By Jill Smith
First of all, thank-you to the wonderful crew (Captain Ron, 1st mate Jason, Adam, Jill, Charlie, Tohru, Scott, Yari, Jesse, and Tom), who made our week extra special; it was one that we will never forget thanks to you!
For some divers who have been on the Aquacat before, you will remember Jill and Adam, and we were so happy to see them again! What a happy surprise to find out that they are a couple now (super adorable), and have some big plans for their future! Jill and Adam are investing in gear and equipment to launch their business and travel adventures! They will be travelling and taking beautiful macro, artistic, abstract underwater photography quite unlike anything else. They are also looking forward to creating some very unique travel vlogs, blogs, and books for the discerning traveller who appreciates some creativity and humour with their research efforts. They are still in the preliminary phases of this endeavour, but I will share their website and Facebook page when they get it going – Peru will be first on their travel list this winter, so I look forward to experiencing Peru through their eyes. Good luck Jill and Adam!
Favourite Dive Site – Austin Smith wreck
The first time we visited the Austin Smith in 2014, it was still intact, but on October 6th of 2015, Hurricane Matthew blasted the Bahamas, causing extensive damage to the area, and breaking the Austin Smith wreck in two. It still remains a beautiful site to dive, with sharks frequenting the area, and a lot of life thriving both on the wreck and the nearby reef.
I had the happy privilege of diving this site with my son Sam; so we entered the water and made our way to the mooring - I am doing my mapping project on the Austin Smith wreck for my divemaster program, and our plan was to start at the mooring pin so that I could count fin kicks to the stern of the wreck to estimate distance, followed by a slow and brief ascent to 25 feet over the wreck so I could get a birds-eye view photo, followed by more wreck measurements - however, we were distracted by a very friendly grouper who approached us directly, and I lifted my camera to take a portrait, but he got between my camera and my face, looking into each of my mask windows in turn - he was too close to photograph! He swam around our heads, and when Sam offered a hand, he went straight to it, and only sat still to be petted. What a fish! He clearly wanted to be stroked, and harassed divers until he got a pet! I tried to continue counting my fin kicks, but then felt strong yanking on my bikini strings at my neck – the little stinker untied the bow of my strings (when we surfaced Sam reminded me to do it back up as he did not wish to be scarred when I removed my wetsuit)! We definitely had to take some time out of our plan to interact with Fred (the friendly grouper), and he was the delightful highlight of the dive hands/fins down!
A Whale (shark) of a Surprise
At Crab Mountain dive site, about half of the divers had the great pleasure of a whale shark encounter! What a very rare and special treat! The other half of the divers were either in the swim through, or (ahem), looking too closely in the little cracks of coral for shrimps and crabs. James was the first diver to come up and tell Adam that he saw a whale shark as Adam hosed him down, and Adam called him a liar! When diver after diver came up extolling the virtues of their wonderful whale shark experience, he began to think maybe there had been a whale shark after all! Our divemaster and guide, Jill (a different and wonderful Jill), was in the swim through, and had a spectacular temper tantrum at the surface when she discovered what she missed!!! Good times. David White captured the photo featured at top for our viewing pleasure.
Full Moon, Ostracods, and Sparkling Universe
We did have a full moon on this trip, and after the night dive was over and the boat was quiet, I spent a little time at the boat railing enjoying the breeze and the view. I was admiring the very slight glow of the reef areas; the coral heads were glowing ever so slightly. As I lingered and my eyes adjusted further, I began to see blinking lights in the water – it looked like a starry night sky with the stars blinking on and off – ostracods!
Ostracods are very small crustaceans that will rise close to the surface during a full moon (and for a few days after) in the Caribbean to find mates with their bioluminescent vomit. Yes, that is correct – blobs of bioluminescent vomit emitted by the males to impress the females. Sometimes I'm glad to be human. Regardless of that little detail, it was beautiful, and I went to fetch Jody and tell the others.
What a romantic moment – instead of watching the starry sky, we watched the light show in the water, and it was perfectly appropriate for all of us who are drawn to the ocean. It’s moments like those that make me feel very small in this miraculous universe, and very fortunate to be able to witness some of its wonders.
I hope everyone has enjoyed a beautiful Christmas with loved ones, and that the new year brings you happiness, joy, and some new and wondrous surprises.
A few photo highlights of the week. Photo Credit: Jill Blanchette
By Jill Smith for Jody Smith - Merry Christmas!
‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the store,
Jody sold whistles on sausages, and dive lights and more .
When it was finally closing and he turned off the light,
He heard a strange noise and it gave him a fright.
Under the work-bench an elf did appear,
He was tangled and caught up in all of the gear.
He was an odd little fellow, dressed in trunks and a lei,
and Jody knew in a moment, he should just run away.
For the night was not going to be simple, he thought,
He knew it would bring headaches, more likely than not.
The elf scrambled out with alacrity and grace,
And was hopping and chattering all over the place.
“My name is Stinky, I’m a good little elf,
I love water, and diving, and gassing myself!”
“Stop!” Jody shouted, his good mood eroding,
Each minute accruing a sense of foreboding.
