Archives for Scuba Diving

Fish Rain

Fish Rain is a great site and probably has one of the highest densities of marine species that you will find while scuba diving in Maui County. Scuba diving at Molokai would rate even higher if it were easier to access. Scuba diving Molokai is challenging, this is not a dive for the novice. In fact any time you haveScuba Diving Fish Rain, Molokai Hawaii (Steven W SMeltzer) to cross the Pailolo Channel you are in for an interesting ride. Seas can regularly be between 6 and 10 feet with strong gust or steady winds. The Pailolo Channel is one of the windiest and roughest of the Hawaiian Island channels. Seas of 4 to 6 feet should be considered calm water and it takes about 45 minutes to get to the dive site. So do not attempt this dive unless you do not have a problem with motion sickness, you are not intimidated by rough seas, and you are not concerned about exiting or reentering the boat while it is moving. But….what a great dive.

Fish Rain Overall Rating = 4.1 out of 5

  • Access – Difficult to reach the site; Complex entry and exit; Advanced level only
  • Depth to 120ft
  • Visibility – very good to excellent
  • Current – variable – moderate to quite strong
  • Marine Species variety – Wonderful diversity and high number of species; large pelagic species
  • Reef health – Very good

Rebreather, Molokai Hawaii (Steven W SMeltzer)There are no buoys on the north east side of Molokai, no place for a boat to tie up and the high seas mean the boats must stay in constant motion when dropping or picking up divers. There will be rigid instructions given for entry and reentry into the boat and these must be followed. The dive masters and captains regularly take ginger before making this trip. So again, this trip is not for novice divers.
Now….to the good stuff….
Scuba Diving Molokai, including Fish Rain, is a really cool scuba diving site and one of my favorite anywhere on the planet. It is on the far eastern side of Molokai at Pennant Butterflyfish, Heniochus diphreutes, Jordan, 1903, Molokai Hawaii (Steven W SMeltzer)Mokuhooniki Rock. You go to this site for Hammerheads and you get the bonus of amazing diversity and quantity of marine life. The site depth is to about 110 feet around the pinnacle/Mokuhooniki Rock and there are sea grass beds along the bottom. You will a good amount of coral on the lava slopes of the pinnacle and such a great variety of fish surrounding that will make you think it is literally “raining” fish, hence the name of this site. If Milletseed Butterflyfish, Chaetodon miliaris, Quoy & Gaimard, 1824, Molokai Hawaii (Steven W SMeltzer)the weather is good and there is adequate sunlight Fish Rain makes a really terrific place for underwater photography and the opportunity to see large pelagic species. If you do not encounter sharks or other pelagic species, do not worry this dive site will not disappoint.
You will need to exit the boat as it is moving. The seas are typically 2 to 4 feet as you enter the water. You will be given precise instructions on how to get into a ready position for entry into the water and you need to follow these closely. You will typically gear up and wait at your station until signaled by your dive master. You will then queue up in groups and when the dive master says “Dive, Dive, Dive” you enter the water, whith your camera or other gear and swim quickly away from the boat as all divers in your Starfish, Linckia multifora, Molokai Hawaii (Steven W SMeltzer)group will be entering one right after the other. Your inner “navy seal” will love this. So enjoy.
Once in the water you will descend as a group quickly as you do not want to stay on the surface here for an extended period of time. As you descend you will notice immediately the large number of fish surrounding you and the pinnacle. You will see hundreds of fish and seeming including various Blackside Hawkfish, Paracirrhites forsteri, (Bloch & Schneider, 1801), Molokai Hawaii (Steven W SMeltzer)Butterflyfishes such as the Pennant Butterflyfish and Milletseed Butterflyfish all around hence  the name Fish Rain. You will also see Eels, Unicornfishes, all types of Wrasses and much more. A camera of some type is a must for this location if you can. The lava pinnacle has lots of very healthy hard corals covering the slope down to the sea floor which tends to be covered in sea grass. You will more than likely go to around 100 to 115 feet just off the pinnacle on your first dive and “hang out” waiting to for the Hammerhead sharks. You will more than likely at least get a view of the sharks in the distance and if you are patient and do not frighten them away they may come in to investigate your dive group. The Hammerheads are easily frightened or chased away so do not chase them as soon as you see them. Be patient and wait for them to approach your group, they are basically curious and you may be rewarded to see them up close.
Fish Rain is more or less a drift dive and you will follow your instructor and then surface and wait for Shortnose Wrasse, Macropharyngodon geoffroy, (Quoy & Gaimard, 1824), and Yellowtail Coris, Coris gaimard, (Quoy & Gaimard, 1824), Molokai Hawaii (Steven W SMeltzer)the boat to come and pick you up. You must have a safety sausage or signaling device when on this dive. It is extremely difficult to see a diver in calm waters from a distance and in these seas without a signaling device you can easily be missed. When you surface, have one or more of the people in your group inflate their safety sausage and then wait until the ship spots you. You could be on the surface for 15 minutes before you are picked up, especially if you have more than one group in the water. The boat will typically have a line in the water and all divers will need to use the rope for reentry to the boat. As the boat comes by simply grab and hold onto the line and then wait your turn to approach and enter the boat. Be prepared and be patient. This is certainly one of my favorite scuba diving sites and highly recommended to very experienced divers.

