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Turks & Caicos Aggressor II
13 - 20 June 2015
Air temperature: 85° - 89° F
Water temperature: 82° - 83° F
Visibility: 60 – 80 feet
Captain: AMANDA SMITH
2nd Captain: MARC POVEY
Engineer: ROBERT SMITH
Photo Pro: LOWEL O’ROURKE
Chef: SHEA MARKWELL
Stewardess: KAHAIL SMITH
Suzanne, Keith & Jaquelynne; Mary; Keith; Patrick & Jeff; Jerry, Zach & Jake; Steve & Scott; Bill; Mike; Pato & Ane.
Sunday – Pinnacles, Grace Bay & Amphitheatre, NWPT
Monday – The Dome, NWPT & Boat Cove, West Caicos
Tuesday – Whiteface, West Caicos & G-Spot, French Cay
Wednesday – Rock N Roll, French Cay & Magic Mushroom, West Caicos
Thursday – Elephant Ear Canyon & Gullies, West Caicos
Friday – Shark’s Hotel, NWPT
Another Saturday filled with the preparation for the forthcoming charter and with a feeling of anticipation our guests boarded at three, set up their gear, listened to our briefings and settled down for a restful night before the week of diving.
This week our guests hailed from California, Florida and Montevideo, Uruguay. Part of the group were friends of old from college who kept in contact through their passion for swimming and water polo, and with them they brought the next generation of swimmers. We even got to experience some of their expertise in the water.
We departed at first light on Sunday morning and headed to the north shore of Providenciales and the dive site of Pinnacles. Not a site that we get to every week, and it makes a nice change when we get the opportunity to dive here. The dive site contrasts sand chutes with fingers of hardpan covered in coral, sponges and gorgonian sea fans. Amongst these spiny lobsters peered out and nimble spray crabs hid in between the tube sponges. A Caribbean reef shark cruised along the wall, but kept its distance and was only glimpsed by some.
The afternoon took us to Northwest Point, where we spent time at Amphitheatre, the home to the most yellow-headed jawfish that we have at one site. We were fortunate enough to see a number of the males with eggs. Along the wall we encountered what seemed to be a shy turtle. More likely it was just sleeping, but it appeared to have jammed its head into the wall and all that was apparent was its shell and legs. We were happier to see another hawksbill cruising along the wall a little later. In the sand by the mooring, not too far from our brooding jawfish we spotted the tiniest pipefish. Only two centimeters long it sat in the sand just moving very occasionally. The night dive brought out all manner of crustaceans, including large channel clinging crabs with claws the size of a large human hand, an array of lobsters, including a slipper lobster and a shark cruising on the periphery of the light.
We moved the short distance to the Dome for Monday morning and enjoyed a great trip along the wall, ending at the chimney before returning back to the Dome structure itself. A reef octopus had chosen daylight to be out and about and spent some time around the tractor tire to which the Aggressor is moored. Seemingly happy to accommodate our guests, it allowed them close to get great photos and video. The Dome itself is home to many tiny blennies, including secretary blennies and rough head blennies.
West Caicos was our target for the afternoon, and one that we achieved. Boat Cove provided an awesome afternoon of diving where we were able to combine the small with the large. A Caribbean reef shark spent time with us along the wall and hung out underneath the main vessel upon our return. A large barracuda split its time between hanging out on the sand and up underneath the boat, which is where it ended up for the night dive. Along the wall arrow blennies were abundant hovering with their tails bent paused ready to strike their next prey. The holes in the encrusting sponges were full of the tiny gaudy clown crabs, whilst their larger cousins, the neck crabs, clung to gorgonians and sponges awaiting the water movement to bring in a morsel of food.
Whiteface, home of Spanish Anchor was our morning dive site, in preparation for our run to French Cay in the afternoon. A beautiful orange Florida coralimorph can always be found here and today it housed a tiny sun anemone shrimp. Also home to these small shrimp were the branching anemones, where they would share the protection offered with Pederson cleaner shrimp. On the wall, a dusky damselfish relentlessly protected its brood of eggs laid carefully along the edge of the reef. A large green moray peered out from a coral head close to the gulley, where the anchor can be found and a little further along the wall, in its archway retreat, our resident scorpionfish returned after a few weeks absence.
