We finished up in at French Frigate Shoals (Part one) in style – a great dive on the northwest edge of the lagoon. The weather calmed down from yesterday and we had little wind. Clear water on descent, and some nice terrain in an area that is otherwise quite barren.
Our method of collection is roughly as follows. One diver to conduct a fish transect, one diver to follow and do a benthic (bottom dwelling invertebrates) transect, one diver to spear selected fish for the DNA studies and one safety diver. I typically work on the fish inventory, trying to document fish presence on a reef, and also spear fish as time allows. The transect diver makes a quick decision on where to lay his transect line (25m), and then sets off counting fish by species and annotating on a slate. The benthic diver follows with a quadrant made of PVC with a fixed camera and lights, taking still images every meter or so. The fish videographer/recorder and spearermen try to pick a spot that doesn’t disrupt the transect team, and start filming / collecting. I have attached a still image that shows the benthic photographer on the transect line while Dave Pence and I spear fish. We collected 41 specimens in about 7 minutes of work – not too shabby. Only a couple collateral damage fish – I accidentally speared a cleaner wrasse (doh!) and one miss on the targeted Goldline Squirrelfish (Neoniphon aurolineatus) yielded two of his cousins, Hawaiian Squirrelfish (Sargocentron xantherythrum).
We recorded a fair number of fish on our short dive, and one new record for our database, the tiny Dwarf Perchlet (Plectranthias nanus) – I attached a still. Tiny little bugger who usually is cryptic in caves. I have attached a couple of other stills that show the reef and also what the pick up looks like when decompression is done.
We have begun our transit to Laysan, which will take all day tomorrow, and most of tomorrow night. We have three scheduled days of dive operations on the fringing reefs around the island, then return to French Frigate Shoals, as it is the closest jumping off point to Johnston Island.