Friday, April 24, 2015

Daedalus

We arrived around 5am at a reef in the middle of nowhere with a black and white striped lighthouse on it. Half of the boats from The Brothers were also there. Early morning is the best time to look for the hammerheads, so we took a zodiac to the north side of the reef with the plan to go down to about 90 feet and see what happened by. We were barely in the water for two minutes when we found what we were looking for: a small school of 15 scalloped hammerhead sharks. They cruised around us, above and below, and we hung out in the blue (around 70 feet) watching them for nearly 15 minutes before returning to shallower water along the reef.

I took a nap after that, and re-joined the other divers for their third dive (my second) of the day at Anemone City. The idea was to photograph a wall of Magnificent Anemones. As we approached our destination, two hammerheads slowly swam by. We watched them for a while, and then explored the wall. It was completely carpeted with anemones from about 15 to 65 feet. I've never seen so many in one place at one time. For the final dive of the day, we hopped off the back of the boat--and I nearly landed on a grey reef shark who was cruising around the boat. At first I thought he was another oceanic white tip because he was accompanied by a little black pilot fish, but divemaster Erin later confirmed that it was a grey shark. We swam along the wall near where the boat was moored, and saw some particularly lovely orange and lavender soft corals that were just starting to open up into feeding mode for the evening. The shark was still there when we returned to the boat.

The next day the wind started picking up. We went out in the morning to look for hammerheads, and once again were not disappointed. We hung out in about 80 feet of water, and soon enough a few ventured into view.
Unfortunately my dive buddy had disappeared from sight at that point, and I started the countdown to when I had to surface. He had been lagging further and further behind the group, and was also deeper than me, so I started wondering if he'd gotten narcked and gone to the bottom. I tried to tell the divemaster that we were missing a person, but she thought I was telling her there were sharks behind her (which there were). Just then a hammerhead swam particularly close to me so I thought "to hell with him for getting separated from the group" and snapped a few pictures. Yes this was kind of evil of me, and I admit I wondered what my liability would be if my dive buddy died, but the happy end to this story is that by the time I was done looking at the shark the missing man had come back in to view. It turns out that another pair of divers in our group had been able to see him the whole time, but the episode was disconcerting and annoying.

We finished the dive along the reef, where we found a turtle eating his breakfast and some beautiful purple-spotted nudibranchs. After breakfast we were gearing up to go out to see the hammerheads again, but by this point the wind and the seas were picking up and I started worrying about getting in and out of the zodiac. It's not that I couldn't do it, it's just that it makes me nervous and I simply wasn't in the mood to do anything difficult. I'm not a hardcore adventure diver, and I've had plenty of dives of clambering in and out of bobbing boats, whacking my knees and shins on ladders and getting bruised up. A key to safe diving is to know your limits, and I firmly believe this means mentally as well as physically. There's always another dive, unless you make a mistake and have an accident. There are two more dives scheduled for today, and I'm unsure as to whether I'll do either of them because the winds and chop are increasingly strong.

Lucky for me, the winds dropped down in the late afternoon, so I jumped into the water for the final dive of the day. It was a mellow cruise along the wall right near the boat. I saw several eels, two Napoleon wrasse, and a type of anemone I hadn't noticed before. This one had wavy, almost corkscrew, tentacles. My dive buddy lagged way far behind the group again, and I patiently hung out waiting for him to catch up. After the dive the other divers and the divemaster all said something to him about staying closer to the group. He responded that he's solo certified and dives alone at home all the time. Be that as it may, the official Aggressor Fleet policy is that solo diving is never allowed. I'll keep my eye on him but if something stupid happens I won't feel responsible. After the last dive of the day we had a delicious dinner, and then departed for the final dive destination for this week: Elphinstone. Unfortunately weather conditions do not look good for diving there tomorrow. There is a nearby backup spot, though. I'm staying on the boat for another week to dive the "Southern" itinerary, which will give me another shot at Elphinstone next week.

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