The pool is open…..

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…..

 

Orange Canyon Grand Cayman is one of the more well known and visited scuba diving sites on the west side of Grand Cayman. The dive site is near the west end of the island and is very close to several other well know sites, such as Big Tunnels. This scuba diving site is typical of the better sites on the west side.

Orange Canyon Grand Cayman, (Steven W Smeltzer)

Reef Silversides, Atherinidae, Clupeidae, Engraulididae, Grand Cayman

You start on the mooring ball and descend through a break in the coral and emerge on the wall around 100 feet. The dive moves along the wall where you can look out into the blue for large pelagic species such as sharks and Spotted Eagle Rays and then finishes at the top of the wall where you can explore various coral, sponges, fish, eels and turtles.

Orange Canyon Grand Cayman compares very well with other west side dive sites, but I admit my favorites sites are on the north wall. However, I definitely like this site and I dive it regularly. It is especially good when there are large “swarms” of Silversides on this site. There are also likely to be several Tarpon in the canyons as you explore the site. This site gets its name from the spectacular Elephant Ear Sponges. These colorful sponges make a great backdrop for photos and if you explore closely you will likely find various cleaner shrimps and blennys on the sponges. You will also likely find a cleaning station with a grouper exposing his gills

Orange Canyon Grand Cayman, (Steven W Smeltzer)

Nassau Grouper, Epinephelus striatus, Grand Cayman

for servicing. Orange Canyon Grand Cayman can have a current and can have a good bit of turbidity but normally the visibility is quite good and the diver operator should check this before you enter the water.

I recommend taking this dive very slowly and actively looking around at the wide variety of life that can be found here.

Check other dive site reviews on my blog or tell me about your favorite dive sites.

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…..

                                                                               Ode to the USS Kittiwake shipwreck

USS Kittiwake shipwreck (StevenWSmeltzer.com)

USS Kittiwake, Grand Cayman

 

Rest well your work is finally done

No more the ocean to roam

No more to fight the storm and sea

Rest well beneath the waves

 

 

View the complete USS Kittiwake shipwreck photo gallery here or click on each photo to go to the gallery.

 (Steven Smeltzer)The USS Kittiwake shipwreck is a Chanticleer Class Submarine Rescue Ship. Its keel was laid down, January 5, 1945, at the Savannah Machinery and Foundry, Company shipyard in Savannah, GA. It was launched on July 10, 1945 and commissioned as the USS Kittiwake (ASR-013). She was decommissioned September 30, 1994 and struck from the Naval Register September 30, 1991950s photo of USS Kittiwake, ASR-13 (Steven Smeltzer)4. She was initially transferred to MARAD for lay up in the National Defense Reserve Fleet and then withdrawn from the fleet February 18, 2010 and prepared for reefing in the Cayman Islands.

USS Kittiwake shipwreck (StevenWSmeltzer.com)

Preparing for Reefing, USS Kittiwake

The Chanticleer Class ships were designated specifically for submarine rescue. Each ship in this class was equipped with powerful pumps, heavy air compressors, and special mooring equipment. The Chanticleer Class ASRs support air and helium-oxygen diving operations to a depth of 300 feet of sea water (fsw) and use the McCann Rescue Chamber for submarine personnel rescue operations. The ASR design provided a large deck working area.

USS Kittiwake shipwreck (StevenWSmeltzer.com)

USS Kittiwake. ASR-13. Grand Cayman

The USS Kittiwake shipwreck finished a distinguished service career spanning almost 50 years when she was decommissioned from the U.S. Navy in 1994. Following her retirement, the ship became part of America’s National Defense Reserve Fleet under the control of MARAD, or the Maritime Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The ship ended her career as the first MARAD ship sold to a foreign government for artificial reefing.

