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About kestrel

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  1. Excellent shots. Filefish and shark are my favorites. Looks like an interesting trip. ---George
  2. Some images from St Vincent & the Grenadines. Steve Jones from Wetpixel was diving on the boat in St Vincent as well. Thought I'd post these here. Longsnout seahorse Eye of a hermit crab Banded jawfish Lesser Electric Ray All the photos above were taken with a Nikon 105mm with a Nikon 4T diopter. On some, I also used a Woody's wet diopter. A trip report containing more pics and a slideshow is available here: St Vincent & Grenadines Trip Report Or just the slideshow is here: Slideshow (As usual, please right-click and save slideshow before playing.)
  3. Hi Mike. I just got back from two weeks in Tonga. I went for the sailing and the whale-watching-- both of which are excellent there-- rather than the diving. But I did bring my dive gear and expected to get in more than the couple of days of diving that I did. (The diving wasn't that bad-- it's just that we were sailing on a small boat, so much of the time we were in the far south and west of the archipelago and out of range of the dive ops) I'd have to say that compared to Indo-Pacific locations such as Fiji or the Solomon Islands, I was definitely underwhelmed by the diving in Tonga. Again, the sailing (there are two charter ops- the usual suspects-- Sunsail and Moorings) is great. There are also half a dozen whale-watching ops there. The draw of course is the humpbacks which congregate in the Vavau region. We saw a lot of whales and whale signs-- some major league tail-slapping exhibitions when we were sailing one day, and also did have a humpback buzz under us during one dive. Yeah, that was amazing. But most of the whale watching is either the conventional sort done from a small boat, or involves the ops that allow you to snorkle with the humpbacks, assuming they can find an amenable humpback. (Some ops allow this and are oriented toward it, other's don't. There is some controversy on this issue. Too much to discuss in this post.) This seems to be the major tourism pull in the area. The two dive ops that are there-- Beluga and Dophin-- both struck me as professional. However, if it's only the diving that's in question, I wouldn't fly through Fiji (which I think you have to do to get to Tonga) to dive in Tonga. I'm sorting through my photos and will probably post a report on a board that's less exclusively underwater oriented, like maybe scubadiving.com. If I do, I'll try to shoot you a link.
  4. For the Solomon Islands visitor-- Some recommended (and not so recommended) books: Solomon Time: an unlikely quest in the South Pacific Will Randall Publisher: Scribners Comment: If you’re going to the Solomons—get it. Sort of an English Carl Hiaasen mixed with a dose of Bill Bryson. Hey, get it maybe even if you’re not going. Description: From the book jacket: “Will Randall, a young English schoolmaster…uprooted his conventional First World life and let himself be blown to one of the farthest and most beautiful corners of the earth, the Solomon Islands of the South Pacific….Randall’s new home is Mendali, a fishing village so remote it can only be reached by motorized canoe.” His goal was to do fulfill the terms of a will of which he was the indirect beneficiary. The terms of the will stated that he was to spend the bequest trying to improve the lives of the villagers in a specific remote Solomon Island. Only one problem: he is an urban English schoolteacher specializing in French and German, he is admittedly something of a klutz, and he has little experience of either rural life or the developing world. In any event, while starting out with no idea of what to do, he ends up trying to help the village by engaging in a chicken-farming project. Notes: In the tradition of the picaresque novel—with touches of Swift, Cervantes, and Voltaire’s “Candide”. Quite funny, with dead-on dry British humor. For example, his description of an