18 May 2013 – Nihoa day three

We finished our time up on the bank west of Nihoa with a nice dive to the 190-220’ ledge that runs pretty much around the bank, likely the shoreline area during the last ice age. Lots of flattened corals and algae blooms on the bottom, many of the algae have a luminescence that make them appear bright orange, pink and red. Once they have artificial light, they appear brown and drab grey. Several researchers on the ship are collecting algae samples for further study.

We are trying to collect about 20 different fish species, and the geneticists need 30 specimens per species. Some of the desired fish are tiny – Pseudanthias hawaiiensis, Chromis leucura, Chromis ovalis. I finally saw some of the small damsels and anthias – about an inch or inch and a half. I spent a few futile minutes trying to spear them with a three prong spear, before I was relegated to filming and moving on. We saw the masked angelfish again, and the flame wrasse as well as some very small Kahala (Seriola dumerilii), less than a foot long, quite unusual for me.

Interesting topography as we moved shallower up the point, and a large dense school of Blue lined snapper revealed a very fishy intersection on the reef. I set the camera down recording wide angle, and proceeded to shoot a bunch of fish with Dave Pence. The Galapagos sharks were quite excited, and the video is pretty interesting with me shooting fish and Dave shooing sharks away with his three-prong spear, until he eventually calls the dive. He sent the fish bag to the surface on a float as I forlornly approach with a final prize in my hand, which I then promptly lost from my hand, and the last we see on the clips is a mass of snappers mangling the dead body. The one that got away, proves again that there is no such thing as a missed lunch in nature.

We are moving west to Mokumanamana Island (original Hawaiian name, called Necker Island on most charts). Mokumanamana lies directly on the Tropic of Cancer, and was important to the ancient Hawaiians as a point on the dividing line between the land of life and the afterlife. It is also the legendary final home of the Menehune, the little people who worked at night to build useful and helpful things.

I got some nice Galapagos shark footage on decompression – these fellas have likely never seen a human before, and weren’t shy about checking us out. Most were small – 3-5 feet. A few on the bottom were heftier maybe a little over 6 feet I guess. I haven’t checked all the numbers yet, but I think 2 new records for Nihoa, and confirmation of several new records from the previous two days.

14 hour cruise tonight should put us at Mokumanamana for a full day of diving tomorrow.

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