Archives for Diving

Coral Bleaching

Coral Bleaching

Coral Bleaching, Maldives

Coral Bleaching threatens much of our fragile coral reefs around the world.   In 1998, sea-temperature warming caused extensive coral bleaching in the Maldives.  As a result, almost two thirds of coral reefs died.

Again, in May of 2016, the coral reefs of the Maldives experienced a severe bleaching incident. The surface water temperatures reached an all-time high in at 31 degrees Celsius in May 2016. Consequently, over 95% of coral around the islands died.

Scientist Azeez Hakim stated:

“before 1998, we never thought that this reef would die. We had always taken for granted that these animals would be there, that this reef would be there forever. El Niño gave us a wake-up call that these things are not going to be there forever. “

In Australia, back-to-back bleaching events in 2016 and 2017 devastated a 1,500 km stretch of the famous barrier reef. While, before 2016 there had only been two bleaching events along the Great Barrier Reef in the past two decades.

Coral Bleaching – Why should we be concerned?

Coral reefs cover less than one tenth of one percent of the earth’s oceans.  Yet these same reefs contain one quarter of known marine fish species (Smithsonian Institute).

Reefs are formed by Corals “… animals that live in symbiosis with algae, a plant,” according to Jessica Bellworthy a PhD student at Professor Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences. The university’s study Red Sea corals seeks to understand their ability to resist extreme temperatures.

Corals and algae “provide services for each other,” with the algae providing “up to 90 percent of the coral animal’s food” through photosynthesis, said Bellworthy.  “When ocean temperatures get too hot, this symbiosis, this relationship, breaks down,” she said.

Maldives, Island Paradise

Yet in the Red Sea, where I have been diving many times, ocean temperatures can be much higher.  The Red Sea routinely experiences temperatures higher than the Maldives or in Australia.  So, could the Red Sea corals offer an opportunity to introduce “bleach resistant” coral into other threatened areas?

Dr. Fine’s research regarding Red Sea corals provides potential avenues and approaches to protect our coral reefs in the future.

Scripts Institute of Oceanography

Scripts Institute conducted a study of coral bleaching in the central Red Sea in the summer of 2010.  During this event the region experienced up to 10-11 degree increases in temperature many of weeks. The study found that shallow reefs and inshore reefs had a higher prevalence of bleaching. While Red Sea reefs are subject to increasing temperature pressures, the study showed that these reefs have a much higher temperature change tolerance.  Therefore, the implications are quite clear.   Corals that have lived and thrived in higher temperature environments are better suited to survive higher temperature seas in other areas.

Opportunities for Change

Consequently, saving our coral reef system is critical to maintaining food stock, industries and related jobs in many countries around the world.  In conclusion, introducing non-native species into a specific environment poses a number or questions and risks, yet a key question remains.   “Should we introduce corals that are already acclimated to higher temperatures to other environments?”  Finally, this answer could determine our ongoing ability to feed ourselves and our children in the future.

Knob Hill

Knob Hill, Lanai

Knob Hill is an interesting and very nice dive site.  It is fairly shallow about 55 to 60 feet (16 to 18 meters) and teeming with life.  However, it is often not possible to dive on this site due to strong currents .  The dive site is just off the coast of Lanai by the Four Seasons Hotel.  The name comes from a large rock formation near the surface that is supported by four columns.  This is a large dive site on the south side of Lanai that is quite exposed.  I have been diving around Lanai for over 12 years and have been on this site maybe three or four times.

Knob Hill Rating = 3.86 out of 5

  • Visibility – moderate to very good
  • Access – Moderate; boat only and 45 to 50 minutes from Lahaina Harbor
  • Current – moderate strong most of time
  • Depth to 60 ft / 18 m
  • Reef health Hard / Soft Corals – Very Good
  • Marine species variety – Very Good
  • Pelagics / Mammals / Turtles / Rays – moderate to good, typical at least 1 to 3 sightings up close, sometimes many more

The only reason this site is not rated higher, is the current makes it a very difficult dive site to dive 80% of the time.  If the current is mild this is an awesome site.

Knob Hill Overview

Knob Hill Reef, Steven W Smeltzer, Lanai

Knob Hill Reef

Knob Hill has a number of swim throughs and volcanic structures, such as the “table” above that make the site quite interesting.  The marine life on the site is varied and abundant.  You will almost always find large schools of Pennant Butterflyfishes along with a wide variety of other  Butterflyfishes, Dascyllus, Yellow Tangs, Sea Turtles, White-tip Reef Sharks, various eels and much more.  Once the boat is on the mooring at Knob Hill, the dive master make take you on several different routes around this expansive dive site.  The hard coral here is quite healthy due to the current and infrequent visits by divers.  There is a nice swim through / cave where you can frequently find White-tip Reef Sharks.  You can also see quite a few nudibranchs on this site and rare species such as the endemic Yellow-striped Coris and Reticulated Butterflyfish.

Knob Hill, White-tip Reef Shark, Steven W Smeltzer,

White-tip Reef Shark, Profile, Triaenodon obesus, (Rüppell, 1837), mano lalakea, Lanai, Hawaii

There is also a nice swim through / cave on the site where you can many times find White-tip Reef Sharks.  This shark in particular was quite curious and swam with me through the swim through.  He even gave me a nice profile. 🙂

Visit my blog page Hawaiian Dive Site Reviews, to view reviews of other great dives in Hawaii.

Visit my website for other underwater photographs and/or follow me on Twitter.

The pool is open…..

Scuba Diving Molokai can be awesome, especially at Mokuhooniki Rock. The reef here is one of the most interesting that I have dove on anywhere on the planet. The variety of marine species, the isolation and the relatively untouched environment make this a one of a kind location.  But……we all come for the Hammerheads.

scuba diving Molokai

Mokuhooniiki Rock, Molokai

Mokuhooniki Rock or islet is located at 21 07′ 40″N, 156 42’20″W just off the North eastern coast of the island of Molokai.  This dive site, also known as Fish Rain, is one of my top ten scuba diving sites in the world.

Interacting with such a variety of marine life combined with the opportunity to spend time with large pelagic species makes this a special place.  When scuba diving Molokai Mokuhooniki Rock, you  encounter Hammerhead sharks on almost every dive.  You will also see a rich and diverse ecosystem containing large schools of Damsels and Butterflyfish to Dolphins, to Tiger Sharks and much much more.  You will be hard pressed to find other dive sites that have the abundance and variety of marine life in such a pristine condition.  If you are on Maui and you are an advanced diver, you simply must do this dive.

Scuba Diving Molokai – The Adventure

Scuba Diving Molokai (Steven W Smeltzer)

Spinner Dolphins Molokai Hawaii

This site can be adventure diving at its peak.  It takes about 45 minutes to an hour to go from the harbor in Lahaina to Mokuhooniiki Rock.  Crossing the Pailolo (means crazy fishermen) channel alone can bring seasoned divers to their knees.  It can be quite rough.  This is not a beginners dive site.  In fact even if you are an advanced rated diver, you should be extremely comfortable exiting a moving boat and reentering a moving boat in potentially rough and choppy seas.  I have been on this site dozens of times and while it can be like glass, it is extremely rare.  The site can also have 6+ foot waves.  I have seen divers break ribs on their reentry and others become extremely agitated and near panic on the pick up.  I remember one dive in particular where the waves, even in the lee of the rock, were running about 8 to 10 feet.  As the boat came around to pick us up I was literally on the top of one wave looking down at the captain of the boat who was on the top deck of a double deck dive boat.  The boat was some 5 feet or so below me in the trough of a wave.  I was thinking this is going to be a very interesting pickup.

But……what a great scuba diving site.

When scuba diving Molokai at Mokuhooniiki Rock, you enter the dive site typically in the lee of the islet on the right above.  The

Scuba Diving Molokai (Steven W Smeltzer)

Scalloped Hammerhead Shark, Sphyrna lewini, Molokai Hawaii, Moku Ho’oniki Rock

crew will let you know about ten minutes before it is time to enter the water.  They will begin lining you up at the back of the boat one at a time.  You will  have your mask and fins on, BC inflated and be holding anything you want to take into the water with you, including cameras.  If you have not entered a dive site from a moving boat before this will a bit of an adventure for you.  Think of it as channeling your inner Navy Seal.  When you are lined up at the back of the boat, the captain will swing the boat around toward the islet and when all divers are ready, the crew will say Divers Ready. They will then begin counting down two minutes, one minute, etc.  Then when the Captain gives his ok the crew will give you a signal “Dive, Dive, Dive”.  Do NOT enter the water before the crew has given you the OK, and said “Dive, Dive, Dive”.  The divers will quickly enter the water one after the other as the boat is moving.  Typically up to 8 divers may enter in 15 to 20 seconds.  You will then meet you dive guide on the surface and all begin your descent together.  You are usually on the surface no more than 30 seconds before beginning your descent.