 

 

USS Kittiwake Shipwreck Overview

That a patch of sand off the north end of Seven Mile Beach has become the final “port-of-call” of the USS Kittiwake shipwreck is the result of a long and determined effort by a partnership consisting of the Cayman

USS Kittiwake shipwreck (StevenWSmeltzer.com)

Engineering Mural, USS Kittiwake, Grand Cayman

Islands government and the Cayman Islands Tourism Association (CITA). Negotiations had to be conducted and funds raised to purchase the ship from the U.S. government and prepare it for sinking as a dive site, including removing hazardous contaminants and cutting openings in the hull and bulkheads to give divers greater access to the vessel’s interior.

USS Kittiwake shipwreck (StevenWSmeltzer.com)

Into the Distance, USS Kittiwake, Grand Cayman

 

After years of delays and concerns that the plan might never come to fruition, the Kittiwake began the first stage of its last voyage in February, when it was towed from its Reserve Fleet mooring at Newport News, Virginia, to the facilities of private contractor Dominion Marine. There, all the final preparations for the sinking were completed. The ship was sunk January 5, 2011 off the north end of Seven Mile Beach in Grand Cayman.

USS Kittiwake shipwreck (StevenWSmeltzer.com)

Descent, USS Kittiwake, Grand Cayman

There are 5 decks on the 47 foot tall USS Kittiwake shipwreck. Externally, the crow’s nest, mast and large stern a-frame have been cut down and remounted to make her height suitable for Cayman waters. The upper decks accommodate the 2 bridges (both an external and internal bridge to allow operations in heavy seas) along with the radio and navigation room. The sonar has been removed. The Captain and XO’s quarters are also on the upper decks.

USS Kittiwake shipwreck (StevenWSmeltzer.com)

Bridge, USS Kittiwake, Grand Caman

On the main deck of the USS Kittiwake shipwreck, starting at the bow, you will find the rec room, mess hall, ironing room, small tool workshop and recompression chambers. You will also see a large a-frame structure on the stern that supported submarines and hard hat divers.  This also supported the diving bell where divers would enter to return to the ship from the ocean and then be placed in the chambers for decompression.

Below the main deck, 2 decks exist that include the crews quarter, medic/hospital station, engine and propulsion rooms, air bank storage and compressors, as well as the steering gear, shaft, gyro, ammunition lockers, cold storage and barber shop to name a few areas. While the USS Kittiwake shipwreck has been opened up with large access holes both vertically and horizontally, every space on the ship was used while in service.

USS Kittiwake shipwreck (StevenWSmeltzer.com)

Shaft Alley, USS Kittiwake, Grand Cayman

The pool is open…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commanding Officers:

USS Kittiwake shipwreck (StevenWSmeltzer.com)

Forward Exit, USS Kittiwake, Grand Cayman

LT L. H. COLLIER 1946 – 1948
LTT. C. HURST 1948- 1950
LT W. K. WILSON 1950 – 1952
LTP. P. ROGERS 1952- 1954
LT T. E. COLBURNE 1954 – 1954
LCDRW.D.BUCKEE 1954-1956
LCDRW.H.HIBBS 1956- 1958
LCDR W. M. SCOTT 1958 – 1960
LCDR P.O. POWELL 1960 – 1962
LCDR R. E. KUTZLEB 1962 – 1964
LCDR G. R. LANGFORD 1964 – 1966
LCDR H. H. SCRANTON 1966 – 1968

LCDR R. F. JAMES 1968 – 1970
LCDR W. J. MULLALY 1970 – 1971
LCDR S. MCNEASE 1971 – 1974
CDR F. K. DUFFY 1974 – 1977
CDR F. M. SCHERY 1977 – 1979
CDRP. F. FAWCETT 1979- 1981
CDRT.J.MARTIN 1981-1983
CDR R. J. NORRIS 1983 – 1985
CDRT.J.ERWIN 1985-1988
CDR J. S. TROTTER 1988 – 1991
CDRW.J.STEWART 1991-1993
CDR S. N. ZEHNER 1993 – 1994

Specifications:
Displacement 1,780 t.(lt) 2,040 t.(fl)
Length 251′ 4″
Beam 42′
Draft 16′
Speed 14.5 kts.
Complement

