January 21st - 28th, 2017
Air Temp. 82-87 F
Water Temp. 75-77 F
Wetsuit Recommendation: 3-5mm
Captain: Matt Herwig
2nd Captain: Chad Dolbeare
Instructor/Videographer: Brian Foreman
Instructor: Manuel Lassaletta
DiveMaster: Shelby Penn
Chef: Kevin Bennett
Sunday, January 22nd
DIVE SITES: Shark Fin Rock, Aquarium, and Garden Eel Cove
This weeks visitors, who largely consist of those who now call Chicago home, have exchanged the Windy Citys chilly gusts and deep-dish pizzas for the warm weather, volcanic geology of the youngest (still a staggering million years old) of the most isolated islands in the world, and all the amenities of travelling in luxury on the Kona Aggressor II.
After filling up on Hawaiian bread French toast and sausage links we arrive at our first destination, Shark Fin Rock, where a rock structure that inspired the sites name breaks the surface of the white-tipped waves of the nearby coast. The weeks first expedition is an acclimation dive where our divers adjust their weight to attain neutral buoyancy, test any new equipment theyll be using throughout our journey up and down Konas leeward coast, and get their first gander at the pastel colored paradise with which theyll become familiar. Marshmellow tones of lilac, periwinkle, and gentle shades of cherry blossom speckled with earth tones of marmalade and cider compose the jagged substrate that are covered in colonies of Finger, Dense Leather, and canary-colored encrusting patches of Lobe Coral. Long-Spine and Rock-Boring Urchins; Green and Spotted Linckia and Hemprich Sea Stars are found in the nooks and crannies, next to the Pearly and Whitetip Soldierfish, the miniature Hawaiian puffers, and Chocolate-dipped Damsels. The lavender tinged Agile Chromis, Yellow Tangs, and mottled Stocky and Blackside Hawkfish poke in, out, and atop the corals calcareous skeleton.
We snack on warm oatmeal coconut cookies as we arrive at Aquarium. There, we head northeast to explore the sky lit caverns and lava tubes closer to the shore, passing over a Yellowmargin Eel and adult Rockmover wrasse, nosing about the bottom in search of invertebrates. After following the wall for a little while in the hopes of seeing something large go by, as we begin to make our way back towards the boat and inspect antler and cauliflower corals tubular branches for Brittle Stars and Guard Crabs, two Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks (Mano Kihikihi in Hawaiian), up to 13 feet each, cross our path. Ukupanipo, a shark god in Hawaiian mythology was certainly smiling on us, and for many aboard, it was their first encounter with these streamlined, cartaliginous fishes that swim with sinuous sweeps of their tails.
At Garden Eel Cove, where boulders lead to the downward sloping reef, we complete two dives, bookmarked by a lunch of corn chowder, Ruebens & chicken-salad sandwiches, potato salad and chips, and a delicious dinner of Garden salad, grilled Mahi Mahi, mixed vegetables, coconut rice and caramel cheesecake. The Manta Rays which usually visit here prove elusive, but during the dives, we note that many of the Sgt. Majors have a blue tint, indicating that the males are protecting eggs; and among the Sputnik Urchins, an Undulated eel rises into the water column in the bright lights as it hunts among the schools of Big-Eye Trevally and Rainbow Runners.
Monday, January 23rd
DIVE SITES: Kalokos Arches, Meadows, and Mantaville
We awake to macadamia nut pancakes and bacon as we make our way to Kalokas Arches. Here, we spot a camouflaged Devil Scorpionfish, and our first Octopus and Green Sea Turtle (Honu).
After snacking on freshly baked cinnamon rolls, we make our way to Meadows, where upon descending, the finger coral appears to continue endlessly. Navigating towards the shore, we explore the many lava tubes, arches, and sand alleys. We spot a Long-Spined Pufferfish, Peacock Groupers, and find a Steindachners Moray, which although abundant in the Northwest chain, are rare among the main islands, and previously unseen south of Oahu.
We lunch on vegetable soup, grilled Tri Tip beef, baked white fish, pasta salad and fruit, and make our way to Mantaville, and where we dine on Waldorf salad, grilled pork tenderloin, roasted carrots, red potatoes, and brownie sundaes. Tonight we choose our viewing spots among the mounds of canary colored lobe coral, and are indeed visited by the main attraction, as a Manta Ray performs its somersaults, and repeatedly swoops down within inches of us.
DIVE SITES: Driftwood, Paradise Pinnacle, and The Hive
We start our morning with omelettes and Canadian bacon before two descents at Driftwood. Within the lava tube beneath the ship, we find Sculpted Slipper Lobsters and Flameback Coral (or Ghost) Shrimp. Throughout the dives, we locate a Fried Egg and Blue Dragon nudibranches, Lizardfish, Spaghetti worms, and a new Frogfish, bright yellow and tiny compared to the size of the others well see during the trip.
