heads, and are fairly easy to approach and get a picture of. I wanted to get a shot of one on a coral head, rather than a closeup shot on this picture.



Monday, April 20, 2009

Wow, now is certainly a good time to look into flying to Kona... hint, hint, hint...

Just checking air prices right now I'm seeing prices in the 320-360 RT range to Kona from all over the western US. This time last year it was starting to really climb, hit nearly 900-1000 or so by mid-summer. Hopefully flight prices stay low for a while. (Edit note: it was brought to my attention that prices are bumping up around mid-June. Must be that summer surcharge. The prices I'm seeing aren't like last year at this point anyways).

The diving conditions have become pretty good. No major swells right now, viz was great yesterday. The vog's clearing out right now... yahoo,it's been a bit thick lately. I can see the horizon from my house, according to the horizon distance/elevation calculator I just looked up that means we've got visibility of at least 38.6 miles topside right now. We'd been unable to see the horizon from this elevation for several days due to the vog.

Here's a pic of a Blood Star, also called a Spotted Linckia (Linckia multifora). Hawaii isn't loaded with large starfish like back in the Northwest US where I come from. We do see this one fairly regularly, but you rarely seem them over 4-5 inches or so across.



Thursday, April 16, 2009

Let's switch from a big nudibranch to a small nudibranch... White Margin Nudibranchs with eggs...

Here's a pair of White Margin Nudibranchs (Glossodoris rufomarginata) laying eggs. These nudibranchs get to about an inch in length, and are one of the easier nudibranchs to find on purpose. I typically look for them on overhangs, say arches or the lip of a lava tube. It can often be found by looking for the white spiral egg mass - if the find the eggs the nudibranchs are not far away. I usually find them in groups of two or three within several inches of an egg mass.

We've had lots of fun customers on board lately. Today was fun, we had a woman and her family that were out to dive for her 75th birthday today. She hadn't dove in a few years and wanted to do it while they were here. She's pretty experienced, got 58 minutes on the first dive but was getting cold on the second dive and came up with a ton of air. The group seemed to have had a great time.

We get divers in their 70s from time to time. The "oldest" student (calendar-wise anyway, he was rather youngish physically - still very active and strong) I've ever had finished his class 5 or so days shy of his 70th birthday. Plenty of divers that age do just fine, some may need to don or remove their gear in the water due to knees and such not making it up the ladders quite as easily in their younger days. It seems a lot of divers who are still diving into their 70s and beyond are very experienced and have been diving in many places... it's a blast listening to dive stories.

It was sunny on the water today, no clouds over the ocean, but the vog from the volcano was up. The tradewinds are down for the next few days, so I'm hoping it'll clear out.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Wow! One of our divers spotted a Tuberculosis Nudibranch on the manta ray night dive the other night....

This is what I was so excited about on the night dive with 20 manta rays the other night. Customer Peter found this after we'd peeled off for a short night dive at the end of the manta show. It's a Tuberculosis Nudibranch (Dendrodoris tuberculosa) or a very close relative not in my book. I've heard of them being seen up in the shallows at the manta dive site in the past, but I've never seen one. This one was actually in more like 25-30 feet of water out towards the edge of the reef. I'm glad I had the camera in hand, although it took a while to get the settings right and I missed the good angles on it. They're a good sized nudibranch, this one was probably almost 6 inches long.

It's partly sunny today, but kind of hard to tell because the vog is very thick right now in the Captain Cook area. It's thicker than usual the last couple of days. Up in Kailua it's rarely this thick, in Captain Cook we're right at the spot where the winds sort of eddy around the island and the vog ends up. My eyes are itchy, but then again I was out under the house yesterday hauling off some old building materials the previous owners had left... could just be dust, not the vog, causing the irritation.

Yesterday we had a nice little earthquake. I missed it... bummer (after that one a couple Octobers back, any little shake gives you a nice adrenaline shot)... I was in the garage and didn't feel it being at ground level, Pat upstairs in the house felt it quite noticeably. It was a 5.0 centered off the volcano on the other side of the island, pretty shallow so it wasn't as noticeable here as some of that magnitude.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Here's a young frogfish from the other day....

We've got a couple days off, start up again on Thursday, and I've been working our vacation rental prepping it for our next guests. I thought I'd post a quick picture of a juvenile frogfish. I'm thinking it's probably the same one I found several weeks ago, but it's a few hundred feet removed and about 4 times larger than it was then if it's the same one. Cathy told me she'd seen it in a particular area about two weeks ago so I checked a couple days back and it was still there. I'm hoping it's settled in for the next few months so we can watch it grow... we had three or four last year we were able to watch grow from nickle size to softball size or more.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The manta ray night dive in Kona Hawaii is hot right now... here's a quick video clip...

Untitled from Steve on Vimeo.
We did this dive Saturday night. 15 or so mantas were at the site when we arrived, it was 20 by the time we went back to the boat.

This is always a great time when there's even one manta showing up, more is gravy... this was lots and lots of gravy. We spent pretty much the entire dive watching them, did a short pass of the reef at the end and saw something that REALLY excited me (not that the mantas didn't, but one of our divers found something I'd yet to see, and I had the camera in hand), more on that in the next post.



Saturday, April 11, 2009

Lots of scuba diving lately, experimenting with Facebook and Twitter as well...


