Friday, May 31, 2013

Nocturnal Delights: Night Muck Dive on Maui

Caloria indica (Indian Nudibranch)
Unidentified Flatworm
   Sea slugs, lobsters, crabs, shrimp, flatworms, and weird creatures galore can be found just off the beach here in Maui. And you don't even have to go to a beautiful coral reef to find them. In fact I think you will see even more if you go to a muck diving site like this one where all of these and more can be found on one dive. We never really know what to expect when we go muck diving here. There are almost always surprises. On this night the surge from the south swells had finally died down which meant we only had to deal with the clouds of plankton that would swarm your light if you stayed in one place for too long. This does make taking pictures very difficult as you have to get a good picture on the first or second try or else the plankton move in and ruin the shot.

Guard Crab
Baby slipper lobster, about 3inches
Looking inside coral for creatures like this little guard crab can lead to great finds but the beauty of going out at night is that all the nocturnal creatures come out of their hiding spots and crawl daringly across the rocks and sand.

Baby Milletseed Butterflyfish
So all you need is a light and some good navigating and you will almost always be rewarded with rare and unusual creatures. If you think about how few people get to scuba dive, then take that further and think how many get to scuba dive at night, it really puts you in a exclusive group.
Exceptionally blue Gloomy Nudibranch
Nudibranchs are always a treasure to find in the muck and one of my favorites is the gloomy nudibranch (Tambja morosa). Usually here in Hawaii they are very black with a few dark blue patches but Heidi found one on tonight's dive that had much more blue on it. It made me want to travel to other places where you can find completely blue ones!

Unidentified tiny green shrimp
Another first for us was this tiny little green shrimp. I still don't know how Heidi spotted it but I had never seen it before. It is rare enough not to be in our invertebrates of the reef ID book so I will have to look more into what it might be. This frilly marbled shrimp however are all over the reef and rocks at night. They look drastically different during the day but put on quite the show at night. The imperial nudibranch pictured below goes to show you just how beautiful and vibrant these sea slugs can be.

Imperial Nudibranch closeup

Monday, May 27, 2013

Incredible Biodiversity: Pictures fom a scuba dive at Makena Landing

Trembling Nudibranch
Tom Smith's Nudibranch
 Some dives here in Maui we get lucky enough to see animals like frogfish, nudibranchs, sharks, octopus, and eels. Today at Makena Landing we saw all of these and more in one dive! Nudibranchs and flatworms started off the dive before we came across the most beautiful pink juvenile frogfish. It had its lure out trying to catch the interest of a passing fish. If you have never seen a frogfish eat then check out some videos on youtube. They move so fast that if you blink you might miss it. A rare sighting of a longfin anthias came next. This beautiful yellow fish has purple flecks around the eyes and is usually spotted at depths over 70ft deep. We have seen this one here in about 15ft several times over the last few months. She must be feeling pretty lonely.

Head on view of a whitetip reef shark
Juvenile Dragon Wrasses (Rockmover Wrasse)
Hawaiian Day Octopus
 I was busy trying to photograph these fast moving dragon wrasses when Heidi called me over for this day octopus swimming from rock to rock. I love it when octos emerge from their hiding places. They are one of coolest creatures in the ocean, especially when they 'walk' across the bottom using all eight of their arms.

Spotted Boxfish
Yellow Tang
 Since I had the macro lens on for the this dive I had an opportunity to get up close and personal with a few of the common fish on the reef as well, like this spotted male boxfish and yellow tang. The eels pictured below always make for great photo subjects.

Undulated Moray Eel
Dwarf Moray Eel
 The funny thing about these two pictures is just how great a size difference there was between the two eels. The undulated eel on the left was about 3feet long while the dwarf moray on the right was full grown but only 8 inches!

Zebra Moray Eel
Hawaiian Longfin Anthias
 I found a couple of zebra morays on this dive. They are not uncommon but are most active at night. This one was moving around a lot for the daytime. I finished this dive off with a very close encounter with a whitetip reef shark. I was near a cave so I kicked over and noticed a whitetip shark with a hook in its mouth swimming back under the ledge. As I got closer I saw two other scuba divers inside the cave and another whitetip reef shark swimming out in front. This is the shark pictured above as it turned and swam directly at me. Another incredible dive here in Maui.

