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Wetpixel Bahamas Goliath Groupers, Sharks, Dolphins Expedition 2010

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The 2nd Wetpixel Bahamas expedition is underway! Marcelo, Bart, Mike, Sterling, Alexis, Jim, Phillip and I are onboard the Shear Water with crew members Jim Abernethy, Captain Jamin, Chef Mike, and Jeremy (Cris, starting tomorrow). We're in the middle of our first day out on the water, which has been spent hanging out with goliath groupers (Epinephelus itajara) on the wreck of the Zion (Jupiter, Florida). Every late August / early September, goliath groupers aggregate in large numbers off of Jupiter to spawn. David Doubilet and Jen Hayes are in the area as well (as was Wyland, last week), working with scientists who are tagging goliaths and collecting eggs.

 

Two days ago, we received reports that goliath numbers had peaked already, and that hurricane Earl brought large bottom swells that had chased the animals deep. Still, we were hopeful that we would see at least a few of them. Yesterday, we heard that there were 40 on the Zion, which brought new hope!

 

When we jumped into the water in the morning, there were only a handful of groupers around the wreck (~6). Upon surfacing, Sterling reported that he had seen 30 goliath groupers in a group (and had photographic evidence to back up his claims). We found the big group on the second dive, but the visibility wasn't that great (40-50'). Also, we're told that there aren't as many this year as there were last year; still, it was incredible to see so many huge groupers clustered together.

 

I was shooting my 3D video rig, which is terrible in bad visibility. Here's a screen grab from one of the eyes:

 

echeng_groupers.jpg

 

Hopefully, someone who was shooting stills will join this thread and upload images!

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Wow, so many large fish together... really a sight to see.

 

If that represents only a "small group" then when there are "a lot" it must be really incredible.

 

Please send more pictures. :D

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Here's some crappy footage taken just before sunset (ISO 2000 -- it was DARK). The diver is Sterling Zumbrunn.

 

[vimeohd]14916952[/vimeohd]

Golian groupers spawning aggregation on Zion wreck, Jupiter, Florida

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3D anaglyph (red/cyan) video of a school of Atlantic spadefish (Chaetodipterus faber). Jupiter, Florida. September 11, 2010. Converted to black & white for anaglyph red/cyan to work.

 

(replaced with color version -- see below)

 

This particular video looks great at 1080p full screen on a 17" monitor, but suffers greatly when reduced in resolution and viewed as a postage stamp-sized video.

 

By the way, this 12-second clip took a few minutes to convert to ProRes, around 5 minutes to assemble into 3D with Dashwood Stereo3D Toolkit / Final Cut Pro, 13 minutes to export back out (to ProRes), and then a few more minutes to compress down to H.264 720p with watermark. Computers owned by mortals are not ready for 3D workflow.

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Alex - the flying turtle is great!

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A great day to start off the trip! The Goliaths were spectacular - enormous fish. There were certainly some that looked like the biggest groupers I'd ever seen, several hundred pounds for sure. They were much more skittish than I expected though, definitely hard to approach. I have a whole new appreciation for Douglas Siefert's classic image. I think diving this spectacle with a rebreather could yield some amazing results. Some quick images from today below:

 

post-5700-1284355715.jpg

 

post-5700-1284355739.jpg

 

Releasing the hatchlings (who had been found heading the wrong direction on the beach and rescued) was a real highlight for me. I had always wanted to swim with hatchlings - there is something incredibly touching about seeing something so small in an immense sea.

 

post-5700-1284355762.jpg

 

Swimming a little ways off the wreck, I stumbled on the mother load - the Goliath aggregation happening in higher in the water column. There are more than 20 in this frame, but there were additional fish behind me as well.

 

post-5700-1284355793.jpg

 

It's impressive to see one of these massive fish, but seeing them stacked up like this is truly spectacular.

 

post-5700-1284355815.jpg

 

Eric and his Keldan light canons swimming over the wreck of the Zion with a new found friend.

 

post-5700-1284355872.jpg

 

The groupers like the habitat provided by the wreck.

 

post-5700-1284356631.jpg

 

There was also a massive school of spadefish right near the wreck - perfect 3D subject for Eric!!

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Fantastic! Those stills look great Sterling.

 

Cheers

James

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Should have been in Boynton Beach on Sunday morning, Sept 5, on the wreck of the Castor. About 70 goliaths aggregating there. Very good vis and almost no current that day. Unfortunately, Monday was not as good. Ripping current and average vis.

