As I head off into my new life as a dive instructor, I've decided to start another blog chronicaling the journey and telling the story as I go. This one was almost full anyway because of all the dive pictures, so it was an appropriate time to retire it. The new address is http://www.harryblalock.blogspot.com/ Feel free to follow along as we try to figure out what the next stop in our journey is, and where we'll fit.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Friday, September 5, 2008
Once upon a time, I couldn't wait to get to the computer to tell my dive stories and share my pictures with the world. I have to say that much of that joy for me was taken away when my underwater camera was stolen. I just felt so violated and disgusted that I didn't even want to look at the blog or write anything. I haven't stopped diving, in fact I've been doing more diving than ever, having gotten in 30 dives during the month of August. Yes, 200 this year is a sure thing, and 250 is a distinct possibility.
It's with mixed emotions that I write this post as it will officially begin to close the door on a major chapter in our lives. Kelli and I have been struggling with the decision of whether to stay or leave the island of Saipan for some time now. I had planned on making this my final stop, it felt like home to me and I absolutely loved the diving. Having my camera stolen was the beginning of the end for me, it stole my reason for staying here and for feeling like I was contributing something significant here. Yes, I could buy another camera, but with the way things are going here, I'm afraid that crime and theft will be a very common occurrence very quickly.
My son Josh, and his wife Regis moved to Florida the first of this year and have bought a home in St. Petersburgh and have been rather vocal about the fact that they want us to live closer to them so that their future children will get a chance to know their crazy grandparents. That's a pretty tough thing to argue with. But at the same time, I wasn't ready to move back and become a Wal-Mart greeter. I felt like I was still too young for that and still had a few worthwhile things to offer.
Then a good friend of mine (who shall be publicly acknowledged at a later date) talked me into furthering my diving certifications, getting my Rescue Diver and Dive Master certifications. I argued with him for a while, but I finally decided to go ahead and do it. I realized after doing the Dive Master class that I was only one class away from becoming a Dive Instructor. Anyone who knows me realizes that I've been in radio for a very long time, 26 years, but diving is my true passion and where my heart lies. I realized that if I just took the Instructors Course that I could then be a professional dive instructor and work any number of jobs in the dive industry. I decided it was time for phase 2 of my life, I was ready to put radio behind me and become a full time dive professional. I went ahead and signed up for the next IDC which will take place in Guam the first two weeks of November. The plan is to then come back to Saipan and work for a few months, selling everything we have (except dive gear of course), save up some money and then move to Florida and look for a job in the dive industry. I'm not sure yet whether I'll wind up working on cruise ships, out of a dive shop, or at a Carribean resort, but frankly any of them sound just fine to me.
The power outages, the exorbitant cost of living, the political stupidity and the quality of life all influenced our decision, mainly just affirming that it was the right decision and that it is the right time to go. The decision to finally leave Saipan was one of the hardest I've ever made in my life though. This has been my whole life for the past 12 1/2 years, all of my friends are here and it's going to really hurt to walk away from it and all of you. This is my "Cheers", a place where everybody knows your name. They obviously don't all like me, but I never set out to win any popularity contests. Good thing huh?
It's very strange to think of starting over from scratch, having to meet all new friends and develop a whole new network, but that's what we did when we moved out here, and we can do it again. I think that with my background in radio, sales, public relations and business it will make for a unique package when combined with my new Dive Instructor status. So if you know of anyone looking for a dive instructor with a wealth of business experience and other experience who lives in a tropical dive destination, please let them know about me, or give me their name, I'd like to have a little chat with them. Who knows, I may even wind up leading dive trips out to Saipan from Florida for divers looking for a unique diving destination.
But because this blog was http://www.saipandiver.blogspot.com/ and I will no longer be a Saipan diver coming up in 6 months or so, this will be the end of this blog. I will leave it up and hopefully there are those who will enjoy reading the archives and looking through some of my pictures. I will start a new blog once I get a new camera and figure out where my new life is headed.
If there are any of you who have always thought about trying diving or have wanted to get certified, I'll be all ready to teach and certify you after the middle of November until February or March, so just let me know. And if you're one of those who have always said, one of these days I'm going to have to make a dive with the old Axe Murderer, the clock is running, let me know and let's get wet.
Thanks to all my friends and all those who have been there with me through thick and thin in the past, and I pray that things improve and the quality of life improves for you on Saipan.
