Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Fish Tale

If you hate fish, just look away.  Today's post is not for you.

On Friday, I went on a seven hour snorkeling cruise.  There were two one-hour snorkel stops, and we were supposed to see dolphins along the way.  Apparently our day was quite unusual in terms of weather, so that threw a lot of things off, including dolphin sightings, much to my dismay.

Generally the first stop is Molokini Crater, followed by an area close to the island of Lana'i, which is quite close to Maui.  However, that morning our captain had found out that the weather at Molokini was really bad -- very choppy water with one-foot swells, hardly ideal for snorkeling.  He also heard it was supposed to clear off by early afternoon though, and he told us that the timing of our return might be such that we would have the place to ourselves -- almost unheard of in such a popular snorkel spot.

Before I get started on too many details, I should introduce you to my tour, the crew, and the boat.  I went with the fine folks of Pacific Whale Foundation, a non-profit organization concerned with ocean ecology and the plant and animal life thereof.  They were great folks, and I highly recommend their tour.

This was our boat, the OceanVoyager:

It holds something like 149 people, but we only had 77 or so on my cruise -- very comfortable.

Here are three of our six crew members.

From L-R, they are Gabe, one of the two naturalists (sort of like a marine biologist) on board; Juliana, the first mate; and Jenn, all around helpful and cool chick.  I'm missing Jeremy, the captain; the other naturalist, and the food server / bartender (I don't remember the names of the latter two).

When we got to Lana'i (pronounced Lah-neye'-ee), we pulled up to this rock, just offshore. There was a legend about it -- I believe it's called Sweetheart Rock, and they said it's the most highly photographed rocks around Maui and Lana'i -- but I don't remember the story accurately. Something about a lover throwing himself off the top. It didn't sound healthy. But I got you a picture! And since I'm so diligent, I googled it and found you a link to read about it if you're interested.

In the same general vicinity is the Lana'i Cathedral, which the captain told is is the site of many underwater weddings (the wedding party all has to be dive certified, of course).  He said you could find lots of youtube videos on the place, and it turns out he was right.

However, I believe I promised you fish pictures, so I should get on with that.

During the first snorkel spot, I was getting the hang of my new underwater camera and figuring out how to get the best shots of fish underwater.  Perhaps not surprisingly, the best shots occurred at the second site.

Here's a school of stripey fish with a couple of other fishy friends.  Not a great picture, but a lot of fish in one place.

Gabe gave a great onboard fish tutorial and told us the names of most of the fish that we saw, but with my awesome powers of recollection, I've forgotten almost all of them. I do know that almost all the pictures he showed us were butterfly fish, so when in doubt, that's probably what they are. 

This guy? He's a black and red fish. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

But oh hey, if you look in the upper right hand corner of that picture, that's my favorite fish. Unfortunately, the camera doesn't come close to capturing all the colors of this amazing fish.  I actually hunted Gabe down and asked him what fish it was, and it's called a parrot fish.  I took about two dozen pictures of male parrot fish because they're so beautiful. It turns out they travel in schools with one male and several females, including an alpha female. If the male dies, the alpha female actually changes genders and colors over about a week and becomes the male of the group. Nature is weird, boys and girls.

Here's another picture of the elusive parrot fish.  I followed several of these guys around in the first snorkel site and wasn't thrilled with most of my results, but this will have to do (yes, he really is that brightly colored, and actually there are several other colors not captured here).

This pretty little guy is probably a butterfly fish of some variety.  He was quite striking. I called him the orange and white stripey fish, being the poetic sort that I am.

This big blue fella swam close enough to me that he filled up my entire screen. (We're now into the second site in Molokini Crater.)

This black fish is one that I saw all over both sites.  The fish next to him may be a butterfly fish or may be an angel fish; they look almost identical.

This is a sea urchin and a small fish that was tough to photograph.  I was pleased I got a good shot of him -- he was FAST!

These two beauties may be fish that mate for life.  I followed them for a while, and they were definitely traveling together.  I got several pretty good shots of them, but this was my favorite.

This is another fish that I saw in abundance in both sites. I had a tough time getting a good picture of him.  This is about the best one.  He's black with orange spots on his tail, which I believe makes him a type of triggerfish.

Last but not least, this frightening fish is often armed with a photographic device and shoots images of other fish.  In other words, it's me.  =)

Normally I proofread all posts pretty extensively, but I'm checking out of my Oahu hotel in 8 minutes, so I reserve the right to edit this post for content or grammar later!

We're off to the airport to return home.  Aloha, y'all!

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