17 May 2013 Nihoa Day Two – open ocean diving on unexplored banks!

We had an Explorers kind of dive this morning – a bank 12 miles due west of Nihoa that comes up to about 150’ below the surface. To our knowledge, no one has ever dove the bank before, or at least not recently. Pretty much the exact type of dive that really gets my energy up – open ocean, swells, clean oceanic water, unknown dive site – very exciting.

We were a bit more efficient on the pre-splash checklists and procedures, so sitting in the sun, fully geared with rebreathers, two bailout 80 cubic foot cylinders, two reels and surface marker buoys wasn’t as miserable as yesterday. The drop was clean and quick, and we were able to see reef sharks on the top of a gentle slope at about 180’, dropping to about 230’.

Right in a small depression in the slope was a fish watchers dream at 210′ – tons of fish of all colors and shapes, including a large harem of rare endemic angelfish (Genicanthus personatus). Unfortunately for some of that group, they are on our collecting permit for DNA sampling, so with regret, I speared four or five and bagged what could retail in the aquarium trade about $30,000 worth of fish. I hope the research is novel!

I saw a squirrelfish that I didn’t recognize, and Randy Kosaki, lead scientist didn’t either. I speared a couple, hoping against hope that they would be new to science, but they turned out to be a fish that I don’t see often, and looked quite different at depth – Sargocentron ensifer. Pictures to follow if the ship’s internet bandwidth will allow.

Several medium sized sharks on the bottom, obviously curious to see other large swimmers in their neighborhood – Galapagos, Grey reef and possibly a sandbar shark. We recorded 13 new species for Nihoa (and environs, if we count the unnamed bank 12 miles west of Nihoa), which is a pretty good days’ work for a fish geek. A few inquisitive Galapagos on decompression, which ran about 50 minutes.

One more day here at Nihoa, and then west to Mokumanamana Saturday evening.Geniacanthus personatus harem

Naso annulatus

Sargocentron ensifer

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