Monday, August 4, 2008
This is a picture of my camera, housing and underwater strobe that were stolen last week. The camera is a Canon IXY 900IS, it's a 12.1 megapixel camera with a silver, titanium housing. The housing and strobe are both Ikelite. I'm offering a $100 reward for the return of the camera, housing and strobe. I'm afraid my blog will be on hiatus until I get another camera, I just can't see the point if I don't have a camera.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
I've been doing an awful lot of diving lately, yes even more than usual. I've been booked pretty much solid with Axe Murderer Tours, and most of the people who've been coming have stayed for several days, so it means multiple dives. I've already got 23 dives in for the month of July, that's a pretty ambitious pace for me, especially considering I've got a real job. This week, I've had a friend of mine from Hawaii here to attend some meetings, so we've been going out night diving. Of course as is always the case with me these days, I never hit the water without my camera, that's what the whole dive is about, capturing some cool pictures and bringing them back for you. Monday night we dove at the Grotto and had a great dive. Afterwards I set my camera in the back of the truck as I was getting my gear off. I think I must have forgotten to put it in the back seat of the truck when we took off, but it was still safely tucked in with all the dive gear in the back.
Don always likes going to Godfather's for a drink and some tacos or pansit after a dive, and of course being the good Axe Murderer Tour guide that I am, I join him so he has someone to talk to. After dropping Don off at his hotel and then getting home myself, I went to get my camera and it was gone. Someone stole it, they left my dive gear but took my camera. That's like stealing my left arm. I just bought this new camera recently and got a new Ikelite housing and strobe for it. I've been loving it, I was getting so much better quality pictures. And then some punk walks by and steals my $1,000 camera set up. Yes, I was forgetful, but does that give someone the right to take what isn't theirs just because they can? It's the punks and thieves like that one that are going to totally destroy this place. The few of us who are left who are willing to put up with all the political garbage and the constant power outages won't stick around very long if people are going to steal the things from us that make this place tolerable.
I've got some pictures from some of my recent dives, so I'll do a few more posts with them, but then that will most likely be the end of my blog for a while until I can save up to buy another camera. To say that I'm bummed and depressed about the whole thing wouldn't even begin to cover it. So I'll be hitting all the pawn shops that I can find seeing if someone has sold it to them.
Monday, July 28, 2008
So I figured if we were going to do this, we might as well do it right, I even gave up my chair, and had Tikla sit at my microphone with all the controls at her fingertips. When she sat down she opened a notebook and had a page with a few questions written on it, I figured if that's all the questions she had I'd be fine. Unfortunately those were just the warm up questions, she had some real zingers coming up. She started off by asking some total strangers on the street if they could find anything out about Harry Blalock, what they would want to know? I was kind of surprised the strangers on the street had heard of me. Then she asked a few easy personal preferrence kind of questions. And then she finally got down to the heart of the interview after giving me a false sense of security. She was good, I had to admit. She said some people thought I was for contract workers getting permanent residency and some thought I was against it, she wanted to know what I really thought. She also asked what one thing that I have done I have really been happy with the results on. She made me prioritize the following things in my life: God, church, family and my job. And no that is not the way I listed them as priorities. I think it probably more of myself than I have personally exposed on the air in a very long time. I have to say it feels very strange being on the other side of the counter and having to come up with the answers to somebody elses questions. She also asked what the hardest part of my job was. I said it was mornings like that one, having to come in and do a show even though I was sicker than a dog and just felt like laying in bed and dying. But in radio we usually don't have that luxury, we have to come in and try to sound up and happy. Thanks Tikla, that definitely made for one of my more memorable experiences on radio.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
No, this is not a scene from the Tinian Dynasty Casino, nor is it from Pirates of the Pacific, although there may be some who claim that I robbed them blind last Saturday night. It was the Rotary Club of Saipan's Las Vegas Night and as usual, I was dealing blackjack all night. My daughter Sarah was my cashier for the first half of the night and dutifully raked in all the chips that I took from my unwitting victims. The last couple years luck was simply not with me and everyone who sat at my table walked away richer taking quite a few of the banks chips with them. But not this year, my old blackjack luck was back and I was on a real tear. It would go back and forth with some people for a while, and some of them even appeared to be getting the best of me for a while. But instead of walking away and being happy with their modest winnings, they would try turning a small fortune into a big one, and I wound up taking all their chips before they unhappily wandered away. I was the top blackjack table once again netting $700 for the night, and I even managed to beat the craps and roulette tables. All of this was pretty amazing considering I was sicker than a dog and only had one good eye that night. I think a lot of people thought it was part of my costume since I had an Axe Murderer Tours polo shirt on, but no, my eye was in agony that night and couldn't take any light whatsoever. The Rotary Club managed to net just under $19,000 for our Las Vegas night, making it one of the most successful in years. Thanks to all who helped make it such a roaring success.
Monday, July 21, 2008
In case you've been wondering what's going on with me, have I stopped diving? Stopped taking pictures? Stopped having any interesting things happen to me? I've been sick for over a week now, and it doesn't seem to be getting much better. Before you start to lecture me on the need of going to a doctor, I did talk to a doctor on the phone last week, and she called in some prescriptions for me. Yes, I did pick them up and have been faithfully taking them. So it's not like I don't want to get better and haven't been trying to get my rest, I even stayed at home most of last week just trying to get over this, without much success.
