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sinetwo

Can you do bonfire diving "anywhere"?

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I'm off to the Maldives in Feb/Mar (Fulidhoo) and whilst there is some macro there, it's not indo macro of course. I'd like to bring my macro gear to try out a couple of dives, but I was wondering if I should ask about night dives there (apart from the famous Alimatha) and whether bonfire would be a good idea?

I've done a few blackwater dives before, but only one bonfire in Anilao. We stuck a few torches in the sand, pointed them up, went on a 20 minute dive and came back to a few things, incl. squid :)

So my questions are:

1. Under what conditions/waters should bonfire be attempted?

2. Is it trial and error or are there tell tale signs where you know if a dive site is better suited for bonfire?

3. What's the optimal set up if you've only got normal night diving lights?

 

Thanks!

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Posted (edited)

There are organisms that are going to be attracted to light at night regardless of depth or salinity so the answer to your question is YES!

I have been working on this at a small scale as a covid project - maybe it should be called cigarette lighter (not literally of course) underwater photography. One does not need very much light once it is dark to do this. My main limitation is that once it actually gets dark at night (in Alaska north of 60 degrees latitude), it gets cold rather quickly.

Found an example on my HD taken before things froze up. Note that there is still twilight at 8:21 pm on Sept 26 (it looks like this at 3 in the afternoon now!). I used the Retra strobe's aiming light to also be the "bonfire" You can see stuff growing on the bottom of the lake. The stool was so that I could look at the back of the camera once out of the water while all the stuff was still attached to it (it stayed horizontal).

_Z6X6988.jpg

Edited by Tom_Kline
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@Tom_Kline wow that's awesome! So one option is to place torches in the sand, facing upwards on a decent slope at maybe 2m, 3m and 5m. Then go for a quick shallow 20min dive, return and we should see critters?

 

The reason I ask is because both Maldives and the red sea don't offer Blackwater diving but they do offer night dives! 

 

And where they offer night dives they have plenty of torches... 

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This should work. Keep in mind that plankton are small but animals that feed on plankton will be larger, can be much larger like mantas. You will probably will get some creatures that hide in the sand so this could be very interesting!

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Great, we'll try it out. I presume it needs to be long after sunset as they don't really come out immediately after?

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On 1/7/2022 at 3:59 PM, sinetwo said:

Great, we'll try it out. I presume it needs to be long after sunset as they don't really come out immediately after?

I have started shooting while it was still dusk (note it was twilight for the pic). Twilight periods are rather long at high latitude - just under 1 hour for each of the three phases where I live.

The BW dives I have done at Kona have been either shortly after sunset or around 2200, all without bonfires. The 2200 dives are done following the bonfire Manta dives from the same boat. The Manta dives are done from sunset on. With around a dozen boats some start earlier than others and many in the water are just snorkeling.

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9 hours ago, Tom_Kline said:

The 2200 dives are done following the bonfire Manta dives from the same boat. The Manta dives are done from sunset on. With around a dozen boats some start earlier than others and many in the water are just snorkeling.

What are Manta dives?

Just curious: are the lights attached to the drifting boat or are lights attached to a drifting buoy?

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Was in Laamu last summer and did try to create a bonfire type environment for a night dive. Attracted a huge number of worms, and not much else. Have done both bonfire and blackwater dives in Anilao, very different experience.

 

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On 1/25/2022 at 10:32 PM, Davide DB said:

What are Manta dives?

Just curious: are the lights attached to the drifting boat or are lights attached to a drifting buoy?

Manta dives may be the biggest draw for divers and snorkelers (and a few that have never used a mask and snorkel) to Hawaii. A bonfire is used to attract zooplankton that in turn attracts the mantas. Each boat seems to donate a large dive light to the bonfire that is placed on the bottom pointing up. Originally the mantas were attracted to shore by hotel lights - over a period of decades this morphed into what is done now.

Mike Bartick has shown his Anilao set-up in several on-line vids. He uses a drifting buoyed system with lights at various depths attached to a down-rope. BW dives in Kona are not done this way.

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On 2/9/2022 at 11:49 PM, Tom_Kline said:

BW dives in Kona are not done this way.

How do they do?

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10 hours ago, Davide DB said:

How do they do?

Up to six divers are tethered to the boat: three starboard, three port. The tether consists of a down line that is about 15m long and has a dive weight (~ 2kg) at the bottom. A jon line of about 1.2 m length connects the diver with the down line. The jon line has clips on either end for clipping onto the down line and the diver. The only lights are those held by the divers. The DM orbits the divers (i.e. is not tethered). The boat may or may not have a drogue deployed from the bow. A parachute is used for the drogue.

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Hi @Tom_Kline, I wanted to ask about the type of torch. I'm about to place orders on some and i'm thinking it would be best with a strong torch which has a wide beam and a long run time?

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In the photo above I used the aiming light built in the Retra strobe. This was to keep the light within a narrow circle in front of the camera lens. It was very shallow here 10-15 cm deep so a very small volume as well. More recently I have been using two strobes because they are to the sides in a rocky habitat I used my old Inon 220 strobes which I would not mind so much if they got scratched. For this setup I had a very small Supe aka Scuba Lamp light similar to the one Alex had in one of the Wetpixel vids of the last year or so. It is model PV10S which I think is out of production. I have been able to use it for 2.5 hours in 5C (40F) water. Mike is using much larger lights - see interviews with him.

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Thanks, I run with retras as well but for shooting. I guess I'll go for some powerful wide beam lights for shallow bonfires. Hopefully enough to attract some life. Thanks! 

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The main thing is to have enough light for your AF to work!

 

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Yeah I also want to attract the critters. I'll get a few powerful torches, in addition to two retras, a can light and a separate focus light I've already got. Should be plenty! ☺ 

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