USS Kittiwake shipwreck (StevenWSmeltzer.com)

Stairwell, USS Kittiwake, Grand Cayman

Officers 6
Enlisted 96
Largest Boom Capacity 11 t.
Armament
two single 3″/50 cal dual purpose gun mounts
two single 40mm AA gun mounts
eight single 20mm AA gun mounts
four depth charge tracks
Fuel Capacity
Diesel 1,785 Bbls
Propulsion
four G.M. 12-278A Diesel-electric engines
single Fairbanks Morse Main Reduction Gears
Ship’s Service Generators
two Diesel-drive 200Kw 120V/240V D.C.
one Diesel-drive 100Kw 120V/240V D.C.
single propeller, 3,000hp

The Freckled Snake Eel, Callechelys lutea, is one of the more interesting eel species in Hawaii.  They borrow into the sand by day, appearing to labor heavily when breathing.  Their eyes are typically closed and can be approach quite closely if done slowly.  Even though you only see only its head sticking up from the sand, the Freckled Snake Eel can be up to about a meter in length under the sand.  Take a little time to watch this eel’s behavior if you are lucky enough to spot one.

Freckled Snake Eel (Steven Smeltzer)I photographed this Freckled Snake Eel at Molokini Crater just off of Maui in Hawaii at about 45 ft (13 m).  The snake eels can be found in the sand channels that run out from the remaining wall of the old volcano.  As you traverse the site and swim across the sand channels from one group or finger of coral to another, make sure to check the sand closely and you might be able to spot a Freckled Snake Eel.  You can also find these eels out swimming at night but it is quite rare.  If you do spot a Freckled Snake Eel approach slowly and spend a minute or two watching this interesting creature.

The Freckled Snake Eel is one of 15 families of true eels found in the coral reefs surrounding these islands.  The eel is typically light yellow in color and has numerous black spots covering its body.  These eels typically dwell at a depth range of 4 to 24 metres (13 to 79 ft), and forms burrows in sand sediments. Males can reach a maximum of 104 centimetres (41 in).  This eel is another of the many endemic marine species in Hawaii.

Check out other photos of eels on my blog or on my website.

The pool is open…..

Reef Silversides, Hypoatherina harringtonensis, are always a great site and make for very interesting Reef Silversides, Atherinidae, Clupeidae, Engraulididae, Orange Canyon, Grand Cayman (Steven Smeltzer)photographs.  These massive schools of fish are seen throughout the Cayman islands.  They form into large defensive schools to confuse predators and the “swarms” seem move as one as they react to changes in pressure underwater caused by the movement of predators or other threats.

They can be approached easily while scuba diving if you take your time and you can even swim through these schools and have the fish literally enveloping you.  There have been large schools around Orange Canyon, where I took these shots, the Oro Verde wreck, and many other locations.  You can find schools of these fish in most dive sites from time to time and be sure to take time to observe their behavior.   They prefer shallow protected bays and lagoons and protected areas around the reef usually staying at depths from 0 to 10 meters.

They are greenish white on back, silvery with bluish reflections below; moderate silver stripe covering 3 rows of scales down from top plus edges of two adjacent rows bordered above by an iridescent blue-green line, from gill opening to tail, at front silver stripe is nearly as wide as pectoral fin base; tips of tail dusky.  There are a variety of these fish and it is almost impossible to tell them apart in the water.

The pool is open…..

Sigma 17-70 mm (Steven W Smeltzer)

Candy Cane Shrimp, Sheraton reef, Maui Hawaii

Sigma 17-70 mm (Steven W Smeltzer)

Candy Cane Shrimp, Sheraton reef, Maui Hawaii

The Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4 DC Macro lens available in Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax and Sigma mounts deserves strong consideration for underwater photography from the higher end amateur to the professional. While zoom rings for the Sigma 17-70mm are hard to find (if you can) the versatility and quality of the lens is such that if you are willing to invest a little time this could be a great lens for a variety of underwater settings. The lens is good for macro shots as seen in this image of a Candy Cane Shrimp in Maui

Sigma 17-70 mm (Steven W Smeltzer)

Bonnie’s Arch, Scuba Diving, Grand Cayman

It also is quite good for wider angel shots such as this photo from Grand Cayman.

I first took the Sigma 17-70 mm for a test drive in Hawaii. Since, I could not get a zoom gear for my Sea&Sea housing, I just made one. 🙂 If you are not intimidated this is not very hard to do especially if you have other zoom rings lying around that can be “modified” or you can also build a very passable zoom gear from PVC pipe from your local hardware store, but I will leave that for another story.

