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Pick Up The Papers And The Trash!


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#1 laz217

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Posted 09 March 2003 - 06:16 PM

Pick Up the Papers and the Trash
March 9th, 2003

This title could probably best describe my past two weeks. Being in the midst of remodeling my house, the long hours of moving furniture and dive books, painting walls and cleaning over and over again took out every ounce of energy in my body. Awakening with a paint brush in my hand on Saturday morning, the ‘joyous’ act of priming and painting my room left me feeling like the Karate Kid after Mr. Miagi put him through his “Remodel-My-House Karate.”

Throughout the day, one thing floated in the back my mind — the thought of diving on Sunday morning. Having previously planned a Biscayne National Park dive with my dive buddies, Fritz and Karen, my chance at some R&R was finally close at hand. Finishing up around 10PM, I decided I would not bring along my camera for I was even too tired to want to shoot.

The next morning I awoke with a scuba mask in my hand — much better than a paint brush! Fully rested and hearing the muffling screams of my camera inside her Pelican case — she wanted to go diving too! Sure enough, what was supposed to start as a day of R&R began with a rat-race to get her cleaned and assembled before I would need to head off to Fritz’s house.

Forty-five minutes later, I was out the door and on my way. Along the express way I noticed a large school bus towing a fairly large Zodiac (inflatable boat). As I drove closer, I noticed a huge painting of a dive flag on the side of the bus with some French words written on it. “Holy Moses,” I said out loud. The bus was filled with (what I would assume) were divers, all headed south. A quick prayer to the dive Gods so that we didn’t all end up on the same reef was all I could do.

After arriving at Fritz’s house, I moved my equipment over to the dive mobile and we headed over to Biscayne National Park. We chatted a little about everything including the odd warm water temperature changes (according to NOAA) in comparison to last week. What was clear to see was the perfect, summer-like day we were beginning to experience. Our hopes were high that we’d have an extraordinary day.

Arriving at Biscayne National Park with Karen following closely behind, it wasn’t long before we were all ready to go out to the reefs. With the Captain and Nestor (dive master, first & second mate, chief engineer, etc.) on deck…

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..we were on our way out to do the mini-wall drift dive. With clear skies, warm temperatures and less than 5 knots of wind we were definitely not the only ones out to seize the day.

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Arriving at the mini-wall dive site, Fritz, Karen and I were soon on our way down to the bottom (~90ft). Right away it became very apparent that it would turn out to be a great dive — with 60-70 feet of visibility, a slight trickle of current and fish abound, this dive was exactly what I had been hoping for all week.

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As we began our slow drift dive we were in awe over the kaleidoscope of colors appearing before our eyes in the different varieties of corals and fish. We exchanged a diver’s thumps-up seal of approval several times.

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Along the way, all this beauty was disrupted by a horrific site! Lobster traps sat a top of these beautiful reefs with hundreds of feet of rope wrapped around the corals. It was apparent that these were to be a permanent addition to the reefs as they no longer had a float attached to them.

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As we continued along the way we found fishing line and even a small anchor on top of a sponge.

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What was to be a day of R&R suddenly turned into a reef cleanup at 90 feet! Clipping my camera to my BC, I untangled some of the rope while Fritz picked up the small anchor. Cutting off the rope and tying it to my BC I heard Fritz compensate with air in his BC for the extra weight (Disclaimer: Don’t try this without some very good diving experience!).

As we continued on our way, we were suddenly enveloped my thousands of Silverside Minnows rushing through! Visibility was down to 10 feet and I could barely make out where my dive buddies were.

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Enveloped in this blanket of sparkling lights, the feeling was like that of being in the middle of a huge meteor shower. To say it was breath-taking would be an understatement. We spent a good sum of our dives surrounded by this perfectly coordinated living-wall of fish before we had to begin our ascent.

While we made our safety stop, I continued to point in all directions to Karen and she would frantically turn in that direction in hopes of seeing some big critter. What she didn’t understand was that I was pointing at something closer to the microscopic level. Everywhere I looked, I could see the different larvae of fish and jellies drifting in the current. The highlight was an intricately detailed jelly no larger than a ¼ inch in diameter. Needless to say, the 3 minute safety stop turned into a 10 minute safety stop instead.

