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Me diving

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Gran Sabana

Sunday morning we were on the Escapade for a last minute tech boat. Beto set it up earlier in the week. I was a little bit torn, since we stayed in Monterey last weekend, and I was feeling like a little kitty time this weekend. But since it would be an early morning boat, I figured there would be plenty of time for kitty-loving (and Super Bowl watching) in the afternoon. Beto and Rob traded some numbers for potential new sites, and eventually settled on a site Beto found on the bathy maps, about half a mile south of Flintstones. The site was a main pinnacle, with a smaller pinnacle off to the east, and some little ridges off to the west, in the 130' to 200' range. Based on the depths, Rob and I were interested in the main pinnacle and the east pinnacle, which was in easy scootering range of the main one. The main pinnacle had a skinny peak in the center coming up to about 130' from 160'. Then at 160', there was a plateau on the north and south sides and then a slope down to about 200'. It was a choppy ride down, and then the ritual circling of the site left me feeling pretty barfy.

We decided to live drop on a buoy. We were nominated the lucky guinea pigs, to be dropped to determine what was up with the current (we were so nominated because we had scooters and we were only two, so the faster team to drop I guess). I couldn't really complain though, since being in the water seemed better than circling around in the boat. There was a bit of current on the surface, but with the scooter it was not a problem. Rob and I met up at the buoy and then headed down. The water was pretty green, and it was quite dark at the bottom. I thought the viz was pretty good, but apparently it wasn't up to Rob's rigorous standards :) We dropped on the west side of the peak and headed clockwise around it. On the north side plateau, there were lots of elephant ears and some gorgonians. We came around to the east side, where we ran into Clinton and Matt. The east side featured a more precipitous drop but without much big stuff -- fewer elephant ears and no gorgonians. There were lots of nipple sponges in one area. While Rob was taking some pictures I became transfixed by some type of hydroid that looked like a different kind of hydroid than I had seen before. While I was staring at it, I noticed something pink! There was a pair of big, very pink Doto amyras mating (or surrounded by a bunch of egg ribbons at least) at the base on the hydroid. Upon closer inspection there were a couple other smaller Dotos in there. The mating pair were such pretty specimens, it was unfortunate no one was shooting macro! I showed them to Rob and not long after that, we decided to journey to the other pinnacle.

We headed out into the abyss in that direction, hoping it wouldn't take too long before we could see the other pinnacle. Just as I began to make out a shadow in the distance, a bunch of light beams came into view. Phew. Beto's team had already made it over to the second pinnacle and they were heading back now. As we got to the pinnacle, I looked down and saw them scootering along the base. We landed on a gently sloping side with a lot of elephant ears and gorgonians -- similar to plateau on the main pinnacle. After Rob took a few shots around there, we headed around to the east side, which was more wall-like. I posed for a couple of pictures while looking for macro critters on the reef. I found a trilineata (cool, but less cool since I had seen 4 of them in 20' yesterday!). While we were there, a school of blue rockfish descended on the pinnacle. We headed back to the main pinnacle, and hopped over to the west side, in sight of the anchor (and Matt and Clinton shooting their bag). We agreed to spend 3 minutes more before beginning our ascent. With about one minute left, Beto, Sue, and Karl came scootering around from the south, and as they lined themselves up nicely for a shot, Rob started packing up his camera for the ascent. What a meanie. Then he thumbed it, and we headed up to 120', where he shot the bag. This was the boat dive debut of "the big bag". It is a lot easier to shoot from 120' than for 40', like we practiced yesterday :)

The deco was pretty uneventful. Rob had a bubbly bottle at 70', which he fixed easily. We met a variety of deco critters on the stops after that, including a really sad looking sea nettled, and several moon jellies. One of the moon jellies was a really big, beautiful specimen. We marvelled at it for a while. Rob also found a little red-orange amphipod (so he says) propelling itself around in the water. Rob caught it on his finger to show to me, and then couldn't get it off of his glove. He finally did, and then a moment later, it was back on his glove. I guess it liked Rob. When we got to the surface, all of the bags were line up in a nice line. We were the first team to hit the surface. As the Escapade headed toward us to pick us up, Matt and Clinton surfaced. Reboarding the boat was a slightly choppy ordeal. After collecting all of the divers, we had a pretty smooth ride back with no whale or dolphin sitings :(

Beto named the site "Gran Sabana" after a peak in Venezuela with a similar shape.

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