Night Diving under a Supermoon

The term supermoon may be a bit of over-the-top hype, it was still nice to dive under the light of a bright full moon. The plan is simple, meet at 4pm for a late afternoon dive, followed by a night dive. Gear and dinner loaded we quickly slip the lines and head out in a smoothly practiced routine. Where is the boat going, I really do not care, wherever we dive it is going to be good.

eb Photographing a Dascyllus
Deb wielding a camera at a defiant Hawaiian Dascyllus (Dascyllus albisella)
The first dive is made at Eel Cove mooring #1, a mere mile south of the harbor. This site features a nice wall above a narrow shelf that drops into the abyss. We drop deep at first, to the bottom of the reef at 100ft. Keeping an eye to to the deep blue we hope to see pelagics, though nothing notable shows up today. Working our way back up the reef Deb and I poke about looking for photographic targets.

I love the late afternoon light on the reef. As the light dims the shades become more blue. The lower intensity allows me to control the light better, the strobe overpowering the ambient light on the target of interest. The background becomes an attractive blue, open water photos loose the odd green cast that is difficult or impossible to fix in Photoshop. The fish are less flighty as well, beginning to shift from daytime routine to finding a place in the coral for the night.

The wall just north of the mooring is particularly productive. Several inverts, eels and a beautiful red sponge background to work with. Deb runs out of air well before I do, but the boat is just above us. I watch her ascend then go back to shooting the wall on the last of my tank. Still, it is only a 60min dive, the price of going deep.

Aqua Safari Awaiting
The Aqua Safari awaiting its divers at the surface, door open and boarding ladder in the water
After my first tank was empty I was not ready to get out of the water. I shucked my tank and BCD and dove back in. The failing afternoon light gave the water a rich blue hue, diving down the reef was alive with fish low in the coral, each looking for a place to spend the night. I dove a few times to the coral, finding the 25ft bottom easy to reach. I also dove on the remaining divers, sneaking in from above and behind, shaking Mark’s tank without warning, coming mask to mask with Pete at 30ft down. It has become a sport to attempt to surprise each other, easier when they think you are safely out of air and swimming at the surface.

Dinner is a selection of food meant to be eaten with fingers. We have cocktail shrimp, dolmas, fresh melon and pineapple, and a batch of Deb’s chocolate chip cookies. We watch sunset, eat, and swap stories of dives past.

We moved to another mooring for the night dive, Kamanu is just north of the Old Kona Airport and should offer better protection from the rising swell. The plan was to work the wall for the entire dive, a plan that got discarded… After 10-20min of attempting to explore the wall I give up. The surge is just too much! It is difficult to find anything, and when I do find it the back and forth motion in the water makes photography quite difficult. I lead Deb a bit deeper, out onto the reef flats makai of the wall. Much better, the surge is weak here, and diving becomes pleasant again.

Triton Trumpet
Triton trumpet (Charonia tritonis) hunting the reef at night
Giving up on the wall means giving up on the search for small invertebrates, instead we find large invertebrates! Slipper lobster are common, I find and photograph both Regal and Sculptured slippers. Then there is the Triton… A huge snail crossing a coral head, at least 14 inches long, probably weighing 15 pounds or more. Not a small invertebrate at all!

The dive also marks a change for me. After years of diving in a 3mm shorty I have moved to a full wetsuit. On days of long dives I have gotten a bit chilled, plus something with knee pads should keep me from getting stung and scraped every time I roust about in the rubble of a cave floor. My knees are scarred enough.

A very pleasant evening spent under the light of a full Moon. I am exhausted, cleaning gear late into the night after getting home. No regrets, it was a wonderful experience, one I am ready to do again.

Author: Andrew

An electrical engineer, amateur astronomer, and diver, living and working on the island of Hawaiʻi.

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