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Fate - A Dive Story


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#1 laz217

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Posted 09 February 2003 - 09:22 PM

FATE
February 9th, 2003

The Greeks & Romans believed there were three goddesses, Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos, who controlled human destiny. They believed, like many of us, that there are higher beings that predestine what will occur to us in the present and in the future. Not being a person to believe in many superstitions, this past weekend seemed to have been a test of those believes.

This week's diving adventure was to start early. With a planned, three day trip to the Bahamas with the Abernethys set to leave Thursday night, I was eager for that day to come. Of course, Monday seemed to have lasted an eternity. Tuesday I awoke with a bad premonition -- not some holy sign from above but a feeling in my throat that what would await me was not good. Quickly I headed to Walgreens and purchased half the store's cold medicine and was determined to not let this upcoming cold take hold. Half drunk on cold medicine throughout the day at work and at home, I went to bed early (a rarity for me) in hopes that tomorrow this evil doer would be gone. Wednesday morning I awoke and sure enough, that cold fought harder than a Roman Army. It was apparent by then that the fate of my upcoming trip would come to a unfortunate end. Luckily, the great folks at the Abernethys were kind enough to reschedule me for another trip in a couple of months.

After speaking to my dive buddy, Fritz, and telling him about my unfortunate fate he consoled me as only a true dive buddy could and gave me some good advice as to how I could get rid of the cold (always listen to your pharmacist/dive buddy!). He mentioned that if I felt good enough, that we could plan a dive with Quiescence down in Key Largo on Sunday. The rest of the week dragged by and I fought that cold harder than Mike Tyson fought George Foreman. After what seemed like hundreds of gallons of cold medicine and Sudafed, Sunday morning I awoke feeling 99% well. Woohooo! Looks like my fate had just turned for the better.

The day began like most diving days--awake by 6:00am and all packed and ready to head out to Fritz's house by 6:30am. I arrived at Fritz's house by 7:10am and after a friendly, divers buddy hello we watch Karen shortly thereafter pull into the drive way--turning her truck off half way and coasting in the rest of the way--as she always does (women drivers! j/k). The drive down to Key Largo seemed too short, but that's always the case when I'm busy chit-chatting with my dive buddies about the thing I love best---DIVING!

Over at Quiescence we stopped to say hello to the friendly folks, paid for our trip and, back at the dock, I decided to return to the store to purchase a bottle of water. As I was paying for it, an octopus pin hung from in front of the register and something persuaded me to purchase it.
Well, it wasn't long before we were all aboard Capt. John's QIII boat--with her bottom just recently painted and a brand-spanking new prop to go with it. On the six pack boat were only four divers--Fritz, Karen, myself and Victoria--a very nice lady visiting from Houston, Texas.

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Through the channels lined by mangroves, blue skies and calm seas--we went. Along the way, we busied ourselves with friendly chat with each other, Victoria and Capt. John. It wasn't long before we arrived at our first dive spot. We suited up and were all ready and excited to go.

Splash! Into the semi-cold water I go and back up so that Capt. John could hand me my underwater camera. The first apparent thing was the fact that I couldn't see Fritz who had just dived ahead of me. Why? Because the vis wasn't very good. As I descended about 30ft I found him--Karen and Victoria found us and we were on our way.

Swimming along the reef, my first encounter was with a yellow stingray who looked like he was trying to keep his body off the cold sand.

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This little fella let me get in quite close without being too concerned with my presence. A quick snapshot or two and I was on my way, leaving the poor little fella to his business at hand.

We swam around for a while and I cruised closely to some of the algae-covered areas in hopes of finding a nudibranch. Unfortunately, fate wouldn't be this nice to me today. Luckily, we were at a dive site we had dived before numerous times and there was one particular spot on the reef that seems to be the center of attraction. Large schools of grunts, jacks and about a hundred different fish were busy doing their day-to-day. Down below was the Grand Central Station of all cleaning stations. A beautiful design of nature--the walls were covered in sponges and where the cleaning fellas lived there was a large hole in the coral above that would allow shafts of light to penetrate. This place is popular and busier than the malls during Christmas.

Hovering above was a yellow butterflyfish--where I had last left him (believe it or not).

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Down below was one of the fellas that last time caused me to hyperventilate from overwhelming me with photographic opportunities (click here for that story).

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What I most enjoy of this little spot is the fact that the fish seem unafraid of me. Even the elusive rock beauty comes in for a daringly close look.

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I spent the rest of my dive in this one spot, completely in awe over all the action going on around me when all of a sudden I see the big honcho man come in on my right (the station has a right door entrance too).