Todays lunch is clam chowder, Italian meatloaf, cheese-stuffed pasta shells, three-bean salad, and garlic bread before we plunge into the the water at Paradise Pinnacle. We circle the structure, pass over the stretching garden eels, and then pause to inspect Black Coral in order to locate the Longnose Hawkfish that resides there. We ascend among a school of Pyramid Butterflyfish.
We snack on Sushi rolls before our first dive at The Hive, where we admire two different Frogfish, Achilles, Tangs, a Spotted Pufferfish, and a Leaf Scorpionfish. Tonights dinner is antipasto salad, Cornish hens, mixed vegetables, brown rice, and pound cake with berries and cream. The night dive begins slowly as we make our way to the cave. However, the pace suddenly changes as, seemingly, theres something in each direction we turn: a six inch Tuberculous nudibranch; Hawaiian Red Lionfish; Red Reef, Regal & Sculptured Slipper, Banded Spiny and Tufted Lobsters; Candy Cane Shrimp; a miniature Peacock flounder; juvenile Titan Scorpionfish; a Tiger Moray; and a Sleepy Sponge Crab.
Wednesday, January 25th
Dive Sites: Peles Playground, Catacombs, and Manuka Bay
Before weve enjoyed our waffles and Portuguese sausage, we awake to another Manta Ray spending its morning next to the boat. At Peles Playground, named after the goddess of fire, we see another Honu, Yellow-spotted Guard Crabs, a Titan Scorpionfish and a mysterious Pololia (Hawaiian for Jellfish).
We lunch on cream of mushroom soup, B.L.T.s, turkey wraps, spaghetti squash and chips before arriving at Catacombs, where we climb a wall comprised of stony coral that looks like an enormous collection of piled bones, and follow the passages between the giant lava formed bulwarks. Pakaa and Laa Maomao, Hawaiian gods of wind, were busy today, and the surge and currents proved challenging.
Our last destination of the day is Manuka Bay, where we share the inlet with Spinner Dolphins. Here, we weave beneath the lava formed arches. The best part of our visit here, however, happens above water, when a Humback Whale, returning from its summer feeding grounds off Alaska, inspires awe as we behold the iconic breach. Afterwards, we enjoy a dinner of Ceasar salad, grilled Salmon, mashed cauliflower, broccoli, and a perennial favorite, cookie pie on the Sundeck during the Sunset.
Thursday, January 26th
DIVE SITES: Land of Oz, Never Never Land, Robs Reef, The Dome, and Pelagic Magic
We start our morning with pineapple pancakes, bacon, and fruit before our descent into the Land of Oz. Collector and Rock Boring Urchins grace what appear to be the remains of ancient sand castles made of dripped lava. We see Chevron Tang, Pailtail Unicorn Fish, and Gold Lace and Specaled Nudibranches. Before ascending to snack on chocolate chip cookies, we come across a Tritons Trumpet. These grow to up to 20 inches, and early Hawaiians used these shells for blowing. Named for the Greek Sea god who controlled the waves when he blew into his, our crew now blows into one of these to control our guests waves of hunger, signalling the next meal.
At Never Never Land, a giant pinnacle rises from the sea like the phallus of Kane, the highest of the four major Hawaiian deities, and who represents the god of procreation. Two more Hammerheads are seen, as well as a White-tip Reef Shark.
The guests enjoy their lunch of spinach & broccoli soup, grilled lamb sandwiches, seafood mac & cheese, and fruit salad as we make our way to Robs Reef, where Bullethead Parrotfish, Tilefish, and a variety of Wrasse grace the reef outside a deep lava tube in which a Hawaiian Conger resides.
While snacking on smoked Salmon, we make our way to The Dome. As the surge proves too precarious to venture too close to the cathedral-like structure for which the site is named, we listen to a whale song as we hunt and find two camouflaged Frog Fish in new locations.
We dine on shrimp, tomato, and cheese plates, Filet Mignon, mashed potatoes, mixed roasted vegetables, and creme brule before our signature Pelagic Magic dive. The divers secure their torches so as not to drop them, as no one will be going down more than 5000 feet to recover anything that gets dropped or lost, and then take their giant stride, and grasp one of the five lines running from the diving platform. Were three miles offshore in the open ocean, observing the worlds largest migration, which happens daily. From the phyllums Cnidaria, Hydra Medusa, Annelids, and Ctenophora, with names like Cubozoa, Lobata, Sea Angels, and Sea Butterflies, these dreamlike gelatinous creatures resembling insects and aliens, flash their fluorescent bio-luminescence as they make their way from the Pacifics depths to the surface.
Friday, January 27th
DIVE SITES: Turtle Pinnacle
The week of world-class diving concludes at Turtle Pinnacle after egg frittata and sausage links. During the final dives, we see spotted boxfish, Undulated and Yellowmargin Eels, Peacock Groupers, and a large Scrawled Filefish resting at a cleaning station. After chili/hot dogs and burgers, we head back to Konas pier to give the guests a little time off the water so they can walk around, do some sightseeing before a cocktail party where well reminisce about the week we shared and have our award ceremony and group pictures.