Kona Aggressor Captain’s Log
November 20, 2016
Air Temp. 82-87 F
Water Temp. 78 F
Wetsuit Recommendation: 3mm
Captain: Matt Herwig
2nd Captain: Chad Dolbeare
Instructor: Jeremy Dick
Video Pro: Brian Foreman
Divemaster: Manuel Lassaletta
Chef: Cameron Smay
Meghan, Michael, Kim, Mathew, Kimberly, Alan, Marcia, Robert, Wen Tao, Frank Ying, John, Igor
Sunday, November 20th
DIVE SITES: Shark Fin Rock and Garden Eel Cove
Following a delicious and hearty breakfast of blueberry pancakes, bacon, and eggs any way one prefers , this week’s itinerary of world class diving kicks off with Captain Herwig leading the guests on an orientation expedition within close proximity to the vessel. A variety of tangs, trumpetfish, and Scarface and Spotted Coral Blennies surround us. A color-changing Day Octopus curiously keeps an eye on everyone from within a crevice as the divers utilize the opportunity to get accustomed to their respective gear, their new, tropical surroundings, and to sort out their ideal amount of weight for neutral buoyancy. After snacking on some fresh fruit, a second dive at the location ventures further from the ship, and we’re circled by a Spotted Eagle Ray while the divers take a gander at the White Monk Moray.
After feasting on broccoli, baked beans, baby-back ribs and barbeque chicken, there are two afternoon dives at Garden Eel Cove. Here, we observe schools of Big Eyes as well as Goatfish gathered in the sand, using their barbells to search for invertebrates as we glide along the coral wall, weave between urchin covered boulders searching for nudibranchs and dwarf eels, and keep an eye out in the blue in hopes of catching a glimpse of the local Hawaiian Monk Seal. Towards the end of the second dive, we’re greeted by two of the Manta Rays that will join us for the final dive of the day: Manta Mayhem. Beforehand, Chef Smay outdoes himself with Cornish hens, potatoes au gratin, and brownie sundaes. No matter what the guests may have anticipated for the following, signature night dive, all expectations are surpassed as at least half a dozen of these enormous, gentle, and majestic creatures repeatedly come inches away from us, mouths agape as they feed on the plankton exposed by our torches and the lights from our cameras, nonstop, for over an hour! Long after the other boats have departed for the evening, the Kona Aggressor II rests atop the waves, circled by our Manta friends as the guests sip hot cocoas, and review and revel in their newly captured footage that will forever serve as proof that what they just experienced was actually real, and not a dream.
Monday, November 21st
DIVE SITES: Aquarium and The Dome
Day two continues our aquatic adventures at Aquarium. After Dive Master Brian includes a description of the spotted boxfish in the morning’s first briefing, the divers are fortuitous to encounter a sighting of the rare and beautiful male specimen. A Giant Moray and difficult to find Devil Scorpion fish are also spotted. The next dive features a playful octopus almost immediately after descent. Yellowtail Coris, bird wrasse, and a handful of Bluespotted Cornetfish aligned in formation are all seen. Just before the safety stop, a Panther Flounder ripples through the water like a flying magic carpet before settling on some ruble and seemingly disappearing from sight as it instantaneously blends into the rocks.
The next destination is The Dome. Here, the divers delightfully explore the cathedral-like structure after which the site is named. Torches shine on White Margin nudibranchs that gather in groups along the walls. During the night dive, we’re careful not to disturb the creatures that have settled into slumber like the Manybar Goatfish and the Parrotfish encased in their nightly bubbles. Giant Porcupinefish, Stripebelly Puffers, and Cusk Eels wander among Stubborn Sea Cucumbers and Hemprich’s Stars. The excursion culminates with the divers forming a tight circle, hiding the light from our torches, and, following a few moments in order for our eyes to adjust, begin waving our hands frantically, setting the sea’s phosphorescence aglow from our fingertips like magicians waving enchanted wands. A juvenile Starry Night Octopus scurries beneath us as we make our way back to the ship.
