Sunday, March 14, 2010


Isn't this a beautiful face? It is when it is where it belongs..I photographed it in Papua New Guinea. On today's dive we saw 11 of them. This is not good. When we first got here we didn't see any. Then we saw one and thought it was kind of neat even though it doesn't belong here. Now we need to kill them (humanely of course if there is such a thing - freezing them is best). There are posters up at most beaches declaring war on them and it is because they eat everything and are not native to our waters - they will eat juvenile fish that DO belong here. At first we didn't think they would be able to reproduce but we were wrong. 11 lion fish today.

So yesterday and today I finally got to go diving. My neck and shoulder and thumb have been so awful that I finally went in and was given a prescription for a muscle relaxant and some anti-inflammatory drugs. I don't like taking stuff but I did and whalla...felt like I could go diving as long as the walk was short (35 pounds of gear hanging on a sore neck/shoulder isn't wise). Jeff came down with something on Friday so he couldn't go but is feeling a little better tonight.

I went with our best dive buddy (David) and another guy (Raul) and we picked up a stray. We went to the Aguadilla Courthouse area, really an area a little north of there. This was a new way to enter our usual spot that got us a little closer to the reef faster. We then headed south on the reef. The visibility was at least 100 feet at first and after 5 weeks of practically no diving it was just spectacular! As we went further the visibility dropped to 50 and a little less in one particular area. We were cruising around at 78 feet for quite a while.
I usually don't look at my air or computer much since other people always use more air (I always have a good amount left) and we have done the sites so much that we know the depths and terrain enough to stay safe. Today however I did some oops sez. We saw lion fish after lion fish after lion fish...we were hearing but not seeing whales...we saw a huge tarpon...eels, turtles and fish galore. I looked at my computer and realized I owed 14 minutes of decompression! I don't think I have ever gone that far into deco before. I was astonished and headed immediately up so I wouldn't accumulate more nitrogen. I am used to skirting the edge of deco by waiting until I have 1 or 2 minutes before I owe deco and then heading up to put more time on the computer and then dipping down for another deep peek. Once you owe time you owe it, and this was at over 70 minutes! The other guys are on air also but don't have computers. The stray might have had one since he went up higher earlier. I figured he was just low on air. He was towing a flag and getting tangled in the line etc etc. Now I realize he probably was low on air and knew we were headed for deco. I saw that he was tangled and had him stop trying to pull on the line - then I untangled the line from his fin and fin buckle and we were on our way. This was right before the realization that I owed time.

Up we go and then my computer gives me a ceiling - a depth that I cannot go shallower than. The guys wanted to head in, but it was too shallow for me so I showed David the problem and we headed in in a more parallel path toward the exit. After a very long 14 minutes I was free to surface. The problem was that we stayed at depth for so long that nitrogen built up in the tissue compartments that off gas slowly. You hang out sometimes at a couple different depths to release nitrogen. So up we come after 90 minutes in super clear, 81 degree water with sunny skies and lots of stuff! Yeehaw! Luckily I still even had air to spare, just not as much as usual - I was down to around 800psi. I dive with an 80.

So we are near shore in a different area than usual (but back where we started from) and I see that there are small urchins and rocks before we can get to the sand channel. Thankfully the waves were small to non-existent and with David's help I got in with only my pride bruised. The problem was that I didn't have booties. I dive with a full foot snorkeling fin because I think it is lighter, easier to kick and swim in, I can carry them and they don't drag on the ground (they aren't super long like normal dive fins), and they don't have buckles and straps that can tangle things or break. When we have urchin-entries I wear booties and then clip them off once I am in the water, but this entry and exit was new so I was barefoot. If I didn't get a little help I would have had to take the fins off and cut up my feet but David helped me walk backwards with the fins on (kind of dorky but effective).

We saw adorable and large puffers - a big one toward the end that was more than a foot long unpuffed.

There were a lot of cowries. This is the animal all those cowrie necklaces are made of (just the shells).
Yesterday's dive was in Rincon and was spectacular as well with probably 80 feet of visibility which is the best we have ever seen there.We saw a stingray like this (I photographed this one in St. Croix). We also saw a large Barracuda (they like to track us from behind - slightly behind and slightly higher). Rincon didn't have a whole lot of life out and about and the big tarpon area was tarpon free. Oh well.

So it looks like the waves are going to be small for the next couple days anyway so a night dive might be in the near future. Oh, I forgot to mention the shell! I found a huge, uninhabited conch shell I had to have! This made the trip in even more amusing. I need to stay between 20 and 10 feet down for 14 minutes when I spot the shell. My messed up thumb cannot work my inflator/dump hose but I decide I am indeed bringing the shell in. So now I am trying to stay neutral (floating at a consistent depth) while holding a 4 pound shell in my "good" hand - the hand I need to be able to control to depth. I have to put the shell down to dump a little air from my BC but when I put it down I start traveling up since I just essentially dropped some weight. I have to put the shell down fast, dump a little air from my BC with my good thumb and pick up the shell again really fast before I start hurling out of control toward the top where I will embolize or get bent for sure! Even when dealing with the urchins I refuse to chuck my big shell so I have the death grip on it and David wants to stabilize me but I don't want him to take my hand because my thumb hurts so much! Comedy at its finest...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Beautiful pictures as always! That's why I keep coming back to your blog.

Lion Fish in the waters of PR is another bad result of the exotic pet trade. I wish that every time a beautiful fish like this gets sold to a hobbyist it would come with specific warnings about the dangers of releasing them in the wild.

Nowadays "eco-friendly" is a new buzzword. I agree wholeheartedly that all of us should try to optimize our usage of resources and minimize our impact on the environment. However, the aspect of ecological impact due to the introduction of non-native species should be addressed as well. The island has been bombarded with the introduction of non-native species since the first Europeans landed. Unfortunately, it has been a combination of coordinated efforts by the government to augment the native fauna and flora as well as the careless release of 'pets' that cannot be maintained any longer. That's how mongooses, Burmese pythons, boa constrictors, caymans, non-native iguanas, garza birds, pigeons, parakeets, love birds, finches, all kinds of fresh water and salt water fish, and the Pata and Rhesus monkeys ended up being part of the environment. A lovely combination indeed not to mention the introduction of the Albizia Trees (palos blancos) most feared by the farmers since they have taken over otherwise useful land that may still be available for farming.

Thanks for raising awareness through your blog. Similar situation in other mainland places such as Florida I guess.

Best always,

H Jr.