I did manage to go for one dive Saturday morning, even though I was going through cold sweats and still felt awful. I had some people here who could only go diving Saturday and really wanted to dive the Grotto, and I didn't want to disappoint them. My theory is that salt water is good for what ails you, so I figured it might actually help my situation. So I managed to get down and let them have a good dive, but the stuff I coughed up out of my lungs after the dive wasn't pretty at all. I stayed down for about another 45 minutes after I got them up and out, and when I got out of the water, there were 2 busloads of Chinese tourists all at the bottom of the Grotto, about half of them on the rock. So after I got done with my ugly coughing session, I climbed up on the rock in my dive gear, wearing my Scap, only to have them want to start taking pictures with me. So then I had to proceed to stand there and get my picture taken with about 100 Chinese tourists. If I had a dollar for every picture I've had taken with a tourist I could easily retire today.
Then I had to deal blackjack from 7 pm to midnight for the Rotary Club's Las Vegas night. The last couple of years, I've gotten beat badly on the blackjack tables when I've been dealing, but Saturday night I redeemed myself and managed to net $600 on my table. Not bad considering I had to wear an eye patch, couldn't see worth squat, and was enduring hot and cold chills. Sunday I was so sick I couldn't even think about diving, so you know I had to really be sick. And here I am back at work Monday morning, feeling awful, but getting ready to start a new week again. If I don't see drastic improvement in the next day or two, I'm afraid I may have to go in to the hospital and see what's going on. So say a prayer or two for me, we all know that hospitals and I just don't get along.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
I did manage to get in 4 dives this past weekend, so my goal of 200 for the year is getting closer all the time. Then I have several new Axe Murderer Tour victims lined up already this month, and one crazy victim who just keeps coming back for more. He's very much like me in many respects, can't get enough diving, and loves taking pictures down there. DJ returns next week with some new strobes for his underwater camera, so we just may have to have a little picture taking contest when he comes. I've had a lot of people talking to me about my pictures lately, some strongly encouraging me to take it to the next level and get serious about marketing them. All in good time, I feel like I'm still learning so much right now that I don't really want to push my pictures too much until I'm happier with the outcomes. I've had several people tell me that photography isn't nearly as much about the equipment as it is the person behind the lens. If you have "the eye" you will capture things that will grab people's attention and make them want to see more of your shots. I've been told I have "the eye". I don't know, but I do know I have a lot of fun looking for different picture subjects down there. I think a big part of the equation is just being in the right place at the right time and being ready to take the shot. In the shot above, when I first saw the little alligator fish laying on the bottom, I thought he had his gills flared out trying to attract a mate or something. Then I got a closer look, and discovered that he was in the process of eating a little butterfly fish, you can see the tail end of the fish sticking out of its mouth, the head of the butterfly fish is in the mouth of the other. Like I said, being in the right place at the right time.I did have a great nudibranch diving weekend! We are heading into the nudibranch mating season right now and they are all coming out to play. The last few weeks at Lau Lau you may have seen dozens and dozens of this particular nudibranch if you were swimming over the sand fingers that run down through the coral. This is a Philinopsis gardineri, they are usually a couple inches long, and when you see one, keep looking, there are usually a bunch more all within a fairly close vicinity. After mating, you will see this nudibranch start covering itself with sand until it completely buries itself. It then begins the process of weaving an egg string into a cacoon around its body, which it then shoves back up through the sand. You will see hundreds of this little cacoons floating up just above the sand. If you look very closely, you might be able to see the individual little egg sacks on the strings that are wound round and round.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
I was doing a dive last week that I had never done before on Saipan. I know that probably seems very hard to believe that there could be anywhere around this island that I hadn't already been exploring many times, but there are quite a few areas actually that I still have yet to explore. The thing that grabbed my immediate attention about this place was the way that there was a wall on the other side of the reefline that dropped off to about 30-35' and went down to a sandy bottom. One minute you are within inches of the surface and the next, you're in 35' of bright blue water looking down on a sandy bottom. The wall was honeycombed with all kinds of holes and little caves, so I was having a blast squeezing in and out of those. Then all the sudden I came across this very old rusted chain draped across this rock. I gave it a tug, but it was attached, so I started following it to see where it would lead. After about 30' of chain, it led me to this.Can you make it out? I had to swim around it a couple times and then do a double take. It was badly rusted and had obviously been in that exact same spot for many, many years. Here's another look at it from another angle.It's an old anchor, from the looks of it, a very old anchor. A friend of mine looked up the anchor design online and found a fisherman's anchor from the 1800's that looks very much like it. There were a few other metal odds and ends close to the anchor, and there were some things that looked like petrified wood timbers that were now mostly surrounded by coral. From the placement of the anchor, it is quite obvious that whatever kind of boat or ship it was sailed straight into the sheer wall of the reef and sank right on the spot. Because there is a fairly deep sandy bottom there, who knows what might be buried under the sand. I do know that it has me asking a lot of questions and very curious as to what type of ship it might have been. So have you seen this anchor in any of your dives? Do you know where it is? If you ask really nice, I might be willing to take you out with me on my next exploratory dive of this area to do some more investigation.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
So I think we've all heard about reality TV and some of the shows that have been running for a few years now. I've watched a few of them, but I have to say I'm not really a fan of many of them, so I was quite surprised when I got to work this morning and checked my e-mail only to find an e-mail from a Casting Assistant for one of the shows on American network television. Evidently they were looking for a certain type of person who had some very specific hobbies, and they somehow managed to come across me. I'm guessing this is the picture they saw since it is the one that was up on my blog when they found it. So what kind of crazy TV show would actually consider putting me on it? And this brings a couple questions to mind immediately, am I ready for prime time, and is prime time TV ready for me? No, it wasn't Survivor or The Biggest Loser, and it wasn't Deal or No Deal. The e-mail was from one of the Casting Assistants for ABC TV's Wife Swap. Evidently they are looking for a scuba diving family to do one of their episodes. She said they ran across information about me online and wondered if we would consider being on the show.