And what a wonderful descent.  The islet will be on one side and you will see a gradual slope towards the bottom beneath you.  The

Scuba Diving Molokai (Steven W Smeltzer)

Fish Rain, Molokai Hawaii

depth is about 100 to 110 feet in the channel but only about 50 to 60 where you will be dropped off.  The visibility is usually very good allowing you to see 100 to 150+ feet in the distance.  There are fish everywhere.

The dive itself is basically a half-circle around Mokuhooniiki Rock and the boat will pick you up on the other side.  Dive time is usually about 50 minutes give or take depending on depth of the dive and your air consumption.  If you dive Nitrox, this is a great spot to use it as you can get a little more time at depth when looking for the Hammerheads.  I usually hang out to the left of the group as I don’t want to have a lot of other divers close to me when I am trying to get a shot.

The Hammerheads sharks are a bit skittish.  If you or someone in your group swims rapidly towards them, they will simply move away.  The key is to go slow and easy and be patient.  As you start your descent from the boat you will follow the slope down to around 50 feet and then do one of two things.  Either start swimming out into the blue and looking for the sharks, which we do many times on the first dive, or you will begin to swim around the islet.

There can be a bit of current here but usually it is not too bad.  Or if there is a ripping current it is usually going the direction of the dive once you pass the corner of the islet and it simply becomes a drift dive.  When Scuba Diving Molokai, you can see anything from dolphin, to Tiger Sharks (not often), to Greys, to Hammerheads, to a Monk seal.  You may also encounter a variety of rays and there have even been a few rare Humpback Whale sightings while on the dive (December to April).  The abundance of various fishes and eels will blow you away.  There are also many endemic species on this site so be attentive and take your time.

Scuba Diving Molokai (Steven W Smeltzer)

Molokai Pickup

When you surface you will stay with your dive group until the boat comes to get you.  You will need a safety sausage to go on this dive and at least one of you will inflate the sausage at the end of the dive to signal the boat.  If it is rough it is very important to stay as close together as possible while you are waiting to be picked up.  Their could be one or max two other groups in the water, so you may have to wait several minutes to be picked up.  Again be patient.

The boat will come very close to you and throw a line out to the divers.  You have to swim to the line and grab a hold and then begin to slowly move up the line towards the boat.  You will take off your fins while you are holding on the line and have those in one hand to give to one of the crew as they help you aboard.  If you have a camera as I do, then you will give them your camera first to the crew and then take off your fins. Then you will proceed towards the boat and use a ladder to board.  This can be quite intimidating if you have never done something like this, but the crew is exceptionally good at what they do.  Listen to them and do as they say and you will be fine.  Believe me this dive will be worth it.

Scuba Diving Molokai (Steven W Smeltzer)

Maui Flame

After you finish your first dive and complete your surface interval, you will basically repeat the same dive on your second dive.  But there is enough on this dive site to interest you no matter how many times you dive it.

After scuba diving Molokai you get to relax on the boat ride back to Lahaina and enjoy the other adventures that Maui has to offer.

Long may the Fish Rain…..the pool is open

 

 

Ahhh… Hawaii.  Back on the island of Maui and looking forward to some great diving.

Scuba Diving Lanai

Light From Above

The day began with a short ride over to the island of Lanai for our first dive at First Cathedrals.

I am diving with Lahaina Divers, my favorite dive operator on the island.  I have been diving with them for almost 10 years and they are a great choice for scuba diving Lanai.

First Cathedrals is a lava tube that rises to the surface of the ocean.  As the name implies there is a large underwater dome inside the lava tube with a number of openings where light shines down into the “cathedral area”.

This is one of the most popular sites for scuba diving Lanai and even though I have been on the site dozens of times, I still thoroughly enjoy the dive.

The entrance into the lava tube looks small and dark, but the interior is quite large.  The “cathedral” measures approximately 60 feet in length and the height varies from 10 feet to 40 feet.

Scuba Diving Lanai: Inside the Lava Tube

Scuba Diving Lanai First Cathedrals

Scuba Diving Lanai

If you have ever been to a church or cathedral with stained glass windows, you probably noticed the light shining through the glass as you entered the chapel or sanctuary. This dive site gets its name from a similar effect caused by the light shining in through the holes in the lava tube, e.g, the stain glass windows.

Another interesting feature of this dive site is the exit from the lava tube. It is fondly know as the “shotgun”, because when you exit, the surge may “shoot” you out of the cathedral as you surf the pressure wave. If the wave action is strong, it reminds me of what it must feel like to be “flushed”.  But don’t worry; the exit is wide and I go through it with my camera with no problems.

First Cathedrals Into the Light

Into the Light

If you are concerned about exiting this way, just let your dive master know and you can exit via the way you came in and just circle around the pinnacle to meet up with your group.  This site also has several other interesting lava formations off the main lava tube and a variety of marine life.

First Cathedrals has been the site for numerous underwater weddings and proposals and it is a great place for underwater photography.  To get the best photographs, it is important that everyone going into the “cathedral” is careful not to stir up the bottom or you will get a lot of backscatter in your photos.

In order to get the best lighting effects, I check the forecast to see when it is going to be sunny and then compare that to the Lahaina Divers’ schedule.  You can get the best photos when it is sunny and you can see rays of light coming through the holes in the lava tube and shining down inside.

Inside First Cathedrals

Scuba Diving Lanai First Cathedrals

You can frequently see turtles, dolphin, eagle rays, sharks and wide variety of fish, eels and coral on this dive site.  Please check out some of my other photos of First Cathedrals and underwater photography of Hawaii on my website.

The pool is open….

Candy Cane Shrimp off the Sheraton reef on Maui.  I shot this photo on a night dive at about 40 feet.  The image was taken with a Nikon D90 using a Sigma 17-70 macro lens on a Nikon D90 zoomed to 70mm.

Candy Cane Shrimp (Steven Smeltzer)

Candy Cane Shrimp, Maui Hawaii, Sheraton reef

I love night dives.  This is the opportunity to see many marine species that you do not encounter during the day.  It is also a chance to see how the reef both sleeps and hunts.

Moray eels prowling the reef.  Turtles wedged between rocks to sleep. Sharks on the prowl.  It is a wonderful experience.

The Candy Cane Shrimp is a colorful shrimp that inhabits the reef and can provide some very interesting photographs.  I like the way the shrimp’s eyes reflect the reef.  They seem to be somewhat curious and alien.  In fact, the eyes of marine life make very interesting studies and provide great subject matter for photographs.

Check out other marine life photographs on my website.

The pool is open…..

Molokini Crater is one of my favorite dive sites in Maui County.  The boat ride from Lahaina Harbor is around 45 minutes and provides spectacular scenery of the islands of Maui and Lanai.  The crater has abundant hard corals on the inside and outside “wall”  White-tip Reef Shark, Triaenodon obesus, (Rüppell, 1837), mano lalakea, Molokini Crater, Maui Hawaii (Steven W Smeltzer)and provides great dive opportunities for both beginner and advanced divers.  If you like a drift dive, then the outer wall dives are for you.  If you like a dive taken at a more leisurely pace with lots of exploration, then the inside crater dives are great.  There is a tremendous amount of marine life at the site, including anything from very small shrimps to a variety of sharks and rays, and, yes, even Humpback whales, which have been seen on Blunt-Slipper-Lobstervery rare occasions.

There are a number of dive sites on the inside of the crater including Reef’s End, Enenui, Middle Reef, and Taco Flats.  There is also a site near Enenui at about 110 feet that use to be referred to as Shark Condos, which as the name implies, is a rocky alcove where Green Sea Turtle, Chelonia mydas, (Linnaeus, 1758), Damaged Bill, Maui Hawaii (StevenWSmeltzer.com (949)290-6367)you can usually find 2 to 4 white-tip reef sharks.  Unfortunately, many of the dive boats do not take divers to this depth.  

From late December to early April you can usually hear the Humpback Whales singing throughout the dive, which is just awesome.  I have seen a number of different sharks and rays on this site over the years and it is one of my favorite dive sites in Maui.  Lots of “critters” to photograph and the coral is very healthy all around the crater.