expat party he got dragged to in Honiara: “Just as people like to join clubs to reenact the battles of the English Civil War or dress up in 1940s clothes to dance the jitterbug, I appeared to have stumbled on a reunion of the Colonial Debauchery Appreciation Society, whose members’ aims were to talk at great length, generally on the subject of the person who was speaking, and drink the assembled company under the table. The meeting was really going quite well.” So—relevance to divers? His descriptions of village life and the cadence of the daily rural existence on the Solomons are among the best I’ve read. Living Tradition: A Changing Life in the Solomon Islands Michael Kwaioloa/ Ben Burt Comment: more serious than “Solomon Time”, an anthropologist writes up the story of one Solomon Islander’s life. Readable, but perhaps not what I’d call a gripping beach book. Description: This is an autobiography of sorts of a Solomon Islander whose life spans a few eras. When young, he remembers talk of headhunting and clan raids. Of his father he writes: “My father was a priest for the ghosts….He saw his grandfathers and fathers kill people and he knew who they killed. He held a piece of a man they’d killed, he saw how they’d baked it and maybe he was frightened to eat it, but he probably tasted it.” Later he writes of how first his father accepted a form of Christianity. At the same time, aspects of the old traditions always seem to be in the background. This book is an as-told-to autobiography, transcribed by anthropologist Ben Burt from tapes made of his interviews with Michael Kwaioloa. It is an interesting and reasonably well-written perspective on one man’s transition from life in a village garden culture to his experiences of what we might call incipient globalization. So, would this be of interest to divers: Maybe. It’s not as funny or readable as Solomon Time, but it is written for the general reader. If there were as such a thing as a book like “Ishi” (Kroeber) for the Solomon Islands, I guess this would be it. Guardians of the Marovo Lagoon: Practice, Place and Politics in Maritime Melanesia Edvard Hviding Publisher: University of Hawaii Press Comment: Full of good research and interesting ideas. Very on-point for a visitor to Uepi, since Uepi is located on the Marovo Lagoon. However, the writing style is stilted and presumes so much specialized knowledge that it would be hard to recommend this book to a general audience. Description: A Norwegian anthropologist writes about traditional Melanesian fisheries patterns and the implications of that to general development programs. The topic couldn’t be more relevant or important to anyone interested in the intersection between traditional people’s fisheries rights and the impact of global development. His research appears good and (although I don’t agree with some of his conclusions) his thesis appears well thought through. However, I can’t imagine anyone who doesn’t enjoy getting plastered by current social science theory wading through his prose. Much of his work is written in such a way that it assumes a knowledge of a good deal of fairly esoteric social science theory—and a willingness to work your way through academic-style writing. If you happen to be on your way to a Phd in anthropology or postmodern postcolonial critical theory this may be just the book for you. Otherwise, I’m not sure it would be considered very accessible. Relevance to divers: See above. Depends on the diver. Maps As they say—and now for something completely different. Here’s a really bad photo of a map of Uepi Island (point and shoot camera in housing shot of a laminated map hanging up inside a dive shop-- internal flash blew out upper edge of island): Note that almost all the development (buildings, etc) is placed in one end of the island. Topside of island is open to Pacific, bottom is Marovo Lagoon. Both “right” and “left” sides of island have a narrow cut on the other side of which is another island. Here’s a close-up of the developed part of Uepi Island. That's all, folks.