I immediately told a friend of mine about it who happened to be online at the time, and he said, that's awesome, you two would be hilarious on that show. So I spent the morning giving it some thought, and thinking about all the different twists that we would wind up bringing to the show. It would definitely be one of their more exotic shows as they would be sending a camera crew to Saipan, and no doubt they would be doing some underwater filming as well, since they are looking for a scuba diving family. Kelli said she felt sorry for the wife who had to come here and endure the power black outs, pick ticks off the dog every night and rescue the poor, helpless geckos from our ruthless cats. A friend of hers, not mine, said that would be nothing compared to having to put up with me all week. But can you imagine someone walking around this island saying that they were my new wife for a week? The reactions they would get would be hilarious. But the publicity for Saipan could be huge. This could be something that would finally show America where Saipan is, and that we are indeed a part of America too!
And where would Kelli wind up, in the Florida Keys? She would love that! But no, they would probably ship her to Iowa or some other place without any decent divable water anywhere near. And what kind of psycho diver would she have to put up with? Could he possibly be as crazy as I am? Would they have young kids that would drive her insane? Would they try to make her eat red meat or chicken?
I have to admit, this show would have huge potential to be absolutely hilarious. But the real question is whether the Producers and Casting Assistants are really willing to expose America to this face or not. Stay tuned, I'll let you know what happens!
Monday, July 7, 2008
I know it may seem like I've been sidetracked lately and haven't been diving, nothing could be further from the truth though. Yes, I have started an Axe Murderer Tours online store, and have made 3 sales so far. Not exactly taking off with a roar, but at least it's out there, so when people want one, they know where to go for it now. The long weekend helped push me closer to my goal of 200 dives for the year, as I managed to get in another 7 dives over the weekend. And yes, even though my eye was acting up on one of the days, I still had people that wanted to go diving, so I grabbed my patch and headed out anyway. Let it not be said that Axe Murderer Tours doesn't go above and beyond when trying to deliver the most amazing dives possible. There were so many cool things from the dives this past weekend, I almost don't know where to start. But I guess we'll start with this dive from Thursday afternoon.Maricar & Barry went along with me to Wing Beach to take advantage of a -0.8 low tide, it makes the walk out to the cut sooooooooooooo much easier. Maricar is feeling pretty confident about not only her diving skills these days, but also her navigation as she has been setting out to explore on her own more and more. The good thing is that she's gotten pretty good at spotting things for me and pointing them out so that I go over and take pictures.This big Titan triggerfish wasn't in any hurry to leave whatever it was he was snacking on, so it gave me a chance to get a pretty good shot of him. I'm always wary of these guys though, you just never know when one of them is going to go nuts and come after you, and if you've ever seen the teeth in their mouth, you realize you don't want to have to fight one off or risk being bitten. They are quite impressive to see when you're out there in the water with them though, as they are very big, and command quite a presence in the water.As I was swimming out toward the crevasse, I spotted this little flatworm just swimming along in front of me. I've seen them swimming a couple times before, but it's pretty unusual to spot them swimming like this, you usually find them crawling along the rocks. Trying to get the camera to lock in and focus on a moving target like this is a real challenge, but I did manage to get a couple shots I was happy with.This little brown spotted grouper was just sitting under some coral watching everything around him. I know just how he feels when he's sitting there pretty much invisible to everything else, just observing and taking everything in around him. I enjoy doing that down there as well, just watching and looking for things that I might have overlooked previously. You can learn an awful lot if you take the time to just stay still and watch for a while. A good lesson from this little grouper.I love stopping by this particular coral head and visiting all the baby blue tangs on my way to the crevasse. They are just so bright and vibrant, they certainly add a dash of color and spice to their spot on the bottom. When you get too close they all swim down inside the coral head, so you have to give them a little bit of space to get a picture of them.But the thing I got the most excited about on this dive was this nudibranch that Barry spotted and called me over to see. It is a Phyllidia ocellata, and one I've seen in the books, but have never seen one on Saipan in person. This guy was pretty big, a good 2" long and pretty wide. I shot a couple dozen shots of him wanting to make sure that I got at least a few good ones of him, since it was my first sighting of one on Saipan. This was once again proof to me that you have to go really slow and look carefully at everything on the bottom or you'll miss them entirely.These double banded anemone fish always grab my attention when I see them. They also have striking coloring that really stands out in the blue water or against the anemone itself. They can be a bit of a challenge though, because they never sit still and it's tough to snap the camera at the precise moment they are in the pose you want them in. But once in a while you luck out and get just the shot you were hoping for. This was just another routine Wing Beach dive, but as you can see, even a routine Wing Beach dive is extraordinary!
