Saturday, April 28, 2012

One Turtle, Two Angles

Mr. Turtle likes my flashflight.
One benefit of going to a world class dive destination like Palau is that your fellow divers are bound to have better underwater photo equipment than you.  The likelihood of that goes up even higher when you visit during a special event, like the 10th Palau Shark Week held by Fish N' Fins in Koror last month.

I went over to Palau for one weekend during my one month sojourn in Guam and got in some of the best dives of my life.  I love, love, love turtles.  These two shots were taken only seconds apart.

I saw this green turtle swimming to the surface to where I was at about 100 ft.  He came straight for me, attracted by the flashlight strobe I've been using lately.  I took the photo above.  Jordan Hawkins, one of the divers I met while in Palau, took the one below.

By far, one of my best dive moments ever!  And if you want to experience the same, you should plan on attending the 11th Palau Shark Week -- and I'll be sure to post a reminder when Fish N' Fins sets a date.

Photo Credit: Jordan Hawkins
And for you dive purists out there who noticed I have the yellow regulator in my mouth, I was using rented gear.  Both of my regs were yellow.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

I love Godfather's Bar

This is how I used to celebrate Sunday night.  I love Saipan.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

There's an elevator to the US Mainland?

This sign greets travelers as they exit US Customs in Honolulu, Hawaii.  If I had known about the elevator, I wouldn't have sat in four different airplanes for 20 hours.  Why don't they tell you about these things?

It is 5:14 AM and I am in the throes of jet lag.  I got about four hours of sleep in, but was wide awake at 2:30 AM.  Four hours is enough to get me through the work day.  The real challenge will be to stay awake into the late evening.

My flights were uneventful.  The flight from Saipan to Guam was packed, but thankfully short.  I ran into John Weller and Michael Ramsey in the Guam airport, and they gave me a sneak peek at a movie they just wrapped filming.  More on that in future posts, possibly.

The flight from Guam to Hawaii was also packed, but I managed to score a row with three empty seats.  Hello, nap time.  Did I mention my flight out of Saipan left at 4:50 AM and that I hadn't slept?  Yes, sleep was good.  I woke up just in time for the Guam to Hawaii mid-flight snack.  Rock solid ice cream sandwiches are the best part of that route.

In Hawaii, transit passengers have to go through US Customs, leave the secure area of the airport, and go through TSA screening again.  Why this is necessary coming from Guam is an affront to freedom, but never mind.  As I was getting in line at security I heard the announcement, "Now boarding all rows for United flight 2 to Houston."  While I was putting my belongings through the x-ray machine, the announcement changed to, "Final call for United flight 2 to Houston."  Dang it.  I was hungry.  I wasn't going to be able to get airport food.  And the Honolulu to Houston flight is a domestic flight, so I was going to have to pay for gross airplane food.  Bummer.

I rushed to my gate, and as I handed my boarding pass to the gate agent, he handed me back a different boarding pass.  Seat 5L.  Business class upgrade!  Thank you!

Flying business class is a completely different experience from flying coach.  They offer you drinks as soon as you sit down, dinner is served like you were in a restaurant, with drinks and several courses, and at the end of the meal, they bring out the dessert cart.  A cart of desserts!  On an airplane!  After I ate my hot fudge sunday with strawberries, whipped cream, and a cherry on top, I read some, watched a movie, and then took another nap.

Before I knew it I was in Houston, then I was on a plane to Dulles Airport, then a taxi to my house, and then I was in a hot shower.  It was an amazing five week trip, but it feels good to be back.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Forbidden Island Oceanscapes

Photos shot with a Canon 60D using an 18-135mm lens.  I added a polarized filter, which I think helps.  It takes the glare off the ocean, and lets you see the coral reefs below the waves.

The tide was really low when we got to Forbidden Island yesterday.  It would have been a nice day to climb up to the top of the island, but nobody else wanted to.

I used a shot of this oceanscape for the cover of my final report for my coral reef outreach project with Marianas Resource Conservation & Development.  When I was a kid we would hike along the shore out to the point, but I haven't done it in years.  Maybe next time.

Can you see the Mariana Trench in this photo?  It's about 50 miles out, and stretches 500 miles in each direction north to south.

Mother Nature Comments On My Mullet

Angelo: "I think I'll waddle over here and have Edz take my picture with Forbidden Island in the background."

Angelo: "It sure is slippery over here.  I'd better be careful, I don't want to fall down."

Angelo: "Alright, I'll strike up a Captain Morgan pose and smile for the camera."

Mother Nature: "Get a haircut, you hippy!"

Friday, April 06, 2012

Cavern of the Sleeping Turtle

I managed to fit in 6 dives during this trip to Saipan (Really only 5, but I'm counting my confined water training as a dive).  I saw turtles on almost every dive.  That's not normal.  It is rare to see so many turtles in so short a time here, in my opinion because they get eaten every time a certain someone in Tanapag gets the munchies.  Just this week there was a story going around the island that the enforcement guys from the Division of Fish & Wildlife were eating a turtle at a party.  You make the law, you break the law.

There are two species that are typically encountered around here.  The turtles in these photos are green sea turtles.  They are assessed by the scientists at IUCN as globally endangered.  I saw about 7 of them this week.  Less common are the hawksbill sea turtles.  They are assessed as critically endangered.  I swam with two of them this week, the first time I've ever seen them in Saipan (I've seen them in Palau before).

Swimming with these turtles is the conservation equivalent of interacting with giant pandas or lowland gorillas.  And it is totally awesome.  You should be jealous.  And that these still exist in any numbers around Saipan is simply amazing.  My father barely passed these down to me (his generation wasn't able to eat through the entire population despite their best effort).  I hope that I am able to pass them down to my kids.

I made another endangered friend during last night's dive.  Swimming along the wall I noticed this guy sticking his butt out of a cave.  I've only seen one or two (living) Napoleon wrasse on Saipan.  They get killed almost on sight by local spearfishermen, and it is rare for them to grow to any considerable size around here.

Lucky for me the cave had two entrances, and I was able to snap a few more photos of his better side.  Fishermen will kill this guy and sell him to the Chinese restaurants for $50.  It is so frustrating knowing that a dive shop can make $75 each day per person bringing people to see this fish.  He is more than just a scooby snack!

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Tumon Music Festival

June keeps on getting better and better.  Now that he's 10 years old, he's already better than 99.9% of the world's ukulele players.  And he's only 10.  With more practice, he'll be one of the best in the world.

I shot this video using a zoom lens at March's Tumon Music Festival.  June was asked to perform at the judges showcase.  There's a lot of background noise in the beginning, sorry.  I wasn't using a microphone.

Wait for the applause and quick exit at the end.  He's going to have to learn to work on that.

I wish I could have captured the audience's reactions to June's playing, too.  Like Jake Shimabukuro, nobody expects those sounds to come out of a ukulele.  The other children performing in the judges showcase played the piano, violin, flute, or sang.  June had the only string instrument, and a toy guitar at that.  Let's be honest here, nobody enjoys school music showcases, no matter how good the kids are.  The audience really enjoyed June.  And I'm not just saying that because he's my buddy.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

When Jupiter Met Venus

Have you seen Jupiter and Venus in the early night sky these last few weeks?  Here they are over the Philippine Sea.  The big dot is the moon.  The other bright dots are Venus and Jupiter, with Venus being the brighter of the two.