Daily Log Report for
17 May 1997

Submitted by Richard Pyle

Lisa and I decided to take the morning off and enjoy our beautiful surroundings in Palau. We borrowed two kayaks from Pat & Lori Colin, and Pat drove us out to some nearby Rock Islands where he dropped us off. Lisa and I paddled across the mirror-flat water, hearing only "jungle noises" from various birds and insects. For all we could tell, we were the only two people for hundreds of miles. As we casually glided through the twists and turns between islands, wandering deeper and deeper into the jungle, the scene had all the feel of an Amazonian jungle.

The difference, of course, was that instead of muddy brown freshwater beneath the hulls of our kayaks, there was crystal-clear saltwater complete with lush coral reefs and a wide diversity of colorful fishes. At one point during our paddling excursion, deep in the heart of the labyrinth of canals and pools, there was some violent thrashing in the water on the far side of a small lake. At first we suspected that it might be a saltwater crocodile attacking some helpless animal, but as we got closer, we saw that it was a group of blue trevally (Caranx melampygus) attacking a school of small bait fish. After paddling for a while, we got out our snorkeling gear and swam about with the video camera, looking at the range of marine life. The entire morning was incredibly relaxing and refreshing, and I wished I had more time during this expedition to do this sort of thing.

After Pat picked us up in the early afternoon, we returned to the marine lab and got our gear ready for a late afternoon shallow dive to watch fish spawn. Pat and John had spent the morning doing a deep exploratory dive (see below), but were ready for another one by the time Lisa and I returned to the lab. Like the morning paddle, the dive was pleasant and relaxing. I saw an assortment of fishes preparing to make the change from day-time to night-time activities.

Several species were courting and spawning; others were on the prowl for food. Perhaps the most amazing sight was the groups of butterflyfishes gathering together. At first, they were grouped according to species. Towards dusk, however, all of these species came together in a giant mixed-species school, and started moving across the reef toward deeper water. It was an absolutely incredible sight - hundreds of butterflyfishes parading across the reef like a multi-colored river!

We got back to the marine lab just before sunset. Several nights earlier, Lisa had done a dive just off the end of the boat dock, and had watch the spectacularly-colored Mandarin fish (Synchiropus splendidus) courting and spawning in just a few feet of water. We decided to try to capture their behavior on video, so Lisa and I quickly got our gear back on and jumped off the end of the dock. Five minutes before sunset, seemingly out of nowhere, these colorful little Mandarin fish emerged from the rubble and began their ritual.

The larger male would swim about with fins spread, enticing the smaller females to spawn with him. Eventually, the male and one of the females would "flutter" side-by-side and rise from the rubble a few inches off the bottom. After hovering in place for a few seconds (photo above), both members of the pair would release their gametes (shown in the red circle at right) and rush back to the reef (the two fish can be seen in the lower left foreground of the photo at right, rushing back to the rubble).

All in all, it was a wonderful and refreshing day. The trip is definitely winding down to a close at this point. John is leaving tomorrow to return to Honolulu. Pat, Ken, Lisa, Jack, Lori, Sara, and I plan one final dive for tomorrow morning, after which we will pack up in preparation for our departure the following morning.

Dive Number 1 of 2
Divers: John Earle, Pat Colin

Solid line indicates depth, dashes ("-") indicate
decompression ceilings, bar ("|") represents cleared to surface.
Max. Depth: 305 feet (93 meters) Time: 10:42pm Duration: 1 hr, 58 min
Location: Augulpelu Reef; E side of reef; "D2" (07 16.41' N, 134 31.44' E).
Marine Life: John collected a species of basslet which is probably Pseudanthias randalli (named in honor of Jack Randall) down deep, but otherwise didn't see much of interest.
Remarks: John bounced down deep for one last quick look-around for interesting fishes, while Pat collected more invertebrate specimens. They were in a slightly different area from the "usual" place, so it was a sheer vertical drop into the abyss. John said there were many gorgonians and other marine invertebrates, but surprisingly few fishes. Now wanting to push his luck on the last day, he kept his bottom-time shorter than usual.

Dive Number 2 of 2
Divers: Richard Pyle, John Earle (rebreathers); Pat Colin, Lisa Privitera, Jack Randall (scuba); Lori Colin (snorkel).

Solid line indicates depth, dashes ("-") indicate
decompression ceilings, bar ("|") represents cleared to surface.
Max. Depth: 25 feet (8 meters) Time: 4:32pm Duration: 1 hr, 29 min
Location: Outside channel to Malakal Harbor
Marine Life: We observed a wide variety of marine life. Many reef fishes were conducting their usual evening "rituals", which included courting and spawning behavior. We saw large schools of various butterflyfish species including the Black-back butterflyfish (Chaetodon mealannotus), Saddle-back butterflyfish (C. ephippium), Threadfin butterflyfish (C. auriga), Raffles' butterflyfish (C. rafflesi), Raccoon butterflyfish (C. lunula), Lined butterflyfish (C. lineolatus), and Nape-spot butterflyfish (C. oxycephalus), among others. At one point, they simultaneously migrated across the reef toward deeper water in a virtual "river" of color. Late in the dive, John, Jack and Lisa encountered a small Nurse shark (Nebrius concolor) resting under a rock.
Remarks: It was a generally relaxing dive. I used the video camera for most of the dive, but then helped Jack get good still photographs of the Nurse shark while Lisa filmed us with the video camera. Although the video housing had flooded several days earlier, I was able to clean it out and get it working again. I pinpointed the problem to be the underwater microphone, so I removed it from the housing and Pat gave me a plug to seal the hole.

Disclaimer: Several aspects of the dive profile(s) illustrated above deviate from conventional wisdom regarding appropriate decompression procedures. The dives referred to on these web pages are of an experimental nature, and all persons involved with these dives are fully cognizant of the associated risks. The decompression practices followed on these dives are derived from published information, in conjunction with the many years of extensive experience of the divers involved. These practices have not been tested under controlled conditions, and may not work equally well for all divers. Kids, don't try this at home!!

Toshiba AmericaThese daily reports made possible through the generous support of Toshiba America.

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