Jul 27

Jupiter Dive: awesome

Category: scuba,Travel

Another Saturday, another dive on Scarface and Captain Kurl’s reefs. I used Jupiter Dive Center, and enjoyed their roomy boat “Republic IV.” Due to the long drive between the Canaveral and Jupiter areas, I had to get up at 5AM and drive for two hours. I met my buddy Steve and we carpooled down there. We hopped on the boat and sped out to the reef as if skating over a frozen pond; the conditions were fantastic: 88 degrees in the air, 84 at depth, and a surface as smooth as glass. I love the Florida sky with its obvious weather and spectacular clouds. I can often see more of the local weather in this flat place than from more mountainous regions. As you can see by the large haul of images, it was a great dive. One of the cool things about diving is the variety of life you can see. In this post I try to provide a small taste of that. There are so many animals with so many unique lifestyles. On land you get this kind of variety only with insects, and perhaps birds – at least when looking in one place. And even then, they’re hard to find or too small to observe easily. There are a lot of animals in the forest, but underwater, there’s an explosion of life. Let me assure you, what you see here is only a fraction of what I saw on this one dive.

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As we were gearing up to dive, Steve said “Let’s find some grouper, a moray, and some rays!” We dropped to 80 feet and immediately spotted a grouper! Soon enough we saw the same large green moray we’d seen a week ago – I’m sure it was the same individual; it was the same size and was hanging out in the same crevice. Shortly after that we saw a smaller, spotted moray eel. We then headed into the sand to look for rays, without luck – although I did see one later that day (see my entry for “the bridge”). It was a good fish day; several large schools (spadefish, tomtate grunts) hung above the reef, and the slowly waving soft corals made it the kind of reef diving I’d wanted to do.

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As I drifted slowly over the reef, a cowfish (the scrawled variety perhaps?) darted paranoically away, and a trumpetfish froze amongst fronds of soft coral, thinking he was perfectly invisible. Yeah, ok buddy. But this is a better strategy than it seems, because the naked eye – and presumably the fish eye also – is not color-corrected like my photos (Hmm… is this so?). Someday I’ll do a post showing just what this looks like, how at depth, with reds and greens filtered out, those colorful fish are much better camouflaged than you might think.That’s a bluestriped grunt hiding in the soft coral with some cousins (black grunts?) and a spotted goatfish.

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One of the more astonishing things about fish is how their bodies and colors change so completely in different phases of their lives; many of them look like different species as they age. They may even change sex, food preference, and habitat! The small yellow fish above are “initial phase” bluehead wrasses, which will eventually grow into a larger, much differently colored animal with a slightly different head shape, and possibly a different sex. While young they are cleaner animals and will pick parasites and dead skin off of other fish, which sit still and wait patiently for to be serviced. Here you can see them cleaning a spotted goatfish – another animal that changes colors radically, but at will, not just during growth.

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Above: a spotfin butterfly fish, with another fish right behind it, giving the appearance of a longer tail. Also a porkfish (a type of grunt), a goby of some sort, a yellowhead jawfish and a bicolor damselfish. The jawfish are particularly interesting. The dig burrows in the sand, from which they pop in and out like thumbs. You have to sink to the bottom and lie still and very patiently until they slowly creep out. If you literally blink, they will zip! back into thier holes and disappear. The males incubate eggs in thier mouths.

All of my equipment worked great; I’m love my Suunto Vytec. I’ve kept my SPG, and have been keeping track of my dives the old fashioned way in order to compare tables to the computer. Post-dive analysis does show me that the computer’s numbers make sense. The computer is a very valuable thing to have; I can see that it’s a conservative machine but still allows me a longer dive than tables would. I had time to think about this as Steve deployed the safety marker and we hung at 15 feet for our 5-minute stop.

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