  5. A further note on the finanial aspect of the comparison: On top of the basic $500 financial advantage mentioned above, there is also the issue of probable depreciation in value of both the camera and the housing. These days I have heard remarks that even the more sophisticated DSLR’s are just another form of disposable camera—over time. In other words, if we’d bought an F100 and a housing for it back in pre-digital days, we might have expected to keep it for a number of years. These days many folks are buying DSLR’s with the full expectation of replacing both the camera and the housing within one or two product lifecycles. Depending on the manufacturer, than can be as soon as one but usually no longer than 3 years. Therefore, when purchasing one system versus another, it seems to make sense to include in any financial analysis assumptions regarding the possible disposal value (we’ll call it “salvage value”, the term often used) for that item. This salvage value is going to be materially effected by which stage of the product life cycle that the product is in at the time of purchase. In other words, at this point, a D70 may cost $1000 and a D100 may cost $1500. However, the D100 has been out for (I believe) about 18 months now. It has been speculated that the successor to the D100 is on the way. In any event, even though speculations like this are rife and historically unreliable, it still seems reasonable to assume that the D100 will be superceded within 12 months from now. Let’s split the difference and call it 6 months, and assume that overall, for the sake of this discussion, Nikon will give its DSLR’s (both the D70 and the D100) a life-cycle of about 24 months. This has relevance to the future potential resale value of both the D100 and any associated housing. These DSLR’s come with dedicated housings, which can cost from about $1200 to $2500 or more. Again, for the sake of discussion, let’s assume the purchaser chooses something in the middle, and ends up with a housing costing $1750. (For a reality check, the Aquatica housing for the D100 is listed on B&H’s website at about $1600.) Therefore, the purchaser’s total investment in items with a shorter lifecycle is not just the $1000-$1500 spent on the camera body, but also the $1750 or so spent on the housing. Note that for the purposes of this discussion I have excluded the cost of both the lenses for the camera and the ports and associated gears for the housing. These items are necessary, but it is generally recognized that they have much longer product life cycles. In other words, a Nikon 105mm AFS lens is probably not going to be replaced in the Nikon product line for a number of years, and will be able to be used on the successor to the D100. The same is usually true of the ports for the housing. There is of course some depreciation in the value of all of these items but it should not be as dramatic as the depreciation in the value of the camera body and its housing. So, returning to our camera body and housing, we have an investment of an average of $1250 in the camera body (1000 + 1500 = 2500 / 2) and $1750 in the housing. That’s $3000 in total. However, as we’re previously noted, these products will only be “current” for approximately two years. After that, they will be in the category of “superceded products” and the amount that one could get in the case of their resale would drop. My problem with buying a D100 and an associated housing for it right now (April of 2004) is that I would be making a $3000 or so purchase in a system that—if I go to sell it say 2 ½ years down the line—may have been out of production for 2 years. A prospective purchaser might be assumed to be more skeptical and reserved in that situation. On the other hand, if we carry forward our (somewhat arbitrary) assumption of a 24-month product lifecycle for these DSLR’s, if I go to sell my D70 at that point, I will be selling a camera that has more or less just gone out of production. In that case, I think I will experience less of a difference between the salvage value (resale price) and the initial purchase price. Therefore, in a financial analysis of the two cameras side by side, it seems to me to hurt the case for a D100 purchase at this point. It not only costs $500 more to start out with, but the camera is about 18 months into its life. It is therefore much closer to the point where it goes out of production—and also it has further to drop than a D70 (because it costs more to begin with). I am aware that there are a number of alternatives to selling a system once the camera goes out of production. An extra camera can be bought, the user can simply choose to hold on to the system, and I'm sure there are others. However, for a financial analysis, it seems that what's relevant is the fair market value of the system at a given point in time-- regardless of what the user chooses to do with it. Granted that there are tons of assumptions involved in the above, and I wouldn’t dispute anyone who wanted to challenge any or all of them on a specific basis. I may even have gotten some specific facts wrong- it wouldn't be the first time. :? However, I think the general principle would stand: that buying a DSLR and associated housing at list price near