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Alex_Mustard

Wetpixel Oceanics Trip 2009

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In the morning I am crossing the Atlantic, the start of a long journey to hopefully some excellent oceanic whitetip shark encounters in the outer Bahamas. So I thought it was time to start a thread in the build up to this trip as the group slowly meet up and depart with Jim Abernethy on the Shear Water on Saturday morning.

 

I doubt that there will be many updates during the trip, but hopefully there will be a few things to report as we meet up and build up to this trip. I'll do my best to keep a diary on board and post it all up on my return, in a similar style to the last one.

 

I know that these threads are very useful for those thinking of joining these unique JASA trips in the future, and I always enjoy the banter when we are in West End marina in the Bahamas and instead of talking we are all busily communicating with each other through wetpixel.

 

Fingers crossed for a good turn out from the sharks, pigs, iguanas etc. For those coming - looking forward to seeing you/meeting you in West Palm Beach.

 

Alex

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In the morning I am crossing the Atlantic, the start of a long journey to hopefully some excellent oceanic whitetip shark encounters in the outer Bahamas. So I thought it was time to start a thread in the build up to this trip as the group slowly meet up and depart with Jim Abernethy on the Shear Water on Saturday morning.

 

I doubt that there will be many updates during the trip, but hopefully there will be a few things to report as we meet up and build up to this trip. I'll do my best to keep a diary on board and post it all up on my return, in a similar style to the last one.

 

I know that these threads are very useful for those thinking of joining these unique JASA trips in the future, and I always enjoy the banter when we are in West End marina in the Bahamas and instead of talking we are all busily communicating with each other through wetpixel.

 

Fingers crossed for a good turn out from the sharks, pigs, iguanas etc. For those coming - looking forward to seeing you/meeting you in West Palm Beach.

 

Alex

 

Hi Alex,

Looking forward to meeting you. Will be coming on the trip. I just got a 10-24mm which fits the zoom and focus gear for my 12-24mm (Seacam), for which I am eternally grateful. Got a polecam custom-made by Scubacam (Singapore) to try out too.

 

Marcus

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All the way across the pond for oceanics Alex. Whats wrong with Egypt ! I am only jealous.

 

Hope you all have a great time and get the shots you all want. Keep a distance from the pigs in case they have they flu.

 

All the best Stew

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In Florida now! Did our first dive of the day today - 2 hours 10 minutes at Blue Heron Bridge. Myself, Nick, Claus and Barbara went with Laz and were joined by Jimmy - who was dropped off by Brian from the Shear Water. It was funny to say hello to Jim underwater. Went for lunch after.

 

Good variety of critters about, long-arm occies, many seahorses etc. I'll post some images when I have downloaded them.

 

Alex

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Just rub it in, Alex, as Jim has just cancelled my June trip on Shearwater!

 

Tim

 

:P

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In the end, jet lag caught up with me and I didn't have time to post any photos last night before bedtime! Here are a few from yesterday - mostly found thanks to Mr Laz.

 

All shot with D700 + 60mm AFS. Subal. Inon Z240s (kindly lent by loftus - who had to work and could not dive with us, yesterday)

 

First sight of a Caribbean Long-arm

post-713-1242385991.jpg

 

CLAO out and about

post-713-1242386001.jpg

 

Eyes bigger than belly - octopus scavenging fish

post-713-1242386011.jpg

 

Nearly there

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Snapper caught on a discarded fishing line:

post-713-1242386037.jpg

 

Laz to the rescue

post-713-1242386071.jpg

 

Free!

post-713-1242386083.jpg

 

Mating horseshoe crabs:

post-713-1242386052.jpg

 

Jawfish with eggs

post-713-1242386097.jpg

 

Another great dive at Blue Heron Bridge.

 

I really like diving here - not only for the long, slow, shallow, critter filled dives - but also there seems to be a nice social spirit among the regular divers here. Laz was chatting to lots of people both before and after the dive. It really is the local social spot for divers.

 

Alex

 

p.s. Sorry to hear about your cancelled trip, Tim. You should book onto one of the Wetpixel ones for 2010 - I am sure that you can register an interest through the Travel link above.

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Cool shots: especially the Limulus, an arthropod for which I have a peculiarly soft spot.

 

Tim

 

:P

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A little behind the scenes of the doctor at work/play:

 

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Cool to see thanks for posting guys! Great to see Alex photographing the jawfish and snapper, then seeing them in the video.

 

Cheers

James

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Laz -- that jawfish shot was awesome!

 

When you get back to the bridge after the trip, get some footage of Alex with his hand in the sand at night. HELLO, bobbit worms and bristle worms! :P

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When you get back to the bridge after the trip, get some footage of Alex with his hand in the sand at night. HELLO, bobbit worms and bristle worms! :P

 

If that doesn't get'em the stargazer's 50 volts will. I've had them bump the bottom of my Subal while I cruised real low to the ground. Thank goodness for the insulating plastic handles on the metal housing! ;)

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About an hour away from WPB; thought I'd post a teaser.

post-5478-1243113640.jpg

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About an hour away from WPB; thought I'd post a teaser.

 

Great Jeff, what a thrill!!!