Sigma 17-70 mm (Steven W Smeltzer)

Sigma 17-70 mm f2.8-4 DC Macro Lens

When compared to other similar lenses, the Sigma 17-70 mm is one of the heaviest and largest instruments of all. This is not a surprise, though, because the lens is also the fastest and similar lenses such as the Sony/Zeiss 16-80 mm, which has a better focal range, doesn’t have an ultrasonic autofocus motor.

The Sigma 17-70 mm f/2.8–4.0 DC Macro OS HSM is an optically complex instrument. It has 17 elements in 13 groups. One element is made of low-dispersion ELD (Extraordinary Low Dispersion) glass and three other elements are aspherical (one hybrid element, two made using the “glass mold” technology). It is definitely superior to its predecessor that had just one SLD (Special Low Dispersion) element and two ordinary aspherical ones. Inside the lens we can also find an aperture with seven diaphragm blades which can be closed down at 17 mm to f/22 and at 70 mm – to f/32.

All in all a versatile lens that can deliver great shots in most situations and is great when you are not sure if you will be shooting macro or wider angle shots on a particular dive.

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Technical details: Sigma 17-70 mm

Lens Construction: 15 Elements in 12 Groups
Angle of View: 72.4 – 20.2 degrees (Sigma SD format)
Number of Diaphragm Blades: 7 Blades
Minimum Aperture: F22
Minimum Focusing Distance: 20cm/7.9 in.
Maximum Magnification: 1:2.3
Filter Size Diameter: 72mm
Dimensions Diameter: 79mm X Length 82.5mm
3.1 in. X 3.2 in.
Weight: 455g/16.0 oz

 

 

 

Shark Week is an annual, week-long TV programming block created by Tom Golden at the Discovery Channel.  This annual series of programs provide some awesome information on these wonderful creatures.

Shark Week (Steven W Smeltzer)

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

Shark Week originally premiered on July 17, 1988. Featured annually, in late July and/or early August, it was originally devoted to conservation efforts and correcting misconceptions about sharks. Over time Shark Week grew in popularity and became a hit on the Discovery Channel. Since 2010, Shark Week has been the longest-running cable television programming event in history. Now broadcast in over 72 countries, Shark Week is promoted heavily via social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Episodes of recent years are also available for purchase on services like Google Play Movies & TV/YouTube, Amazon Video, and iTunes. Some episodes are free on subscription-based Hulu.

Shark Week (Steven W Smeltzer)

Shark Week

Since its early days, Shark Week has evolved into more entertainment-oriented and sometimes fictional programming. In recent times, it has attracted much criticism for airing dramatic programs to increase viewers and popularity. This fictitious programming, known as docufiction, has been produced in the last few years. Examples of such programs include Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives, Shark of Darkness: Wrath of Submarine, Monster Hammerhead, Lair of the Mega Shark, and Megaladon: The New Evidence.

This strategy was hugely successful, especially for the program Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives, as it became one of the most watched programs in Shark Week history, primarily for the controversy and backlash it generated. The mockumentary was based on an ancient giant shark called megalodon, which is now long extinct. The airing of this program fueled an uproar by viewers and by the science and science-loving community.[4] It eventually started a Discovery Channel boycott.[4] Since then Discovery has increasingly come under fire for using junk science, pushing dubious theories, creating fake stories and misleading scientists as to the nature of the documentary being produced

 

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Sharks are amazing creatures. They have roamed the Earth’s seas since nearly the beginning of time. Their size, power, and great, toothy jaws fill us with both fear and fascination. Sharks have few natural predators allowing them to roam the earths oceans with relative ease.  There are over 500 types of sharks ranging in size from a few centimeters  to more than 15 meters.  They are found in all seas and are common to depths of 2,000 meters (6,600 ft). They generally do not live in freshwater although there are a few known exceptions, such as the bull shark and the river shark, which can survive and be found in both seawater and freshwater.

