Wednesday, June 11, 2008

School of Moorish Idols and Yellow Boxfish

Dive #62, Fagaalu, American Samoa, June 10, 2008
Time 5:00 p.m. - 5:33 p.m.; 33 min; 51'; 15' visibility; 82 degrees
Dive Partners: MD, TF
Sea Life: Trumpetfish, Moorish Idol, Yellow Boxfish

Today TF went with us on our after work dive. He finally was able to get all of his scuba gear together and serviced. We went out and dropped in by the school and followed the reef around. The water was really murky and the Ava (rip tide) at Fagaalu which is usually really weak was actually pulling us along today. It was a little bit of a slow drift dive in some parts. Not too strong but enough to notice. There is a corner at Fagaalu that when you go around it you can really feel the pull of the Ava. Today it just caught us and pulled us along. It was a little bit difficult around the corner on the way back, but definitely not a problem.

The coolest thing about the dive today was the school of Moorish Idols. Usually you see these fish in pairs on the reef and they are very common in Fagaalu and other areas in American Samoa. However, I have never seen a school of them before. Today there was a school of between 30 and 50 midsized Moorish Idols that swam past us twice. It was neat to see their long upper fins were almost touching the fish behind them. I was impressed. The Moorish Idol is one of my favorite fish so it really made my day.

At the end of the dive when we were doing our three minute safety stop I was puttering around and saw what I thought was a little juvenile pufferfish. It was a juvenile but it was actually a box fish. A yellow boxfish to be exact. It was a bright shiny gold color with little black polka dots. Very pretty fish. It made the short dive today even better.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Okay So I am a Slacker

I admit it. I have been a slacker on posting. Haven't posted in over a month. But fortunately since it is my blog that doesn't really matter. However, I do apologize to my avid (umm yeah) readers.

A Note on Turtles: many of you may have read my blog and been extremely surprised of the apparent lack of sea turtles in the south pacific. To ease your troubled minds, if that is necessary, I will now inform you that there are in fact sea turtles here in American Samoa. Unfortunately some people here still eat these now endangered animals and so for the safety of the turtles I have chosen not to put an advertisement on the internet as to their whereabouts. But I see them on a regular basis. I have seen them asleep. I have seen them from less than a foot away. I have seen turtles with sea funk covering their shells. I have seen their shells clean and gleaming with a beautiful - well - tortoise shell pattern. Sea turtles are extremely cool and always a joy to see.

Dive #61, Fagaalu, American Samoa, June 8, 2008
Time 10:40a.m. - 12:00 a.m.; 76 min; 63'; 20' visibility; 82 degrees
Dive Partners: PB, MW, MD
Sea Life: Scrawled Filefish, gobbies, nudibranch

We decided to swim across and drop in at the corner. When we dropped in MW and I lost MD. There was a lot of funk in the water and we never saw him drop down. We swam back looking for him and banged on our tanks. We thought that we heard him bang back but couldn't tell the direction - and we only heard it one time. Eventually MW and I surfaced and swam around looking for him. We swam down so that we were directly over the drop off and were about to give up when I saw him about 15 feet down. We dropped down and after several hand signals to explain the situation (all made up) we dropped down. We went down like rocks and decided to go all the way to the bottom once we got to the drop off. I topped off at 148 feet. Got pretty narced out. When my computer beeped to tell me I had three minutes left until a deco dive I headed back up.

Deepest dive to date. We had a great swim back. Saw another scrawled filefish. It was laying on its side on the reef. I thought at first it was dying or something. But it eventually got spooked and swam away. Also saw a very nice blue, white, and yellow nudibranch.

Dive #60, Fagaalu, American Samoa, April 30, 2008
Time 9:57-10:33 a.m.; 36 min; 60'; 30' visibility; 82 degrees
Dive Partners: Father in law
Sea Life: clown fish

Went diving with my father-in-law who was visiting from Utah. He had a hard time clearing his ears while we were descending. Eventually I just had him drop down to about ten feet and we sat their for a while while. He later told me that he was able to clear his ears by opening his jaw but not by plugging his nose. Anyway, it eventually worked out and we had a nice little dive. I took him around to see the clown fish and then we dropped down and swam around. The computer that he was using never turned on and I didn't realize it. Freaked me out a bit after we got out of the water since he is a fairly inexperienced diver. I was listening for the beeps to make sure that he did not ascend too fast but his computer never beeped. It all worked out because he tried to stay on the same level as me. Scary.

