by Tracy Ware
Today was the final dive of my Advanced Open Water course, the anticipating deep dive. We dove at a fantastic site called 007, which is within the permanent no-fishing marine reserve. On our boat ride to 007, two dolphins swam less than 15 meters away from us! The boat then delivered us to the site, where the other volunteers and I descended with ‘Goddess-of-the-Deep’ Dive Instructor and Field Scientist, Samantha to approximately 28 meters. Once at full descent , Samantha brought out an egg – yes, an egg, shell and all, having managed to somehow carry it from breakfast to the boat with all of her dive gear, and then down to 28 meters while unwinding the line for her SMB! We knelt on the sand while Samantha cracked the egg so we could play ping-pong with it! To my amazement, the yolk and white remained intact! Next, Sam had me solve a few simple maths problems on my dive slate, to test my mental alertness at this depth.
After the games and maths test, we slowly swam along the side of the reef just above huge, robust Gorgonian Sea Fans. Of course the sighting of fish didn’t disappoint either: my first sighting was of a Purple Tinged Peacock Grouper, followed by a Ribbontail Ray swimming close to us, and an impressive Crocodile Flathead blinking its eyes while we stared at it from a distance. We also saw a very purple 2-spine Angelfish, a Moray eel and at least 35 other species of fish in this dive alone. To finish off, a dive with Sam would not be complete without seeing her all time marine favourites: Nudibranchs. Today we saw the bright orange Striped Pajamas Nudibranch. So small, yet so exotic looking when you get a chance to see them up close.
Among these sightings and my own excitement, Sam was administering my in-water fish test. Out of the 150 species we are required to learn, a volunteer is asked to identify 30 species as the instructor points to them. To pass the test (and qualify to do fish surveys), one can only make 3 species mistakes, with no mistakes when it comes to naming fish families. Today was my third attempt at taking the fish test and I finally passed! On my previous 2 attempts, the field scientists were very supportive in helping me learn from my mistakes, whilst still on the dive. This made it easier to remember the fish next time, and motivated me to study even harder with practice computer tests and the practice Fish ID PowerPoint slides, provided by BV. Now that I’ve passed both my Benthic and Fish ID tests, I look forward to collecting real data for Blue Ventures’ research next week.
For me, diving has gradually become more and more enjoyable as I’ve learned corals and now, many fish species. Learning and remembering the fish species required a steady amount of studying and effort, but it’s something that will make all of my future dives even more exciting. As another volunteer said, “now that I know the fish, I can stop trying to identify them and instead watch their behaviour.” I’ve also been introduced to the Striped Pajamas and their cousins, so will always look carefully to spot more of these perfectly formed and colourful “bottom-dwellers.”