The first day diving at a new location is always a sensory overload type of situation. With a camera or spear in hand, a diver has little idea what is normal and will show up on every subsequent dive, and what is unusual. As a result, the first day always feels a little frantic, evidenced by the large number of specimens collected, and for me the large number of video clips taken.
Today was a little saner, as we dropped in on the same quadrant of the atoll, with the same dive profile, and could expect similar fauna and terrain. The selected site did not disappoint. We descended on a great slope and wall, with caves and undercuts from 190-230’. I recorded several new records for the atoll, as well as improving some of the video records for our annotated checklist. We also found some of the deeper species that we want to collect, to allow us to conduct comparisons between deep fauna from one biogeographic region to another. I was hunting for the little lantern toby, Canthigaster epilampra, and found a pair today, and was able to get closer to the surgeonfish we saw deep yesterday and confirm Naso caesius. I also took video of the curious wormfish, Gunnelichthys curiosus, another new record. Finally, a very distinctive triggerfish, which I have only seen one other time off South Point on the Big Island, the Blue Lined Triggerfish, Xanthichthys caeruleolineatus appeared, but kept luring me away from our every vigilant safety diver Greg McFall. The attached image is as close as I could get with my zoom.
The shallow fauna was similar to yesterday, and for decompression time we would alternately feel like we were in Hawaii and then not in Hawaii as different fish and corals drifted by in the gentle long shore current.
I did a little birding while the afternoon team did their deep dive, and then by far the most exciting part of the day was a solid strike on the trolling lines behind the ship. Everyone ran to the fan tail, as the semi-expert fishing crew hauled in a yellowfin tuna. We all held our breath as they pulled the beast over the life lines – a large Ono had been lost at the same point a few days ago. The blood spattered fisherman were all grins – an impressive haul.
Tomorrow we move a little further south to a point, and are targeting a little deeper to see what’s down there. Exploration at its best!