Dive Training: On Friday June 6 I went and did the second swim for the dive training for the national park. To pass the swim test it was necessary to swim a half mile with fins, snorkel, and mask in under 18 minutes. I made it with a time of 16:56 min or so. If I hadn't turned at a right angle at one point I could have been even faster. So I am one step close to being blue card certified. The rest of the divers went diving in the national park. I had to work so I went back to work when we were done.

Dive #59, Fagaalu, American Samoa, May, 18, 2008
Time 6:58 p.m. - 7:57 p.m.; 68 min; 73'; 25' visibility; 84 degrees
Dive Partners: PB, MW, MD
Sea Life: scrawled filefish, sleeping guinefowl puffer fish, shrimp, Deadly cone snail

Went out for a night dive. The first interesting thing that we saw was a cone snail. It was one of the types of cone snail that will kill a person if it stings you. In case you do not know cone snails are cone shaped snails that have a deadly poisonous barbs to kill prey. They basically have a little harpoon with a hypodermic needle on the end that they will inject into you. There are documented deaths from these snails. Some will kill you and some will only kill you sometimes.

This particular cone snail is possibly the deadliest in the world. I have found many of the shells of this kind of cone snail on the beaches here in American Samoa. But I had never seen and scuba diving and never one this large. This one was around four to five inches across. The snail was completely out of its shell and it was huge it probably extended down out of the shell around five inches and was moving slowly along a piece of coral. I thought I could see its little barb sticking out near the front. It is a little surreal sitting that close to something that you know could kill you.

We also saw a little hermit crab that had an anemone on its back. It is a really strange thing to see and I had no idea what it was until PB told me after we got out of the water. It looked like something out of a horror movie - odd. The sleeping fish at night are kind of crazy. You see parrot fish, puffer fish, filefish and many other fish just sleeping in the sand, under a ledge, or in a clump of coral. The parrot fish build a strange clear bubbly around them at night for protection.

I also had a small silver fish swim into my light. On the swim back MW started to shine his light up into dark. PB and I swam up and were looking for what he was pointing at. We were looking way up in the air and couldn't see anything. We both started thinking about sharks or bit predators that we couldn't see. Eventually PB saw then grabbed a really small shrimp out of the light. Brought out the fears in night diving. On the way back we also turned our lights off a couple of times to look for bio luminescent algae. It is really interesting to sit underwater at night with no lights. You could still see the other divers and their bubbles there was enough light from the moon.

Dive #58, Fagaalu, American Samoa, May 13, 2008
Time 4:36p.m. - 6:00 p.m.; min; 105'; 50' visibility; 84 degrees;
Dive Partners: MW, MD, JR
Sea Life: cornetfish, guinefowl puffer, spaghetti worm,

We swam out to the point at Fagaalu on this dive. Dropped in and went down to the bottom of the point. Saw a cornet fish when we dropped in. It just sat on the bottom and changed color patters while I watched. Also saw a spaghetti worm which looks just like long strands of soggy spaghetti. It has multiple arm or tentacles or whatever you call them. While I was showing the spaghetti worm to the other divers i bumped a coral looking thing and it changed color from brown to white. It was really cool so, of course, I did it again. As I said before I love things that change colors and I saw two on this dive so I was very happy.

Another interesting note was that there was amazing visibility on this dive. The best that I have ever seen at Fagaalu. The vis was easily over 50' maybe even close to 70'. Made the dive much more enjoyable.

Dive #57, Utulei, American Samoa, May 12, 2008
Time 4:16-4:57; 41 min; 58'; 30' visibility; 84 degrees
Dive Partners: TF
Sea Life: clownfish, trumpetfish

Honestly I do not really remember this dive that much. Went out with TF. He was doing better at seeing things. New divers take a while to start noticing things. Anyway, pretty uneventful dive. Fun to get out of course.

