Sunday, October 4, 2009

Weekend Dive Report for 10/03/09

Copyright 2009 by Barry Fackler

This weekend was PERFECT for scuba diving with gentle surf out of the north and west at only 2 to 3 feet. The weather was sunny all day long both Saturday and Sunday. With such good conditions, I decided to make the drive down to Keauhou Bay to see some manta rays. Visibility was only around 50' but the bay has a lot of sandy bottom so crystal clear conditions are not the norm here. Surface swam out to the area where the most active cleaning stations are but found no mantas, I decided to submerge and start looking around for smaller stuff. Within a few minutes, I came upon a divided flatworm making its way slowly across the coral rubble.
Copyright 2009 by Barry Fackler

I continued westward toward the mouth of the bay, staying along the reef drop-off and maintaining a watch for big mantas. I thought I saw one out in the distance. As I watched, the winged shape drew closer, revealing the form of a spotted eagle ray. These are smaller cousins of mantas but have several characteristics that set them apart. Eagle rays have shovel-shaped snouts that they use to dig for shellfish which make up the bulk of their diet. Unlike mantas, eagle rays can have several venomous spines at the base of their tails. The one I encountered had only one spine. I suspect it may have used up its other spines fending off whatever creature ate its tail. Usually an eagle ray sports a long whip-like tail. They have brownish dorsal surfaces with white irregular markings. Often they are shy but this one circled around lazily, seemingly unperturbed by my presence,

Copyright 2009 by Barry Fackler

At about the point where I was ready to turn around and head back to shore, I found a male palenose parrotfish grazing contentedly. Usually these fish are darting swiftly over the reef and are very difficult for me to photograph. This one afforded me time to take several photos before he was on his way. There are many species of parrotfish, but they all have a characteristic "beak" formed by fusion of their teeth. This adaptation allows them to scape algae off of corals. The undigestible mineral portion of the coral is excreted and becomes the lovely sand of our tropical beaches. When scuba diving or snorkeling their scraping can be easily heard.

Copyright 2009 by Barry Fackler

Near the end of the dive I was waiting for a very uncooperative octopus to emerge from hos lair when I looked up to see a huge manta slowly cruise by. I had time to take only one photo as this ray continued on a straight and level path and faded out of view. The photo is at the top of this post.

On the second dive I was able to find a cooperative manta almost immediately. I settled in to start taking some spectacular photos only to be foiled by malfunctioning strobes that wouldn't fire together. This has been an ongoing problem ever since I bought this camera system. One strobe or the other will fire, but rarely will they fire together. I plan to devote at least one posting to SeaLife camera's inadequate strobes. Their cameras are fine, possibly great, but the strobes are heartbreakers. Anyway the manta was a real gem and made repeated close passes as she glided from one cleaning station to another.


All photos copyright 2009 by Barry Fackler

I spent the better part of the dive just appreciating this big creature. After surfacing, I stowed my gear in my Jeep, walked to a nearby resort where I slid through the pool and used the bathroom to change clothes. Then I drove a 1/2 mile to a shopping center where I met up with my family to take in a movie. Kona is a great place to live!

(Sorry for the changing print size. It's way past my bedtime!)

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