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When this fella comes in, the grunts make way and the neon gobies are quick to begin their cleaning service. Watching the number of fish these little neon gobies clean of parasites an hour, it's amazing how they haven't grown to the size of school buses. Those skinny, little guys sure have a big appetite!

I had just finished photographing the grouper when I catch the shadow of something hovering above me over the reef. I look up and the little yellow stingray I had photographed earlier was hightailing it out of there. All of a sudden I feel something huge land on top of my outstretched legs. My heart quickens, my eyes bulge. I'm expecting to find some huge tiger shark laying right on top of me. Oh God! What could fate have in store for me now?!?! I muster the courage to look back and I find Karen apologizing to me for landing on me. It turns out in her quest to coerce the yellow stingray towards the location I was at she didn't realize that I was right below her. So went what I hope would be the first and last heart-stopper of the day.

I stayed around a little longer at that spot and got in close for a couple more photographs...

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When all of a sudden I knew I had extended my visit and crossed the line between being considered a friendly diver or fish food...

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Yup! Looks like the boyfriend wasn't too fond of me getting too close to his girl. So, after a heart-felt apology, I quickly headed to safety while keeping a watchful eye along the way. Who knows what else fate had in store for me at this place.


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#2 laz217

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Posted 09 February 2003 - 09:26 PM

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Dive no.2

After Capt. John mentioned to us that a real friendly Goliath grouper had been seen lately at a reef just a couple yards away, it didn't take much to get us all to agree on the next dive site. I few minutes later we're giant striding and back-rolling into the water. With much better visibility than our previous dive, we meet down near the bottom and are ready to get on our way. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, who do you think makes his premiere? Mr. G!

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This guy is massive and completely unafraid. He swims right through the middle of the four of us. I look at Fritz, he looks at me, I give him the buddy up with Mr. G. hand signal and we're racing as fast as our Twin Jets will go to catch up next to the big fella. Huffing' and puffin' we barely make it up to him for a quick snapshot...

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Fritz has mentioned to me numerous times to bring along a penny to show size comparison to those who have never seen some of the critters I photograph. I think 'Fritz' makes the perfect size comparison in this photograph!

We caught up with Karen and Victoria shortly thereafter and continued on our way. We stopped at one spot in hopes of seeing a local moray but he was nowhere in sight. Meanwhile, I'm still looking for nudibranchs (yes, I am a NudiFreak!). I slap on a new macro lens I just recently purchased and take a few practice shots...

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Uuuuuu.. Can't wait to try this puppy out in St. Vincent!

As I was shooting a few macros, I look up suddenly and Victoria is waving at me. "Come over", she signs. I quickly make my way while unscrewing the macro lens. She's hovering mid water and as I approach her, she points straight down. I look down and I don't see anything. A couple of seconds pass and all of the sudden what looked like a piece of limestone suddenly jumps up to life. An octopus!

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Wooooohooooo! I quickly look up in search of Fritz and Karen and wave over to Fritz and do my octopus dance/sign. Closely resembling the frogfish sign, he glances from a far and see's this object jump up again. "Holy cow! A huge frogfish", he thinks. He comes in close and gives me the thumbs up.. He realizes it's an octopus--probably the same one wehad seen before in the vicinity.

A closer look and we realize that the little damsel fish is attackingthis poor fella. Closing his eyes and twitching with every nip of the damsels bite, it's not long before he realizes he's at the wrong spot and the wrong time. Without a worry in the world he moves along the top of the reef.

For a minute I wonder.. With Mr. G around and this fella out in the open, his fate didn't look too promising. Sure enough he finds the edge of the reef where it drops down about 6-7ft...

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He extends a tentacle... and another.. You could almost see him thinking, "Hmmm.. Should I do this?" I come in for a closer shot...

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I nod at him and say, "I wouldn't do that if I were you."

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With a quick jerk of its body, it bounces back onto the reef and I leave him to find a nice, tranquil place where he can hide from the cruelty of those pesky damsel fish and of what ill fate was in store for him.

After photographing the octopus, I was pretty excited about the shots (a rare occurrence for a photographer) and began doing loop-d-loops in celebration. Fritz was watching me from a far and figured I'd knock some sense (literally) into me any second when I'd bump my head into some coral. Of course, I had (good) fate on my side so that wasn't the case (this time!).

So what would fate have in store for the octopus should he had dived down to the bottom?

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This mean looking fella waiting down below and just seconds later, his older, bigger brother...

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Mr. G decides to sneak out. Wheeew! If the last couple of days had not taught me to believe in fate, this sure helped to convince me otherwise.


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#3 laz217

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Posted 09 February 2003 - 09:27 PM

Unfortunately our fate was more apparent--our hour of diving was over. As we boarded back onto the dive boat and headed back to port, I thanked those Gods for what fate had brought me on this marvelous day.