Dive #56, Utulei, American Samoa, May 4, 2008
Time 12:34 p.m. - 1:17 p.m.; 47 min; 45'; 30' visibility; 84 degrees
Dive Partners: TF
Sea Life: Clown Fish, large schools of fish, nudibrach

So I went out with TF again. This time things went smoothly and he was able to complete his first dive after certification. It is sort of hard to explain exactly where these are but Utulei has some of the best anemones on the island. At Utulei park if you walk out directly in front of the bathrooms and swim out over the reef you will see the sandy bottom gently sloping away. Drop in at that point and go to your left (if you are facing away from shore - also east). Descend to between 30 and 35 feet. You will see some very large anemones (perhaps three to five groupings) with full grown to baby clown fish in them.

Dive #55, Fagaalu, American Samoa, April 29, 2008
Time 4:20 - 6:10 ; 81 min; 61'; 30' visibility; 84 degrees;
Dive Partners: MW, TF
Sea Life: Big schools of fish, Feather Duster, Snails, Clown Fish.

TF a friend from work went with us on this dive. He just was recently certified. He had a few problems with his gear and with clearing his ears. When we discovered a small leak in his first stage hose we finally told him it was probably better if he scratched the dive. MW and I dropped in after he swam back to shore and continued on our dive. A note here if you ever dive from the school in Fagaalu. If you drop in after you swim over the reef, go down to 21-24 feet and follow the reef around to your left (east), for about 50 meters, there are a couple of large sea anemones with clown fish in them. Clown fish are always fun to see so if you like them and you are here in American Samoa check them out.

It was a fun and long dive. We stayed really shallow the entire time and it gave us a ton of bottom time. We finally turned around because of the time. We swam back in the dusk and were able to see some of the night life coming out. Feather dusters are one of my favorite sea animals. We saw a couple of them on the swim back.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Little Lionfish

Dive #54, Fagaalu, American Samoa, April 22, 2008
Time 4:35 p.m. - 6 p.m.; 76 min; 63'; 20' visibility; 84 degrees
Dive Partners: PB, MW, MD
Sea Life: Zebra Lionfish, school of yellow margin triggerfish, Bi-Color Parrot fish (Juvenile Phase),

We have had over a week of high surf, which has provided some great opportunities for beach combing since a lot of nice shells have been washed ashore. But it does make it a bit harder to shore dive. Today swimming out to the corner at Fagaalu was out of the question because there were enormous breakers crashing on the reef. So we decided to drop in and follow the reef around. We stayed really shallow most of the time. I would say that our average depth was only around 40 feet or so. This made the dive longer.

The best part of the dive came in the first ten feet or so. PB pointed out a tiny little Zebra Lionsfish. It was smaller than the palm of my hand. It was mostly white looking with red stripes. PB took some pictures and it ended up looking much more red. I imagine all of the funk in the water and the overcast skies probably diluted the color and made it look more washed out and white. Lionfish are super cool. They have all of these spiky fins sticking up everywhere. The problem is that the tip of every fin is poisonous. The second problem is that Lionfish apparently are aware of this.

They are not aggressive, but they are not afraid either. Every Lionfish just stares at you with a knowing expression. Kind of like "go ahead and touch me - see what happens." This make Lionfish neat to see because they just hang out and let you look at them. It also makes them creepy because I am always paranoid about stepping on one when I am swimming. They don't usually kill people but the pain is excruciating and the common cure is urinate on the wound (yuck!!).

Anyway, the rest of the dive was murky and mostly uneventful. I worked on my buoyancy and my breathing. I dropped four pounds of weight last week and it helped out a lot with my buoyancy. I am much more trim in the water. I am now down to eight pounds of weight and will probably be able to drop to six in the next month. I know it is kind of (really) dork dive nerd stuff but it amuses me. Oh I also saw a bi-color parrot fish in its juvenile phase. For some reason I just really like that fish. I also saw a fish that I couldn't identify. This is always annoying. The closest fish that I found in my fish book is a Yellowtail False Fusilier. The body shape doesn't look right, but it has the yellow spot on its back like the fish that I saw.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

March Dives

Dive #53: Fagasa - American Samoa 4/19/08
Time: 11:53 a.m. - 12:52 a.m.; 59 min; 64 feet; 70+ feet of visibility.
Partners: PB, one tourist
Sea Life: Black Margin Nudibranch, Necklace Starfish (Celerina Heffernani), gomophia starfish (small red starfish with tan polka dots), Spider Conch.