 

I'm sure we will be hearing a lot more from y'all..... :)

 

Best, Carol

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Back in West Palm Beach now. Most of the boat is diving at Blue Heron Bridge right now. Sadly I am not - having put my back out (ouch) a couple of days ago. We're not allowed ashore either - until we have cleared customs in the morning - but the gang are still out there getting the shots.

 

Don contemplates a night dive.

post-713-1243129001.jpg

 

Martin gears up.

post-713-1243129019.jpg

 

Claus and Barbara head in.

post-713-1243129311.jpg

 

Everyone else gets ready.

post-713-1243129333.jpg

 

Alex

 

Diary posts coming soon.

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So to back track a little here (sporadically - given my back pain and travel plans) is the trip diary - I'll add some images if the connection allows.

 

Day 1

 

Under sunny skies we joined the Shear Water on Saturday morning. And finally the gang was united.

 

Shear Water Crew:

Jim – Canons (all been round the clock many times) and Sea & Sea housings

Brian – Canon 50D, Sea & Sea.

Don – Canon 1DS Mk3, Sea & Sea

Mike

 

Guests:

Alex – Nikon D700, Subal. D2X topdside.

Jeff – Nikon D700, Subal. D200 topside.

Nick – Nikon D3X, Aquatica. D3 topside.

Marcus – Nikon D200, Seacam. D3 topside.

Claus – Canon 50D, UK Germany.

Barbara – non-photographer.

Jarret – Nikon D300 (RIP), Subal. Borrowed cameras from Jim, Brian and Don!

Martin – Canon 10D (a late replacement), Ikelite.

 

I’d seen a few of the gang in the days running up to the trip. Two days previously I’d dived the BH Bridge with Laz, Jim, Nick, Claus and Barabara. And the previous day I’d been with Nick and Jeff at the loftus beach house in Daytona for a pool/uw studio shoot, which was tremendous fun. I even bought a boat. The MY Swine Flu, as she was named, a small inflatable craft that proved indispensable for ferrying cameras ashore for pig and iguana shoots.

 

Day one was a travel day. We left West Palm Beach crossed the Gulf Stream cleared customs at West End, Grand Bahama and steamed to Nassau and down into the Exumas. The weather was not kind and the Shear Water soldiered onward through heavy seas, or “mountains” as they became known on board...

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Day 2

 

The calm anchorage in front of pig beach was a welcome sight for all on board as we pulled in a little after lunch. Not only would it provide a rest from the waves, but it would also be our first chance to unleash our shutters and bag some piggy pix.

 

The stormy conditions did not provide ideal photographic conditions with grey skies (a sat-phone message informed us we were battling against tropical depression “Anna”, a name that caused a fair few jokes on board).

 

But before we could photograph the pigs we had to get the cameras to land and this is where MY Swine Flu came in. She was duly inflated – note how her colour scheme matches the rest of JASA fleet – and loaded with the dry cameras. In fact SF proved so popular that she actually made two trips to shore – one with cameras and one with bait for the pigs.

Photographing pigs swimming in the ocean is one of the most surreal and enjoyable experiences in the world of underwater photography. I have photographed the pigs here before, but many more have been born since my last visit – there are now seven. Jim also has a new secret weapon for tempting the pigs, a tip passed on by Douglas Seifert. Peanut butter – which works best if smeared on top of your dome port shade.

 

An explosion of enthusiastic energy. Jim and pig enjoying the peanut butter on his port shade.

post-713-1243130359.jpg

 

The pigs adore it, even more than the apples we have brought for them – they can often be too keen for food and that I learned that I had a new top speed in back peddling, which thankfully was slightly faster than the voracious swine could swim, most of the time. There is, however, a downside to peanut butter. Pigs, as you might expect, are messy eaters, and their delicate pink faces are soon smeared with the brown stuff.

 

We stayed until late afternoon and then made a quick dive at Thunderball Cave before sunset. Only a couple of us, jumped in, but I really loved this site. It reminded me of some of the shallow dives in Raja Ampat with sponges and gorgonians growing right to surface of an undercut limestone island. The cave through the island was also beautiful, but light levels were getting so low that I was up at ISO 1600 on the D700. I’d love to come back to this spot in the middle of the day - it is a fantastic wide angle site.

That night we slept as we steamed overnight to the shark spot off Cat Island, dreaming of Oceanics.

 

Thunderball cave (interior)

post-713-1243130037.jpg

 

Alex (AKA Happy Feet - because of my continual marching in an attempt to straighten my back)

 

p.s. Jeff's post above kind of removes any suspense as to whether our search was fruitful.

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Pig

 

Here are some shots of the gang with the pigs. Taken by Martin and Jim - captions by Martin. Part 1:

 

post-713-1243185735.jpg

 

post-713-1243185793.jpg

 

post-713-1243185690.jpg

 

post-713-1243185705.jpg

 

post-713-1243185776.jpg

 

Alex

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Sounds like a fine trip, I hesitate to ask but what did Jarret manageto do?

 

Paul C

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:):P:lol:

 

Who cares about sharks. Pigs rule. Deliverance references are much funnier than Jaws references. I've never laughed so hard at a Wetpixel post.

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LOL! These are great!

 

Sow-ry to hear about your back, Alex... perhaps you hurt it while "piggy-back riding" that poor animal?! :)

 

Can't wait to see some oceanic shots.

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