I typically use Lahanina Divers when I go to Molokini Crater and they have always treated us very well.  The captains are very experienced with the channels and conditions around Maui and manage the dives safely and efficiently.  The boats are fairly roomy with ample space for gear  (StevenWSmeltzer.com (949)290-6367)and getting “kitted-up” prior to the dive.  I have tried some of the dive operators off of Kihei, Hawaii, including the guy with the “fastest-boat on Maui”, but I find those boats a good bit smaller (they are launched from a boat ramp by Kihei) and very cramped. If you’re are staying in or near Ka’anapali or Lahaina, I highly recommend not making the drive to Kihei, but using a dive operator out of Lahaina.

Follow this link for other Maui and Hawaiian dive site reviews

 

Green Sea Turtle, Mala Pier, Chelonia mydas, Maui HawaiiWe began a two week look at Maui, Lanai and Molokai reefs with a visit to Turtle Reef on Maui which is located outside and to the south of the harbor in Lahaina.  The name of this reef actually refers to a general area of reef on the western side of Maui from just past the harbor in Lahaina to Ukumehama Beach State Park (also know as Thousand Peaks).  This large area of reef has many dive spots and is relatively shallow with most of the dive under 35 to 40 feet.  This is a great spot for chilling and the reef is in very good conditions in most areas.   This site is popular for refresher dives and for completing the basic dives required for scuba certification.

The site can be a bit cloudy if the seas are choppy or you have a large swell, but for the most part visibility is reasonable and it is a good place to see a wide variety of Hawaiian marine life.  This site can be accessed from boat or shore.  The trip fro the harbor is just about 10 minutes so an easy ride and a great way to spend an afternoon.

Up later in the week are dives on Molokini Crater, Lanai, other areas of Maui and Molokai (looking for those Hammerheads).

The pool is open…

If you are heading to the islands this year for some fun in the sun and places to dive there are several great spots to consider.    There are a number of top Hawaiian Dive sites to visit and some of my favorite spots are on Lanai, Molokai, Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii.

Scuba Diving Fish Rain, Molokai Hawaii (Steven W SMeltzer)

If you are an advanced /experienced diver definitely head for Molokai and Fish Rain.  This is the place for Hammerheads and a beautiful pinnacle that literally “rains” fish as you look for the elusive Hammerhead sharks.

On Maui, there are several good places but two of my Mala Pier, Wide Angel, Ambient Light, Maui Hawaii (Steven W Smeltzer)favorites are Molokini Crater and Mala Pier.  You can dive Mala Pier as either a boat dive or a shore dive and it is really a great night dive and one of my favorite spots in Hawaii.  Easy entry (off the boat ramp) and usually great visibility, always sharks and turtles and great for ambient light photography.

Manta Ray in Flight, Manta birostris,  (Walbaum, 1792), Kona Hawaii (Steven W Smeltzer)On the Big Island you have to do the Manta Dive.  Check out the phases of the moon (seriously) before you head out as it seems that the Mantas can be seen more in the waxing and waning phases of the moon.  You can also check on daily sitings and help determine when it is your best chance at seeing the most Manta Rays.

For information on other dive sites go to my Hawaii Dive Sites page.. and visit my website for images of fish from around the world and reviews of other great dive sites.

The pool is open…

Menjangan Island Soft Tree Coral, Lemnalia cervicornis, Bali Indonesia (Steven W SMeltzer)Bali’s coral reef on Menjangan Island hosts some of the most beautiful coral reefs in the world. Menjangan Island has been a marine preserve and protected by the Balinese government for a number of years. The island is also fairly isolated in that once you arrive at the airport you have to travel 4 to 6 hours by car to get to the resorts close to the island. This Menjangan Island Octocoral Dendronephthya spp, Bali Indonesia (Steven W SMeltzer)means their are few divers that explore this marvelous site that is rich with all types of marine species and you can also on special occasions come across large pelagic species such as the whale shark.

Menjangan Island Scuba Diving History

Menjangan Island, in the north-west of Bali, is where diving first really started on the island back in about 1978, under the sponsorship of the Indonesian Navy, when it arranged a get-together of the country’s main diving clubs – Possi, Ganesha, Nusantara & Triskati.

That lead to Menjangan Island establishing itself as the premier dive location in Bali and many of the attendees went on to become the pioneers of commercial dive operations across Indonesia.  About a year later the Liberty wreck was explored for the first time since it had slipped down the slope at Tulamben in March 1963 and Menjangan Island was soon relegated to the background of Bali diving.

Gorgonain-Fan-Bali

Menjangan Island, Gorgonian Fan

Menjangan Island is part of the 19,000 hectare West Bali (Bali Barat) National Park that was first established in 1982.  However, the island was made a game reserve by the Balinese Council of Kings in 1950 and has been fairly well protected ever since.  Both the relative difficulty of getting to the Menjangan Island from the normal tourist spots on Bali plus the fact that the site has been relatively protected since 1950 has resulted in a coral reef that is both vibrant and flourishing around the island.  The Liberty wreck in Tulamben is also still a favorite dive site, but has a very high amount of diver traffic and the site has predictably shown quite a bit of wear and tear.

Getting to Menjangan Island

If you are in the Nusa Dua, Kuta or Sanur area it will normally take you around 3.5 hours assuming no bad “jams” as the locals refer to the often crowded conditions of the roads on Bali. It can take up to six hours if the roads and traffic do not cooperate.  The best alternative is to stay at a local resort while diving on the north side of the island.  The Matahari Beach Resort and Spa in Permuteran is one of my favorites and is located next to the Coral Project in Permuteran Bay.  The hotel is definitely 4 to 5 stars and the largest of the resorts on this side of the island with excellent service, food and access to diving sites. I love the dive operator on the property, a Swiss German expat, who runs a very competent organization.

Getting to the Dive Sites

You can reach the dive sites via boats off the coast of Pemuteran Bay in front of the dive resorts or a boat from Banyuwedang Bay or Spine-cheek Anemonefish, Premnas biaculeatus, Bali Indonesia (Steven W SMeltzer)perhaps the boat service run by the parks service.  If you are staying at one of the resorts around Pemuteran Bay, taking the boat in front of your resort is the way to go.  The boat trip is about 30 to 40 minutes and the seas are usually fairly flat as the area around Menjangan Island is fairly well protected.

Diving is great year round and even in the “rainy winter season” the visibility is normally quite clear.  The island is not large and does not have much fresh water  runoff that will impact visibility.  There can be some current on various sites around the island so you may dive some of the sites as drift dives.  Remember to listen to the instructions of your dive master and enjoy the dive.

Come preview the gallery, the pool is open

New Year's Challenge Maui Paradise (Steven Smeltzer)

Will you take the New Year’s Challenge?  We have been extremely blessed this year and I want to wish you all a Happy New Year and a wonderful start to 2013.  We are traveling in Asia for the next few weeks and hopefully getting in some great dives.

During 2013 there will be many opportunities for each of us to make a difference in the lives of people around us.  Take time to consider what you have to offer and how you can impact different people in your life each and every day.

Vision

I have a vision where we can all work together to restore, preserve and protect our coral reefs.  Take the New Year’s Challenge.  In 2013 I will be focusing on coral reef systems and how individuals, companies and nations can:

    1. Better understand the state of reef systems around the worldFish Rain, Molokai Hawaii (Steven W SMeltzer)
    2. Evaluate impacts of over fishing and pollution and coastal development
    3. Identify the reef systems that are in the highest state of danger over the next 5 to 10 years
    4. Review and assess methods being used today to help protect and/or restore and preserve those reef systems
    5. Create a set of tools to help educate students, parents and governments about our coral reefs and the importance of managing this incredible resource for future generations
    6. Partner with local communities to establish one or two long-term projects that will focus on restoring and preserving a specific coral reef systems

Off to Work....

New Year’s Challenge

Share What You Will Do in 2013 to Positively Impact Those Around You. Take the New Year’s Challenge.  If you hear of interesting reef projects or have ideas on reef preservation and restoration please share them and let’s work together to help care for and nurture our reefs.

What reef system concerns you the most?

What are the biggest issues impacting this reef system?

What are you doing to help bring awareness to others about the problems and issues on this reef system?

How could others help directly or indirectly with this reef system?

What is the near and longer term outlook for this reef system?

Remember we are all responsible for the care of our oceans, take the challenge…..the pool is open.