This is the second shore dive that I have done in Fagasa. Last time the visibility was around five to ten feet. This time it was awesome. There are a bunch of swim throughs in the reef here. Little key hole openings that you can swim through. We swam through about four of them on the dive. It is sort of like safe cave diving. You can see the other side so you do not feel trapped but you still get to swim through a small opening. This is a really good shell dive. I found three nice cowries.

The reef ends in a sheer drop. At the bottom of the drop is a large sand flat that extends out into the bay as far as you can see. The sea shell found are in good shape. My guess is because there is really no current where the shells are falling.

The dive was pretty. Lots of beautiful coral and interesting fish. The large shell is a Mole Cowrie. The striped one is a Cypraea asellus cowrie (I couldn't find the common name) and the last shell is a Chickpea cowrie.


Dive #52: Utulei - American Samoa 4/15/08
Time: 4:30 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.; 92 min; 100 feet; 15-25+ feet of visibility.
Partners: PB, MW, MD
Sea Life:Feather duster, Clownfish, Map Puffer, Golden Trevally (juvenile and adult).

Instead of the usual Fagaalu dive we decided to go to Utulei instead, which is right by my office. It is really interesting how areas very close in location to each other have such different types of sea life. Fagaalu and Utulei are not too far apart but the types of life are totally different. We dropped in and quickly descended to around 100 feet. The visibility was horrible and we did not see anything very interesting at depth. We eventually turned around ascended to 35 feet and cruised back along the reef. We saw many interesting fish on the way back, including a large golden trevally. Maybe around 14 inches long. This fish has brilliant yellow fins and a cream colored body with light stripes.

Later in the dive I scared of a Boxfish that PB was trying to show me. Then I saw a large Map Puffer. I think that this is the coolest puffer that I have seen so far. This dive is cool because there are big clusters of anemones with Clownfish inside on the swim back. The best part of this dive was really the snorkel back after I surfaced. I became the unlikely host for a juvenile Golden Trevally. The fish was about an inch long. Apparently they like to follow bigger fish around and feed off of the scraps that they leave when they eat. They like to be pilots and they swim right in front of you. Since my mask was the furthest forward it was cruising right in front of my mask. If I put my hand out it would swim up to my hand and swim in front of it. I grabbed at it. It swam back and then a minute later was back in front of my mask. It followed me all the way into shore and I could see it by my foot when I stood up to get out. There really is not anything much cooler than your own personal pilot fish when you are snorkeling. They are very bright gold with black stripes.

Dive #51: Utulei - American Samoa 4/13/08
Time: 11:20 a.m. - 11:45 a.m.; 24 min; 47 feet; 30 feet of visibility.
Partners: PB, TF
Sea Life: Dusky Clownfish, Three Spotted Dascylles

I went to help PB do some certification dives. I was the partner for TF who I also work with. He towed me around. Shared regulators with me and all sort of other certification dive stuff. After the second certification dive we cruised around for a while and looked at the Clownfish. TF told me later that he did not see any of them. I was the same way on the first few dives. Its crazy how much you miss.

Dive #50: National Park of American Samoa 4/12/08
Time: 1:20 p.m. - 2:50 p.m. ; 92 min; 72 feet; 70+ feet of visibility.
Partners: PB, MW, MD, JR, PP, Julia
Sea Life: Giant Clam, Barracuda

This was the second dive to do training for the National Park blue card certification. One of the things that you have to do is what is called a Dolphin Don. This task is very simple and scary. Basically you jump out of the boat holding all of your gear. You hold your mask and fins in one hand and hold onto your BCD with tank attached (air off). The idea is to jump into the water, turn on your air while sinking, begin breathing, put on your mask (clear), put on your BCD, then your fins. Seems easy right? We were assured that the bottom was in 15 feet of water and nice and sand.

So PB went first. He did not sink right away and had to empty some air out of his BCD. He is a pro so he did well. JR went second he did not sink either - neither did MW. So I decided that I would be the first to sink like a rock. I pushed and squeezed my BCD to get all of the air out. Then I jumped in. I bobbed. Had to do the same thing. I then started to sink. I quickly turned my air on and got my regulator in my mouth (life was good). I then looked down. Through the haze of mask-less sight I noticed that the bottom did not look all that sandy (this I was soon to find out was because there was in fact very little sand). I aimed for a sandy looking spot between two taller non-sandy looking spots. The spot was about two feet square.