With everyone safely back up on the boat we headed closer to shore for a few minutes before we arrived at our second dive destination. Part of the Rocky and Bullwinkle reef tract (yes, you read that right), this new reef was yet to be named. Not having dived this reef before, I was excited to jump in and see what I would discover. It was agreed by Nestor that after our dive we would name this reef either Boris (another Rocky & Bullwinkle character) if it was boring or Natasha (Rocky & Bullwinkle character) if it was not. We all laughed and agreed that in one hour we’d have a response for him.

Even before most divers had geared up, I was giant-striding into the shallow reef. With over 90-100ft of visibility, I could see this beautiful reef fade far into the distance. Dropping down in an area with the reef on one side and a big sandy area on the other, I set my sights on a small piece of solitary sponge out in the sand desert. Swaying in the very slight surge were two itsy-bitsy Highhats — no larger than maybe ½ an inch.

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As I was taking a couple of photos of them (not an easy task), I noticed Fritz descend upon the reef about 30ft. away — with Karen a little further down. I noticed he was acting a bit suspicious as he reached down to the reef and picked up an object from the reef. “Hmmm! I wonder what Fritz found?” With one of my lenses still lying in the sand, I began swimming towards Fritz when I noticed he had a baby turtle in his hands! I hurried up a little and I noticed him turn the turtle around and pound the little guy with his fist. “What the heck!”, I mumbled to myself. I couldn’t believe what he was doing! Could Fritz be some kind of animal abuser?!?! Maybe the turtle was dead and he was trying to revive him?!?! A hundred thoughts ran through my mind as I approached closer.

When I finally reach him, I could see it WAS a lifeless baby turtle. After learning from our Sea Turtle seminar last year that you could sometimes revive a drowned turtle by pounding on its underside (I’m not kidding), I watched Fritz pound on the little turtle again and again…

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As a last resort, Fritz removed his regulator from his mouth and began to give the turtle CPR.

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Lazaro Ruda
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#2 laz217

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Posted 09 March 2003 - 06:16 PM

Unfortunately, the little guy would not come back to life. A tear drop fell from my eye as I watched Fritz, with all his good-hearted passion, hug the little guy. Not being able to let him drift back out into the ocean that had taken his life away — Fritz carried the little guy with him for the remainder of the dive.

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I swam back out to the sand patch and retrieved my lens. As we continued to dive the reef, I noticed from a far a tiny patch of reef no larger than 3 feet across in the middle of the sand. I swam towards it while Fritz continued to carry his little turtle and scanned the top of the reef in search of sea horses, frog fish or any other rarely-seen critter. When I swam closer, I could see a large variety of tiny fish swimming back and forth. The reef was covered in life…

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I look under one side of it and I could barely see a small Yellow Stingray hidden below the sand while a tiny Highhat hovered above him.

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As I continued to scan this little miniature oasis I noticed some Arrow Crabs and perched on a sponge was this little guy..

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I observed him for a few minutes and I couldn’t help but correlate its behavior with that of a Coney. Could this be a juvenile Coney? I sure couldn’t find the answer in my Fish ID books.

As I swam towards the other side of this little oasis, I was scanning a large black sponge when all of a sudden a piece of red sponge attached to it moved an inch or so. After a Scooby, “Ruuhh?!?!” I took a closer look at it and reached out to try to nudge it. As my finger closed in on it, it moved again! Woah!! It was then apparent to me what I was seeing—a Decorator Crab! I waved Fritz over and pointed at the sponge, he looked at me with a puzzled look and I reached out to the little guy so he could move again. Sure enough he budged a bit and Fritz now realized what I was pointing at.

Now, instead of accepting the uncompositional area where the crab had moved to, I figured I’d return in a few minute when it would have moved to a better area. I swam around and found a couple of other critters busily about their daily life.

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When I returned a few minutes later to the spot where I had seen that decorator crab, sweat rolled down my head (is that possible underwater?) as I could no longer find the little guy. “Ahhh!! You fool!” I mumbled to myself. “You should have photographed it when you had the chance!” Oh well.. Next time, I guess.

With an hour almost over, Fritz and I began our return to the boat and along the way I stopped for one last photo opportunity.

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This patient little fella actually sat still as my huge camera covered closely above him for 4 shots before I was able to get a decent looking photo. Why can’t all fish be like this?