 

Happy New Year 

 

Kelp Forests of California

Diving the Kelp Forests

Magical and almost mystical, the kelp forests of California provide a unique and interesting habitat that stirs and inspires the imagination.  Giant Kelp Forests, Macrocystis pyrifera,  thrive along the western coast of North America, South America, South Africa,  Southern Australia,  and New Zealand

Kelp Forests of California

Kelp forest,  Macrocystis pyrifera, Southern California

where water temperatures typically range from 50° to 60° F (10°–15.5°C).  The Giant Kelp can also thrive in depths up to 30.5 m (100 ft.) depending upon the clarity of the water and the amount of sunlight available at depth.  As the largest kelp species, giant kelp attains heights up to 45.7 m (150 ft.) and in ideal conditions, giant kelp fronds can grow as much as 0.6 m (2 ft.) per day.

Swimming through these magnificent kelp forests is special.  With their tree-like structures swaying gently in the current, the

Kelp Forest, Giant Kelp

Kelp forest photograph, Macrocystis pyrifera, Southern California

Giant Kelp provides a perfect habitat for a wide variety marine creatures.  These life sustaining structures provide a critical foundation habitat to a number of fish, crustaceans,  sea anemones, corals, jellyfishes, sea otters and much more.

Giant Kelp

Giant kelp is golden brown with rootlike holdfasts, long, branched stipes and hundreds of wrinkled blades supported by bulb-shaped pneumatocysts.  It is an awesome experience to swim silently amongst these kelp forests as they gently sway with the current.  The light is subdued and somewhat distorted amongst the “branches” of the Giant Kelp and resident species of fish dart to and fro.  Visibility can range from a few inches to almost 60 feet depending upon the current and waves and whether the bottom is mainly sand or rock/coral.  With colorful Gerabaldi swimming around you along with a number of other species this makes a really interesting dive.

Garibaldi, Hypsypops rubicundus, Profile, Laguna Beach California (Steven W Smeltzer)Although the water temperature is cool to cold and you must wear a 5 to 7 mil wetsuit this is a dive that you should make a least once and if you are lucking enough to live along the California coast or the west coast of Latin America this should be a regular part of your diving.

For more information visit my website or blog or follow me on Twitter @Images2Inspire .  The Pool is Open…

Vintage Carthaginian II

Vintage, Carthaginian II Shipwreck

Vintage Carthaginian II Creativity

I had a lot of fun putting these images together and creating some really interesting fine art and vintage photos of the Carthaginian II shipwreck in Maui Hawaii.  When I dive on a particular site a number of times I tend to equate a certain feel or mood for the site.  The Carthaginian II, originally a German cement transport ship, is almost 100 years old and was originally built and launched in 1920.  The ship was purchased by the Lahaina Restoration Foundation and extensive refitted to make the ship resemble a 1800’s period whaling ship.  The ship was

Carthaginian II Whailing Museum

Carthaginian, At the Dock, Maui Hawaii

used as a floating museum in the harbor of Lahaina for over 30 years.  Remembering the ship floating in the harbor and now seeing her laying on the sea floor just outside of the harbor brings up a certain sense of nostalgia.

Age and Mystery

What I wanted to create was a sense of the age of the ship and the purpose that she served in Maui and even in Hawaii more generally.  When I dive on the ship, although she is not large, I sometimes get a sense of the “ghosts” of periods past associated with this aging wreck.  The ship’s main mast collapsed in the summer of 2011 and is now situated on top of the ship.  The hold is buckled significantly but makes a great shot if you lie down on the floor of the cargo hold of the ship.  There are a number of

Carthaginian II In the Hold

In the Hold, Carthaginian II

hard corals that have attached themselves to various portions of the wreck and you can usually find a reasonable variety of marine life on board.

To get the feel I was looking for in Vintage Carthaginian II, I choose to take a number of wide angle shots where I can see the entire ship and also a few photos where I would have interesting features that would lend themselves to a sense of age and provide a certain forlorn aspect to the photo.  As many of you can appreciate, getting a great photo to work with is the first part of the endeavor and I then went to work in Photoshop to give the images the exact look

Carthaginian II Discovery

Discovery, Carthaginian II

and feel that I wanted.  As I began to work

with the images I kept coming back to black and white images with good contrast with interesting textures and/or features to bring out the moodiness of the dive site.  These photos will go well with whale song form the Humpbacks that you can typically hear if you dive the site from late December up to late April or May.

Fine Art

I hope will agree the final images for Vintage Carthaginian II provide a sense of mystery and intrigue as well as a sense of discovery.  Though the ship continues to age and various parts continue to deteriorate the wreck still continue to be a

Carthaginian II

Carthaginian II Study in Abstract

great dive for a long time.  The key on this dive as most dives is to go very slow.  This is a small sight and while she lies at about 80 feet you still have plenty of bottom time to explore.  Let you imagination run away with you and imagine the life of the whaler and the importance of whaling in the development of  the Hawaiian Islands.

Go to my website and see the Carthaginian II Gallery for a complete photo review of the ship.

The pool is open…

 

 

Manta Ray diving can be an unforgettable experience.  These gentle giants are both graceful and magnificent Manta Ray Divingreminders of the wonders in our oceans.  Come dive with us off the coast of Hawaii and enjoy these magnificent creatures.

This Manta Ray video was shot off the coast of Kona in Hawaii. It was a marvelous dive. We saw 54 Manta Rays on two dives. 17 on a later afternoon dive and another 37 on the night dive. It was quite an experience.

Manta Ray diving can be an awesome experience.  The magnificent Giant Oceanic Manta Ray, Manta birostris, is something special to experience.  The largest recorded Oceanic Manta Rays was more than 25 ft (7.6m) across from wing-tip to wing-tip and weighed over 5,300 pounds (2,400 kg).  Manta Rays have a short tail and no stinging spine.

Manta Rays are very acrobatic and on this dive you will be able to see them perform aerobatic flips and rolls as they glide through the water all about you.

Manta Rays were first described by Dondorff in 1798 and named Manta birostris. Other synonyms for Manta Rays include Cephalopterus vampyrus Mithchell 1824, Cepahalopterus manta Bancroft 1829, Manta americana Bancroft 1829, Ceratoptera johnii Müller & Henle 1841, Ceratoptera alfredi Krefft 1868, Brachioptilon hamiltoni Hamilton & Newman 1849, Raja manatia Bloch & Schneider 1801, Manta hamiltoni Hamilton & Newman 1849, and Manta alfredi Krefft 1868.

The Manta Ray is one of the largest fishes, and has been know to reach 9 m (29.5 ft) and weigh as much as 1,350 k (3,000 lb).  The Manta Ray’s lifespan is thought to be about 20 years.  They are close relatives of sharks, which are also one of their main predators along with certain types of whales.  They are a close relative to the stingray, but they do not have a stinging tail.

View other underwater photography on my website or vist my post – Diving with Manta Rays

The pool is open…

What do you think of when you hear the term “Coral Reefs” or when someone asks “What are coral reefs”?. Some may think of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia while others may think of the reefs

Coral Reefs (Steven W Smeltzer)

Spiny Flower Coral. Mussa angulosa. Grand Cayman

surrounding the Caribbean islands or yet someone else may think of aqua-blue water and long sandy beaches surrounding their favorite island or tropical get away.

Coral reefs are definitely related to each of these but they are much, much more.

Coral Reefs (Steven W Smeltzer)

Bluestripe Snapper, Lutjanus kasmira, Molokai Hawaii

While Coral reefs cover less than one tenth of one percent of the earth’s oceans these same reefs are estimated to contain one quarter of known marine fish species (Smithsonian Institute).

Corals are tiny animals which belong to the group cnidaria (the “c” is silent). Other cnidarians include hydras, jellyfish, and sea anemones. Corals are sessile animals, meaning they are not mobile but stay fixed in one place. As corals grow and expand, they will form one three reef types:

  • Fringing
  • Barrier or
  • Atoll
Coral Reefs (Steven W Smeltzer)

Bubble-tip Anemone, Grand Cayman

All three reef types of coral reefs—fringing, barrier and atoll—share similarities in their bio-geographic profiles.

This series of articles we will answer the following questions:

What are Coral Reefs?
Where are they located and How were they formed?
What are the different types of Coral Reefs?
What types of creatures inhabit them?
What are the threats to Coral Reefs?
What are the potential impacts of these threats on us from the impacts to our economy, to food supplies, to medicines and more?
What if anything should we be doing to help the reefs?
How can you help?

So come join in the discovery of our coral reefs and the underwater world that is so amazing and important to each and everyone one of us.