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Now I'm not saying that there won't be further modifications to the logo down the road, but this is the first official Axe Murderer Tours logo. I'm hoping to come up with further designs to put on the back of shirts, but right now I finally have some shirts, hats, stickers, magnets and a few assorted other goodies available for sale online. Thanks to Cafepress, there is now an official Axe Murderer Tours store up and running. You can click here and it will take you to the store, or you can click on the logo on the sidebar to go to the store anytime. Now remember, this is just the beginning. But for those who have been chomping at the bit to brand themselves as an official victim of Axe Murderer Tours, here you go! When you click on an item in the store, be sure to read the description carefully, there are a lot of valuable tips included there.
I'm currently in the process of trying to educate Cafepress that the Northern Mariana Islands are indeed a part of the United States and as such U.S. postal rates do apply here. Right now if you live in the CNMI and try placing an order, choosing Northern Mariana Islands in the drop down menu for country, it will automatically calculate the shipping at their international rate, which is by far the most expensive. So I've suggested that they either still offer domestic shipping rates if you list Northern Mariana Islands for your country choice, or that they include it as a state choice if you choose United States as your country. I'm still waiting to hear back from them on whether they will be willing to make that change for me or not. I'll let you know as soon as I get any official notification from them.
And many thanks to Barry Wonenberg for coming up with both a round and a square logo for me to use for Axe Murderer Tours. If we were left to Kelli & I to come up with something, it wouldn't be pretty. Also many thanks to my dive buddy Doug Brennan for coming up with the original designs and ideas, I just couldn't sell Kelli on that real skull Doug, sorry.
Have fun shopping!
Monday, June 30, 2008
While others may have different uses and motives behind their blogs, mine is strictly for entertainment and enjoyment purposes. It's something that I can do to share my love of diving with others, to share my photography and now to share some music as well. I've added a Youtube box right under my links, right now I'm featuring Basia with her song, Drunk On Love. I put it there so you can listen to the music while reading my blog if you like it, all you have to do is click on the arrow icon in the box. If you don't want to listen to the music, no biggie, just don't click and you are welcome to read in silence. But since you can't really see the full screen on the side, I decided to share it full size in this post so you can see the whole thing anytime you like. And I'll probably also switch the song from time to time, but right now I'm in a Basia mood. I hope you enjoy it!
You may want to start it and then pause it right away until it fully downloads, then play it, that way you can listen to it uninterrupted.
A while back I did a blog talking about all the various places in the world that I have had readers to my blog from. I found it interesting that I had readers from every single state except for North Dakota. I concluded that everyone must have left the state and nobody bothered turning out the lights when they left, what else could account for the fact that I had readers from almost everywhere else? Well today I finally had a hit from Minot, North Dakota, so it's official I have had readers from all 50 states.
I managed to get in 6 dives over the weekend that almost got me to my goal of 30 dives for the month of June, I wound up with 29 dives in June, which puts me at 119 for the year so far. So barring any unforseen complications I should be able to easily hit 200 dives for the year. To non-divers, they are probably saying "so what?". But most avid divers realize that for anyone who doesn't dive for a living, 200 dives in a year is a pretty remarkable achievement, and this will be my 3rd time to get over 200 dives in a year.
I wish now that I had always kept better records of all my dives, but sadly I didn't log any of them when I first started diving. I didn't start logging any of them at all until about 10 years ago, so I had missed recording the first several hundred dives that I had done. Now I have a dive computer that downloads all the information from my dives to my laptop computer, so all I have to add is the location, people who dove with me and my comments. It's a great way to make sure that you stay on top of your dive log. When you just have a book you write everything in, you tend to get busy, and forget to update it. Then by the time you finally get around to it, you've forgotten most of the pertinent information. With my dive computer, which also doubles as my regular watch, I always download all the dives on Monday morning after my weekend of diving, then I add all the other information. It's great to be able to look back and remember dives and people who have gone with me in years past. There are many awesome dive computers out there to choose from these days, but if I were giving advice on which one to get, I'd highly recommend the Scubapro Xtender. You can buy the computer and the download kit to let you download all the information onto your laptop or home computer for about $500. I have never had any problems with the computer and got over 250 dives on the computer before I had to replace the battery. Using a dive computer is essential for the type of diving I do these days, but it's also essential for recording valuable dive information and making sure I keep a detailed log of all my dives. If keeping records of your dives is something you've gotten out of the habit of doing, I'd highly recommend you start it up again. One of these days you'll want to look back and remember, and your dive logs will serve you much better than your memory, I can guarantee it!