We've been pretty busy diving since the tail end of February, although I've got a slower spell the next week and a half if things don't change radically. I took this photo at Turtle Pinnacle sometime in the last few weeks. The tangs are doing a good job of cleaning turtles when they show up.

Lately I've been experimenting with Facebook. I still don't completely get it, but I have gotten back in touch with a few old friends and customers... kinda fun. My page is here on Facebook - I don't get some of their security settings, so this may not work for you, if you are a Facebook member you can always do a search for Wanna Dive Kona and it'll come up. I'm not really putting a lot on there at this point, just trying to update it every now and then for now.

I also have joined Twitter... now this one I think I "get" even less... for now at least, I didn't get the whole blogging thing at first either. I've pretty much decided I'm just going to post mostly weather and/or diving conditions for Kona on a frequent basis, maybe other stuff I find interesting. I'll try to update water temperature, surf and underwater visibility conditions every day or two (or whenever.. I hate to make promises on that in case I take some time off) as there may be people interested in that sort of stuff. To find me on Twitter, do a search for wannadivesteve and that should get you there.

Tonight we're doing the manta dive, it's been hopping the last little bit, with manta numbers in the high teens showing up apparently. Tomorrow it looks as though we're diving for Easter. Pat's got the day off and it's a light load so she'll be coming along... at least we get to see each other some on the holiday.



Thursday, April 09, 2009

Sargassum Frogfish... drifting the oceans worldwide... even Hawaii...

This very cool picture is one that Cathy e-mailed me. She took this some time ago and had told me about it and I really wanted a copy of it for the blog. This was found on a net floating at sea off Kona.

Sargassum Frogfish (Histrio histrio) are an angler fish species that lives in floating seaweed and other debris. They can blend in quite well with seaweeds, and snatch up small fish. Any time you have something floating in the ocean, it'll create an oasis of life in short order.... if you aren't sure of how true this is, do a blue water dive, I've seen people have a following of tiny fish in as little as 30 minutes or so.

Man, can they eat. Years ago, I was really, really, really into aquariums... worked in the trade and eventually had an aquarium store. I picked up a Sargassum frog at one point and had it at the house. I was in my early/mid 20's and few things appeal to a 20 something-ish year old beer drinker and his friends on a Saturday night as much as one of these fish (except girls I suppose, but they were in short supply that evening). We had some people over and decided it was time to feed the frogfish, then it turned into time to see how much the frogfish could eat.... 5 live goldfish later, 2 of those about the same size as the body portion of the frogfish was originally, it finally stopped chasing down fish. We were thoroughly impressed... able to eat 3-4 times it's original body weight in one sitting, all us guys wished we could do that. It looked like someone stuffed a bunch of jawbreakers in a balloon and stuck small leaves on it. I think I sold it to someone shortly after that.

We had gray skies today, it was dry though. We've had a bit of both a south and a north swell the last couple days, but it's settling down quite nicely. By the end of our second dive it became nearly glassy flat.

Manta update... the manta dive has been hopping up at the airport manta site the last couple of days, up in the mid/high teens in numbers. We have a charter on Saturday evening to do the dive... should be good!!!



Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Horned helmet snails of Hawaii.....

Here's a pic from a while back. It's of a Horned Helmet Snail (Cassis cornuta). This is one of the larger shells found in Hawaii. Resembling a Conquistador's helmet, it can grow to a bit larger than a foot. Many people who've been to the Caribbean will refer to it as a "conch" although it's not... different genus of shells, Hawaiian conchs are pretty small.

We often find these on sandy bottoms, many times mostly buried. They feed off of sea urchins... this one's pouncing (it "pounces" sooo faaast, if you blink, you'll have time to blink several more times, before it finishes the "pounce" - they're generally pretty slow) on it's prey in this picture.

It was quite gray today in Kona and much of the state, the sun almost broke through early on, but we basically were under clouds most of the day. I guess we're expecting more of the same the next few days.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Some species of fish change colors as they grow...

Here's an adult Orange Shoulder Tang (Acanthurus olivaceus), also called Orangeband Surgeonfish or Olive Tang. We see them on the reef quite often. The juveniles of this fish can often be a bright yellow, developing the orange marking on the side and then darkening up over time. Here's a group of juveniles together. Oftentimes people will mistake them for yellow tangs, just remember yellow tangs are generally more roundish than oblong and you can tell the difference from a distance.

I'm not exactly sure why the color change exists, or if the juveniles are mimicking yellow tangs. In some species of fish, the juveniles will have a different coloration because the adults can be territorial and will beat on others that look the same - the small ones wouldn't stand a chance, so they have completely different appearance until they can handle themselves - - I'm not sure as this applies here, as the adults don't seem to be particularly territorial and are often found in groups.

We're back to the "slow" season again, not that spring break really panned out as crazy busy for anyone here, so no charter today or tomorrow for me. The last half of the week we're pretty busy though. I've got lots of charters set or started for later in the month, hopefully it'll be a reasonably busy April when it's all said and done.



Friday, April 03, 2009

Somebody decided to take a nap on the boat ramp at Honokohau Harbor in Kona today...

We came in to the harbor for a few minutes between dives today, and one of the boat ramps was taped off. After a closer look, we noticed a monk seal (endangered Hawaiian seal) had decided to take a nap. It was still there after the next dive. There's been a monk seal hanging around the harbor for a while now, this is the first time I've seen it. At some point the state may decide it's getting a bit too comfortable and move it along, but for now it's and interesting sight from time to time.