Be sure to follow on our continuing series of articles as we explore the amazing world of coral reefs.

Marine Species Galleries:

Coral Reefs (Steven W Smeltzer)

Ridged Cactus Coral, Mycetophyllia lamarckiana, Grand Cayman

Coral Reef Images
Pictures of Fish
Sea Turtles
Crustaceans and Echinoderms
Moray Eels

Detailed Information on select Marine Species:
Caribbean Fish
Hawaiian Fish
Sponges
Crustaceans, Invertebrates, Mollusks, Echinoderms

First Cathedral is one of the most visited scuba diving sites on Lanai and in Maui County. It is a dual pinnacle site and is also one of the largest scuba diving sites in Maui County.

The mooring at the pinnacle is about 35 feet deep on the shallow portion and has a large arch on the west side. The northern side of the site has a wall with lava caves, crevices to explore and a swim through arch. A sand channel separates this from the wash rock pinnacle that comprises First Arch, First Cathedral, Lanai Hawaii (Steven W SMeltzer)Cathedral. The large cavern, of the Cathedral, has a maximum depth of 45’-50’ deep and a ceiling overhead which is approximately 20’ high. It has a lace work of openings in the lava on the east wall that allows light to flow inside.  These openings seem very much like stained glass windows within a church or cathedral.

Rays of Light, First Cathedral, Lanai Hawaii (Steven W SMeltzer)When you enter the water on the mooring you you will swim first toward the Pinnacle containing the lava tube known as First Cathedral.  Then after exploring the “Chapel” as I like to call it, you exit rather quickly, or as some like to say, you are flushed from inside First Cathedral to reef outside. There is an opening on the inside of the Cathedral which has water rushing in and out with the actions of the waves. You swim to the exit “portal” and then hold on as the water rushes into First Cathedral and then when the flow reverses you enter the portal and are rather quickly deposited on the outside of the reef. This is not as intimidating as it might first seem as the opening is fairly large and you only travel a short distance before exiting on the reef. That said, if you have a camera, please bring the strobes in before entering the portal and you should not have any trouble. If this is too much excitement you can exit the Cathedral the same way you entered and simply swim around to the other side.Light and Altar, First Cathedrals, Lanai Hawaii (Steven W SMeltzer)

First Cathedral is an ancient lava tube that has several openings on the upper portion and side of the cavern. These openings allow light to pass through them and provide some great opportunities for underwater photography. I especially like black and white images of the cathedral as they seem to provide the most dramatic effects with the light. The ceiling “window” provides very good lighting (assuming sunny skies) on a rocky outcrop in the Brick Soldierfish, Myripristis amaena, (Castelnau, 1873), Lanai Hawaii (Steven W SMeltzer)middle of the room and you can see “rays of light” shining in from the top of the dome making for some interesting underwater photography. The opening to enter the cathedral is very large and should not cause anyone concern. First Cathedral can hold many scuba divers at one time but I find it best, especially when trying to take photographs, to be in a small group or be first. Having a larger number of divers will stir up a good bit of sediment making it especially difficult to take good shots. It is also better to be in “group 1” verses “group 2” if you have a large number of divers on the boat as the silt in the Cathedral will tend to get stirred up as more divers are going through the cavern.

Bluestripe Snapper, Lutjanus kasmira, Molokai Hawaii (Steven W SMeltzer)Once inside First Cathedral, you will find a number of different fish species and more than likely a school of Brick Soldierfish up towards the ceiling. When you exit the cavern you will be on a portion of the reef that usually has a nice diversity of marine life. You will head towards a swim through where you will find a number of different butterflyfishes, moray eels, frogfishes, nudibranches, goatfishes, and much more.

There are several archways to swim thru and the coral gardens are great places to look for eels, shrimps, and small crustaceans. So take your time on this site and you will be well rewarded.

The pool is open…..

 

When you are on your next scuba diving trip to Grand Cayman make a point to get to Andes Wall. It is certainly one of my favorite sites on the island and is accessible from the West Side dive boat operators or out of Rum Point.   Andes Wall Grand Cayman is a great wall dive and is a premium spot for underwater photography.

Andes Wall Grand Cayman (Steven W Smeltzer)

Andes Wall, Grand Cayman

Andes Wall Grand Cayman (Steven W Smeltzer)

Grand Cayman past Rum Point, Looking from the mooring ball at Andes Wall

Andes Wall Grand Cayman is located just past Rum Point on the North Wall.  Typical conditions are 100+ feet of visibility and has a sheer drop along the wall of several thousand feet.

On this dive you will see Spotted Eagle Rays on almost every dive.  There are also other pelagics that can be found here from the elusive Tiger Shark to White Tips, Hammerheads and more.

Andes Wall Grand Cayman (Steven W Smeltzer)

Spotted Eagle Ray, Aetobatus narinari, Grand Cayman

I went with Red Sail Sports on my last dive at Andes Wall and the day was absolutely perfect for underwater photography.  It was one of those extremely rare days when the north wall was absolutely flat.  The visibility was over 150, no current, very little particulates in the water and there were only 8 divers on the boat.  This must be paradise. Andes Wall is just about 10 to 15 minutes past Rum Point on the North Side and one of my two favorite dive sites on the North Wall.

Andes Wall Grand Cayman (Steven W Smeltzer)

Spotted Eagle Ray, Aetobatus narinari, Grand Cayman

You can dive Andes Wall Grand Cayman as a shallow top of the wall or as a deep wall dive.  I would highly recommend the wall dive.  When we descended to the mooring  the first thing I noticed on this dive was a Spotted Eagle Ray in the distance and a Great Barracuda cruising by.    This was one of seven that I saw on this dive.  After meeting at the mooring pin, we head to the wall notch, the visibility is absolutely phenomenal.  We then made our way through the “notch” to the wall and immediately on my left was another Spotted Eagle Ray.  This is going to be a great dive.

Andes Wall Grand Cayman (Steven W Smeltzer)

Blackcap Basslet, Gramma melacara, Grand Cayman

As we move past the 90 foot level out to the wall I notice a number of Blackcap Basslets swimming upside down in a small indentation in the wall.  There are a great variety of fish usually on this dive.  Today we see Schoolmasters, numerous types of basslets, Princess Parrotfish, Bermuda Chub, Blue Chromis, Trumpetfish, Gray Angelfish, Spiny Lobsters, Spotted Eagle Rays and much, much more. The soft corals are amazing on this part of the island and they are especially plentiful around the mooring ball on this dive.  You will find several great places to get photos of sea fans, or sea rods, sea whips and of course many colorful stony corals as well.

Andes Wall Grand Cayman (Steven W Smeltzer)

Green Moray Eel, Gymnothorax funebris, Grand Cayman

Andes Wall Grand Cayman (Steven W Smeltzer)

Spotted Eagle Ray, Aetobatus narinari, Grand Cayman

Then the shot of the trip.  I was setting up to take a shot of a Giant Slit-Pore Sea Rod and looking up towards the sun to frame the soft coral  I noticed one of the Spotted Eagle Rays that had been following us throughout the dive and repositioned slightly and the rest…well I will leave it up to the photo to speak for itself.  Needless to say I think I found an image that was definitely worth waiting for….

Andes Wall Grand Cayman (Steven W Smeltzer)

Spiny Lobster, Palinuridae argus, Grand Cayman

Andes Wall Grand Cayman is magic and as a scuba diver this is a highly recommended dive if you get the chance the next time you come to Grand Cayman and if you are an underwater photographer, perhaps you can make a little magic of your own.

The pool is open…..

Shipwrecks (Steven W Smeltzer)

Debris Field, Oro Verde, Grand Cayman

Some of the most interesting types of shipwrecks for scuba diving are the purpose sunk ships that have been scuttled to create artificial reefs. After adequate preparation, this is a wonderful way for older ships to give not only a benefit to scuba divers but also a shelter to a variety of marine organisms (see National Geographic article “Artificial Reefs: Trash to Treasure” February 5, 2001).

Shipwrecks (Steven W Smeltzer)

Port Side, Doc Paulson, Grand Cayman

Along with true shipwrecks, there have been and continue to be a large number of ships sunk to create artificial reefs (Wikipedia provides a list of some wrecks that have been reefed over the last twenty years including the HMAS Adelaide and the USS Kittiwake which were just sunk in 2011). These wrecks have come to be an important part of the local ecosystems*. In fact, these wrecks may also offer an opportunity to help improve the condition of reefs

Shipwrecks (Steven W Smeltzer)

View from above. Carthaginian, Maui Hawaii

globally. Studies from the Red Sea and other locations tend to show that there is little difference between developments of an artificial reef as compared to natural reefs. Artificial reefs made from steel vessels offers long-term development for the reef and immediate space for organisms to inhabit.

