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