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Turks & Caicos Aggressor II
1 – 8 July 2017
Air temperature: 80° - 84° F
Water temperature: 82 - 84° F
Visibility: 50 – 80 feet
Thermal recommendation: 3mm full wetsuit
Captain: AMANDA SMITH
2nd Captain: CHRISTY WEAVER
Engineer: ROB SMITH
Photo Pro: JESSICA POLK
Chef: CHRISTY BROWN
Bob & Donna, Greg & Sam, Vicki & Dan, Debbie, Les, Bert, Ken & Marcelyn
Sunday: Eel Garden & Amphitheatre, NWPT
Monday: The Dome, NWPT & Boat Cove, West Caicos
Tuesday: Spanish Anchor & Brandywine, West Caicos
Wednesday: Gullies & Magic Mushroom, West Caicos
Thursday: Elephant Ear Canyon, West Caicos & Stairway, NWPT
Friday: Pinnacles, Grace Bay
Our guests boarded, as usual, on Saturday afternoon, excited about the week ahead. Guest Bob had spent a week with us already gaining experience from the Mikes of the Jim Church School of Underwater Photography and was itching to put into practice with his friends and family onboard. Briefings were delivered, supper was served and we settled down to a quiet night at the dock, before the tide would allow us out early the following morning.
As soon as there was enough light on Sunday morning, we left the dock, navigated the channel and motored to Northwest Point and Eel Garden. This is one of our favourite sites at the moment as there are not one, but two frogfish who are happy to be photographed, videoed and admired. As well as these two, we also have our favourite anemone that peeks out from the wall at about eight feet and provides a beautiful backdrop. Creole wrasse careened over the wall feeding on the little stuff, interspersed with blue chromis.
At lunchtime we moved across to Amphitheatre to enjoy the yellow-headed jawfish that are prevalent here. During the afternoon our Scuba Diver, 12-year-old Sam, completed the last of his two dives to certify as an Open Water Diver and later in the week we were to discover that he makes a great cake. A large scorpionfish generated a great deal of excitement as it sat, beautifully camouflaged, on a coral head. The three divers that would go on to become our Open Water Divers patronized the night dive and saw large coral clinging crabs, squid and of course the black jacks that hunt by our lights during the night.
We moved to the Dome in the morning and there was no stopping our new Open Water Diver. We enjoyed lobster along the wall and a large peacock flounder in the sand. As we worked our way to the structure of the Dome guest Bob spotted a large octopus curled up in a coral head, watching us watching it.
For the afternoon, we made our move to West Caicos and enjoyed a crew favourite, Boat Cove. Here we saw southern stingrays and our regular Caribbean reef sharks. In the coral head under the boat, a broad banded moray peered out, not willing to show too much of itself. Along the wall a hawksbill turtle tootled along, unperturbed by the presence of our divers. The night dive brought out night shrimp with their bright red eyes. A couple of longhorn nudibranchs scooted around a sponge, whilst lobsters and channel clinging crab fed along the edge of the wall.
Next morning we motored along West Caicos to Spanish Anchor, where we enjoyed the three hundred year old anchor embedded in a gulley and covered in encrusting sponges. A channel clinging crab sat at floor level in the gulley and watched the procession of divers as they swam carefully through the swim through. Peacock flounder changed their colours as they moved from sand to coral. Yellow-headed jawfish bobbed up from their holes in the rubbly sand between the isolated coral heads.
Brandywine was up next. Our pink condylactus anemone looks blue in the ambient light and seems not to have wandered too far on this occasion. On the encrusted engine block a dusky damselfish protects it algae patch, keeping it finely clipped and in order. A spotted moray opposed a coney grouper trying to push it back into the hole from where it peered out. The night dive brought out more crustaceans and deep in some of the coral heads orange ball coralimorphs enjoyed the darkness starting to withdraw whenever light was shined upon it.
A morning of Gullies was a special treat with our resident reef sharks cruising along the edge of the wall. The purple gorgonian sea plume at the edge of the Gulley provided camouflage and home to flamingo tongue and simnia. A free-swimming crinoid was attached to the very same plume. Neck crabs clung to the lower levels and awaited any passing tidbits. At the edge of the wall chromis and creole wrasse schooled creating the waterfall effect for which they are recognized.
And so to Magic Mushroom for the afternoon, to see our hotel stuffed with lobsters – alas not during the day, but many more during the night dive. The rich, lush reef edge was home to many of the smaller reef fish and also a great source of food for a hawksbill turtle that munched away on a sponge. During the night dive we enjoyed triple fin blennies pressing themselves into sponges – motionless as an act of camouflage. Multiple long horn nudibranchs clung to sea plumes and tube dwelling anemones remained out only fleetingly when introduced to light.
The crew’s favourite, Elephant Ear Canyon, was the Thursday morning’s choice. Pipehorses used their prehensile tail to attach to the sea grass, whilst their cousins, the pipefish, drifted between the same blades. Colouful headshield slugs cavorted over flats, whilst juvenile peacock flounder used the disguise of the sand to keep them concealed. In the patch coral, Pedersen and spotted cleaner shrimp used the different types of anemones in which to hide – corkscrew, carpet and condylactus. The garden eels provided a challenge to the southern stingrays as they tried to feed, whilst accompanied by a bar jack looking for an opportunistic meal.
Back to Northwest Point for the afternoon and the dive site Stairway; home to lobsters, lobsters and more lobsters. By the mooring line a small school of barracuda hovered motionlessly up in the water column, whilst at the edge of the reef a large green moray sat and watched the marine world go by. By the mooring line we were delighted to see a perfectly formed hole, about an inch across; the home of a red orange ghost shrimp, who was curious enough to peek out. A great last night dive filled with crustaceans and jacks enjoying the lights by which they could hunt.
Grace Bay for our morning dives on Friday morning. Fingerprint cyphoma are frequently observed here and today was not to be any different. The fingers of coral create a dramatic backdrop to all the brightly coloured reef fish. Large areas of tubes sponges provide homes for nimble spray crabs. In the sand southern stingrays glided over the bottom. We enjoyed a busy reef to provide a great last dive for all of our guests.
Our guests relaxed into the afternoon, having feasted for one last time on Christy’s lunch. After a rainy afternoon, the sun appeared in time for our cheese and wine party so that we could enjoy the effect as it disappeared again this time as it set.