Shipwrecks (Steven W Smeltzer)

Decent, USS Kittiwake, Grand Cayman

PADI and NAUI offer specialty shipwrecks diving courses to train divers in “safety, hazards and cautions, special risks of overhead environments, entanglement, limited visibility, deep diving, equipment, site of wrecks, sources of information, search methods, underwater navigation, legal aspects, artifacts, treasure, salvage, archaeology, and much more”. Wreck diving can be a wonderful experience for any diver. However, before penetrating any ship the diver should have adequate training according to the state of the ship being explored. Deep water wrecks, “natural” shipwrecks, etc., should only be explored by experienced and trained divers using appropriate safety gear and precautions.

Shipwrecks (Steven W Smeltzer)

Frogfish Closeup, Carthaginian, Maui Hawaii

Unlike true shipwrecks many reefed ships such as the USS Kittiwake in Grand Cayman, have been extensively prepared for reefing to make entry, exploration and exiting the ship relatively safe and easy. However, many older reefed ships should be approached cautiously and if the diver is not “wreck” certified penetration of the wreck should not be attempted. They key is to understand the condition of the wreck and what the diver is likely to encounter before entering the water. Use of a high quality scuba diving operation will greatly add to the safety and enjoyment of the diving experience.

Shipwrecks (Steven W Smeltzer)

Port side, main deck, USS Kittiwake

As an underwater photographer, shipwrecks hold a special fascination to me. To be able to capture the mystery and character of the ship in a photo is a special challenge. However, there are those moments when you are able to get everything just right and the photo seems to come alive. The ability of a photo to transport the viewer into the image and experience the wonder of the moment is the real test of a truly amazing photo.

*Note: While there continues to be some debate about the benefits of creating artificial reefs, the benefit of these reefs can be clearly seen from many long-term – 20 year plus artificial reefs in the Atlantic, Pacific, Mediterranean and other locations. You can read more about reefing of ships at www.natgeo.com and many other websites and review “National Guidance: Best Management Practices for Preparing Vessels Intended to Create Artificial Reefs” which was developed by the USEPA and the US Maritime Administration.
Come explore my shipwreck diving photos in the following galleries on my website and remember “the pool is open”.

The Carthaginian II Gallery

USS Kittwake Gallery

Doc Polson Gallery

The Oro Verde Gallery

Ships sunk for wreck diving (from Wikipedia)

Date Ship Name Location Country
2011 USS Arthur W. Radford (DD-968) Cape May, New Jersey United States
2011 HMAS Adelaide Avoca Beach, New South Wales Australia
2011 USS Kittiwake >West Bay, Grand Cayman Cayman Islands
2009 HMAS Canberra Barwon Heads, Victoria Australia
2009 USNS General Hoyt S. Vandenberg (T-AGM-10) Key West, Florida United States
2007 HMNZS Canterbury Bay of Islands New Zealand
2006 Xihwu Boeing 737 British Columbia Canada
2005 Carthaginian II Lanai Hawaii United States
2005 HMNZS Wellington Wellington New Zealand
2005 HMAS Brisbane Mooloolaba, Queensland Australia
2004 HMS Scylla Whitsand Bay, Cornwall United Kingdom
2004 USS Oriskany Florida United States
2003 CS Charles L Brown Sint Eustatius Leeward Islands
2003 HMCS Nipigon Quebec Canada
2002 MV Dania Mombasa Kenya
2002 USS Spiegel Grove Florida United States
002 HMAS Hobart Yankalilla Bay, South Australia Australia
2001 HMCS Cape Breton British Columbia Canada
2001 HMAS Perth Albany, Western Australia Australia
2000 HMCS Yukon San Diego, California United States
2000 Stanegarth Stoney Cove United Kingdom
2000 HMNZS Waikato Tutukaka New Zealand
1999 HMNZS Tui Tutukaka Heads New Zealand
1995 HMCS Saskatchewan British Columbia Canada
1997 HMAS Swan Dunsborough, Western Australia Australia
1996 HMCS Columbia British Columbia Canada
1996 MV Captain Keith Tibbetts (formerly Russian-built Frigate 356) Cayman Brac Cayman Islands
1996 Inganess Bay British Virgin Islands
1995 HMCS Mackenzie British Columbia Canada
1992 HMCS Chaudire British Columbia Canada
1991 to 2001 Wreck Alley – The Marie L, The Pat and The Beata British Virgin Islands
1991 MV G.B. Church British Columbia Canada
1990 Fontao Durban South Africa
1990 T-Barge Durban South Africa
1987 to 2000 Wreck Alley San Diego, California United States
1987 USCGC Bibb Florida United States
1987 USCGC Duane Florida United States
1981 Doc Poulson Cayman Islands
1980 Oro Verde Cayman Islands
1970 Glen Strathallen (sunk to produce a diver training facility) Plymouth United Kingdom

The pool is open…..

Description

Mala Pier, Maui Hawaii, (Steven W Smeltzer)

Atlantis found, Mala Pier, Maui Hawaii

Mala Pier is without a doubt one of the top if not the top shore dive on Maui.  This is especially true of the available sites on the leeward side of the island near Kaanapali. The pier is in the middle of Lahina near the Canary Mall. When you are driving along the highway from Kaanapali back towards Kahului you can see the pier on the right just as you start into Lahina. Mala Pier is an extremely easy boat dive and a moderately easy shore dive (the only difficulty is the entry if you go over the reef on the side of the pier).

Mala Pier, Maui Hawaii, (Steven W Smeltzer)

Yellowfin Goatfish, Mulloidichthys vanicolensis, Maui Hawaii

The dive itself is between 15 to 35 feet and you can spend well over an hour assuming you have reasonable air consumption. Mala Pier is loaded with all kinds of schooling fish, Green Sea Turtles and Hawksbill Turtles, White-tip Reef Sharks, lots of Butterflyfishes, and much more making it an excellent site for underwater photography.
Mala pier was built in the early 1900’s by the Dole Pineapple company to be able to offload pineapples from Lanai.  They would then have them processed at the Pineapple Cannery in Lahina which is now the Cannery Mall. Mala pier, for a variety of reasons, was never used by the Dole Company but did see service in WWII for loading and unloading supplies. The concrete pier stood until 1992 when it was destroyed in hurricane Iniki.  However, the destruction of the pier has been a boon for scuba divers in Maui.

Mala Pier The Dive

Mala Pier, Maui Hawaii, (Steven W Smeltzer)

White-tip Reef Shark, Triaenodon obesus, mano lalakea, Maui Hawaii

Mala Pier makes a great morning or afternoon dive and is spectacular as a night dive. However, I would highly recommend that you dive the site first during the day before attempting a night dive. Visibility is usually quite good, from 40 feet and up. There is no current to speak of and the site is quite easy to navigate. You swim out following the remains of the pier and then turn around and follow them back to shore. No worries, very easy navigation. There are also a few coral mounds in the sand surrounding the pier which are also quite interesting and make for great macro photography. But you should be a reasonable navigator to investigate these additional sites.
To enter Mala Pier, there is ample parking found at the pier and there is also a place to rinse your gear after the dive at the top of the boat ramp. The dive site can be entered in one of three ways, entering via the beach on the west side of the pier that is still standing, walking down the boat ramp but don’t tell anyone I mentioned the second option, or  probably the third and easiest option is to enter via the small beach to the east or shore side of the boat ramp and then swim around to the dive site.’

Mala Pier, Maui Hawaii, (Steven W Smeltzer)

Keeltail Needlefish, Platybelone argalus, Maui Hawaii

If you enter Mala Pier from the beach, on the west side, it is best done when there is a high tide.  You will have to cross a very shallow reef and will most likely have to walk part of the way out over the coral. If you choose this entry I would suggest that you float your gear and not put on your fins or BC until you reach deeper water. Please check the local tides with Google or go to tides.info and search for tidal information for Lahina before your dive.

However, I would highly recommend entering Mala PIer via the small beach to the east of the boat ramp.  This is a very easy entry and a requires a relatively easy 10 minute swim around to the pier in calm water.