Stinky was jumping and farting, making far too much noise,
“Make me a Divemaster, I’m done making toys!”
“I told Santa to stuff it, I won’t work anymore,
I hate building and singing and sweeping the floor.
I wish to see dolphins, and turtles and pretty little fishes,
And I’m here to demand that you grant all my wishes.
“Good grief” Jody said for it was worse than he thought,
“I cannot just do that, there’s too much to be taught,”
“Becoming a Divemaster is a great deal of work,
Now be a good little elf and stop being a jerk.”
“You don’t understand,” said the elf as he tooted,
This dream’s always plagued me, it’s indelibly rooted.”
“Fine!” Jody yelled as he picked out some books,
“But I’m telling you elf, it’s harder than it looks.
The manuals must be studied for each specialty you choose,
I’m warning you now - DO the knowledge reviews!"
“Hooray!” shouted Stinky, passing gas in the store,
“I get to go diving, and swimming, and more!”
“I’ll be free as a fish, and as happy as a lark,
And nobody can tell me I can’t dive in the dark!”
“For I can do anything I decide I can do,
And nothing can stop me, neither Santa nor you!”
While Stinky sat reading and studying the text,
Jody had an idea about what to do next.
He made a quick call to the distant North Pole,
and begged Santa to come help him fulfill his new goal.
Ridding himself of Stinky, he could close for the night;
Santa agreed right away, and rerouted his flight.
Once Santa arrived, they met to confer,
devising a plan that they all might prefer.
Stinky was angry and nearly stormed out,
but stayed as he was feeling a little self-doubt.
Although he was vexed, and feeling grossly misled,
he sat in the corner flatulating loudly instead.
Jody and Santa sighed to see where he sat resolute,
then declared he was promoted with benefits to boot!
Stinky lit up with delight, and was jumping for joy!
He was ready to be boss-elf and rejoin Santa’s employ.
In addition to that, Jody and Santa agreed,
Santa could do more to fill each little need.
Discover Scuba Courses were purchased for every single elf,
And then Santa added some dive gear just for himself!
Jody was happy as he opened the door,
and he wished his friends well as he locked up the store.
But Stinky could be heard as they flew out of sight,
“Merry Christmas to all, and dive safely tonight!”
By Maddy VanCamp
Maddy is a new Open Water diver this year with a passion for our oceans and our Earth; please take a moment to read her message!
Our world is facing one of the most serious pandemics in history: The pandemic of plastic pollution. Since the 1950’s approximately 8.3 BILLION tons of plastic have been produced worldwide. With a meager 9% of those plastics being recycled, the rest has been left on our planet to decompose, a process which can take up to a thousand years.
Plastic is responsible for the death of over 1.1 million animals per year, and these numbers are growing. For the animals that do escape the fate of death by plastic, the majority will still spend a life with a stomach full of micro-plastics. And as we work our way up the food chain these micro-plastics work their way up to humans, as we consume food contaminated with plastic particles. At the rate that our society is increasing its plastic consumption, most of these statistics are set to nearly double by the year 2050.
This is where you come in, by making some small lifestyle changes, it isn’t too late to make our world better! Plastic straws are one of the most common single use plastics being washed up on ocean shores. This month I have teamed up with a company called “The Starfish Straw” to try and make a difference. The Starfish Straw is a company that sells reusable straws. They work to raise awareness and reduce the use of single use plastics with their products! To show their support for conservation, a portion of their profits are donated to the “Save The Sea-Turtle Foundation”. Their goal is to save marine life and our oceans from plastic pollution.
The Starfish Straw company has generously provided me with the discount code “SeaSaver” that will give you 30% off of your purchases for the month of December. I’ve decided to share this code with those who cherish our beautiful planet as much as I do. If we all work together I believe we can one day go diving in an ocean that is free of plastic and garbage, and switching to reusable products like the Starfish Straw is a simple first step that can be taken towards saving our oceans.
Thank-you to everyone who came out to make our Christmas party a huge success! We are very happy to report that we were able to donate over $1900 to Marjorie's toy-box at the Southlake hospital for the children that must go to endure ongoing treatments for cancer and other serious illnesses. Marjorie, we are very grateful to have you doing all the special and loving things you do for these children, thank-you from all of us - we hope that our contribution continues to help you to help them every day.
Prizes and Winners:
Blackbeard's Liveaboard trip donated by Allstar Liveaboards: Craig Martion
Amphos dive computer donated by Adventure Sports: Martin Kluchert
Aqualung dive computer donated by Aqualung: Charlene Suchy
Mask, snorkel, and fins package donated by Sherwood: Brenda Kellett
Beautiful gift basket created and donated by Dawn and Pierre Belley: Scuba John
Those were the bigger prizes, and there were many other winners too, so congratulations to all of them, and many thanks to all of the donors! We would also like to say thank-you to Hannah, our bartender, who decided to donate all of her tips for the night to Marjorie's toy-box too! What big hearts we had in that room Saturday night; we could feel the love, and it was very touching. So proud to be a part of this group. Please have a safe and happy Christmas - if you are celebrating other holidays, then we wish you happiness in them too. xo Be safe.