One foot landed in the spot, which was to my pleasure sand and the other foot on something slimy and nasty (which we will call non-sand). I removed my foot from the non-sand and placed it on the real sand. I stuck my BCD on the ocean floor and put my mask on and cleared it. I then looked around at very large coral formations rising up out of the sea floor - ten to twenty feet high. I was on the only patch of sand in sight. I then made my attempt to put my BCD on.

First, I tried to float away. Second I held onto my BCD which kept me from floating away. Third, I quickly (too quickly) tried to get an arm through my BCD before the floating began again. I though I had it good but the hose from my regulator got caught behind my back. I was forced to share air with JR for a minute while he untangled me. After he untangled me I got my BCD on strapped in and went to help with the other divers.

Julia would soon find out that not everyone bobbs. She was the only one in our group that did what she was supposed to and sank like a rock. This was something unexpected (she was expecting to bob) and soon there was a tank floating to the bottom along with mask and snorkel. We retrieved her gear and she tried it again. She did a great job. We then went along on our dive. The coral formations in the little bay that we were in were very interesting. We came to the end of them at one point and the sea floor leveled out into what they call coral pavement and extended on out of sight. We swam around the coral reef edge for a while. Then went back and swam through a really neat key hole. At the end of the dive MB my dive buddy and I swam around an enormous giant coral. It probably measured at least 20 feet across. It has a giant clam growing out of the side of it. There was a Great Barracuda hanging out at the entrance (about 4 feet long).

Dive #49: National Park of American Samoa 4/12/08
Time: 11:01 a.m. - 12:12 p.m.; 72 min; 83 feet; 70+ feet of visibility.
Partners: PB, MW, MD, JR, PP, Julia
Sea Life:Guinefowl Puffer, Giant Clam, Two-Spined Angelfish, Multiple Parrotfish, Adult Emperor Angelfish

So we went out for a couple of training dives today. There are a bunch of task that must be performed to be able to become a certified National Park diver. After completing all of the tasks you become what they call a blue card certified diver. The first task that we were doing today was the swim test. As a new blue card diver I had to do a quarter mile swim without fins or snorkel in under 15 minutes. I made it in 14.5. I am so out of shape that I probably should not have been able to do it, but I really was motivated to finish in time because I did not want to do it again. There was one funny part of this. At the end of the swim another divers had a cramp in one leg. He got to the bouy and then swam in three tight circles (doing the back stroke). Apparently he could only kick with one leg. We were yelling at him to stop and that he was done. He didn't hear us and kept swimming in circles right next to the boat until JR finally jumped in and tapped him on the shoulder to let him know he was done.

After we were done with our swim test we rode the boat out into the park. On our fist dive we did not do any underwater tasks. We paired up and swam around a little sea mount off of shore. There was an abundance of life. The best sighting was a fully grown emperor angelfish. Full grown they are a very cool fish to see.

Dive #48: Fagaalu - American Samoa 4/08/08
Time: 4:15 - 6:00; 51 min; 101 feet; 30+ feet of visibility.
Partners: PB, MW, MD, JR, DH
Sea Life: Filefish

On this dive we swam out to the corner and dropped in. We swam down to the end of the corner and hung out at around 85 feet most of the time. I got a little narced at around 90+ feet. We turned around and swam back up the far side of the reef. We eventually turned around and worked our way around the outside of the reef. We had a newer diver along for the ride. When he ran low on air I surfaced with him and swam across the ava to the exit point.

Dive #47: Fagaalu - American Samoa 4/06/08
Time: 10:27 a.m.; 11:45 a.m.; 75 min; 100 feet; 30 feet of visibility.
Partners: MW
Sea Life: Fish

Only MW and I were up for diving today. We swam across to the corner and dropped in. This was the first time that we just continued on down to the bottom of the corner. When you get to the end at about 80 feet there is a little drop off and there are hundreds of fish that just hang out at the point. With a little narcosis it is very interesting. We went on around the reef and then turned around at 1600 psi. We went to cut to corner on the way back and had to go up to 11 feet. It was kind of sketchy. After we got out we realized that the tide had dropped considerably while we were underwater and it was a extremely low tide. We decided that it is probably a good idea not to cut the corner at low tide again.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