Mala Pier, Maui Hawaii, (Steven W Smeltzer)

White-tip Reef Shark, Triaenodon obesus, mano lalakea, Maui Hawaii

Once you enter the site you will quickly get to about 15 feet of water and can begin your dive. You will notice many Keetail Needlefish around the standing and fallen columns of the pier. You will also see a number of juvenile fish of a variety of species in this same area. As you move further along the pier you will encounter a wide variety of corals attached to the pier and a number of different types of Butterflyfishes, Bird Wrasses, Goatfishes, Green Sea Turtles and much more.
If you are looking for sharks you can almost guarantee that you will see several White-tip reef sharks on this dive. There is usually one or more resting under the fallen columns towards the far end of the pier. You will also see sharks resting on the bottom typically on the western side of the pier usually mid-way down to pier to the end of the pier. You can also encounter these sharks as they are cruising around the ruble in search of the next meal. Don’t worry they won’t bother divers unless they are significantly provoked. So approach slowly and then take the time to appreciate these marvelous creatures.
This is a great dive site. Take your time to truly appreciate it. If you need to rent tanks check out Lahina Divers, they are my favorite dive operation on Maui, but you can also rent from a number of other locations.
You can see the complete photo gallery for Mala Pier at stevenwsmeltzer.com as well as more on underwater photography and landscape photography or you can follow me on Twitter at Images2Inspire.

The pool is open…..

The Carthaginian Shipwreck was once used as a whaling museum.  It is a replica of a 19th century brig which is similar to the ships that first brought commerce to the Hawaiian Islands.

Carthaginian shipwreck, Maui Hawaii (Steven W Smeltzer)

Carthaginian, At the Dock, Maui Hawaii

The ship was originally a cement carrier built in Germany in 1920.  The ship was purchased by the Lahaina Restoration Foundation and rechristened the Carthaginian II.  It sailed to Lahaina in 1973 where it took seven years for the historically accurate 18th century whaling ship rigging to be assembled.  The ship served as a reminder of Lahaina’s nautical heritage and was docked for many years at Lahaina Harbor.  The Lahaina Restoration Foundation operated a museum on board that displayed relics of Lahaina’s historic whaling days.

Carthaginian shipwreck, Maui Hawaii (Steven W Smeltzer)

Carthaginian, Maui Hawaii

 

 

 

Although it had no true historical value, the Carthaginian II was one of Lahaina’s most recognizable attractions.  It was featured in thousands of artworks and visitor photographs for over the 30 years. As the ship aged it became more difficult to repair.  The Lahaina Restoration Foundation was eventually spending about $50,000 a year to maintain the rusting hulk. When marine engineers advised against further repairs Atlantis submarines was approached to claim the vessel and use it as an artificial reef.  This would in turn enhance the existing Atlantis submarine tours in Lahaina.

Carthaginian shipwreck, Maui Hawaii (Steven W Smeltzer)

Carthaginian and Atlantis, Carthaginian, Maui Hawaii

On December 13, 2005, following two years of preparation, Atlantis Adventures sank the ship off Lahaina, Maui.   The reefing took place off Puamana which is just outside the Lahaina harbor.  The 97-foot, steel-hulled vessel, sank in 95 feet of water where it rests upright on its keel. Creating an artificial reef with the Carthaginian shipwreck was an extensive effort that will have long lasting marine life benefits.

Carthaginian shipwreck, Maui Hawaii (Steven W Smeltzer)

Looking Through the Main Cabin, Carthaginian II, Maui Hawaii

 

 

 

 

The first Carthaginian was a replica of a whaling supply vessel used for the 1966 movie “Hawaii,” based on the James Michener novel. The Lahaina Restoration Foundation purchased the wooden boat, but it sank in 1972 on its way to O’ahu for dry dock.  The German vessel was acquired and was rechristened the Carthaginian II and after extensive work served the city as a floating museum for many years.

Carthaginian shipwreck, Maui Hawaii (Steven W Smeltzer)

Frogfish Closeup, Carthaginian, Maui Hawaii

Atlantis spent approximately $350,000 on the Carthaginian shipwreck project, including preparation of environmental studies. American Marine Services was hired to handle reefing operation. Before the Carthaginian II was towed from Lahaina Harbor, entertainers from the Old Lahaina Lu’au performed “Aloha ‘Oe” and members of the Lahaina Restoration Foundation placed lei on the vessel and held signs bidding it aloha.

To prepare for the sinking, 10 tons of concrete had been loaded on board, adding to the 35 tons of material the boat already was carrying. Atlantis’ small tugboat Roxie pulled the Carthaginian II out of the harbor before transferring the operation to the larger American Islander tugboat.

A flotilla of about 20 boats was waiting when the Carthaginian II arrived at Puamana, and spectators lined the shore or pulled over on Honoapi’ilani Highway to watch the spectacle. Kahu Charles Kaupu offered a Hawaiian blessing, and after a 3-ton anchor was secured to the bow and the boat was in position.  Patches were then removed from two sets of holes that had been cut into the hull about 18 inches above the water line. Seawater was pumped into the hull, and 27 minutes later the Carthaginian was headed to the sandy bottom. Observers let loose with applause and whoops of appreciation as the ship quietly slipped beneath the surface. Aboard the Atlantis shuttle boat three air-shattering blasts were fired from miniature brass cannon to mark the occasion.

Carthaginian Shipwreck The Dive

Carthaginian shipwreck, Maui Hawaii (Steven W Smeltzer)

Main Mast in Forward Hold, Carthaginian II, Maui Hawaii

The Carthaginian shipwreck lies in about 90 feet of water of the coast of Lahina.  It is about a 10 to 15 minute trip from the harbor to the dive site.  The ship was sunk approximately 6 years ago and now supports a wide variety of marine life.  When you begin to descend from the mooring ball you will normally be able to see the outline of the ship quite easily.  The visibility is usually 80+ feet and much of the time over 100+ feet.  There can be some current on this site so some divers may want to descend using the mooring line.  As you descend to the Carthaginian shipwreck you will begin to notice more details regarding the ship and the impacts of being on the reef for a number of years.  The main mast collapsed in mid-summer 2011 and can now be seen sitting on the deck.  The main cabin roof and walls have deteriorated to some degree and there are numerous holes into the hold.  The access to the hold itself is quite large and easily accessible.  The engine room and forward compartment is blocked by a gate but you can still get a good variety of photos in this area.  The rear area of the cargo hold is fairly clear and at the present time will contain various fish species or crustaceans as they are moving about the ship.

Carthaginian shipwreck, Maui Hawaii (Steven W Smeltzer)

Pacific Trumpetfish Entering Hold, Carthaginian II, Maui Hawaii

 

 

There are a number of frogfish on the Carthaginian shipwreck and I was able to photograph five different frogfish on my last dive.  These fish are extremely well placed for macro photos and can consume a lot of bottom time, but it is well worth the effort.  Two frogfish were on the main deck to the rear of the main cabin and three were on the starboard side about the midships area.

You will also find a wide variety of fish including, Pacific Trumpetfish, Sergeant Majors, Dascyllus, Orangespine Unicornfish, Rainbow Cleaner Wrasse, and many more.

The Carthaginian shipwreck dive is best when there are less than ten divers in the water since the ship itself is not very large.  It is a very worthwhile dive and I highly recommend it for your next trip to Maui.

Check out images of other wrecks on my website at www.stevenwsmeltzer.com or visit my blog blog.stevenwsmeltzer.com or follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/images2inspire

The pool is open…..

Oro Verde Shipwreck, Grand Cayman (Steven W Smeltzer)

Descent to the bow, Oro Verde Shipwreck, Grand Cayman

The Oro Verde shipwreck (meaning Green Gold) in Grand Cayman has been a favorite site for divers since she was sunk on May 31, 1980 by the Caymanian government.  The vessel a 131-foot 692-ton freighter lies in about 50 feet of water just off Grand Cayman’s famous Seven Mile Beach.  The Oro Verde shipwreck has deteriorated a lot since her reefing.  This is mainly the result of several hurricanes that have hit the island in the last 30 years.  The debris field today is scattered over a wide area with only the bow section still intact.

The following is an article from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune dated Sunday, August 10, 1980 three months after the Oro Verde was reefed.

New Target Found For Cayman Divers

N.Y. Times News Service

Oro Verde Shipwreck, Grand Cayman (Steven W Smeltzer)

Survey of Bow, Oro Verde, Shipwreck, Grand Cayman

Scuba divers on Grand Cayman Island in the Caribbean have a new target to examine:  A 692-ton Panamanian cargo ship that has been deliberately sunk in 60 feet of water off the island’s Seven Mile Beach.

