Friday, January 11, 2008

Whale Watching in Maui

WARNING: This post contains a large number of whale photos. If you don't like whales, feel free to move along. There's probably a blog about housecats somewhere nearby.

On our last whole day in Maui, we went out whale watching with the Pacific Whale Foundation on their boat the Ocean Explorer. This is my favorite non-raft or RIB boat. It seats about 40 with most of the seats up front. Whale Foundation members get to board first and choose their seats (and at a discount, too, so be sure to join).

The whales were more active than I have ever seen. We had been seeing lots of them from the hotel balcony and beach, so we had high hopes. We quickly found solo whales and small groups to watch. We would find them by spotting their spouts and calling them out to the crew.

Most of the time, we would just end up with a presentation of the tale, if anything.

Sometimes the whales like to wave and slap their pectoral fins. Kind of a humpback hello.

This whale was cruising along on his side. You can see his tail sticking out of the water behind his pectoral fin.

This whale was fun. It was barrel-rolling through the water. It would roll onto one side and slap that fin, keep rolling onto its back raising the other fin, and then slapping the second fin on the water. This whale made several rolls. This photo was taken when the whale was on its back.

Of course everybody's favorite moment is when the whales "breach", or jump out of the water like in the next sequence of photos. They sometimes launch their entire body (except for their tail) out of the water.

I caught this one as it was crashing into the water onto its back. Although it looks like it is smiling, its really upside down.

And finally, here is a whale waving goodbye.

As we head back to the harbor (and were unable to pursue whales), we saw two or three whales doing a series of ten breaches in less than two minutes. It was an impressive display.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Mala Pier, Day 2

I went back out to Mala Pier again on Saturday and dove 2 tanks. It's a great bargain. I can spend $120 on a two tank boat dive or $20 on two tanks at the pier. It's as good as going out on the boat, but its definitely a lot more than one-sixth as good. I like not having to follow a guide and moving at my own pace. The dives were up to 1:20 long. Its also an easy place to solo dive. A funny thing - when I was out there the first time, so was the Extended Horizons boat that I had gone out on the day before. The weather had prevented the boat from going to Lanai, so it did its second dive on the pier. I would have been a little unhappy if I had paid that kind of money to dive next to the boat ramp.

As I mentioned in my previous post, the turtles were amazing. In the next two photos, you can see three turtles lined up (the ones from the video). I guess turtle #4 had moved on.

I hadn't thought to put my orange magic filter on the Canon camera, so I've corrected the colors using the Photoshop Underwater.atn action, which works amazing well, particularly on pictures from shallow dives. I'm taking the filter out when I dive tomorrow.

There were dozens of Imperial Nudibranchs, as in the past. The little Canon camera has done a pretty good job with the macro photos. All Canon photos have been using only the internal flash or natural light.

And here's one more nudi.

Mala Pier Turtle Video

I haven't finished processing my photos from my last shore dive at the pier (didn't find any frogfish, again, but I did see a big white tip reef shark), but this turtle video was so cool that I wanted to go ahead and share it. I was following the first turtle with my little camera making a video and I didn't even know about his friends until they came into view in the movie. This is the most turtles in one place that I have ever seen. There was even a fifth one in the sand ten feet away.

Linda, this ones for you!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Shore Diving Mala Pier

Today I did my first shore dive at the wreckage of the Mala Pier. This was recommended to me by Bob Grecko and many others. The Mala Pier was built in 1922 for loading sugar cane. It was destroyed by a hurricane in 1996.

It was 300 feet long, but half of that is rubble in water up to 30 feet deep. It has developed a good bit of coral growth and is inhabited by turtles (saw five), white tip sharks (others saw some, but I wasn't looking), and frogfish (looked hard but couldn't find any). There were also quite a few Imperial Nudibranches, always in pairs.

These two turtles were amusing. The one on the left was sitting on top of the silty sand. The second one swam over and sat next to the first who wasn't very happy about having company. You can see in the close-up how he expressed his displeasure. The second turtle then swam away.

I didn't find any frogfish, although I am told that they are out there. I'm going back out tomorrow to dive two tanks and find them. On this trip, I was shooting my D80 in a macro setup (60mm lens and dual DS-125s) and I brought my Canon SD700 for wide angle.

Oh yeah - and the ocean ate my mask. Another sacrifice to the diving gods.

Diving at Lanai

Dive Buddy Bob and I went to Lanai with Extended Horizons. We first dove "No Name Pinnacle" near Paradise Cove and then Cathedrals #2. No Name was a typical Hawaiian dive site were we saw eels, a juvenile peacock wrasse (the photos weren't very good), and some of the other usual suspects.

Cathedrals #2 is a lave tube/cave with lots of holes to let in light. I couldn't get any decent photos. There were too many people in our group and I was the last one into the chamber. It was too silted up by then. I did find a wire coral gobie, which was a good test of the macro capabilities of my Sigma 17-70 lens. I probably could have gotten a little closer.

The full frame:

A closer crop:

Here's a shot of the rugged Lanai coastline as we were leaving.

One the way back, we hit some rough water. The boat captain gave use two options: slow and really wet, or fast and hard and probably drier. We took fast and hard. It was a bit painful, but we didn't have it as hard as poor Gwen the Dive Master at the back of the boat. The paying customers get the dry seats up front. She gets drenched. She smiled the whole way.

I recommend Extended Horizons for any of your dive needs. Our group was led by Dive Master Chris who did a decent job.

Maui Rainbows

The rainbows here have been spectacular. Every day at 4 o'clock this complete rainbow appears to the north. Today, the end of the rainbow was in the condo tennis court. I couldn't find the pot of gold.

This was the other end, a little later, in the craggy volcanoe remnants.