National Park of American Samoa

Dive #46: Fagasa - National Park of American Samoa; 3/29/08
Time: 3:29a.m. - 4:00.; 33 min; 47 feet; 50+ feet of visibility.
Partners: PB, MW, PP, one others
Sea Life: n/a

This was the third dive of the day. I once again attempted to puke over the side of the boat to no avail. By this time everything was gone and I just dry heaved. I had been lying down on the front deck trying to keep from puking. I realized later that this was a bad idea since I had forgotten to apply sunscreen to my face. I am still picking the scaly dry skin off of my nose. Anyhow, this time I was still sick under the water. Now on this dive my job was to follow PP around to see how to use the chain. Yes the chain.

The chain is used to measure rigosity. Rigosity, which I am probably spelling incorrectly, is the ups and downs of the reef. In other words it is how diverse the reef is. So the normal length of the reef that is measured every year is 25 yards. Well if the reef were perfectly flat then the rigosity would be 25 yards. But since it is almost always somewhat bumpy the rigosity is usually more than 25 yards. The hardest part of laying down the chain is your buoyancy control. Otherwise it is the easy job for the new guy. Or that is what I am told. If there is a hole you have to let the chain drop down in it. If there is an overhang you have to make the chain go under it. Basically you want to conform as closely as possible to the actual shape of the reef.

The rigosity is measured against the studies from the previous years to see how well the reef is going. PP realized I was getting sick on top of the water and told me to drop down and wait. I dropped down to the relative comfort of just a little bit of surge and breathed deeply. Then we went about our tasks.PP measured one length and then I took the chain and measured the rest of the way. There is some creepy-ness to this little task because sometimes holes are not the best thing to put things into. Luckily I wasn't surprised with any sort of hiding creature. We measured the rigosity and came up with 40.1 meters. The forth dive of the day I sat out of. By that time I was too sick to want to go. Plus it was really close to the shore and the surf was pounding against the rocks and I was afraid that if since I wasn't feeling well that I too could get pounded against the rocks so I chose to wait on the boat.



Dive #45: Fagasa, National Park of American Samoa; 3/29/08
Time: 10:59-11:30 a.m.; 31 min; 54 feet; 60+ feet of visibility.
Partners: PB, MW, PP, one other.
Sea Life: n/a

Now time for a little side story. Before I left I tried to perfectly time the taking of my sea sick pills. I wanted to shoot for maximum no-sick time. So when appeared that we had about ten minutes left before leaving the park I popped the pills. You need an hour before entering the swaying bumpy boat for it to work. What I had not counted on was that we would be to the launch side only fifteen minutes after leaving. This meant that after thirty minutes we were already in the boat rocking and swaying and bumping. Anyway, my stomach held out until we were almost in the water for the second dive. Then I fed the fish. I quickly suited up and jumped out of the boat. Then I fed the fish again, although not much was left by that point.

I dropped in as quickly as possible because I realized at that point that floating on top of the water when you are already sick is even worse that being in the boat. The picture taking guy really did not seem too keen on loaning me his camera so I just went ahead and let him take all of the pictures and I just watched him again. It didn't look too complicated and I figure that I can be trained to do it in about five minutes some time in the future.

Dive #44: Fagasa, National Park of American Samoa; 3/29/08
Time: 9:09a.m. - 9:45a.m.; 34 min; 67 feet; 70+ feet of visibility.
Partners: PB, MW, PP, one other.
Sea Life: giant clam, starfish.

So today PB invited me along to go on a park dive. I thought that we were going out on the fun dive to Fagatele, but found out on the drive in that we were actually doing work dives. I was kind of excited about the work dives because I wanted to see what all this science hullabaloo was all about. The plan was to do seven dives. Team A consisting of me, PB, MW, PP, and one other would do four dives and do our surface intervals when Team B did the other three dives.

There were four helpers, scientists from Hawaii over helping to conduct the survey. On the first dive my job was to follow one of the Hawaii guys while he took pictures of the reef. For the survey it was necessary to take a picture every meter. This I found out was a fairly easy task. Anyway, I was supposed to follow along on the first dive and then take the pictures on the second dive. The guy doing the camera did not seem like he really wanted me to touch the camera so in the end I just followed. All those years of school and I still am not allowed to touch a $7,000 underwater camera.

