Friday, January 28, 2011

Jan DiveTrip to Mindoro "YES on Diving!" Day 4`

Jan 18, 2011 Tuesday
Day 4
(Suggest you click on each photo to enjoy them fully...)

Yes on the diving today!

It started out slow however; woke up lazy and so didn’t get up until well after 8 am. From a supine position on the bed with hands behind my head I can see the sea through the room’s glass door. I could see that the water had a bit of chop to it but not nearly as bad as it’s been the last couple of days. My view bode well for today’s underwater adventures. Just the same I rolled over and closed my eyes to squeeze out a few more z's.

By 8:30 I was bored with sleeping and went up on the veranda for some coffee and a bowl of fresh fruit salad for breakfast. We were further encouraged to see that dive boats from Sabang were braving the trip around the lighthouse point to drop their divers into the water here at the dive buoy in front of the hotel. However, we did notice that the small local Bangka watercraft still were not out trying to make their way over the swells; evidently it was still too much for them.

By 10 am, a walk out on the pier revealed that the visibility through the water was noticeably improved; we could see rocks at the bottom several feet down that we couldn’t make out yesterday, not to mention that the breakers were only a tenth of their size from 24 hours earlier. All in all, it looked good for a dive. I asked Don if we shouldn’t go sooner than later in case we lost the window of opportunity that now seemed to be presenting itself. He agreed and we wasted no time in suiting up. At the very prospect of getting back out in the water, I was one happy camper!

Our plan was similar to the dive we aborted yesterday—head straight out to the buoy, pause, and then continue down the stairstep shelf to about 100 feet where we would putter around for five minutes before reversing course.

This time when we submerged just past the pier we noticed immediately that the waves were innocuous and the visibility, well, it actually existed, unlike the day before. We pressed on. In almost no time we hit the buoy. I was thrilled at how much easier I am able to clear my ears. Don never had to wait for me; I was able to feel almost instant relief by holding my nose through my mask and blowing. It’s almost as if my Eustachian tubes are becoming trained for diving by the constant act of forcing them to equalize. Even at home these past two months I have constantly pushed air into them; now I can see it’s paying off.

Pushing past the buoy, an interesting phenomenon presented itself—warm pockets of water were all over the place. You can actually see them before you feel them from the shimmering haze they cause. The distortion is severe enough that it prevents me from being able to read the numbers on my gauges when we are actually inside these “hot pockets.” I enjoyed the warmth though, since the water has been downright frigid since we got here.

On one of the several shelves going down into the channel depths a small stingray hovered only a few feet to the left of my course. I paused for a bit to pull my camera down my right arm where I stow it on a loop. I haven’t reviewed the images yet, but I took both stills and a few seconds of movie footage. They are fascinating creatures. This little one wasn’t near as shy as the other larger ones I’ve observed.

By the time we were half way down the hill to the 100 foot bottom the water was almost as clear as I’ve ever seen it. All the murk was above us. We stopped at 97 feet and flattened out on our stomachs. The view down there looking out into the continuing depths of the channel is a bit boring; rolling, flat, sandy, featureless with little evidence of life. In less than a minute we turned tail and flippered back up the hill, now soaring high above us. I enjoy the feeling of flying upwards, occasionally using a rock to help push upwards against.

Once again, we found the big concrete buoy mooring and took a break. I had my camera out and ready for any photo ops. Seeing nothing unusual or new I looked straight up to see if there were any boats tied on up there. Then something caught my eye over Don’s right shoulder. Holy cow! I have never seen fish that big before. A huge school of these things, maybe 30 to 50 in all, were massed only about 15 feet behind him. Some of them looked to be well over four feet in length. They looked powerful and tasty. I pushed him hard on his shoulder to get his attention up from his console and jabbed my finger at the gigantic fish. Seeing them, he was as stunned as I was. No matter how many times you go down, even into the exact same area, you just never know what new oddity or amazing creature will show up. I finally remembered to bring my camera to bear but by then they were too far away in the hazy water to capture the size of them. I have only a few seconds of fleeting video that I intend to try and identify them with. Back on the surface we couldn’t stop talking about the size of those fish and how many of them there were. Incredible!

We waited just over an hour and a half to make a second dive of the day. Strangely, even though the waves were much smaller and the surge lessened, the visibility was now much reduced again, almost as bad as it was yesterday. We headed back out to the buoy hoping the water would clear up but it never did much. Later, Don said that the current had reversed, which is why the murk must have returned the way it did.

Concerned that we might become separated in the greenish gloom, Don opted that we would simply stay right there at 35 feet on the concrete pad and just observe the sea life from that vantage point. I took a few shots of an unlikely looking fish decorated with white circles all over its brown body and fns. I’ve seen them before but was never able to get a shot of them.

I also found a tiny slender stick-like fish hiding down at the base of the concrete pad amongst the quills of its protector sea urchins. It was banded alternately with yellow and dark stripes only about three inches long. I hope the pictures turn out okay. I’ve never seen another fish quite like it yet.

And finally, I got some great shots of two juvenile lionfish. For some reason they always tend to keep their bodies pointing head down. Every time I try to capture them on film I get them from the back with their heads facing mostly out of the shot.

Without being able to swim to keep his body temperature up Don was miserable from the cold water. As for me, I felt just fine; must be all the blubber that keeps me warm and cozy. I knew my fat would come in handy one of these days. Once he began to shiver he decided to pack it in.

We headed back to shore where I found that I still had more than 700 lbs of air. I used all but 300 of it over the next half hour exploring the shallow depths along the base of the breakwater jetty. I found several nice shells but in trying to stow them inside the trim weight pocket on my BCD vest I evidently left the zipper open and lost one of my 4 lb bean bag trim weights. Dang it. Oh, and the shell pictured is not one of those I picked up since it still has its occupant. I only collect those that are deserted.

Aside from carelessly losing one of my bean bags I had a great time playing with some of the numerous hermit crabs living in the shallows. The largest one I found was very shy and I’d have to wait a while to observe him come out of his shell. On the other side of the pier I found one that had just about grown out of his used shell home; I’d pick him up and it would immediately come out and grab the material of my glove—feisty little critter! As always, I suggest you click on the photos to view them in their full glory...

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