Thursday, June 26, 2008
I'm not usually the type to try these sort of things, but I read several good reports of people using this particular service on Link Referral. And the thing that I really liked is that it only involves a one time charge of $10, plus a $2 administrative fee for mammothlist and then you have to pay a $2 fee to whichever pay service you wind up signing up with. So for a total investment of $14, you buy into this list building service. You use $10 of it to pay out to 5 different people on the list, paying each of them $2. And then for every person that signs up under you, they wind up paying you $2 of their sign up, with the rest going to other members. As each of the maximum 20 people you sign up, sign up others, you are included on their lists as well down to the 5th place. I know this sounds kind of like a pyramid scheme, but what the heck, for $14 I'm willing to risk it and see if anything comes of it. Look at it this way, if you were going to a casino, chances are you'd be spending much more than $14 and your chances of recoving your initial investment wouldn't be nearly as good. So come on, let's get some of you involved in this thing and see if it works. Simply click on this banner and you'll be signed up under my list. Sign up is quick and painless.
Here are the people I'm encouaging to give this a shot: Angelo Villagomez, John Dax Moreno, Beverly Cabanatan, Brad Derksen, Brad Ruszala, Bruce Bateman, Jeff Turbitt, EJ Lee, Hozumi Redd, Josh Blalock, Lewie Tenorio, Mike Tripp, Greg Moretti, Tami Hunter, Deece & Missy. If there are others who want to give this a shot that I haven't mentioned, you're more than welcome to click on the banner and sign up as well. These are all just people I figured could spare the $14 and might want to give it a shot. Let's see what happens!
Being Wing Beach season right now means I've been spending an awful lot of time with an assortment of lionfish, firefish, scorpionfish, turkeyfish and stonefish. I realize that they hang out at other spots around the island as well, but none in the concentrations that you will find them at Wing Beach. It is not at all unusual lately to have up to 10 of them all out in the open swimming in the cut, that's a bunch of lionfish to keep an eye on at one time.At the end of the crevasse at Wing Beach is a rock outcropping that juts out into the water. The top of it is covered with various colors of crinoids, and the bottom of it is covered with this tiny, intricate purple lace coral. It makes for quite a picture when you get a crinoid perched in the middle of the purple lace coral. I can just totally lose track of time out there some days just studying all the beauty in one tiny area.Taking pictures of the Plerogyra sinuosa colonies, or bubble coral is another of my favorite subjects. These colonies are just so unique, beautiful, detailed and uncommon that it makes them very appealing. As with most things out here, you need to be very careful when taking pictures of it, because it can sting you, and the sting packs quite a punch. Don't ask me how I know that, just take my word for it.And one of my favorite things about Wing Beach has always been the octopus that hang out there. You have to look very carefully because they are well hidden. Octopus can change the color of their skin and can even change the texture of it to blend in with their surroundings. They are usually very shy and very curious, which makes for an interesting combination. When you find one hiding in a hole, you can put your hand in front of the hole with your fingers extended and after a couple minutes it will usually send out a tentacle or two to check you out. You will feel them grab onto your fingers and try to pull you into the hole with them. This can be a rather freaky sensation to those that may not be used to the feeling, but it's harmless. They are actually tasting you with their suction cups, trying to decide whether you'd make a good meal or not.This tiny little radial firefish was hiding in a hole next to a trochus shell. It's almost always worth taking the time to look in all the little tiny holes and cavities in the rocks, you'll be amazed at the diversity of life you'll find in them. You might see candy cane shrimp, baby eels, or little firefish like this guy. I've been so busy taking other people out diving lately that I really haven't had time for a dive to just concentrate on my underwater photography. I'm thinking this weekend I'm going to have to get in a couple 2-3 hour dives where I'm not responsible for anyone or anything other than my camera. Those are the dives when I really come up with some interesting things and pictures. I hope you enjoyed this collection of assorted shots from my Wing Beach dives last weekend.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
This cute green sea turtle has taken up residence in the crevasse at Wing Beach. If there aren't a bunch of divers already out there when you go out, you've got a pretty good chance of spotting him catching a nap in a couple of the holes on the north side of the crevasse wall. He is very good about getting his picture taken and will sit still for quite a few pictures before heading off for a swim. If you give him his space he will probably just sit right there though and let you get a good look at him or as many pictures as you want.There is something just so calming and amazing about spending some time with a turtle. I don't think everyone gets it though. I've seen some divers see a turtle, give it a quick glance and then just swim off in search of something else, those divers don't get it. There is something magical and soothing about being in the presence of a turtle, something that if you haven't experienced it I probably can't even begin to explain. When I look into those gentle eyes it's like I'm transported away to another place where time stands still and nothing else matters. And as cool as these pictures may look, they don't even come close to capturing just how amazing these gentle giants look underwater.And then the feeling you get when you effortlessly glide through the water swimming alongside one of these graceful creatures is something you will never forget. It's like you have become one with the ocean and all of its life, you have traded your land legs in and have become a streamlined aquatic explorer. Turtles are amazing in the way they control their buoyancy and swim so effortlessly through the water. I've said it a thousand times before, but I still feel just as passionately about it, if you live in the islands, and you've never taken the time to go on a dive, you've got to do it before you leave. It's an experience that will definitely change the way you look at the oceans and its inhabitants.