 

original.jpg

 

More pictures here:

 

http://www.pbase.com/mschiff/boynton201009&page=2

 

-- Martin

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Just came back from the Bahamas, it was Fantastic !!!

Here's a few more pictures

 

post-1103-1284784662.jpg

 

post-1103-1284784721.jpg

 

 

post-1103-1284784779.jpg

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We're back in Florida and have one more day of diving left (more goliath groupers). Had great diving with the sharkies, including 3 days of quality time with Emma, everyone's favorite tiger shark.

 

Red/cyan anaglyph 3D glasses necessary:

 

[vimeohd]15071904[/vimeohd]

 

Emma the tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) circles a reef in the Bahamas (3D anaglyph red/cyan). I apologize for the horrible color and terrible image quality. The Sony CX550V is the worse white-balancing camera I've ever used, and blue water is not really suitable for red/cyan anaglyph!

 

Also, here's some fun with a GoPro!

 

[vimeohd]15071840[/vimeohd]

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One more 3D video:

 

Atlantic spadefish

[vimeohd]15071993[/vimeohd]

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We are nearing the end of a fantastic week aboard the Shearwater. After a glassy calm crossing on Sunday night, we had quite a windy week which unfortunately prevented us from spending any time in the dolphin grounds. But we had great conditions underwater - superb visibility at times, along with great shark action. We saw tigers on four out of five days, and had Emma come in on three consecutive days which was simply awesome. Jim Abernathy and his fantastic crew showed us a terrific time. We have one day left to return to the goliath groupers. Hope we find some friendly ones!

 

Some photos from the Bahamas below:

 

post-5700-1284786872.jpg

Eric at Tiger Beach (cornfields) with his custom 3D rig with GoPro camera mounted for an additional perspective.

 

post-5700-1284786969.jpg

Caribbean reef shark swimming past a colorful reef - an image made possible thanks to one of Jimmy's great bait stations.

What a difference it makes to have an operator who understands photography.

 

post-5700-1284787088.jpg

Loggerhead turtle seen on a night dive on the Sugar Wreck.

 

post-5700-1284787141.jpg

The night dive with lemon sharks at Tiger Beach was a highlight.

 

post-5700-1284787196.jpg

Caribbean reef shark, converted to black and white.

 

post-5700-1284787244.jpg

Emma came in twice to bait stations near the reef. She always offered some close encounters.

 

post-5700-1284787334.jpg

A gorgeous young female tiger shark named Kimberly at Tiger Beach (Crystal Tiger).

 

post-5700-1284787406.jpg

Kimberly comes in for a close inspection of Mike Black's (Shearwater crew) video camera.

 

post-5700-1284787459.jpg

Kimberly and Emma swimming together at Tiger Beach.

 

post-5700-1284787509.jpg

Max the friendly grouper spent a lot of time checking out divers by the bait stations.

 

post-5700-1284787552.jpg

Caribbean reef shark in magic light, a few feet below the surface.

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Another video. I call this one "GoPro goes inside of a reef shark."

 

[vimeohd]15072327[/vimeohd]

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Fantastic! Those stills look great Sterling.

 

Cheers

James

 

Thanks James! We've really lucked out with conditions thus far. Hopefully we'll find some friendlies in good vis tomorrow!

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Great stuff guys! Sorry I'm missing the party. Wish I was with you... :D

 

Phil

 

So sorry you couldn't make it Phil, but very grateful that Eric convinced me to rally to take your place on short notice. It was really worth it! You will definitely have to come another time.

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post-1103-1284784941.jpg

 

I'd like to point out that the above image was taken with Alexis' trademark "upside-down Seacam" method. ;)

 

echeng090916_0264788.jpg

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Looks like you guys had a great time. Thanks for posting the photos of Kimberly as Jim named her after my daughter. It's good to see she is doing well!

 

Doug

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Like I said, sorry I had to miss the party, esp. with Emma in attendance! Sterling, the spot couldn't have gone to a nicer guy - I love Max the friendly grouper. Can't wait to see more!

 

Phil

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echeng100918_0264895.jpg

Two goliath groupers (Epinephelus itajara) on the wreck of the Zion, Jupiter, Florida

 

While shooting video today, I had quite a few moments in which I wished only for a strobe or two (we about a dozen goliath groupers around at a time, and you could see the bottom from the surface, which means >95' vis).

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I can tell you, it was a great photo dive if you had strobes

 

post-1103-1284858191.jpg

 

post-1103-1284858202.jpg

Edited by Alexis

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