The vessel, the 131-foot Oro Verde, had been stuck on a sandbar after it ran aground off the 17-mile long island’s North Sound four years ago.  A group of Grand Cayman divers then hit on the idea of stimulating diving interest by salvaging the freighter and sinking it 300 yards offshore from the beach and hotel area.

The divers sought contributions to the project from hotels, airlines and other tourist organizations and purchased the salvage rights from the Caymanian government.  Then, before towing the Oro Verde to its new site, they cleaned it and removed the watches, doors, glass and rough edges to make it as safe as possible.

Oro Verde Shipwreck, Grand Cayman (Steven W Smeltzer)

Soft Corals on the Bow, Oro Verde Shipwreck, Grand Cayman

“The removal of the doors and hatches also created a lovelier site by allowing more sunlight to filter through to the ship’s interior,” said Horace DuQuesnay, a tour company representative who lives on the island and participated in the salvage.  “The wreck will become more beautiful over the years as the colored coral becomes an integral part of the ship.”

The story of the Oro Verde is a rather interesting one.  She was originally built as a “liberty ship” her original name was the Navajo and is a sister ship to the infamous USS Pueblo (that is the only US navy ship still being held captive by the North Koreans).  Once the ship was retired from the Navy, she was registered in Nassau and ran freight to and from North America, Latin America and the Caribbean.

The ship was once almost blown up in Miami with a homemade bomb in a cigar box.  See the following story from the Miami Herald dated October 19, 1966.

Cigar Box Bomb Attached to Ship

By Gene Miller
Herald Staff Writer

Oro Verde Shipwreck, Grand Cayman (Steven W Smeltzer)

Starboard Side of Bow Section, Oro Verde Shipwreck, Grand Cayman

A homemade bomb in a cigar box, attached by a magnet to the hull of a British cargo ship, failed to explode at the Miami City Docks Tuesday – apparently because an undersea bomber didn’t set it correctly.  “It should have gone off,” said Capt. Tom Brodie, chief of the Sheriff’s office bomb squad.  The ship the 180-foot 692-ton Oro Verde, was due to sail late in the day for a five-day trip to Cristobal, Panama. From there, after unloading, its normal route takes it through the Panama Canal to Ecuador.

“We don’t have the slightest idea why anyone would want to blow up our ship,” said Robert Trost, operations manager for Chester, Blackburn & Roder Inc., Miami agents.  Horace Barron, a crane operator loading general cargo, first noticed something peculiar attached to the hull several feet below the water line.  “He’d looked at it for a couple of hours and didn’t know what to think,” said Bob Kretzschmar, a sheriff’s deputy assigned to docks.  The ship was on the north side of Pier C, berth three.  But before it arrived there at 7 a.m., it had unloaded bananas at the parking lot dock of the Banana Supply Co. on the river. The ship reached Miami Sunday.

Oro Verde Shipwreck, Grand Cayman (Steven W Smeltzer)

Engine Room Remnants, Oro Verde Shipwreck, Grand Cayman

“The crane operator started talking to the crew and someone finally decided to call the Coast Guard,” said Kretzschmar.  “The Coast Guard took one look and said ‘Call the bomb squad.'” This was at 11:28 a.m.  Capt. Brodie, accustomed to frequent false reports, also needed but a single glance. He took off his shoes and shirt, jumped in, and deactivated it.  The time-bomb, put inside a wooden Cuban cigar box consisted of a cast-made explosive, pentalite, and weighed about two pounds.  Attached to it was an acid pellet triggering device floating underwater in a prophylactic. It looked like a ping-pong ball in a balloon from the surface.  When the pellet or ampule is crushed, the acid begins to eat at the wire. When the wire gives, a spring releases a hammer which strikes the primmer of the cap.  “Someone didn’t set it right,” said Capt. Brodie. “It should have gone off.”

Oro Verde Shipwreck, Grand Cayman (Steven W Smeltzer)

Channel Clinging Crab, Oro Verde Shipwreck, Grand Cayman

Pentalite, he said, is a “very high order explosive, a step above TNT or the normal plastic explosives. It would have blown quite a hole in the hull.”  Investigators said they didn’t know whether or not the ship would have sunk.  Capt. Brodie said that pentalite is often used by militant Cuban exiles here. There was one unverified report that the CIA once had an interest in the ship.  Trost, the agency manager, discounted thoughts of anyone trying to blow up the ship in the Panama Canal. “The detonating device was of much too short duration for that,” he said. “It sure is odd.”

The ship, registered as British, is managed by a crew of 17. Wendell Phillips, a U.S. citizen, is the captain.  Trost, as well as police, believed that the bomb was attached to the ship in the Miami River sometime prior to loading at Pier C.  Yet police said they couldn’t tell how long it had been there.  Sheriff skindiver Ed Zender explored the underside of the hull for other bombs and Deputies J. K. Russell and James Askew searched the ship.  Neither Capt. Phillips nor John. W. Tatcher, owner of the vessel, could offer any possible motive for sabotage.  The ship, built in 1942, once was an Army cargo vessel, Phillips said.  “All we do is carry bananas from Ecuador and general cargo from Miami to the Canal Zone,” said Thatcher.

The Oro Verde Shipwreck Dive

Oro Verde Shipwreck, Grand Cayman (Steven W Smeltzer)

Debris Field, Oro Verde Shipwreck, Grand Cayman

The Oro Verde shipwreck was originally a Liberty Ship built to carry cargo for the US  during WWII and supposedly a sistership to the infamous USS Pueblo (although documentation is very shaky). The ship was sold by the Navy and began operations as a merchant cargo ship sailing in the Caribbean and South America and is thought to mainly carry bananas or a regular basis.  The Oro Verde shipwreck became a drug smuggling ship late in her life and ran aground in Grand Cayman in 1976.  She was on the reef several years until a consortium of local diver operators got together with the local government to turn the ship into an artificial reef.  Local dive lore tells that the Captain of the ship hoped to make one last large deal to retire more comfortably and had a large amount of marijuana on board the Oro Verde.  While on route to Grand Cayman the crew of the ship found out about the Marijuana and confronted the captain, seeking a share of the profits since they would be prosecuted if caught with the ship and the drugs.  The Captain is said to have refused and the crew killed him and threw him overboard.  The crew then not knowing the local waters ran the ship aground.  When the authorities were notified the crew had abandoned ship and the marijuana was confiscated and burned on the south end of the island.  The story also goes on to say that the prevailing winds were blowing from the southeast to the northwest and everyone on the islands was reportedly quite happy for  several days.

Oro Verde Shipwreck, Grand Cayman (Steven W Smeltzer)

Green Moray Eel, Gymnothorax funebris, Oro Verde shipwreck, Grand Cayman

The Oro Verde shipwreck and surrounding reefs are home to many species of sea animals, fish and corals, making this one of the most popular shallow dives in Grand Cayman, often frequented after a deeper wall dive or on a night dive.  Though it was in pristine condition when it was sunk and lying on her starboard in the sand next door to a patch of reef, the wreck’s finer details have since given way to the force of time; passing hurricanes have broken, rolled and scattered the vessel across a wide debris field closer to the reef. Still, the Oro Verde shipwreck remains a great example of a thriving artificial reef.

Oro Verde Shipwreck, Grand Cayman (Steven W Smeltzer)

Rough Fileclam, Oro Verde Shipwreck, Grand Cayman

The buoy is attached to the bow section which is the only remaining intact part of the wreck.  There are no longer any ways to penetrate the wreck but you can look into the bow section through a couple of port holes.  The debris field flows primarily from the bow section to the north along several coral fingers.  The diver can choose to spend all or part of the dive on the wreck and part of the dive on the reef. There is a wide variety of reef fish such as parrotfish, sergeant majors, angelfish, silversides (seasonally), schoolmasters, large groupers and moray eels as well as crustaceans such as the arrow crab and rough file clam

The Oro Verde shipwreck is still a worthwhile dive. I especially like it as a night dive for the variety of marine species that are present.  The Oro Verde lies about 100 yards off shore so advanced divers in good physical condition could reach it as a shore dive but with the long swim and requisite dive flags and floats due to offshore boat traffic, why bother? All of the local dive operators will be happy to take you to the Oro Verde as your second half of a two tank west side boat dive, an afternoon dive or on a night dive.  I would urge you to dive the wreck whether it is the first time or it you have dove on the Oro Verde shipwreck before.  The site is constantly changing and the marine species always make for an interesting dive.

Check out images of other wrecks in Grand Cayman the Doc Poulson and the USS Kittiwake

The pool is open…..

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