Saturday, February 12, 2011

A new Beginning

Not often do I feel didsatisfied but recently I've been feeling a bit on edge. Between opening the gallery, and trying to work the boat every day it's been hectic. And strangely as an ocean guide and under water photographer I haven't been able to go diving. But alas I made it out on a dive with Kona Diving Company.
About a week ago my friend Kerry told me she would be taking her boat on a long range 3 tank dive down the Kona coast of Hawaii to a rarely dove site by the name of The Hive.  Since I haven't dove this site in many years I jumped at the chance. After dusting off the dive gear and digging my DIN adapter out of a box I hadn't opened since I'd moved, I was ready. Accompanied by my girlfriend Domino and our two friends Katie and Stewart, we rolled up to the boat early to setup. As we made our way down the coast we came across a pod of Pilot Whales and decided to get a closer look. After Watching them for a while and observing the behavior we decided to get in.  Kerry warned of the Oceanic White Tip Sharks that frequently follow these whales to pick up scraps. Oceanics have long been known as the scourge of the pelagic realm. Though most sharks get a bad rap for being blood thirsty killing machines, these beauties have earned their reputation. Their smaller, less aggressive cousins, "Reef white tips" actually give these bad boys a connotation of docility, due to the reef sharks' rapport with divers. But those two sharks could not be much further in demeanor than fish could be. While "reef" white tips will swim the opposite direction when confronted, "Oceanic" white tips will swim at it full frontal.  Living in the open ocean these sharks get very little to nibble on, and when they find something, they become very curious. Given the chance, an Oceanic white tip would more than likely gobble up a reef white tip, granted it was an easy meal, i.e. injured or sick. So when we jumped in, we understandably kept our heads on a swivel scanning the blue nothingness for sharks.  The captain had positioned the boat in front of the Pilot whales just off to the side toward the shore. The dive master David and I were first in. We gained distance from the boat while the others slowly made their way toward us.  Soon the Pilot Whales' shadows formed shapes, and not long after that they parted their way around me and David. Suddenly I heard Dave yell something. 


I turned in time to see him back paddling through the water as an Oceanic b-lined toward him. Empowered with the invincibility that is my camera, I swam right at the animal only to have it turn off 15 ft or so away. I did a quick scan, since they often travel in packs. Once I  determined that it was alone, I turned once again at getting a shot. I was shooting my 1984 model Nikonos V, loaded with Fuji provia 400, and the Sea and Sea 20mm on it. Because its a 35mm format with such a wide angle lens. in order to get a decent image, I'd have to be closer than 5 ft from the shark. Biting my camera would be preferable.  I tried my best to look like a dead fish in hopes of getting the animal to come close alas, it rushed up to me and turned away right at the edge of my hopes. I framed the shot, held my breath, and pressed the shutter and advanced the film, but never got another chance after that. After it circled us for another 10 or so minutes it spiraled down into the depths, not to be seen again. The others had mostly gotten into the water at this point. Ronin had found a baby sargassum frogfish that we crowded around, for a while. I called my girlfriend over who was still looking for the shark. After a moment with the minute frogfish we got back onto the boat. Everyone had smiles from ear to ear. It's not everyday you get to swim with sharks, pilot whales, and see rare open ocean fish. And to share the experiences with good friends is always a plus. We headed on to our dive sites and had 3 wonderful dives in caves, lava tubes, vast coral reefs, and shoals of fish. I even had the chance to time-lapse the movement of a pincushion starfish. Overall my first dives back in the water for 2011 were great ones, but none as memorable as the moments we spent with the oceanic. Can't wait to get my film developed.