Friday, August 31, 2007

My First Dives on Tinian

No, that's not a mermaid on the front of the Aquajet boat, it's Bev. You probably know her better as our Canon wrist accessory model, and yes she was on the job on this dive as well. This past Sunday, I went with Ken, Crystal, Eric, Dixie, Bev, Greg, the captain from the USS Bonneyman and one of his crewmembers and Atsuko. It was a perfect day to go to Tinian as the water was as close to flat as it ever gets around here. I was a bit apprehensive about taking the trip, as I'm very prone to getting sea sick, but Crystal promised she would give me a little blue pill that would take care of that problem for me. It could have been a Tic Tac for all I know, but I didn't get seasick, so I was happy - thanks Crystal.

We were all hoping to see dolphins on the trip over, but no such luck, all we got was flying fish. The trip went fairly quickly though and then we were at the Tinian Grotto. The first thing I noticed was that the visibility in the water seemed so much more clear than what I usually experience on Saipan. I don't know if it's always that way, or if it was just because of the conditions on this particular day, but it was amazing. I was the first one to roll off the boat and as soon as I did I saw this guy. This huge stingray was just sitting on the bottom and didn't seem to care that we were there. He was very accomodating and let us take all the pictures we wanted. Very cool seeing something like that up close and personal on a day dive!

Unlike the Saipan Grotto, the Tinian Grotto is completely underwater. You drop down through a hole that is probably about 6' wide and maybe 15' long and it opens up into an underwater cavern that is much smaller than the Saipan Grotto, but similar in many respects. The walls are lined with purple and pink fine lace coral, and the ground is covered with small stones and rocks. Aside from the first opening we went in, it also has a big wide open mouth facing out to the open ocean and then it has another opening on the backside with ridges and rock outcroppings. And just like the Grotto on Saipan we managed to find Halgerda guahan and malesso nudibranchs in this one too. There must be something they like about places called Grotto. Either that or they just prefer caves and caverns.

This little fire or electric oyster is one of the first things I saw in a hole inside the Grotto. You usually find them tucked way back in where they are protected. When they are open and your light hits them, it looks like there is an electric current in the opening, very cool to see. I was looking on the outside wall of the Grotto when I saw this nudibranch egg ribbon. The ones I've seen from Halgerda guahan and malesso on Saipan were more of a tan color, but this one was a bright white, so I was a little stumped as to what may have laid it, until I looked a couple inches away and saw the suspect. Sure enough, it was Halgerda guahan, but why was the egg ribbon snow white on Tinian when it is tan colored on Saipan? Difference in diet? I don't know, but it will now be one of the questions that I'll be looking for answers to. Greg actually managed to spot a Halgerda malesso over on another part of the Grotto, so it was a good nudibranch day. And then Bev decided to try getting the Canon gig once again by being the perfect Canon wrist accessory model. It was kind of funny, as I was snapping away taking pictures of her camera floating on her wrist, Crystal was trying to get her attention and warn her that I was taking more of these pictures. Fortunately I got a few good ones before Crystal got her attention. But seriously, Bev got some amazing pictures on this dive and I encourage you to go check them out on her blog. Well except for the picture she has of some kind of a shiny object just breaking the surface of the water, that one you would be well advised to ignore.

After diving the Tinian Grotto, we went to the military dump site. Not nearly as impressive, because it's....well it's a junk yard. Yup, old military vehicle wheels, chasis and axles mainly, but you occasionally see a nudibranch crawling around on it. Not a whole lot of coral has grown on it surprisingly though. I did manage to find a few other things to take some pictures of though. This octopus wasn't being very shy around me at all, so we spent a good 15 minutes together, him going up and down, me just snapping away with my camera. And right before my battery died in my camera, I discovered this very cool scorpion fish. He was just sitting there posing for me as pretty as could be. So I made sure to point him out to our official Canon wrist accessory model so she could get some good shots of him too. It was a great day of diving in the waters of Tinian and it won't be the last for me. I was totally impressed with the Aquajet dive boat owned by Scott and Atsuko Eck, and would highly recommend it. A 2 tank dive to Tinian was only $50, which I think is quite a good deal. And Scott doesn't have one price for tourists and one for locals, he charges everybody what he has to in order to cover his costs. Great diving, great friends and great pictures, what more could you ask for?