Great diving, a fantastic adventure and the best dive buddies to share it with. Most of all, I was thankful for that these Gods, whoever they are...

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Were kind enough to protect me from whatever ill-fate could have been in store for me...

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Finishing the day with a wonderful lunch at Calypso's with my dive buddies. Chatting about the good things and bad things going on around us, our outlook on fate, but most importantly, the importance of seizing the day for all it's worth.

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All in all -- another great adventure!

Laz

PS - For those who noticed the correlation between me buying an octopus pin and the luck of seeing an octopus (a rare occurence..trust me). Needless to say, I have just become a collector of pins in hopes of seeing that creature next time I go diving. Which one should I get next? Hmmm... "The Whale Shark one!", Fritz suggests. duhh!! :D

As they say, "One man's superstition is another man's religion."
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#4 markh

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Posted 10 February 2003 - 01:40 AM

Laz, truly fantastic shots, esp the stingray & octopus shots. I keep saying this but your pics just get better & better. I hope to have the pleasure of bumping into you on a trip one day!

Mark

Ps what settings for the 1st octopus shot (with surface in background)?
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#5 Cybergoldfish

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Posted 10 February 2003 - 12:28 PM

"I hate you Laz!"

#6 james

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Posted 10 February 2003 - 03:25 PM

I wish I could go diving every weekend.

Laz, don't you love that feeling when you come up from a dive and you can feel the gasses in your sinuses expanding? Followed by a loud squeaking, and a whoosh of relief? Followed by a huge cloud of snot of course...:-)

Cheers
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#7 tshepherd

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Posted 10 February 2003 - 04:01 PM

Laz, I've gotta tell you, stories like this have me seriously reconsidering my choice of homesteads... Florida is sounding better and better.

#8 herbko

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Posted 10 February 2003 - 07:57 PM

Hey Laz. Great shots! You and that octopus must have something going.
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#9 laz217

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Posted 10 February 2003 - 10:20 PM

Laz, truly fantastic shots, esp the stingray & octopus shots. I keep saying this but your pics just get better & better. I hope to have the pleasure of bumping into you on a trip one day!

Mark

Ps what settings for the 1st octopus shot (with surface in background)?

If you bump into me, make sure I'm not carrying my camera or a drink. I'd hate to drop either one of them. :D Cuba trip... maybe?

The settings for the first octo shot (with surface) was F/6.3 and 1/250 SS. I was in about 30 feet of water, ~50ft vis, I was praying to the uw photography Gods that the fella would stay still and that I had my exposure dialed in right. The whole series, 8 in total, are definitely one of my favorite shots to date--aside from my up-close queen angelfish shot.
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#10 laz217

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Posted 10 February 2003 - 10:26 PM

"I hate you Laz!"

AGAIN?!?! :D

I'm still hating you because you shot the awesomest over/under shot I've ever seen!

Oh yeah!! And that other cuttlefish shot too!
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#11 laz217

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Posted 10 February 2003 - 10:32 PM

I wish I could go diving every weekend.

Laz, don't you love that feeling when you come up from a dive and you can feel the gasses in your sinuses expanding?  Followed by a loud squeaking, and a whoosh of relief?  Followed by a huge cloud of snot of course...:-)

Cheers
James

I'd prefer not to do that again. I still had a slight bit of congestion and on the very s...l...o...w.. way down to the abyssal 30 ft I felt like my eyes were going to pop out of their sockets. On the way up, those last 5 feet felt like someone put a my head in a vise. The squeeling in my head sounded like someone lit a bottle-rocket next to my ear and the cloud of snot was a relief up until I got attacked by the school of snot-eating yellowtails and chubs!
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#12 laz217

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Posted 10 February 2003 - 10:37 PM

Hey Laz. Great shots! You and that octopus must have something going.

Shhh!! Keep it down, Herb. I don't want the girlfriend to know. :D

Thanks everyone for the nice comments and signs of affection (CyberGoldfish). It's definitely a lot of fun writing it and knowing that you enjoy the read. I'm thinking my next step will be to shoot 3D digital photographs (I can just see someone building a 3D digital camera housing now) and sending everyone a squirt-gun with FL Keys saltwater in it. Then we can have a "Muppets in 4D"-type effect like they have at Disney's MGM.
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#13 markh

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Posted 10 February 2003 - 11:42 PM

Hey thats got the grey matter churning. How about attaching a sound file with the next one.....perhaps the sound of the air bubbles, water lashing onto the shore or even that comforting sound of the boat above you on a drift dive! It would set the scene nicely would it not?

Mark
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