The visibility on all of the dives was great and it was really neat to see how what to do for the survey. Oh yeah PB went down first on all of the dives, laid out a tape measuring 25 yards and swam back up it counting and identifying fish. I dove on Nitrox for the first time and used the same tank for all three of my dives. Very cool except that the tank was a 100 instead of an 80 and it weighed a ton. I kept falling over when i tried to get ready to jump out of the boat.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Fagatele Bay and Fagaalu

Dive #43: Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary, American Samoa; 3/22/08
Time: 5:07 - 6:15 p.m.; 68 min; 64 feet; 100+ feet of visibility.
Partners: MW, 4 others
Sea Life: Skunk Clown Fish, Feather Stars

This was the second dive of our little boat trip and it was a wonderful dive. We did not have any problems and everything went smoothly. We dropped in around 60 feet and pretty much stayed shallow the entire dive. MW and I stayed close to the man that rented the boat. He was once again filming with his video camera. Three of the less experienced divers exited at about 45 minutes into the dive and got back on the boat. This dive was even better for the great visibility. We swam through some crevices that were like miniature valleys going down into the depths. You could look down from around 40 feet and see the valleys filled with coral wind their way down into the depths. Simply amazing.

MW and I stayed down and eventually the guy who had rented the boat exited as well. Probably at about 55 min. We stayed down about ten more minutes and saw some really neat feather stars. It was close to twilight so some of the night life was coming out. We could have stayed down another twenty to thirty minutes but we decided to exit. The boat ride back was a perfect ending to a wonderful dive day. We got to see a beautiful Polynesian sunset over off the Western end of Tutuila. It started out a brilliant red. It looked like the clouds were on fire. The reds slowly faded into burnt orange and then down into different lighter hues of orange until the sun finally went down.

Dive #42: Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary, American Samoa; 3/22/08
Time: 3:00 - 4:00 p.m.; 47 min; 91 feet; 100+ feet of visibility.
Partners: MW, 6 others
Sea Life: Clown Fish, several unidentified fish, great barracuda

This dive was interesting. MW and I went out with a few local divers on a boat trip. A man from Korea had rented the boat out to go diving and they needed some people to go along as guides. Basically MW and I became the dive masters because we were the most experienced on the boat. In that role I made sure that everyone was buddies up with someone else for the dive. I paired with MW and we decided to just help out by following along with the tourist so that he had a good dive.

He was a good diver and had some really nice camera equipment that he used to film the trip. We dropped down to around 90 feet and he was filming as he went. Suddenly I saw him let go of is ($5000) video camera and he was swimming along with it hanging five feet below his him. He then motioned to one of the tour guides (who just finished the certification course) for help. That guide was carrying a camera as well. I intervened and swam over to see what the problem was. I then noticed that the hose connecting his power inflater and his secondary air source was not hooked up.

Now this is where the really odd part time temporary jobs that you never thought gave you any practical skills come back to help you save someone underwater. When I was 21 for about six months I worked in a huge cabinet factory at night cleaning paint machines. Well I was such a good worker (I.Q over 25 - I know amazing) that they starting training me to paint cabinets. To make a long story short they were paying me as a temp as long as they could to save money. Well I then failed to inform them that I was leaving for college - which seemed to upset them for some reason when they I finally told them (it may have been all of the overtime pay). The point of this amazing story is that I learned quickly at that job how to unhook and reattach a air hose that is under pressure since I had to do it to swap out paint guns. This skill learned in this seemingly pointless job enabled me to quickly assess the problem and to attach this man's hose at 90 feet without draining his tank of air.

I will admit that it took me two tries. The pressure of the air underwater is a little more than at the surface. AfterI saved the day we went about our dive. We stayed down at around 90 feet for a few minutes then slowly ascended to around 50 feet. At about 25 minutes into the dive we saw a really nice sized great barracuda swimming above us at about 30 feet under the water. He was probably about four feet long. The sun was shinning off of his scales and he had a very nice beautiful pattern.

