Sunday, October 18, 2009

Weekend Dive Report for 10/17/09

Copyright 2009 by Barry Fackler

The day didn't start out looking too promising at Honaunau Bay as there were biggish swells hitting the north and south points of the bay. Upon entering the water I saw the visibility to be poor to fair with a lot of stirred-up particulate matter in the water column. This is always bad news for photographers as the suspended particles reflect our strobes back to the camera lens causing an effect that appears on the photo as bright "snow". As I surface swam out to the drop-off, a nice honu  glided gracefully under me around 20 feet below. Underwater, I visited with the Longfin Anthias "harem" for awhile and then I saw my first treasure of the day. A tiny "baby" Moorish Idol (pictured above) was swimming around at about 70' staying close to the reef. I had never seen one so small before. It's dorsal fin was so long as to look slightly comical and its mouth was very short and pinched appearing compared to an adult specimen. Even though it flitted about nervously, I managed to get several photos.

Down deep, the visibility was somewhat better and the first dive had an ethereal quality to it as early morning sunlight filtered down through the siltier water above. On the southern end of the bay I visited a cave and discovered this beautiful Tiger Cowrie near the entrance.

Copyright 2009 by Barry Fackler

The Tiger Cowrie is the biggest cowrie found in Hawai'i. Like all cowries it has an incredibly glossy, smooth shell that is beautiful to behold. The sheen comes from two folds of tissue, called the mantle, that envelop the shell while the foot of the snail is extended. This tissue secretes oils which give the shell its glossy finish. The place where the two folds meet leaves a line on the shell as seen in the photo.

On the second dive, I headed north. As I cruised over an area of coral rubble I came across five tiny bright gold and white fish which had staked out a piece of the reef for their own.
 Copyright 2009 by Barry Fackler

These are Pyramid Butterflyfish which are by no means rare but we don't often see them inside the bay at Honaunau. Usually they prefer deep-water drop-offs. Betty and I had seen a small group in this same general area years ago before a winter storm had reduced this area of reef to rubble. These are sub-adults, having the features of adults but still pretty small. They get their common name from thr area of brilliant white on their sides which resembles a pyramid.

I entered a swim-through that I like to visit but, once inside, encountered ripping surge and had to hang on for dear life. While wedged there, I saw two more cowries tucked in a little niche, safe from the liquid gale. 
Copyright 2009 by Barry Fackler

The big, dark one on the foreground is a Humpback Cowrie and the smaller one in the background is a Reticulated Cowrie. The surrounding walls of the swim-through are covered with brightly colored encrusting sponge.

As I made my way back to my exit point, I had my best encounter of the day. A big octopus was slinking across the reef near the drop-off. As I approached, it disappeared into the reef but soon became curious and peeked out. Eventually, it came out all the way, allowing me to start photographing. What happened next was wonderous. It slithered and jetted slowly from one coral head to another, allowing me to follow closely. It would pause sometimes, holding a pose and allowing photos from different angles. We eventually made our way into shallow waters where we attracted a small group of snorkelers.  Finally, it found itself backed up against a stone wall and could lead me no further. That's when it did something amazing. It slithered confidently forward backing me up for around 10 feet or more

Copyright 2009 by Barry Fackler

The octopus has been proven to be an intelligent creature and I think this one figured out very quickly that I would keep a certain distance from it. That would be quite correct as I was following it only to take its picture. In order to do so, I couldn't get too close or it wouldn't fit into the frame. While it knew nothing of photography, the octopus had figured out my proximity tolerance and felt safe approaching me anticipating that I would back away, which I did.

Copyright 2009 by Barry Fackler

By now I was low on air and it was prudent to surface (a long way from my exit point, I must add). My octopus encounter had lasted around a half hour and I took 113 photos many of which didn't turn out well. However, I did get many good ones and the whole affair was very special to me and, maybe, to the octopus as well. It was an exceptional day of diving, even though the ocean conditions were just so-so.

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