On the downward slope

May 26, 2015

Yesterday was the precise middle of our liveaboard trip.  It’s a sad feeling knowing that there are only 13 dives left to the trip when you wake up.  And that number dwindles as each minute passes.  Add to that, Palau is in our top two dive locations in the world, and the only one that is still accessible to divers.

There was a lovely rainstorm last night that woke us up at about 3 am today.  It was slightly distressing to know that our swim suits would be wet again, but a fresh water rinse is always a good thing!  Even our BCs got the treatment.

This morning’s pre-breakfast dive was at Blue Corner.  Once again, it was completely different than the other two.  We had a very short swim to the hook in site, but the current was yet again changing.  We didn’t see much pelagic life at the hook in today, but that’s ok.  We unhooked and then swam through the middle of the corner.  There were quite a few white tips, a decent number of eels, and schools upon schools of jacks, barracuda, and snappers.  One of our fellow divers chased an eel into another hole (actually several other holes), so I positioned myself at the rock which I figured would be the final destination and waited.  Sure enough, the eel went into the hole, and the chasing diver pulled into braking mode as he almost ran into me.  I watched him go chase a Napoleon wrasse, and then I peered into the crevice.  There was the eel, getting cleaned - by a pipefish!  Good things come to photographers who wait.

We also got to see a school of bumphead parrotfish (it looked like mom, dad and kids out for a breakfast trip) after we made it across the corner.  I peered out over the edge, and saw more sharks.  And the Napoleon followed us across.  It was time for our safety stop far too soon.  Ah well, farewell Blue Corner for this trip.

Breakfast was served and eaten with gusto, and then we got ready for dive number two, at Turtle Cove.  The entry into Turtle Cove is fun, you do a backwards roll in, swim over the reef, and enter through a hole at the top of the reef.  You descend down to about sixty feet, and there is an entry into the blue.  At the bottom of the entryway is a plaque.  When we were here with Don and Lori many, many years ago (ok, maybe 2008), we were out on the water when there was an incident on another dive boat.  A Korean father and son were diving, the father became non-responsive, and sank to the bottom of reef, which is quite a ways down.  There was a manhunt staged by local authorities, supported by the dive operations.  No one ever found the father, but his BCD (buoyancy compensator device, which holds the tanks and keeps a diver floating) was found closer to Peleliu.  There were big bites taken out of the BCD, and tiger sharks had been seen earlier in the area.  No one knows what happened, no one probably will, but his son put up the plaque in his father’s memory.

Anyway, our dive was not that dramatic.  After entering through the top of the reef, we came out and hung out near the back.  We saw another ghost pipefish, square spot anthias, purple queens, purple anthias, blue and yellow fusiliers, pyramid butterflyfish, two eels, and the obligatory turtle at the top of the reef.  Of course there was a lot more, but the colors are so vibrant, and the fish so prolific, that it’s hard to put it all on one page.  The dive itself was an extremely gentle drift dive, a rare occurrence, as there is usually no current at Turtle Cove.  At least not while we were there.  When we got on the boat, Ken was conducting repairs.  Apparently a nut/bolt set for the steering column has gone faulty, so we were on the surface for over a half an hour before taking off for the Ocean Hunter III.  A chance to dry off and relax while under a canopy.

Lunch was of an Italian theme.  There was salad nicoise, pasta and meat sauce, fish fingers (although not quite sure how that is Italian), focaccia bread, and fresh fruit.  Blessedly, there is always fresh fruit!

We had a decent break between dives, so I worked on cleaning up the blog, which will be completely republished after we return to Hawaii, and got quite far.  The photos are now in chronological order, and I have identified the missing albums and blog pages.  Hopefully, those still exist online, and I can at least copy paste the one missing trip.  It’s a lot of work to maintain this website, and when I switched over programs there were (and still are) a few glitches.  Nothing I can’t handle, though.

Dive number three was Barnum’s Wall, which is normally quite breathtaking - vibrant colors and tons of fish life.  Unfortunately, we did not get the tide right, so the view was not quite as breathtaking as normal.  Still, we saw batfish, blue and yellow fusilier, more purple anthias and queens, anemone fish, and stunning fan corals in the colorful coral formations.  This was another drift dive, and gentle again.  It is dificult to predict how the currents are going to be, and where they will take you.  At least as a lay person.  Luckily our guides know the ropes.

We had a moderately quick turn around to go out on dive four, and headed to Clarence Wall (which I last dove as Dexter’s wall, with Dexter leading).  The moment we descended, there were two turtles, one green sea, the other hawksbill, that were taking off in opposite directions.  I saw yet another two turtles before our guide pointed out the first one.  All in all, we saw so many turtles, that I believed that there was just one leap frogging around (while we were looking for the unfound frogfish).  Of course, at the end, the turtles proved my suspicions wrong.  Three of them showed up and swam around while we were on our safety stop.  During the course of the dive there was a feeding anemone with skunk anemone fish, several very angry titan triggerfish, a barramundi, and we were led by a batfish that appeared to be in search of a turtle.  Of course, when the opportunity to follow a turtle showed up, the batfish decided it wasn’t interested.  Nor were any of its two other buddies.  One of the turtles we saw had a remora on it, which then separated and swam around freely.  We also saw a white tip reef shark overhead, and I saw a grey reef shark swimming below us during our safety stop.  Pretty decent dive.  On the way back we had a few treats - a pod of dolphins (perhaps two or three) came by to swim in the Poseidon’s wake, and to entertain us.  Entertaining it was!  And we were treated to a magnificent sunset as we returned to our home base.

We had a one hour turn around for the night dive, which was at Big Drop Off.  There were only three of us diving, so it was quiet and mostly without kicks to the head.  I was about startled out of my skin near the beginning of the dive when a crocodile scorpionfish came hurtling down the reef.  It looked like it meant business, so I moved out of its way, and didn’t get my camera out on time.  We also saw some sleeping parrotfish (yes, they do have sacs, answering my own question from the other night), a sleeping turtle, an eel, a notodoris serenae, and a host of unseen critters out in the deep during the night.  My mask has still not quite reconformed to my face, it will take a few more days/dives, I think.  But it will happen.  It took more than a few dives for it to reshape the last time, so I know it will eventually happen.  I think we started off and ended the dive seeing a pleurobranch in various stages (sleeping and active), but I’ll need to do a little hunting to figure it out.  Or just ask Eddie, who pointed them out.

We returned a little before 9pm, and the other divers on board had just finished their dinner.  Typically it is served at 9 pm for all, but it made sense to feed the larger group before we got back.  The Italian theme continued this evening.  There was minestrone soup, salad, garlic bread, lasagna, a pumpkin frittatta, and green beans.  The ship quartermaster had brought in some Red Rooster beer, so we were happy to be drinking the local beer.  Dessert was a magnificent blueberry bread pudding, if that can be considered Italian.  I could only finish half of mine, and Wayne could only manage his.  

As Wayne says, the only problem with this trip is the food, it’s terrible, and there’s too little of it.  Ha!  Arlee feeds us well.

Methinks it is time for bed.  The majority of the group is headed to jellyfish lake in the morning.  We opted out, as we have already been there five times!