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Turks & Caicos Aggressor II
10 – 17 January 2015
Air Temperature: 79°F
Water Temperature: 79°F
Visibility: 80 feet
Captain: AMANDA SMITH
2nd Captain: LOWEL OROURKE
Engineer: ROBERT SMITH
Chef: AILSA KELLY
Divemaster: SHEA MARKWELL
Stewardess: DYNAH TRISTAN OROURKE
GUESTS: Jasmine & Michael, Kathy & Nate, Ian & Lesley, Johnnie, Steve, Tom, Adrian, Andrew & Jane
Sunday – Eel Garden & Stairway, NWPT
Monday – Brandywine & Magic Mushroom, West Caicos
Tuesday – Driveway & Boat Cove, West Caicos
Wednesday – Gullies & Anchor, West Caicos
Thursday – Rock N Roll & G-Spot, French Cay
We were at a different marina for departure of our charter this week, located in Caicos Marina and Shipyard on the south side of Providenciales due to the sea conditions. This offered a great deal of protection and once all our guests were boarded, briefed, offered a delightful meal they retired for the night and when they awoke the following morning we were at Northwest Point.
Eel Garden was our check out site, with its access to The Crack and the beautiful condylactus anemone that resides in the feature that gives the site its name. Our resident octopus was set back in his usual hole peering at any who approached. Also, testing out the water using the sensors in its mouth a large green moray stretched out its jaw as if yawning, to sense what was around.
The afternoon took us to Stairway, so named for the star coral in plate formation that looks like steps, providing a myriad of protection for critters such as the banded coral shrimp and yellow-lined arrow crabs. It is also a great site for brain coral. Over the wall there are more than four specimens of large healthy brain coral, which you just know will look magnificent under black or blue light during the night dive. Here, the Caribbean spiny lobsters are blatant in their disregard for human kind. Seemingly aware of the marine park status of their dive site, they proudly stomp across the reef oblivious to anything that might get in their way, and that behaviour did not change for he night dive. Of spectacular delight to the guests on this dive was the spotted eagle ray that fluidly moved along the water column, surprising itself when encountering guest Adrian, who was doing a passable impersonation of the creature just a few feet above it. If they had eyebrows I sense that one may have been raised!
Over to West Caicos after the night dive so that bright and early on Monday morning we were in the water at Brandywine. Our elusive resident condylactus anemone seems to have settled in one spot for a while and so we were easily able to locate the critter. This anemone is particularly delightful as under ambient light it is a pastel blue that turns to hot pink with the introduction of artificial light. A couple of squat anemone shrimps had decided to take up residence within its stinging tentacles, providing protection from any predating species. Along the wall a single reef shark cruised by shortly followed by a very laid back small hawksbill turtle. It seemed as though this turtle was out for a stroll and very lazily kicked to move itself through the water column whilst guests swam alongside.
For the afternoon we moved to Magic Mushroom, the home of Lobster Tower – it appeared as if there was a lobster convention on this occasion with ten Caribbean spiny lobsters, all squeezed into the crack along the back of the coral head. Another turtle provided some great photo and video opportunities as it sat on top of a coral head and tried to eat something in the gap between, getting her head caught up in a gorgonian sea plume in the effort. All who shared this sat, patiently in a circle around her and watched her efforts until slowly she took off for a swim along the reef. The night dive was the first fluorescence dive of the week and guests who participated saw a scorpionfish, the edges of which glowed red. A lizardfish, half buried in the sand, fluoresced a brilliant yellow.
Driveway was our next site, where we saw a plethora of yellow-headed jawfish, a couple of the males sporting mouthful of eggs. Peacock flounder became evident when startled by divers swimming close to them; such was their camouflage that they were not clearly seen until they moved. Caribbean reef sharks cruised the edge of the wall whilst creole wrasse cascaded over the edge feeding on the microscopic organisms in the water column.
At Boat Cove the different types of jacks and snappers always delight us; today was no different. Bar jacks, horse-eyed jacks, yellow tailed snappers and rainbow runners all schooled in their own groups. On the wall, the rope sponges provided a great base for neck crabs. These decorator crabs cover themselves with hydroids and algae to disguise them from would be predators. One such example had the makings of a roosters tail, either from the piece of algae that was attached or that had grown whilst connected. Our broad banded moray was in its usual spot and, being as contrary as usual, was reluctant to show its face to us.
Wednesday morning was particular special, as we spotted in the distance our first humpback north Atlantic humpback whale from the surface. It looked as though it were heading our way and we were constantly looking out whilst under water in the hope that it would pass by whilst we were diving, alas it was not to be the case. We are very happy, though, to have seen it as we are now just one and a half weeks from our whale charters in the Silver Bank. Despite the whales not joining us there was more than enough to keep us occupied at Gullies. Four Caribbean reef sharks circled the divers, coming up close and personal. A couple of Nassau grouper hung out at the top of the gulley together with a couple of queen triggerfish. Up in the water column two Atlantic spadefish glided about. This kept us all entertained until a turtle swam through that led us onto a large spotted eagle ray. The eagle ray swam past the group, turned and headed down into the deep before turning and heading back toward the group of divers.
With one eye open for more humpbacks we moved over to the Anchor in the afternoon to discover that since our last visit somehow the large sponge that has been growing slowly over the years off the base of the anchor has been ripped clean off. It almost looks like an anchor again and is far more distinguishable as such, but we miss the funky sponge that was attached at the bottom. Under a coral head a brilliantly coloured Florida corallimorph almost glowed orange and equally beautiful, in colour, was a purple sponge with a very active bearded fire worm inside, so spry was this little critter that it almost looked as if it were dancing. The night dive brought out a tiny octopus, barely the size of a fingernail. Large channel clinging crabs clung to the reef with their back legs using their powerful front legs to feed with. Spotted morays cruised out and about in full hunting mode.
Immediately after the night dive we motored around to French Cay, as conditions were perfect. Bright and early we dived at Rock N Roll with an assortment of Caribbean reef sharks. As these majestic creatures cruised amongst the guests, yellow-headed jawfish popped in and out of their holes; two of the males with a brood of eggs. A large green moray coiled itself around the interior of a coral head and tried to hide from view, but it need not have feared as our shark friends took up most of our attention.
We moved to G-Spot for the afternoon and enjoyed the Creole wrasse that occupied the water column, immediately above the reef. In the deep-water gorgonians that line the edge of the G-Spot, flamingo tongues and neck crabs resided. A small mantis shrimp had chosen a huge barrel sponge to occupy using the large grooves provided by its outer shell to protect it from predators. As we observed its googly eyes looked in all directions as it twisted and turned within its pocket of sponge. During the late afternoon dive the parrotfish started schooling high up in the water column – it seemed as though there may have been some mating behaviour that took them away from their bottom dwelling algae harvesting. A single reef shark patrolled the wall, paying little attention to the divers that it overtook. Toward the end of one of the dives our resident barracuda joined us and sat very stoically as our guests took the opportunity to photograph and video this large creature. The night dive saw the guests accompanied by a nurse shark focussed on feeding by the beam of their flashlights – butterfly fish and tangs beware! A turtle was awake, despite the hour and feeding upon a sponge.
We returned all the way to NWPT after the night dive and with delightfully calm conditions we had a really good crossing. So our last dive site was The Dome and the chimney, which gave a great ending to our week of diving, but that was not the end of our encounters for the week.
Just as we rounded the northwest point of Providenciales, we saw a single humpback whale breaching and pec slapping right in our line of travel. We slowed down to enjoy the show and after a short while this delightful creature moved on, leaving everyone with a very warm feeling and the crew extremely excited about whale charters – just one more week to go!