We moved to French Cay over lunch and G-Spot for the afternoon. As usual our native Caribbean reef sharks were circling the boat to welcome us and stayed with us the duration of the dives, cruising in and amongst the divers, much to their great delight. A turtle topped off the action by swimming through the group and out in the blue two spotted eagle rays glided by elegantly, effortlessly moving through the water, unlike our divers who swam hard to try and get just that little bit closer. The night dive brought out our regular nurse sharks who utilized the beams of our flashlights to feed by; and feed they did much to the demise of a surgeonfish and butterfly fish, who got caught in the cross beams.
The following morning we moved the short distance to Rock N Roll, followed by our resident reef and nurse sharks. As we jumped into the ocean we immediately spotted a large nurse shark sleeping under a coral head, she remained for a short while but then moved on. Meanwhile the reef sharks continued their tireless circuit around the reef.
At lunchtime we moved back to West Caicos and Magic Mushroom. Lobster tower was not as full of as many lobsters as we have seen in the past, but there were two large specimens peering out from their crack. Along the edge of the wall all the star coral in plate formation provided excellent protection for arrow crabs and banded coral shrimp. Small arrow blennies poised seemingly motionless except for the slow drift toward their even smaller prey. As darkness fell and we entered the water for the night dive, orange ball coralimorphs opened up and swayed gently under coral ledges and in crevasses. On the barrel sponges, disguised in the sandy debris they attract when they filter water tiny shrimp became apparent as our lights captured the reflection of their eyes and as ours adjusted to the tiny critters we were also able to see amphipods moving around the surface resembling a tiny bulldozer. From a fluorescent viewpoint, the longhorn nudibranchs and white V trapania glowed from afar, making their discovery much easier.
Elephant ear canyon, beloved of the crew, was the following morning’s site. It provided not only a great dive but also an opportunity for our epic swimmers to swim into the shore and back. As ever, dive site was filled with deliciously small critters including the orange sea horse that we have been seeing for the last few weeks. It was clinging to a bristle brush algae and moved a few feet every time that we moved away and returned over the two dives. Despite its color it was very well camouflaged. Leech headshield slugs, delightful in their array of colors moved around and over anything in their path, without dropping pace. If they were dislodged from the sand they rolled into a ball until they touched the bottom and carried along their way. Hundreds of garden eels swayed with the water movement as razor fish darted into the sand wherever they wished. Feeding in and amongst the divers and the little critters were the southern stingrays, often accompanied by a bar jack, looking for a little opportunistic feeding.
The afternoon took us the short distance to Gullies. Accompanied, as ever, by our reef sharks, in particular our resident female, Sully, whom we believe is pregnant once again! Higher in the water column we enjoyed Atlantic spadefish cruise by, a little shy this week as they were not prepared to school around our divers as they have wont to do. Also up under the boat a variety of jacks, including horse-eyed jacks, blue runners and bar jacks schooled separately creating an eyeful of fish for any onlookers.
Our early morning dive, back at Northwest Point, was Shark’s Hotel. Here the evidence of the hotel was seen as large holes in the wall, however most sharks had checked out, with the exception of one that followed our guests along the wall. Our resident Nassau grouper came up close and personal, curious as to our intentions and then along the route back, stopped at every cleaning station for a preen. Along the edge, tiger grouper hovered, wary of any approaching divers and closer into the shallows a male yellow-headed jawfish was spotted with a brood of very mature eggs; silver in color with an eye evident in each egg. It was an awesome end to a great week of diving.
Congratulations to Patrick, Jeff, Keith and Keith who successfully completed all twenty-seven dives this week, even with the additional challenge of a very early morning dive on Friday, proving that they truly are Iron Divers.