Juvenile pink Commerson's Frogfish

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Blacktip Reef Sharks on Maui

Checking to see if the last time was just a fluke, Heidi and I set out to find the elusive blacktip reef sharks of Maui again. We scoured the same part of the reef where we saw them last time and came up empty. The tide was extremely low and it was late morning so we thought maybe the timing was just off. However we kept at the search and a ways down the reef Heidi called out she caught a glimpse of one. Another showed up just after. Last time we found out that sitting in one spot and waiting for the quick moving sharks to come back is the best way to see them. If you chase after them they will keep away. That theory worked out well today and I had a very close encounter with one of the sharks. Out of the murk I saw it swimming steadily right at me. It turned about 8ft away from me and I snapped this profile shot at the top of the page. It is funny to think that these sharks are hanging out a few hundred meters away from a popular snorkeling spot, yet they are hardly ever seen. I have seen an oceanic blacktip shark from the cage on Oahu, but these smaller cousins stay very near to shore. It was very exciting to see something different than a whitetip reef shark. These sharks have been known to bite people as they wade in the shallows thinking that toes may be fish. Experts say if that happens to lay down and show the sharks just how big you are.
Anytime I can swim with a shark it is a magical experience. I hope to have many more shark encounters as I move slightly North to the island of Oahu in a few short months. But in the meantime there always seems to be more to discover here on Maui!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Big Summer Swell, Maui, May 2013

Wave of the day at Dumps, Maui
Left at Lahaina Breakwall
Right at Freight Trains
The waves keep coming! We finally got a big south swell here in Maui and surfers are loving it! It does make taking people snorkeling and driving boats difficult but I love the summer surfing here. You always hear about the north shore and winter surf but few people know that Hawaii's summer swells can bring in pretty big waves from the south. I have been surfing along the south and west shores which have been getting pounded by large surf over the last four days. In fact three boats moored near Mala pier broke free in a really large set and crashed up on the beach. The waves destroyed the boats quickly after. Luckily all of our boats have been doing fine and we have even been running trips. Molokini is still clear and we found a couple spots around Lanai that havn't been murked up too badly. I am so glad that we got a good early season south swell this year since last summer was so slow and because I won't be here for the last part of summer. Gotta get these wave while I still can!
  The first picture was taken by Heidi with a 300mm zoom lens from the shore. All the others are with my GoPro Hero 3 attached to the front of my board. It takes a beating out there and still performs. Gotta love the GoPro!
Steep left at Dumps

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Utila Reunion:Adventuring with Paul and Brian

Paul victorious after we found this secret black sand beach
Yellow tang with very unusual coloration
 My buddy Paul is back and this time the Utila reunion is complete since Brian is living out here as well. We all went through our scuba divemaster certification class in Utila, Honduras together. Paul just finished a stint as a deckhand on a tallship which ended up in port on Oahu, so he popped over for some good fun Maui adventuring.
Brian and Paul headed out of the cave

Brian underwater cave diving
 So far we have toured the far reaches of Lanai, kayaked to hidden beaches from La Perouse, and delved deep into underwater caves off Makena.

Turtles love the caves for resting
 Here are a couple pictures from those adventures.

I love the lighting in this cavern
Deep in another cave

A pair of reticulated butterflyfish, a rare find here in Maui

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Amazing Underwater Encounter with Spinner Dolphins, Maui, Hawaii

These dolphins are closer than they appear
Hanging motionless in the deep as the pod cruises by
  Every time I dive underwater I have a magical experience. It is essentially diving into a different world filled with incredible sights and animals. It is this feeling that draws me back time and time again to the ocean. And once in a while my ocean karma or luck happens to kick in for a truly remarkable encounter. On this day Heidi and I pulled up to the water's edge, immediately saw spinner dolphins jumping so we grabbed our snorkel gear and camera and jumped in. These are just some of the pictures from this hour long encounter swimming with Hawaiian spinner dolphins.

Heidi with some rogue dolphins

One of my favorite interactions
Below the action

Heidi in the midst

Hawaiian spinner dolphins in the early morning light

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Partial Solar Eclipse, Maui, Hawaii 5/9/13

Partial Solar Eclipse
  Waking up this morning I had no idea I was waking in the only state able to witness the solar eclipse. Lucky viewers in the southern Pacific had a perfect view of an annular solar eclipse in which a 'ring of fire' from the sun surrounds the dark circle of the moon. Here in Hawaii this was the best of the partial eclipse. These photos were taken right before 4pm local time at the height of the eclipse. But preparing and finally getting the shots was not as easy as I would have thought.
 After rushing home from work I grabbed my camera bag and headed to a favorite overlook to try my hand at a new kind of photography. Special lenses are not just recommended for sun glasses but also for cameras pointing right at the sun. Unfortunately I did not have any special lenses so I had to come up with something.
  First I set my camera up on a tripod and switched onto 2sec timer mode. I set the focus on the distant horizon and switched to manual to lock it in. This way I would waste no time on auto focusing when I was ready to shoot. I cranked up my f-stop and shutter speed, while keeping my ISO low at 100. This way I was letting in very little light which was necessary since this was the middle of the afternoon and it wasn't going to be a total eclipse. Then I had to wait to have a lucky cloud drift in front of the sun to dim it further. The final step was to hold up a pair of sunglasses in front of the lens, quickly angle the camera up towards the sun, and take the picture before quickly turning the camera away to avoid any prolonged exposure. It only took a couple of times before I got the first picture. Then to try something different I set up under a palm tree to have a little extra in the frame for the second eclipse photo.
The view when not looking at the sun