Monday, June 23, 2008
The ham you see in the picture above is Zandra, yup the same one who has only managed to get in 15 dives in the last year and a half of diving with me and the same one who very rarely ever updates her blog. Zandra has been on Saipan for 5 years now, but like many others has decided it's finally time to leave and move back to the states. I don't blame any of my friends for calling it quits out here and saying enough is enough, but it doesn't mean that it doesn't suck to watch all of your friends move away. Zandra wanted to do a couple dives on her final weekend, so we hit Wing Beach Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon.We got lucky on Zandra's dive Saturday and caught this green sea turtle just sleeping in a little hole on the side of the wall in the crevasse. He didn't seem to mind at all that I wanted to take his picture or that Zandra posed with him. He just stayed there occasionally opening his eyes to see what was going on, but didn't swim away. I'll post more of those pictures of him tomorrow, I got some great ones thanks to the new strobe.I think Zandra was doing her best lionfish imitation here since she was watching a big red lionfish at the time with its feathers are displayed proudly. I'm not sure she got the animal she was trying for though, I think she may have been closer to the cuckoo bird.Zandra was always fairly photogenic underwater and never seemed to mind me snapping away working on my photography skills using her as the guinnea pig. I'm glad she managed to get in 2 Wing Beach dives on her final weekend on Saipan since that was her favorite dive, and the critters were all out saying goodbye to her as well.Here she is waving at me as she hovers above me at Wing Beach. Goodbye Zandra, you'll be missed.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Wing Beach has been nothing short of spectacular lately. It has been flat, calm, no current, great visibility and had lots of lionfish out playing. This big red lionfish was playing on the side of the wall in the cut going out. The only thing you have to watch out for is there are so many of them lately that while you're photographing one, there could be 3 or 4 more swimming down toward you, and they don't really seem to care how close they get to you.Barry found these two and pointed out how they are flaring their gills at one another. We didn't know if this was some sort of a mating ritual, or if it was two males fighting for territory. They won no matter what, we just wanted to snap a few pictures.Then I spotted this little scorpionfish sitting on a ledge. We nudged him a couple times to get him in better light to shoot him in. You can see how people just step on them. First of all, you can barely see them, they blend in with their surroundings so well, and then you literally have to push them to get them to move, they won't move otherwise. This guy was a bit more colorful than most.It seemed that everytime I turned around, there were a couple more lionfish coming in for a closer look. I've actually had them brush against my arm while I'm taking pictures as they float in the current. The key is to always be very slow and calm around them. If they feel at all threatened, their sting can be excruciatingly painful. If you're a diver and you haven't dove Wing Beach this year, now is the time. The water is dead flat, there isn't much current and conditions are perfect. If you don't know you're way around out there and need someone to show you around, let me know, you're welcome to come along on one of my dives!
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Barry Wonenberg has jumped in and offered another version of the Axe Murderer Tours logo. Kelli is already casting her vote this direction because she says the skull doesn't look as scarey and it's got a friendlier look. If this guy had a moustache and goatee, he would almost be a dead ringer for me, no pun intended. I'm hoping we can get something finalized pretty soon though, as the list of people wanting to buy their Axe Murderer Tours merchandise is growing by the day. What are your thoughts about the logo? Kelli was trying to sell me on a mermaid logo last week, and as much as I personally happen to like mermaids, I just don't think a sexy looking mermaid says, Axe Murderer Tours. Leave a comment if you have an opinion, we need to get this all sorted out fairly soon.
Here is a picture of Kelli & Erin after their Grotto dive. It was quite an accomplishment for both of them as Erin didn't think she wanted to do anymore diving, and I think the thought of the Grotto might have been messing with her mind, but she overcame those thoughts and did it anyway. And Kelli actually did the dive and climbed back out with her tank after fracturing her knee cap, no small feat. After the dive we took Erin to Bird Island lookout, Suicide Cliff and Bonzai Cliff, and she decided she wanted the rest of the family to see those spots the next day. So we offered to come back and pick them up and give the family the north island tour Monday afternoon.
