Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Axe Murderer Tours Latest Victim

Now I can totally understand when strangers come here, or macho guys from a navy ship and they go diving with some crazy guy who calls himself Axe Murderer Tours, after all, they don't know any better. They haven't heard all the stories, well they may have heard a few of them, but not usually enough to scare them off. The ones that I get a kick out of are the people who live here, and have heard enough of the stories that they should know better, but they still ask me to take them out diving anyway. Such is the case with my buddy Mike Johnson, pictured above. The pose he's making in the picture above could mean, "sure, I've heard you're a psycho, but what can I say, everybody else was busy". Or it could mean, "I've got friends showing up very soon who are going to want to go diving and I'd better hurry up and get myself back into it so that they think I'm a regular dive bum, and you were the only one I could find to take me on short notice". These are both very plausible explanations, but whatever the case I took Mike to the Grotto Saturday afternoon and we had a great time. When we were getting set up in the parking lot, Mike showed me his C Card, it was an old YMCA certification card that looked about the same era as mine. I got mine in 1974, Mike says his was more recent than that, but from looking at the picture, it couldn't have been very far behind mine. I am really kicking myself for not taking a picture of his card to post here. If you know Mike you might ask to see his YMCA scuba certification card, I promise it will be worth it.
This was the first guy we saw, a huge lionfish just tucked in a little hole outside of hole #1 at the Grotto. Then I took Mike over and showed him a giant clam. It's nowhere near as big as the ones in Palau, but it's definitely one of the biggest I've ever seen on Saipan. Then I showed him a batch of Plerogyra sinuosa, commonly called bubble coral. It's something that you don't see around here very often, but if you know where the few colonies are, they are always in the same spot.
I spotted this green sea turtle having a snack on the other side of this little hill, so I went down and cruised just above the bottom so as not to spook him, and we popped over the little hill and saw him getting up right here. I think Mike was pretty excited about being that close to the turtle and getting that good of a look at him.
Every time I looked back, Mike was dutifully following along and always giving me the "thumbs up". I was hoping that meant he was having fun and that everything was fine, and not that he wanted to hurry up and get back to the surface. But since I still had plenty of air left in my tank, I was assuming it meant he was good. When we got back into the Grotto, I was looking for nudibranchs on the big boulders and on the floor of the Grotto. Mike was hanging up a bit above and behind me. I saw his flashlight make some erratic motions, but I really didn't pay much attention, and then I saw the 6' white tip reef shark go cruising past the side of me. I guess Mike thought I might like some warning about the shark, but they really don't bother me at all.
Then as we were doing our safety stop, I found this baby Ptereolidia ianthina, a very colorful nudibranch. This one was only about 1/8" long, and just looked like a tiny fleck of purple, but I knew what it was, so I called Mike over and showed him and then took several pictures. So all things considered, I'd say it was another successful outing for Axe Murderer Tours. And since Mike just kept saying how amazing it was when we got up, I take it he was happy too!

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