Sharks (Steven W Smeltzer)

White-tip Reef Shark, Triaenodon obesus, Maui Hawaii

They are “cartilaginous fish” meaning that the structure of the animal’s body is formed of cartilage, instead of bone. Unlike the fins of bony fishes, the fins of cartilaginous fishes cannot change shape or fold alongside their body. Even though they don’t have a bony skeleton like many other fish, they are still categorized with other vertebrates in the Phylum Chordata, Subphylum Vertebrata, and Class Elasmobranchii. This class is made up of about 1,000 species of sharks, skates and rays. They have five to seven gill slits and rigid dorsal fins, for which they are famous.  And though they kill only a few people each year, media coverage and movie portrayals of attacks have marked sharks as voracious killing machines. Our fears—and appetites—fuel an industry that hunts more than 100 million sharks each year and threatens to purge these vital predators from the oceans.

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We were about 10 minutes into the dive when we entered the canyon and found it filled with Silversides.  These interesting schooling fish always make a great shot.  The Silversides typically come  between June and August and can be found in the many grottoes, wrecks, caves and swim-throughs, on the reefs surrounding Grand Cayman.

Silversides, Atherinidae (Steven Smeltzer)

Surrounded, Silversides and Scuba divers, Grand Cayman

Silversides, Atherinidae, are one of the key reef species in Grand Cayman and the Caribbean in general.  These great swarms of fishes provide an excellent food source for many of the larger species of fishes and provide a wonderful experience for divers as well.  It is a great experience to be surrounded by one of these “balls of fish” or to watch Tarpon or Barracuda dart through the swarms.

 

The large balls are a defensive mechanism for the fish and you will notice that the entire swarm tends to change direction at once, acting almost a s single organism instead of thousands and thousands of individuals.

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The Green Sea Turtle is a wonderful, graceful creature.  They capture the imagination especially when seen gracefully swimming underwater or as young hatch-lings racing for the relative safety of the sea.

Green Sea Turtle, (Steven Smeltzer)

Green Sea Turtle, Grand Cayman

The Green Sea Turtle inhabits tropical and subtropical coastal waters around the world.  It is a large turtle and may grow to over 300 kg (700 pounds).  These marvelous creatures can also live for up to 80 years.

The Green Sea Turtle is named for the greenish color of its skin. Its shell can be a dull brown to an olive green tint depending upon its habitat.  There are generally though to be two types of green turtles including the Atlantic green sea turtle, normally found off the shores of Europe and North America, and the Eastern Pacific green sea turtle, which has been found in coastal waters from Alaska to Chile.

Green Sea Turtle, (Steven Smeltzer)

Green Sea Turtle,

Unlike most sea turtles, adult green sea turtles are herbivorous, feeding on sea grasses and algae. Juvenile green turtles, however, will also eat invertebrates like crabs, jellyfish, and sponges.

Green Sea turtles have lengthy migrations from feeding sites to their individual nesting grounds, normally on sandy beaches. Mating typically occurs every two to four years in shallow waters close to the shore. To create a  nest, females leave the sea and choose an area, often on the same beach where they were born to lay their eggs. They dig a pit in the sand with their flippers.  The nest pit may contain as many as 200 eggs.  After the eggs are placed into the pit it is covered with sand and the turtle returns to the sea.  It takes approximately two months for the eggs to hatch.  Immediately after hatching is the most dangerous time of a green turtle’s life.  The short but difficult journey from the nest to the nest to sea requires the young turtles to evade multiple predators, including crabs and flocks of gulls.

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Wall dives.  There are no other dives like them.  The opportunity to float in “space” as you look away from the reef into the deep blue of the ocean is amazing.  In Grand Cayman you can look down on the wall on the north dive sites and realize it is about 4,000 ft to the bottom.

Wall Dives (Steven W Smeltzer)

West Wall, Scuba Diving, Grand Cayman

Great wall dives surround Grand Cayman.  There is often 100+ feet visibility along with great corals and a wide variety of marine life especially on the North/East end.
There are a number of great wall dives around the world, but I must admit I am partial to the Cayman Islands.  You can find other very good wall dives in Honduras, Canada, Palau and Mexico, but to me there is no comparison to the Cayman Islands.  The visibility, the ease of access, the variety of marine life, the vibrant corals all set Grand Cayman apart from other wall dive opportunities.  The North Wall is mecca for wall divers, with almost 50 different dive sites, from the legendary Babylon, to  Andes Wall, to Eagle Ray Pass to many, many others.  These dive sites often have visibility of over 200 feet, amazing corals, sharks, rays and much more.

The north end of Grand Cayman can be a little rough, but the dive sites are well worth the trip.

There are a number of great dive operators on the island.  I would check out Red Sail sports. They have a good diver operation and we have diving with them for over 15 years. Don’t forget to mention that you I sent you their way.

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