the end of its product life cycle is not the most advantageous financial decision. Note that this is not intended as a knock on the D100 whatsoever, and that this analysis has much less (if any) relevance for a D100 owner who purchased their camera before the D70 was announced. (“Some of my best friends…”). Note also that I haven’t addressed the D100’s functionality as a photographic tool. It is by all accounts a great camera. Even aside from that, it has been remarked many times that Ansel Adams took his photos with somewhat less digitally sophisticated tools than many of us use, and that Cartier-Bresson was similarly “handicapped”. And-- oh yeah. In the interests of full disclosure, I might also note that I took receipt of a D70 late last week, and spent much of today shooting with a new 70-200 2.8 VR lens. I could understand if someone claimed that this has distorted my perspective. :roll:
  6. Eric and all--some notes on differences between our stay on liveaboard (Spirit of Solomons, sistership to the Bilikiki) and our stay on Uepi: 1)Social/sociological aspect: Although the diving was great, we (Carolyn and I) found the opportunities to interact or get much of a sense of the people of the Solomons were pretty limited on the liveaboard. It would be going too far to say that we might as well have been a cruise ship, but we had a sense of significant separation from anything resembling the actual daily life of the Solomons. This aspect may be exacerbated in the Solomons (compared to a liveaboard in say, Belize) due to the very simplicity of most Solomon Islander’s material lives. This sense of separation was somewhat less true of our stay in Uepi. It is still a resort, but it is staffed by people from one local village, and some sense of the pace of Solomons life gets through. 2) Marine biology: I'm no expert, but at Uepi you are in the same region that the Bilikiki goes to for a couple of days of the 12 day itinerary. What you'll see underwater at Uepi won't be radically different. However, what I found interesting was getting the sense of how dive sites relate to one particular island. In other words, with the liveaboard, sometimes I lost much of a sense of where I was-- the ship would travel quite a bit from site to site to give us the best diving they could. Those of us there for the first time pretty much lost sense of where we were and how that related to the last place we'd been. On the island (Uepi), it was interesting to get a sense of how the reef on the Pacific side was, what the diving in the channel was like, and then how also the diving on the lagoon side was. Some dives, we could literally dive the point on the Pacific side, drift up to coral gardens in the channel on the incoming tide, and then snorkel back to the mid-channel dive shop. By the end of the week we began to get a sense of the underwater topography surrounding the island. That being said, when we were at Uepi, we saw many more sharks and bigger schools of barracuda. I'm not sure if those were random temporary local conditions. 3) Heat- this may sound trivial and overly obvious, but when we were there, (October) the trades were intermittent at best and by our standards it was pretty hot. Maybe we're spoiled by the more temperate weather in the San Francisco Bay Area. But the heat didn't bother us on the liveaboard, I think because we usually had some sort of ocean breeze. On Uepi we definitely noticed the heat. This may be a personal reaction on our part, but it's worth noting that you'll be very close to the equator and that you're going in August. I'm not sure what the weather's like then, but it's worth taking note. 4) Expense-- You note $250 a day for 3 dives. Garden Island in Fiji is maybe an unfair comparison, since it is known as good value for the money, but if that's a standard, I think Garden Island is about $150 a day for 2 dives, or perhaps $185-ish with 3 dives a day(?). What may bug some people is that Uepi is still rather rustic-- the little cabins were more like bungalows, there is no AC (there are fans), there's no hot water, it is a fairly "buggy" environment. There are a lot of other nice touches-- the staff is great, and the food is really outstanding-- but I can still imagine some guests wondering about the cost versus some aspects of the accommodations. It's not a luxury resort, but it still costs. I assume the managers would say the costs are related to the isolated location. A supply ship stops at the island once a month. Otherwise the food and supplies are obtained locally. A lot of labor is present. I would assume the managers would say the costs are a combination of high-costs for shipped items and a lot of labor used for local items. Nevertheless, it's not a bargain-type place. 