This morning it was early to rise after early to bed last night. My on again-off again jaw pain reared its agonizing ugly head yesterday afternoon, causing me to down a couple of Tylenol and then several beers when we ventured over the hill to Sabang for some dinner. As it always does, the pain receded but the beers and medication put me out like a light as soon as I finished yesterday’s journal entry.
As the sun struggled to shoot a few rays over an ominously dark horizon the water was smooth and provided clarity to the bottom when we went out to inspect for conditions. A front of clouds filling the eastern horizon gave us reason for concern and caused us to hurry up and get our first dive in just in case bad weather was on the way. By 0900 the front got to us but happily all it brought with it was overcast. By the time we entered the water for dive number one of the day there were already three dive boats tethered at the buoys directly off the hotel pier. I remarked that with each boat averaging 5 to 6 divers, plus us, it would be like Grand Central Station out there beneath the surface. It turned out to be exactly as I predicted.
It cost me less than two hundred lbs of my 3000 to make it out to the buoy base. After a short stop there we headed southeast along the drop off. Its no mistake that so many dive boats bring their fares to that spot. Don observed today that every time we dive that area we see it from slightly different angles and always see something new, or at least I do. We’ll probably end up diving that spot for the next two days that we have left to dive here.
Sure enough, we ran into other divers no matter where we turned. Don would point out a clutch of two or three and we would veer away to another area only to run into another pair or a single just over the next boulder or rock wall. We finally just swam south far enough up the face so that we ran out of them. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen that many people blowing bubbles in the water all at the same time. Usually I feel isolated down there with just me and my dive partner.
That first dive I went down a couple times to the base of the wall that ends at the 70 foot level, but mostly we stayed between 40 and 50 feet. Our dive was shortened to just 55 minutes due to Don having a problem with a constant leak around his regulator mouthpiece; even when he wasn’t breathing in it would still allow air to come out—not good. He just bought the entire regulator and octopus assembly in Hawaii and he’s had constant issues with it since using it. Ever “the fix it man” though, between dives he took the mouthpiece assembly off and discovered a set screw at the base that was slightly out of adjustment; a half hour of turning the screw in and out, sucking through the mouthpiece to check it, and hooking it back to air twice for the final test, and he finally had it set at just the right place. I would never try something like that, but for “Daring Don” it’s just another day at the office. He’s a very handy fellow to have around for sure.
After waiting the requisite 1.5 hours (or so) we reentered the water for round two at just after 1330. This time the dive went swimmingly, lasting a full 70 minutes with plenty of air to spare for both of us. As I mentioned earlier, my inner ear squeeze is no longer any problem at all; for some mysterious reason my Eustachian tubes appear to have completely opened and I can now hold my nostrils and overpressure with a quick blow to get instantly equalized. All I can think is that the constant pushing of air into them these past six months, even when I’m not diving, has caused them to increase in size. Take note all you other would be divers with similar inner ear squeeze problems.
My dive mentor also mentioned how impressed he now is with my ability to foster my air almost as well as he does. When we first started this stuff he would routinely come up with as much as 1000 lbs more air than I did. It was humiliating to say the least. The first thing I did to fix that problem was to stop squeezing my stomach with the vest belly band. I don’t know why I would do it, but I would cinch it up as tight as I could. All that did was cause me to feel like I was never getting enough to breathe. And finally, once my confidence and comfort levels reached where I am now all the anxiety that caused me to suck air exhorbitantly left me and allowed me to breath in slow and relaxed.
The second dive was a long one, although it was so enjoyable that it didn’t feel long. We pretty much followed the same plan as dive one only this time there were no other divers to avoid. We took our time and had fun gliding up and down the shelf, feeling more like slow motion fliers than swimmers. I remarked at the end of that dive that I have dreams all the time where I do exactly what I am now able to do underwater, where I soar and jump and fly as if gravity does not exist!
Again, below I describe some of the intriguing little experiences I had during today’s dives. As usual, whenever I visit the underwater wonderland there is never a dull moment, at least not for me, aka "Nature Phil."
Right off the bat, as we approached the buoy I spotted a bulky yellow-tinged triggerfish take off like a shot. It had been busy feeding and our oncoming presence interrupted it. It had already ripped open a sea urchin which in present state looked all the world like a spiny half coconut. Once we had unwittingly scared the triggerfish away other smaller fish (what kind are they, especially the yellow ones?) that would otherwise never have a shot at the succulent delicious insides of an urchin were taking turns having their fill with apparent great gusto. Notice in the video I took below that there were several different species of fish working on the urchin, but it was only these banded yellow white and black ones that had the temerity to continue eating as I approached. I think I'll give them a new nickname--"the badass banded butterflyfish."
I just spent more than two hours trying to find out what kind of fish those are enjoying the half shell of a sea urchin after a Triggerfish opened it up. My knowledge of marine fish is, in a word, pathetic; but it's slowly expanding as I do my research for each video and photo taken during my underwater forays. At first I thought these three-toned fish with their three broad vertical bands of black, white and yellow were a form of tang or angelfish, but I soon decided instead that they must be a species of butterflyfish, and after staring at more than 25 or 30 online photos at saltaquarium.about.com, I proved myself correct. They are called Klein's butterflyfish, or The black-lipped butterflyfish of the fish genus Chaetodon a tropical fish in the family Chaetodontidae. These fish are omnivorous, which in the animal kingdom means they eat opportunistically just about anything. On second thought, that's actually kind of the way I eat.
Because I have so many pretty cool videos I'd like to share from day 6's dives I decided to break up day 6 into two or three posts, so they will be labeled day 6.1, 6.2, and 6.3. A lot of interesting things to see from that one day, so there you go....