About 30-40 minutes into the dive everyone but MW and I were out of air. They all surfaced and we stayed down for another twenty minutes just playing around in the shallows. Eventually we decided that we better go up to shorten the surface interval and we went back up to the boat. Overall a very nice dive. Of course the clarity of Fagatele is unbeatable but the fish life is sort of lacking.

Dive #41: Fagaalu, American Samoa; 3/22/08
Time: 4:30 - 5:30.; 58 min; 82 feet; 10-35' vis.
Partners: MW, S
Sea Life: Giant Oyster, scorpionfish

We dropped in and started following MW. He swam out to the first of a few pinnacles that rise up out of the depths of Fagaalu. You basically swim out over barren sand flats to get to them. It is sort of surreal swimming over the sand. The first pinnacles are not that far from the entrance of the reef and there are a few to keep your mind occupied. But the second set of pinnacles are a five minute swim across an open sand flat. For a while I was beginning to believe that MW was lost. But I have to give him credit he swam right to the second pinnacle. On the back side of the pinnacle there was a really pretty giant oyster fully open showing off its mantle.

We swam back around to the reef after we got low on air and moved up to around 35 feet. while swimming back my mask was having issues and was constantly leaking. I had forgotten to shave in the morning. MW pointed out a really neat scorpionfish that took me about five minutes to recognize as a fish. My leaking mask didn't help any on that. It was a bit smaller than the last one that I saw but I was able to get a really good look at it. They are just a really creepy but interesting fish. We got out of the water and were able to get out before Saa (MW had to wait for his ride and was stuck for saa). Overall a very nice relaxing dive.

Side Note; Fagakai, American Samoa:

On Saint Patrick's Day I went snorkeling with TF the new guy at my work. He had not been snorkeling since he came on island a couple of weeks ago. We went to Fagakai for a little snorkel. Which is right next to the sewage treatment plant and a laundry place. It is actually really close to my work. I do not know what the actual name of the beach is. We have named it Fagakai which literally translates as Shit Bay. Mainly because of its proximity to the treatment plant, the pipe dumping left overs into the bay, and of course the lovely smell.

Anyway, always nice fish around which brings me to the real point of this little side post which is that I saw a really awesome fish - a Ribbon Eel. It literally looks like a moving ribbon. This one was pure white and around two and 1/2 feet long. Of course I am not absolutely certain because ribbon eel have a very weird head with interesting horny things sticking out of the nose, but it is the only eel that skinny so I do not think that it could be anything else. It was out in the open and was getting nibbled on by some annoying fish. Its head was only about as big around as my middle finger.

I also saw a cornetfish change its pattern for the first time. It was a plain gray color and then It saw me and it immediately changed to a striped pattern. It was like a neon sign flashing. The change was instantaneous. It then changed back to gray. I did a duck dive and got parallel with it and it changed again. So this time I saw it from about four feet away. Like I have said before there is nothing more interesting than a color changing animal. A very nice snorkel.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Vatia

Dive #40 - Vatia, American Samoa - 3/15/08
Time: 3-4p.m.; 49'; 66 min; 20-45' vis; 84 degrees
Dive partners: Julia

We entered in on the school side of the bay in Vatia. Actually we were only about a hundred feet from one of the borders of the National Park of American Samoa. The entry was really choppy. we had to swim out with three to five foot waves breaking over us. After we got over the reef it was extremely choppy. Julia borrowed her friend's fins on the swim out and realized the limitations of her crappy Costco fins.

We dropped in and started following the reef around out towards the entrance of the bay. About five minutes into the dive I saw a small 6 inch Bluespotted stingray. I startled it when I went over it and it swam from my left side down into the sand just in front of my mask. Its tail about three times as long as its body. It was neat to see - not intimidating like the large one that Julia and I saw the last time that we dove in Vatia. So far I have seen three rays and all of them were in Vatia. Vatia does not necessarily have more fish or larger fish, but the fish life is a little different, which makes it interesting.

We stayed shallow the entire time because the reef just rolls down into a sandy bottom at about 40 to 50 feet depending where you are on the dive. On the swim back we went up to around twenty feet and swam over the top of the reef. the coral formations at that depth are very beautiful and interesting. We saw a couple of fish that we had never seen before. We also saw a flatworm that was actually swimming. That was interesting to see. They sort of swim like a ray. The exit was a little hairy, but since it was high tide we were able to easily swim over the reef and back to the shore.