5) "Personal space"-- Sorry to sound so California, but I'm not sure quite how to classify this item. And this could be a positive or negative, depending on one's own subjective personal reaction. But-- if the owners (Grant and Jill) are going to be on-island and managing the place when you are there, it is worth noting. Grant and Jill manage the place with a strong personal touch- they are there for almost every meal (i.e. breakfast and dinner-- lunch is served in the bungalows) and dine with the guests. Since there were few guests when we where there, a couple of nights and mornings there was only them and us. We had some long interesting conversations. This is quite different from for example Garden Island. Grant and Jill both grew up on fairly isolated family farms in Australia. Sometimes staying at Uepi felt more like one of those "farm-stay" programs where you go stay with a farm family on their farm and see what farm life is like. In other words, unlike many dive resorts, their personal presence can be a major factor, especially in a weeklong stay. If you like them, that's fine. If on the other hand you mostly want to be left alone—I guess you could let them know that and they’d accommodate you. Also, if you're traveling there by yourself-- this whole aspect becomes that much more important. There is literally nothing on the island but this resort, and there were relatively few other guests during a half of our one-week stay. That might impact the experience for a solo traveller. Depending on one’s perspective, I guess you could feel either a little out of it; or alternatively, like you’d died and gone to dive-heaven with a whole island at your disposal. In any event, when we were there, the atmosphere felt more like a friendly B&B, where the guests and the hosts get to know each other, talk over world events, etc. That may not be what some people are looking for. 6) Visits for less than a week-- When we were there, most of the other guests were Australian expats who lived in Honiara (capital of Solomons) and who came to Uepi for 3 or 4 days. I think planes fly in to Sege every few days or so. It seems like it would be possible to lessen the gamble of going there (and the cost) by visiting for 3-4 days. We enjoyed the week, but there are other options. Bottom line: The decision factor for us was that we didn't want to travel all the way to the Solomon Islands and only experience life on a liveaboard there. We wanted to keep diving but also get a little more flavor of the country. That left us (as far as we knew) with a choice between Uepi and Ghizo for land-based diving in the Solomons. (We weren't aware of the Tulagi operation at the time). I've never been to Ghizo so can't comment-- but that's what lead us to Uepi. We’re glad we went.
  7. I did a little more web research. According to the Shark Research Institute (SRI), as James noted, the Atlanta Aquarium has proposed that they be allowed to exhibit whale sharks. Here is a link to the SRI homepage, which highlights a link to their position paper on the subject. www.sharks.org Short version: the SRI is opposed to keeping whale sharks in captivity. In addition, according to a website called Destinations Belize, the Atlanta Aquarium was at one point seeking an agreement to capture a whale shark from Belizean waters. On this website, opposition to the proposal is voiced from an activist perspective, and it is later noted that the Aquarium's proposal was withdrawn. www.destinationsbelize.com/news.htm (page down toward the bottom of the page; entries for 1/27/04). Given the above, it looks like this may be an ongoing controversy.
  8. I know Bruce; I was on a liveaboard with him and his wife for two weeks in the Solomons. He and his wife (both Phd's and professional aquarists; she's a curator at the Florida Aquarium) are indeed widely known and respected-- among other things, they both have a species of fish named after themselves. OK, not exactly their lead scientific credential; but it was an interesting side note. Anyway, I'll ask him in general about whale sharks and aquariums. As for Atlanta, specifically, I don't know what he's allowed to disclose about Atlanta; there is apparently a sort of pre-IPO (ok, I don't know what you'd call it for an aquarium opening, but in corporate-talk, there seemed to be a limit on what he can say publicly before it opens) limit on the comments he can make about Atlanta. But he sure knows his fish; he built up the Waikiki Aquarium, and was a pioneer in the field of live coral cultivation, as I understand it. So he will have an informed opinion-- whatever it is. Of course, those folks that are opposed to keeping wild animals in enclosures will probably take issue with it; but let me at least see if I can get ahold of him. As far as Japanese environmental awareness goes....whoa, that's another thread. I just got back from a week there. Let's just say that as far as mainstream Japanese pop culture goes, there's work to do.
  9. Eric and all, we went to the Solomons last October (October 2003) and I wrote a 4 part trip report on our 2 weeks on the Spirit of the Solomons (sistership to the Bilikiki) and one week on Uepi. This is my first post on this board, so I may mess up the links: http://dive.scubadiving.com/members/tripre...orts.php?s=2370 http://dive.scubadiving.com/members/tripre...orts.php?s=2371 http://dive.scubadiving.com/members/tripre...orts.php?s=2372 http://dive.scubadiving.com/members/tripre...orts.php?s=2463 If I do mess up the links, if you go to scubadiving.com and look up the profile of a rather sketchy character named "kestrel", you should see the trip reports in the publications section of his profile. Enjoy your trip.
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