Throughout the day, Chef Smay is up to his tricks, preparing dishes like hot pastrami sandwiches, a selection of flavored chicken wings, fresh Mahi Mahi, and his magnificent chocolate chip cookie pie. Whispers among the guest can be heard heaping praise on the concoctions, some wondering if the delectable treats might even surpass the incredible diving.
Tuesday, November 22nd
DIVE SITES: Rob’s Reef, Paradise Pinnacle, and The Hive
It’s not yet midweek, yet the guests with fewer dives or those who hadn’t been diving in some time are showing remarkable improvement due to each of the more than capable instructors’ patient and enthusiastic tutelage. Those who had originally been nervous entering the water or had descended slowly, now do so more confidently and efficiently, arms tucked close, streamlining their trim as hands no longer scully with fingers apart. More attention is diverted from concern, and is now focused, still cautiously, where it belongs, on the many mysteries the Pacific reveals as we glide through the water inspecting in awe. An example of hubris, some of the diving today reminds us of the importance of acknowledging one’s limits, the benefits of diving with experienced Dive Masters familiar with the local sites and variety of possible conditions, and the respect we must always give to Poseidon’s domain.
The morning’s first two immersions are at Rob’s Reef. Here, many of the divers decide to wander off in buddy pairs on their own, as they are always welcome do. They explore the two lava ridges and vast gardens of finger corals; but it’s not until the second dive, when they follow their guide, that they arrive to the site’s cave.
The next dive is at Paradise Pinnacle, and though there’s a moderate current, the conditions cause many of the divers to use more of their air much faster as they expend more energy kicking against the current during the start of the dive and breathing heavier and more rapidly from the excitement. There’s never trouble in paradise however, as the Dive Master briefed that were this to be the case, an augmented plan would go into effect; following the sage advice, the divers descend to inches from the bottom and use the pinnacle as a shield as they make their way to calmer waters protected by the natural fingers of the shallower reef. Orangeband Surgeonfish, Orangespine and Whitemargin Unicornfish continue among the various colored Cushion Starfish as though it were business as usual.
At The Hive, the guests use the first dive to familiarize themselves in order to avoid unfamiliarity during the evening’s nightdive. This amazing site offers a plethora of new creatures: a Tigersnake Moray, a Titan Scorpion fish much larger than ones one’s likely to see elsewhere, Ghost and Marbled Shrimp, Red Rock Lobsters, a sizeable 7-11 Crab, and an endemic variety of Lionfish referred to as the Turkeyfish.
It being Taco Tuesday, the menu continued to widen eyes as well as stomachs: smoked salmon and goat cheese omeletts for breakfast; beef as well as stewed chicken tacos and fresh ceviche induced an afternoon siesta; but it was the supper consisting of tossed Caprese salad, grilled pork chops with passion fruit mustard, and poached pears with mascarpone and dark chocolate that had everyone deciding that Chef May was indubitably preparing the best meals they had ever had on a boat, and perhaps, anywhere else.
Wednesday, November 23rd
DIVE SITES: Land of Oz, Catacombs, and Manuka Bay
Today’s first plunge is into the Land of Oz, where the group stays together in one collective unit, pointing out the many Domino Damsels of which they were briefed in advance, and leisurely weaving up and down the sand channel referred to as “the Yellow Brick Road.” Unlike the novel and/or film, no one here wishes they were home.
The next two dives take place at the Catacombs, where the divers descend amongst a huge school of black triggerfish before practicing their buoyancy control investigating the endless amount of subterranean passageways. Following the first dive, the boat celebrates a passengers 500th dive by literally, but not necessarily the way one would expect, by “making her a cake.”
