Sunday, July 20, 2008

Dive Safari - Second day

We woke up at 6am. The sun was up and the sea was calm. The two boats that anchored next to us already left. We set out to Jackson Reef, where we found the missing boats already downloading divers into the water. I felt like I am starting to get used to the idea of living on a boat having nothing to do but diving.
First dive: We suited up and went by Zodiac to the north face of the reef. There were waves there so it was a bumpy ride. We rolled over the edge and into the big blue void. I love blue dives, there is a feel of suspension in mid air. I was assigned to keep a young diver in place, so tried to show him how to keep his depth. We started swimming north away from the reef wall. After few minutes we started seeing the sharks below us. They kept coming into view from out of the depths, in pairs or triplets. At some point there were seven of them circling around us. My buddy and I stayed at 30m, while the more advanced divers went down to 40 m to see them. We stayed with the sharks for 5-8 minutes (need to check computer) and then started heading back toward the reef.
On downloading the pictures I realized that I left the camera at 400iso from some experiment in the previous night and moreover the exposure was all wrong. So I have proofs that there were sharks (if you try hard you can see 7 sharks) but the figures themselves are iffy at best...

The reef wall is completely vertical, and we came back below the Lara (a big ship that was shipwrecked here more than 30 years ago). The wall was "decorated" by large pieces of the ship that fell down as the ship started to disintegrate due to the winds and water. We continued along the wall seeing a large number of fishes, corals and soft corals.
Somewhere along the dive I hooked the dive buddy on my air so we will be left with enough air in the end. This was a major attraction for the others me taking Sergai on a leash.
Statistics: 15L 200bar to 60 bar, at 7:22am for 44min max depth 32, avg 15.2.

Second dive: While waiting for the next dive, AviO and I took 12L tanks and went down for a shallow dive on the top of the Jackson reef.

The area was full of divers and snorklers, and yet we had fun and relaxed dive at 4-5m slowing down for multiple photo opportunities. I went down with just my swimming trousers as a pose for 100th dive (the tradition is to go naked) and posed for photes with Avi. This was a nice peaceful dive -- as Avi wrote on his pad "Nirvana".
Statistics: 12L, no shirt, start 210bar, end ??, 10:50am for 34min, max 5.8m, avg 4.0m.
Third dive: We went for the south-west part of Jackson reef, I paired with Avrahami, and told him to chase photo object for me. Starting at ~20 meters all the way to the corner of the reef. Peit showed me a beautiful red anime at 25m and I stopped to photograph it.

We then went up slowly toward the end. At the end of the reef there was a really strong current and we had to fight our way up and away from the current, reaching the slopes of the top. All along there were schools of various fishes. נצרנים showing deep blue colors, jackfishes, and groupers. Avrahami spotted a filefish (דקו"צ) and I chased it trying to take a picture.

We ended up going slowly until in the very shallow I tried to take a picture and going up hit my head in a fire- coral. The sting was PAINFUL, and I thought I had a major wound on the side of my head, but turns out it was only a sting. I definitely will keep my respect for these corals from now on. The pain subsided after few hours.
Statistics: 15L, 3mm shorty, 200bar to 70bar, at 12:12pm for 57min, max depth 28.0m, avg 11.3m.

Jackson reef
After this dive we had lunch and then moved from Jackson to Gordon reef (the southmost reef in the string of reefs in the middle of Tiran). We had a long stop, and I fell asleep on the balcony. We hooked up with the Sea Queen who filled our tanks with water and their crew helped repair the compressor in the ship. The crew worked hard all afternoon while we were goofing off. When I woke up there was a long discussion on the site of the next dive. In the end we decided to dive at Gordon. It was very hot, so I jumped for a breather in the water. The were a huge current that was taking us away from the ship, so had fun going back and forth.
Fourth dive. The plan was to dive against the current and then return. The current was stronger than expected, and we spent 10-15 minutes working hard and eating up a lot of air. We came to sand pool that was supposed to be a favorite place for a reef shark to hang out. He didn't make the date :-( so a bit after that, we turned around. The current immediately took us we drifted along at a fast speed. We passed two crops of huge fan corals, and then regions sand interspersed with boulders of coral.
At some point the current was slower, and we started going higher up at a right angle to our previous trajectory. Boaz spotted a HUGE giant morena below a coral having her teeth cleaned. She was a more than 30cm thick and looked mean. I tried to take picture of the cleaning act, but the cleaner got away....
We then hit another wave of current and started flying over the sand parallel to the reef wall. A very weird but fun experience. Avrahami and me were a bit behind and at some point I was worried that we missed the group. We went higher, and then picked up speed and gained the group. We came up and were picked up by the Zodiac.
Statistics: 15L, 3mm shorty, no weightbelt, 200bar to 100bar, at 5:36pm for 45min, max depth 23.5, avg: 13.4.
Sunset at Gordon Reef

Fifth dive: We went for a night dive in Gordon reef a bit after the last of the twilight. The current has subsided and the sea was smooth and clear. I paired with Avi, and we decided to go without lights for a while to the edge of the sandy shelf at 20m and then back along the reef wall. We dove for more than half hour without lights, which was a very dream light quality, with silence surrounding us and plankton lighting up with the moves of our hands. We saw the shadow of large schools of fish crossing our paths, silvery in the dim light.
Suddenly Avi points to the north where we see a dot of light moving. Initially I thought this was another diving group, but then we notice it is moving too fast. We started going toward it, and it towards us, zigzagging erratically and quite fast between the rocks. It looked as thought there were two feline eyes lighted in yellow. I was itching to turn on the light to see what animal it was, but decided not to ruin the night vision.
We reached the reef wall, and switched on the light, and started to take pictures. We saw many huge pencil urchins, that were reminiscent of small 2nd WW underwater mines. There were several large fishes, including a קרנפון. At some point I saw weird shape and it turns out to be a huge slag, from the family of the Spanish dancer, but black and white. At some point in the sand I noticed something weird, and it turned out to be an eel sank in the sand with its head only outside, seemingly gulping water continuously.
We continued until we noticed that our time was up. Avi went up and took a fix toward the boat, and we started swimming. Suddenly we hit a current going the wrong way and we started fighting it hard to reach the boat. We got to the boat very late to see everyone grumpy at our delay of dinner.... I was very very happy.
Statistics: 15L, 3mm shorty, no weightbelt, 200bar to ~90bar. At 8:19pm for 78min, max depth 11.9, avg 5.8.
Dinner, glass of whiskey and then to sleep.

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