The exploration dive paid off, with some of the most dramatic dive profile yet, with a terrace slope from 180′-210′, and then a wall with caves and ledges that dropped off well past 300 feet. We descended through a spectacular spiraling school of deep water jacks, Uraspis helvola, yes the genus name is fun to say… These fish were a new record for Johnston, and were joined by three other new records for the list. Greg McFall from NOAA took the beautiful picture of the entire school, and also the shot of yours truly.
Out of the 40 species we recorded on our short dive, five were new records, a very fruitful percentage. I was able to get some better footage of the blue lined triggerfish that was a new record from yesterday, as well as the long nosed hawkfish, Oxycirrhitus typus, and a small wrasse, Oxycheilinus bimaculatus – the Two Spot Wrasse. Randy Kosaki spotted a Caprodon unicolor – a beautiful deep water serranid which is a new record for the atoll. The final new record was the pilot fish, seen here on our constant companions here, the Grey Reef Shark.
We explored close to our depth limit for the expedition, 250’, which is a big step forward for running rebreather operations from a NOAA vessel. Hopefully, a successful and safe expedition this year will lead to continued rebreather operations, and possibly deep expeditions.
Tomorrow, we will execute our first rotenone stations at depth – a fish poison that takes about 20 minutes to be effective in a small area, about 10-15 foot square if conditions are favorable. Once the ichthyocide is spread, we wait with little hand nets and Ziploc bags, scooping up the little bitties that come out of the nooks and crannies, and try to be quick, as often predatory fish see what we are up to and beat us to the treat.
Three diving days left here at Johnston. Folks are getting a bit stir crazy, but tonight’s dinner of the fresh yellowfin tuna sashimi from yesterday’s catch, as well as Ono sashimi and ribs with ice cream cones put smiles on faces.