As the ship approaches Manuka Bay, a pod of Spinner Dolphins welcome our arrival, breaching the surface and staying in close proximity for photo opportunities. The divers scout the location in preparation of the night dive, and thread through arches amongst Picasso triggerfish. The last dive turns out to be an emblematic example evening’s changing of the guard. The eyes of dozens of Uniform Hinge-Beak Shrimp glow read as torches pass over them, Spiny Lobsters are out in force, and the Longspine Urchins, a wide selection of varieties from the family Diadema, are out in legion. The divers witness two different Yellowhead Morays hunting, capturing, and devouring their prey.
Tomorrow might be Thanksgiving, but the gastronomical delights continue as Chef Smay tantalizes our taste buds with Hawaiian Bread French toast for breakfast, herb crusted baked salmon, grilled lamb chops and homemade macaroni and cheese for lunch. No one goes hungry on this boat, as Spearfish comes off the grill for dinner, served with roasted gold pepper coulis, and quinoa salad with kale, mixed mushrooms, and asparagus followed by coconut white chocolate crème brulee.
As the guests settle into their rooms to rest up for tomorrow’s celebration, it’s crystal clear that the only limits on the Aggressor II are those of decompression.
Thursday, November 24rd
DIVE SITES: Never Never Land, Au Au Crater, Driftwood, and Pelagic Magic
After waffles and chicken garlic sausage, Thanksgiving begins at Never Never Land, named for the uncommon deep faring Tinker Butterflyfish. From the mooring line, the divers kick against a formidable current as they look down at a drastic drop-off. We head north to the pinnacle, passing Clearfin Lizardfish perched and motionless upon the many large boulders. Returning to the ship is effortless as we return to the ridge, drift, and watch the canyon that slopes and blends into an abyss pass beneath us while a curious Oceanic Whitetip shark simultaneously watches us from the pelagic.
The next site is Au Au Crater, a site with a unique topography: a massive amount of earth, approximately 100 feet across, starting at 30 feet and extending into what appears to be an unfathomable pit, appears to have been scooped away. Nudibranchs line the walls as the divers search for them while keeping an eye on the depth and deco times.
After Balinese Chicken with Peanut Sauce, pork belly adobo, stir fried vegetables, and a cucumber salad, the afternoon is spent at Driftwood, threading the two swim-throughs and its couple of caverns. Here Ghost Shrimp, Regal Slipper Lobsters, and Tiger Cowries are all located and identified. On the way back to the boat, a few divers play pick-a-boo with a Day Octopus.
Naturally, we the guests feast on roasted Tom Turkey, molasses and mustard glazed ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, green bean casserole, roasted brussel sprouts and cranberry sauce. Over pumpkin pie, the guests watch a video of collected footage from throughout the week, as well as a second video with examples of what they might witness during the Pelagic Magic dive.
Once briefed, the divers take their giant stride, descend, and take hold of one of the four lines running from the diving platform. We’re three miles offshore in the open ocean, observing the world’s largest migration, which happens daily, as these dreamlike jelly creatures, some with fluorescent coloring, others resembling insects and aliens, make their way from the Pacific’s depths to the surface. Some more familiar creatures whose paths we cross are a squadron of squid, bar jacks, and a few Ocean Triggerfish.
Friday, November 25th
DIVE SITES: Turtle Pinnacle
The final day of diving, the guests enjoy Eggs Benedict as the Aggressor II makes its way to Turtle Pinnacle. The first of two dives is planned to head from the wall to the shallows in hopes of seeing the resident Tigershark. Though the beautiful beast is not seen, an Octopus swims next to the divers, displays his ability to change from red to green, and back again. The star of this dive, however, is an enormous Hawaian Conger, which was either pregnant and on the verge of giving birth, or had just eaten even more than we had the day before.
The inevitable, ultimate plunge takes place, this time the group making a large rectangle, first heading South. An Orangemouthed Lizardfish, another octopus, a Spotted Boxfish, scorpionfish, and a Zebra and mother and child Whitemouthed Moray all make appearances and send off the Aggressor II’s guest bidding them Aloha from Kona’s splendid reefs.