Saturday on the Puakō Wall

The email is brief… Let’s go diving, my place 9am – Pete. It is all I need to plan a Saturday, just need to get the tanks filled.

Pete Shoots the Frogfish
Pete in the process of irradiating a painted frogfish at Puakō.
Just three of us, Pete and a Akamai student intern at Keck also named Andrew. Andrew is spending a few weeks with us and building some optical bench heaters to keep the laser stabilized.

Conditions are pretty good, no swell or surf to create trouble crossing the shallow shoreline reef. Visibility could be better, it was only 30-40 feet. Andrew thought it was good, we looked at him and quickly let him know that this was downright murky for Puakō.

The usual dive plan for Puakō… Work the wall. Pete dives this section of the reef several times a week if the weather is good. We just follow him. If he bypasses some spot, it is not worth the time. Much of the dive is spend working the wall at 30ft depth and wandering in and out of the small caves that penetrate the reef.

Painted Frogfish
A bright red painted frogfish (Antennarius pictus) at 25′ depth, Puakō
First stop is a bright red painted frogfish Pete had found the previous day while freediving. Sitting in a coral head above a large arch it is nicely situated. This time we have the heavy camera gear and work over the little fish, taking turns. While Pete shoots the frogfish I wait my turn and shoot Pete.

A lone turtle is found at the cleaning station, the usual swarm of tangs and surgeons nibbling the algae from the turtle’s shell. Midway through the dive we take a quick excursion over the face to check out the garden eels at about 80ft. With my last air I shoot a trio of racoon butterflyfish raiding the eggs of a sergeant major.

Beyond the frogfish there is nothing particularly special about the dive. It is simply a nice day to spend a little time underwater. As we come ashore we are not the only divers using the beach access point. There is another group that landed just ahead of us, we chat about what we have seen, sharing the easy camaraderie of fellow divers. Everyone is enjoying the morning, it is hard not to. Another dive on a pleasant first day of summer weekend.

Diving the Naked Lady

A different sort of dive. There are few wrecks to dive on the Big Island, the Naked Lady is one of the few. An Easter Sunday morning spent out on the water, enjoying a beautiful day. As we came back across Kailua Bay from diving at Casa Cave we decided to dive the wreck as our second dive of the day.

Diving the Naked Lady
Andrew Cooper diving on the wreck of the Naked Lady, photo by Pete Tucker
The Naked Lady is a sailboat that burned and sank in Kailua Bay. Apparently the Naked Lady is not the vessel’s real name, simply the name acquired as a result of how it arrived on the bottom of the bay. Hard details are difficult to come by, but the story goes something like this… The sailboat was moored in the bay when the lady aboard needed to eliminate the “little green men” infesting her boat. The result was a burning sailboat and the lady arriving on shore minus her clothing.

It is 110 feet to the sand where the Naked Lady lies on the bottom. This is a short dive, at this depth our bottom time is limited to less than 20 minutes due to nitrogen absorption. Even with the safety stops on ascent the entire dive was about half an hour, I surfaced with over 1200psi of air left in the tank. Considering I often last over an hour with a 80cft tank this was a short dive indeed.

Deb and I did not bother with the mooring line as we dropped to the bottom. The water was clear enough we could see the wreck on the sand 100ft below. With no current we simply dropped, in the clear water this was a surreal, slow motion free-fall. Seeing the sand approaching I did not bother to trim buoyancy, but allowed myself to hit the sand a few feet from the hull. The gauge read 109ft as I knelt on the bottom. I took a couple photos, trimmed for neutral buoyancy and started exploring.

Sky at the Naked Lady
Sky exploring the wreck of the Naked Lady
The hull is more or less intact, with the mast lying to the port side. The entire upperworks are gone, consumed in the fire one would assume. The bowsprit and stern railings lie in the sand in front and aft of the wreck. Inside a few pipes and other fitting are all that remain of the interior.

Aside from a few colonies of cauliflower coral on the wreck itself there is no coral visible, simply a flat plain of sand that stretches in all directions. A swarm of fish surround the wreck, snappers and dasyllus the most numerous. Oddly there are numerous rough spined urchins on and around the hull.

There is little sign of life away from the wreck, the sand seems sterile from a distance. Upon closer examination even this sand desert teems with life. Burrows and tracks betray numerous residents. I take a few photos of a colorful goby I have yet to identify, it does not appear in the usual guidebooks.

The Atlantis Submarine that gives tourists a ride in Kailua Bay often tour the Naked Lady. The submarine was present when we arrived at the mooring, but had moved off by the time we dropped to the wreck. It would have been fun to wave at the tourists.

Naked Lady
Deb on the wreck of the Naked Lady
A lot of photos got taken, mostly of each other as we orbited the wreck. The remains of the sailboat on the sand makes an interesting subject, particularly with the divers poking about. Pete was diving his new 5DMkII rig with a wide angle lens. The wreck was a perfect wide angle target, I found myself wishing I had brought something wide angle like the GoPro. At 110′ there is only blue and more blue, so that the photos turn out rather blue. It becomes interesting to convert the photos to black and white.

The location results in a different dive profile as well. On this island we usually dive deep and then spend the rest of the dive slowly working our way back up the reef, ending in shallow water. A slow ascent eliminates the required safety stops used in recreational diving. Here there is no sloping reef, simply a drop to the bottom. Time to remember those safety stops and monitor the dive computer closely. This ascent required two stops, one at 50′ and another at 15′ to allow the nitrogen to transpire out of our tissues.

With two dives done it had been a great day and we were ready for more. Alas we had a pile of empty tanks and a distinct lack of full. Nothing left but a return to harbor, clean up the boat and an early dinner at the fish market. A great Easter Sunday, far more fun than sitting in church.