Sometimes when I'm diving I get some salt water in my mask, which then gets under my contact lenses. I'm thinking that causes irritations which sometimes lead to corneal ulcers. I've had them several times now, so I'm well acquainted with what they feel like. It's excruciating and feels like someone is stabbing your eyeball with hot needles. Monday morning I could feel it coming on, and knew that I was going to be in a lot of pain very shortly. So I took my contact out and bought an eye patch for my eye, since it also gets very light sensitive. During lunch Kelli had me look at her knee, since she still had not gotten it looked at. It was all swollen and not looking good at all, so I told her we were going to the doctors office right after lunch. She was using a pair of crutches that someone had given to us when they left island. Why someone would think I would ever have a need of crutches I'll never know. So we went hobbling into the doctors office, her on her crutches and me with my eye patch. I think the doctor thought we should be checked into a convalescent home somewhere. 3 x-rays later he told Kelli that she had a small fracture on her knee cap, and that she had dislocated it and most likely had torn ligaments and cartiledge. He put a plaster cast on the back side of her leg, making a splint and then wrapped it all up in an ace bandage. He also gave her a couple pain prescriptions which we would both wind up needing for our various aches and pains from the weekends diving.
Then we headed over to PIC to pick up the Reed family for their tour, me in my eye patch and Kelli on crutches and with a splint on her leg, we were quite the sight. They asked if we were sure we were up to this. We said we just had to stop by the hospital and get the prescriptions filled and then we were good to go. This is the kind of service you would only get from an outfit like Axe Murderer Tours. So with pills in hand, splint on leg, and patch on eye, we headed to the north end of the island.Many times when you are standing at the Bird Island lookout or the Bonzai Cliff lookout, you can look down and see turtles on the surface of the water. We actually saw this guy the day before at Bonzai Cliff after our Grotto dive. He was in fairly close and just stayed on the top for a while, letting me get some good shots of him. Unfortunately when we went back to those spots with the whole family, there were no turtles cooperating.Here you see Grace, Dan & Simon all sitting at the top of the memorial at Bonzai Cliff. I think they were all impressed with the north end sights, Dan especially seemed to like checking out Bird Island. And I know that Erin had a great time showing her family the Grotto, which she had just conquered the day before, and she had plenty of stories to tell about it.
One thing I forgot to tell you about Kelli's trip to the doctor was that she had pants on when she went in. But the doctor would have had to cut the leg of her pants in order to put the splint on, so rather than have her favorite pair of pants ruined, she opted to take her pants off and just wear a towel that we had in the car. So Kelli was fashionably attired in a towel for our north end of the island tour. It's an island, we're all pretty laid back around here!When you're getting a tour from Axe Murderer Tours, you can almost bank on the fact that something about it will be unique or different. Like earlier in the week when I took them to Mt. Tapochou when I had to turn on our generator for the radio station. I accomplished something I had to get done for work on the weekend, and they got to see the view from Mt. Tapochou, a win-win situation.Simon's favorite part of the tour was undoubtedly the stop at the Last Command Post in Marpi. Here you see him in front of one of the big anti-aircraft guns that still sits there as a reminder of what took place here over 60 years ago.Here is Simon in front of one of the old Japanese tanks. This place is like a sort of Disneyland to a 6 year old, with all these old tanks, canons and guns still sitting there. But Simon's favorite part of the Last Command Post had to be the Last Command Post itself.He thought it was totally awesome to go in that hollowed out rock and see where the holes were blown through the walls. He seemed to enjoy exploring it with me too, as he kept telling me to come on as he went to the next spot to explore. I think he was just thinking it was cool to hang with someone wearing an eye patch. Erin did tell me that I looked like I should be my own logo for Axe Murderer Tours with that eye patch. I suppose there is a slight possibility that I may look a little like a pirate with my shaved head, goatee and eye patch. But it's only a slight possibility.Here you see Simon, Grace & Erin on the walkway outside of the Last Command Post. We were there just before sunset, and you could see the moon over toward the Grotto already rising. I was keeping an eye on the sun and where it was though so we could catch a sunset at Wing Beach to close out the tour. I was cutting it close, but we did manage to catch it.Here you see Grace & Simon running down the beach for the last few seconds before the sun dips into the ocean. We were hoping it would be a green flash since the conditions looked perfect for it, but no such luck. Oh well, it was still a pretty spectacular ending to what had been a full week for the Reed family. Hopefully they left here with some awesome memories of their time on Saipan, and are already thinking about their next trip back. Thanks for coming Reed family, and you're always welcome to become repeat victims of Axe Murderer Tours!