As I ascended towards the boat, I began to hear some noise behind me. As I turned around to see what was going on, a huge smile grew on my face as I watched Fritz swim next to the revived (seriously) little turtle. It once again flapped its little flippers and swam happily up to the surface for a gasp of air.

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As the boat headed back to port, I sat on the deck quietly reminiscing about the day’s activities and the lessons learned. Nature had once again showed off its true beauty. Although my ideas of a little R&R were slightly changed by having to clean up what others had ruined, I couldn’t help but be sad to think that, where those lobster traps had landed, there were little oasis’ that were so easily destroyed. Luckily, I had friends who not only helped me clean up the mess but provide enough comedy-relief in the process to make those sad feelings bearable. If we all do our part in not only cleaning up but showing others what we stand to lose, maybe then will we preserve for our children what 'little oasis' we now cherish.

Laz


PS – Take a wild guess what the second reef was finally named?
Lazaro Ruda
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#3 james

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Posted 11 March 2003 - 07:18 AM

Rubber Turtle Reef? :-) Thank goodness you two were there to save him!!!

These shots are really excellent Laz. I've always wondered - how do you get so close to your subjects without scaring them off? Especially w/ the shutter lag.

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#4 wetpixel

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Posted 11 March 2003 - 12:07 PM

I've seen Laz underwater. He's very... calm. :P
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#5 laz217

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Posted 11 March 2003 - 08:46 PM

Sure.. That's because I don't have a 14ft Great Hammerhead or Bull shark charging straight at me. I'm sure I wouldn't be so calm if that was the case.

James, for the most part there are a couple of variables that come into play when I'm diving. First, I usually don't chase after the fish. I watch where they're going and swim ahead of them in the direction I'm assuming they'll swim. During this time I will search for a good backdrop for the 'possible' photograph. Then it's a matter of settling down and saying your prayers to the photo Gods.

At other times if you stick around long enough with the fish they begin to become interested in you and will come up for a closer look. By then my shutter button is already half-pressed and ready for an instant shot. I personally like hanging around to watch their behavior. Photographing them is only part of the fun. Few things are as funny as watching a great barracuda getting chased off a reef by a damsel or Fritz getting his hair pulled by the yellowtails over at Elbow Reef. If you just shoot the photo of the fish and move along you'd miss all that.

Lastly, because a lot of the reefs I dive are visited frequently, many of the fish are a little more tolerant to divers.

If none of these works then a little fish-herding with my 3 dive buddies usually does the job. Just go easy on the little fella and don't stress him out. Nobody likes a stressed-out fish photo anyways. :P
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#6 markh

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Posted 13 March 2003 - 05:37 AM

Deleted.

How bloody embarrassing.
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#7 laz217

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Posted 13 March 2003 - 09:19 AM

Mark...

No need to shed a tear as the problem with the little turtle was nothing more than simple physics. The pressure at 30ft was too much for the on/off switch, which is visible in the photos, to work. That's right! It's a toy turtle! :P

Turns out this was nothing more than a very good prank by Fritz who had this little guy stashed away in his BC and had planned to turn him on (he flaps his flippers and moves its head). This is where I come in. When I looked over at him it looked like he had picked him off the reef and I notice him pounding on what looked like a real turtle from far away. When I got closer and noticed it was fake I lost it laughing. He decided to play along with it and decided to do as if he was trying to bring him back to life.

The funny part was that as we were ascending, all of the sudden the turtle springs back to life and starts flapping its flipper and floating towards the surface--thus the happy ending with the turtle.

In all honesty, I never thought so many people would be fooled by the photographs as it's pretty apparent the turtle is fake. Now if I can only find a giant squid toy.

Anyways, early April fools is the best I can say. :D :P :D :P :D
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#8 yahsemtough

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Posted 13 March 2003 - 09:29 AM

Laz I think Mark is the one who has pulled the joke on you.

Anyway I do enjoy your stories. I'll have to look you up next time I head down to Key Largo to dive .

I stand corrected, apparently Mark needs an eye check-up. Check those pictures out a little closer.
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#9 markh

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Posted 13 March 2003 - 09:38 AM

Laz,

Revenge is bitter sweet. :P

Beware!!

Mark
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