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Old 07-07-2013, 01:22 AM   #1
Xcelratr
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Pics from recent dive trip to Kona

A few weeks ago, I spent a week diving the Kona coast of Hawaii’s Big Island aboard the Kona Aggressor II. The boat is a liveaboard, so we boarded on Saturday evening and stayed on the boat all week, disembarking the following Saturday morning. The boat’s capacity is 14 guests plus 5 or 6 crew. It turned out that there were only 3 guests booked for the week. It was the closest thing I could imagine to having our own private yacht without actually having to hire one.

Sunday through Thursday, the boat offers 5 dives a day. So the daily routine is wake up – breakfast – 2 dives in the morning – lunch (usually the boat moves to a new dive location) – 2 dives in the afternoon – dinner (sometimes the boat moves to a new dive location) – night dive – download pics/swap batteries – sleep. Friday is 2 dives in the morning; the afternoon is open for the trip back to the harbor, cleaning/drying gear, starting on packing, etc. Most people fly out on Saturday, so diving Friday afternoon would violate the 24 hour rule anyway.

Some folks skip dives to nap, work on pics, read and otherwise relax. I’m a little crazy so I try very hard to do every offered dive. I missed the 2nd afternoon dive on Sunday, but made the rest. So I did 26 dives during the week.

It was a great week. The food was AWESOME, and I’m not even really a foodie. The dive guides were great at finding critters and taking care of us. The other two guests did skip dives during the week, so there were maybe a half-dozen dives where it was me + the dive guide with the entire ocean to ourselves.

Cool stuff that isn’t included in the pics ITT:

- On one dive, we saw a scalloped hammerhead shark. It was exhilarating. I’ve never seen a hammerhead before. Unfortunately, I had my camera set up for macro, and the shark was too far away and cruising too quickly for me to swim near enough to get a shot.

- En route from one dive site to another, we saw a pod of short fin pilot whales, a few of whom swam right by the boat. We maneuvered in front of them, and a few of us hopped in with snorkels and cameras in hopes of trying to see them in the water. But as soon as we jumped in, they changed direction and we never saw them again. The double bummer is that pilot whale pods are often followed by oceanic white tip sharks. I’ve never seen one of them in the water either, so that would have been awesome. We still got a great look at the whales from the boat, though.

- After coming up from the last dive of the week on Friday, a pod of spinner dolphin cruised past the back of the boat. I hopped back in with just my mask, and did get to watch them swim by. It only lasted a minute and I didn’t have a camera, but it was still really cool.

- On Thursday night, we did a dive called Pelagic Magic. The biggest animal migration on the planet happens every day when plankton and other animals from deep water ascend to the surface after sunset and then back to the deep before dawn. There are also a lot of animals that follow this migration to feed on the plankton. We went a few miles offshore, to where the water is several thousand feet deep, and drifted with the current/wind. The boat hangs lines off the back, we go down about 20 ft into the black water with flashlights and just hold onto the ropes, watching all the weird and wacky creatures that float through the light. It was spectacular to see. If you’ve never seen the Blue Planet episode The Deep, I strongly recommend it.

Last edited by Xcelratr; 07-07-2013 at 01:23 AM.
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Old 07-07-2013, 01:23 AM   #2
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On to the pics...

Gear: Nikon D80 in Ikelite housing. 2 x Ikelite DS51 strobes. Wide angle is shot with a Tokina AT-X 107 AF DX 10-17mm f/3.5 - 4.5 fisheye behind an 8" dome port. Macro is shot with a Nikkor AF-S VR 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED behind a flat port. Most of the w/a stuff is shot on Auto with manual adjustment of the strobe intensity. The Macro stuff is either Auto or Aperture priority to control depth of field, also with a lot of manual strobe adjustment. My "focus light" for night dives consists of duct taping my flashlight to one of the strobes. I intend to get a real focus light before my next trip.

iPhone pic of NW corner of Hawaii, flying in from Maui:


Crown of Thorns Starfish, an invasive species on Hawaiian reefs:


A pair of mating Hawaiian Day Octopus, the one on the left is reaching out an arm toward the one on the right:


Seven-Eleven crab:

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Old 07-07-2013, 01:24 AM   #3
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Do you ever dive in tourist places for rings, etc?
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Old 07-07-2013, 01:24 AM   #4
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Sunday night, we did a night dive for Manta Rays called Manta Mayhem. This was the 3rd time I’ve done a dive like this and it has been amazing every time. Many years ago the Sheraton Kona installed bright lights on the seawall so guests could see some of the life in the water. The lights attract plankton, plankton attracts manta rays that swoop and circle to feed. Dive boats and snorkeler boats come and add more lights from below and from the surface. For most of the night there can be as many as 20 mantas showing their swimming skills, passing only a few inches over divers heads. For 15+ ft, 1,500+ lb animals, their grace and agility is astounding.


iPhone panorama shot of Keauhou Bay, where we did the dive. The building in the center is the Sheraton Kona, which has a web cam: http://www.seehawaiilive.com/big-isl...island-resorts. The small boats are the day boats bringing divers and snorkelers out for the Manta dive:






Greenhead (sometimes called Undulated) Moray Eel. During the Manta dive, I turned around to change positions and this eel was swimming right behind us. I pointed out the eel to a guy shooting video, who followed it for a bit and got footage of it catching and eating a fish in the reef:






