Log Date: Saturday, Jan 09, 2016
Entry By: Turks & Caicos Aggressor Crew
Turks & Caicos Aggressor II
9 – 16 January 2016
Air temperature: 78° - 82°
Water temperature: 78° - 80°
Visibility: 20 - 60 feet
Captain: AMANDA SMITH
2nd Captain: MARC POVEY
Engineer: ROB SMITH
Chef: ALISA KELLY
Video Pro: MATT CRAWFORD
Photo Pro: TROY SANDY
Damon & Jennifer, Todd & Vicki, Dean & Becca, Steve & Marie, Teresa, Erika, Charlene & Mel, Joe & Danielle, Fred, David, Brian & Bailey
Sunday: AMPHITHEATRE, NWPT; JAGGED EDGE & THE ANCHOR, WEST CAICOS
Monday: HALF MILE & G-SPOT, FRENCH CAY
Tuesday: ROCK N ROLL, FRENCH CAY & BOAT COVE, WEST CAICOS
Wednesday: DRIVEWAY & MAGIC MUSHROOM, WEST CAICOS
Thursday: GULLIES, WEST CAICOS & THE DOME, NWPT
Friday: STAIRWAY, NWPT
With our annual migration to the Dominican Republic, following the Humpback Whales just a week away, we have a different charter this week with just six days packed with fabulous diving in Turks & Caicos.
The week started with beautiful flat calm seas and weather, allowing a comfortable crossing out from the marina to NWPT of Providenciales and we moored there for the evening, in preparation for a morning of diving. Amphitheatre, so named for the large overhang in the edge of the wall, which is home to seven types of black coral. The star coral, in plate formation, provides shelter for banded coral shrimp and different types of lobster. On the top side of the reef fingers of sand field scores of yellow headed jawfish, some of the males incubating their eggs in their mouths, whilst the females look on.
With promising weather ahead, we departed Providenciales for West Caicos and the site of Jagged Edge, a newly installed dive site with a very dramatic contour, with sweeping sands meeting an imposing wall. Southern stingrays glide over the sand feasting on any unfortunate garden eels. Along the edge of the wall a much larger relation cruised along higher in the water column – a spotted eagle ray created quite a delight.
The last dive site of the day was The Anchor, also known as Whiteface because of the white on the island that was used as a navigational aid to sailors of old. The anchor, over three hundred years old, is covered in encrusting sponges in rich, warm reds and oranges, making it less like an anchor where it is embedded into the gulley at the site. So it occurs that some divers do not see it until the photography slideshow at the end of the week. Our resident scorpionfish, hung out framed within its usual arched coral head. Looking very regal as it sits on its throne moving only its eyeballs as onlookers take photographs from all angles.
The following morning, before sunrise, saw us travel southeast to French Cay, to dive at all three sites there. Half Mile was the first choice and an opportunity to see more spotted eagle rays. Particularly large in the Turks & Caicos Islands, spotted eagle rays start to become more frequent as the water temperatures drop in the late months of the year and we have been delighted to see increasing numbers during the winter months. More yellow-headed jawfish had established their homes around the mooring, the blue edges of their fins luminescent in contrast with the whites of their bodies and the heads just faintly yellow. An occasional Caribbean reef shark cruised along the edge of the wall, a promissory note for later dives. The most exciting sighting, however, had to be the glimpse of a greater hammerhead, not uncommon at French Cay, but certainly not a weekly expectation.
G-Spot provided its usual stock of Caribbean reef sharks that coasted close to all the divers in the water. At the edge of the wall, schools of creole wrasse flowed down into the deep and back up feeding on the tiny critters washed out from the nutrient rich waters from the Caicos Bank. For the night dive we were inundated with nurse sharks feeding by the beam of our flashlights, nosing in to crevices in search of a tasty morsel. One of them managed to sneak up on a slow moray eel that ended up as dinner. On the edge of the boat lights the Caribbean reef sharks kept their distance with only an occasional foray into the glow when a potential meal appeared. Up in the water column hanging out with the smaller black jacks, a Cubera snapper remained aloof but vigilant.
Rock N Roll the following morning brought out the eagle rays, with the usual suspects of sharks and barracuda. In the nooks & crannies, Caribbean spiny lobsters peered out some anxious and backing in when approached, others making a stand and moving toward the on looking diver.
A move back to West Caicos during the afternoon and our site of choice was Boat Cove – we were in search of the elusive sea horse that had been seen there the week before, but alas it was nowhere to be found. That of course did not distract from the flying gurnards that patted the sand in search of small critters, their wings opening and closing displaying the intricate pattern that results in the beautiful blue at the edge. On the wall, gorgonians sustain decorator crabs, such as neck crabs, providing the ultimate disguise from their prey. On the wire coral, tiny shrimp scurry back and forth, disappearing around the back and out of sight from any observers. The night dive brought out a number of large channel clinging crabs of varying sizes, but some with claws bigger than a hand. On the sponges, small white speckled and longhorn nudibranchs moved about.
Driveway was our next site, the following morning. With its sweeping sandy rubbly slope running down to the wall it provides great protection for the small mantis shrimp that we see in Turks & Caicos. Peer into the holes and see two independently moving eyes looking back, before vanishing back into its hole. Another dweller of holes that we see here is the red orange ghost shrimp, the architect of the most perfect round hole you are ever likely to see made from sand. A shadow will bring them up, but not for long during the day and sometimes the only obvious part of them is their antennae.
And so back to seahorses and no disappointment at Magic Mushroom, our newly resident specimen was moving around the same gorgonian as last week and so everyone had the opportunity to enjoy this most popular creature. Lobster tower provided defence for some five lobsters and one channel clinging crab. Of course, our ladies, the Caribbean reef sharks were around as well.
They were also present for Gullies the following morning. With them, stingrays searched the sand, whilst up in the water column a school of Atlantic spadefish glided back and forth – not unafraid of divers they often allow a slow approach.
Also enjoying the height of the water column were blue runners, bar jacks, yellow tailed snappers and horse eyed jacks, whilst lower down small schools of intermediate barracuda hovered motionlessly just a few feet from the bottom.
We moved at lunchtime back to Providenciales and the dive site the Dome. A French reality TV show way ahead of its time, it has left us with a great dive site with some interesting homes for the critters. In the remains, moray eels rest their entire length in pipework, whilst the trumpet fish use the structure to hide whilst awaiting prey. Our resident channel clinging crab was in his usual position waiting for nightfall to before moving out and about. In the abandoned worm holes, secretary and spiny head blennies watch onlookers fearlessly, at times darting out to catch a minute morsel and then returning tail first back into the hole – very amusing to watch. The night dive brought out hawksbill turtles and a nurse shark, but more excitingly Caribbean reef squid and an octopus.
Our final dive site for the week was Stairway – another site known for small schools of barracuda. The wall aspect is particularly beautiful as there is star coral in plate formation that provides hidey holes for no end of critters, such as corkscrew anemones with their resident Pederson cleaner shrimps, banded coral shrimp and squat anemone shrimp. A great end to a great week of diving.
Congratulations to Fred, our senior Iron Diver – at the age of eighty (sorry to reveal your secrets Fred) he dived all 27 dives this week. He maintains he gets better value for money if he completes all the dives. Well done Fred – we all hope to be in similar condition when we reach even close to that age!
A different charter for next week, just one day less, in preparation for whales and we hope to see all the usual suspects that make Turks & Caicos such a great place to dive and maybe a humpback whale…