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Postcard from the Reef - Under the Thorns

The underside and mouth of a crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci)

The Thorns

The armed and armored top of a crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci)

Mark has put together another great video of our diving adventures aboard the Aqua Safari. Yes, we have this much fun…

Photography can be a tedious pursuit, even more so underwater where conditions can be very challenging. This leads to a regular issue in mixed dive parties. The photographers go slow, really slow. The other divers are ready to cover some ground. This occasionally means that the guys leave me behind.

Dive Profile

Dive profile for Suck ‘Em Up Cave

While diving alone is not recommended, the risk can be mitigated. I shift to a different set of rules, a far more conservative set of rules if I am on my own. I keep the depth much shallower, to where I could do an emergency ascent with little risk, this is generally 30ft or less. I do not go very far into a cave, perhaps working the twilight zone, but not getting into the back recesses of the many little caves common along the Kona coast. These sort of rules are usually not much of a compromise. Almost all of the dive sites on the Kona coast can be enjoyed while staying shallow. Many of my best finds have been in the twilight zone of the little reef caves. Staying shallow also has the benefit of extending the dive dramatically, it simply takes far less air to fill your lungs when shallow.

Gosline's Fang Blenny

Gosline’s fang blenny (Plagiotremus goslinei) sheltering in a worm tube, 20ft depth, Suck-Em-Up Cave

Suck-Em-Up cave fits the bill. The maximum depth here is 30ft, and there are so many entrances and skylights that an emergency ascent is always possible. The rest of the guys are planning to sweep the reef face and take a deep excursion before heading to the cave. I am planning to simply dive the cave as I have several photographic targets in mind. I am first into the water, swimming a few feet from the boat awaiting Pete, Ben and Dennis. A loud pop and woosh announces a blown o-ring on an air tank for Pete, this will lead to a short delay. I signal that I am dropping anyway, they know where I will be. The cave entrance is only a few yards from the boat. I give a salute and they wave back as I slide under.

Continue reading A Long Dive…

As Sky kicked past me he stirred up a cloud of silt in the cave. A moment later he realized I was there and was taking a photo. He apologized with a sheepish shrug, understanding the dirty look I was giving him. The cave wall was host to a dozen or more nudibranch and I was busy with the camera. There were gold lace nudis everywhere I looked, a couple white margined nudibranch added for variety.

As the silt settled I noted a larger object kicked up in the cloud. Closer inspection revealed an odd looking nudibranch floating down and settling on the algae covered rock. This was a new species to me! I took more than a dozen photos as the little slug crawled along. On consulting the book I was unable to locate a good match for this species, always a surprise, Hoover covers all of the common species.

It took a little more work to finally properly ID the nudi. It is a transparent nudibranch (Plocamopherus maculatus). I found it listed on Keoiki Stenders site, but the photos were not convicing. Once I had a species name I found it on Sea Slugs of Hawaii and in the website additions to Hoover’s book, where the photos are much closer to the specimen I found.

Back on the surface I told Sky about the nudi, letting him know that he was somewhat redeemed in revealing an interesting find, despite the cloud of silt.

Transparent Nudibranch

A transparent nudibranch (Plocamopherus maculatus) in a cave at Anaemoʻomalu Bay

Danielle's Nudibranch

A danielle’s nudibranch (Thorunna daniellae) in a cave at 25ft depth, Holoholokai

Orangespine Unicornfish

Orangespine unicornfish (Naso lituratus) at 25ft depth, Suck-Em-Up Cave

Gosline's Fang Blenny

Gosline’s fang blenny (Plagiotremus goslinei) sheltering in a snail tube, 20ft depth, Suck-Em-Up Cave

Painted Frogfish

A bright red painted frogfish (Antennarius pictus) at 25′ depth, Puakō

Tiger Snake Moray

Tiger snake moray (Scuticaria tigrina) at 25ft depth, Suck-Em-Up Cave