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Old 07-07-2013, 01:25 AM   #5
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When you see it…






Henshaw's Snake Eel. Unlike many eels, which hide in the nooks of the reefs and rocks, this species buries itself in the sand with just its head sticking out, waiting for a meal to wander within striking range. One of the books on the boat suggested that Henshaw's Snake Eels are capable of "swimming" through soft sand, and may prey upon garden eels by attacking them in their burrows from below or the side. I'd never even heard of this animal before, and this was the first time the guides on the boat had ever seen one:


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Old 07-07-2013, 01:25 AM   #6
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Whitemouth Moray Eel being cleaned by a Banded Coral Shrimp:







Last edited by Xcelratr; 07-07-2013 at 01:26 AM.
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Old 07-07-2013, 01:26 AM   #7
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Found that drive that I shanked from the tee box in Tahoe last year:






Rush hour:
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Old 07-07-2013, 01:27 AM   #8
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Near the end of one dive, in shallow water, I spotted this Orangemouth Lizardfish. Just above/beyond him, on the underside of the boulder is a Flat Rock Crab. When the strobes fired for this picture, the crab moved a little further under the boulder. I started to move in closer to try to catch them both in the frame. As I crept forward, the lizardfish SHOT up out of the sand toward the top of the boulder, and for an instant, I thought I had scared him off…

… but in the blink of an eye, he zipped back down from the top of the boulder to the sand and moved around behind me, which is when I realized that he'd grabbed a late morning snack in the form of a Long Nose Butterflyfish that was swimming near the top of the boulder. In this picture, he's settled back on the sand, about 5 ft directly behind where I was when I took the previous pic. It took him about 4 full gulps to swallow it. This picture is between gulps 1 and 2. The butterflyfish's tail is sticking out of the left side of his mouth, the dorsal fin is sticking out of the right side of his mouth:


Between gulps 3 and 4. The little fleck of yellow at the corner of his mouth is the last we'll ever see of that Longnose Butterflyfish:
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Old 07-07-2013, 01:28 AM   #9
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Textile Cone Shell on the prowl at night. The animal is a little smaller than a soda can and has venom powerful enough to kill an adult human with a single sting:


Sleepy Sponge Crab. That's the common name, not an attribute of this individual. Sponge crabs use their rearmost legs to carry a piece of sponge on their backs to camouflage themselves. This one needs a bigger piece:







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Old 07-07-2013, 01:29 AM   #10
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Old 07-07-2013, 01:29 AM   #11
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Decoy Scorpionfish. One of the coolest finds of the week. In the natural light (without the strobes hitting him) his body blends exceptionally well into the algae and coral. He stands up his dorsal fin and it looks EXACTLY like a small fish sitting atop a lump of algae-covered rock. Note the "eye" and coloration at the base of the fin that resemble pectoral fins. Other fish that approach in hopes of eating the "little" fish get a rude surprise when they're eaten instead:






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Old 07-07-2013, 01:30 AM   #12
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Old 07-07-2013, 01:30 AM   #13
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What's the scariest thing you've experienced underwater. Has some **** ever popped out of a hole and been like rawr?
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Old 07-07-2013, 01:31 AM   #14
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Old 07-07-2013, 01:32 AM   #15
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When you see it…


In case you can’t see it (it’s a Titan Scorpionfish):






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Old 07-07-2013, 01:32 AM   #16
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Arceye Hawkfish. The strobes bring out the color around the eye and gills. In natural light, that coloration isn't nearly as vivid:








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Old 07-07-2013, 01:33 AM   #17
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That’s all folks. Thanks for looking. C&C is encouraged. Also happy to try to answer any questions about the animals, or diving in general.
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Old 07-07-2013, 01:44 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by v8 5 View Post
Do you ever dive in tourist places for rings, etc?
You mean, like looking around for stuff people have dropped off boats and such? No, I've never done that. I've found some stuff underwater, but it's never been like treasure or anything, if that's what you mean.


Quote:
Originally Posted by v8 5 View Post
What's the scariest thing you've experienced underwater. Has some **** ever popped out of a hole and been like rawr?
Well, the most exciting encounter I've had was this one: http://forum.e46fanatics.com/showpos...17&postcount=6

Shark feeding dives are always exciting, but really not that scary as long as you behave yourself.

I did have something like what you're describing happen in Palau. It was a night dive and I found a shrimp I wanted to take a pic of (old skool film camera) so I was holding my flashlight against the side of the camera and sliding closer to the little reef shelf the shrimp was sitting on, looking through the camera's viewfinder. Out of the corner of my other eye, I thought I saw something move, so I lowered the camera a bit and there was a big old moray eel coming out of the nook right above the shrimp, probably 2 feet from my face. He was unhappy with me. If anyone ever tells you it's impossible to backpedal in swim fins, they're LYING, cuz I got my ass outta there with the quickness. Managed to avoid being bitten.
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Old 07-07-2013, 07:30 AM   #19
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glad to see you enjoyed yourself, it looks like a good time and an amazing experience
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Old 07-07-2013, 07:44 AM   #20
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holy crap those are some awesome pics!!

edit: I caught myself making dopey commentary to some of them, lol.

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