28 Aug 2011

Come Dive With Me... and tickle a cuttlefish!

I think anybody's who's been following this crazy blog will have noticed by now that I have a few obsessions... certain subjects which manage to find their way into new posts on a somewhat regular basis (well, inasmuch as can be considered regular given my sporadic posting this past year). And I think you'd agree the seas and oceans (and their inhabitants) are one of them! ;o)

There are very few times when I feel as good as I do when under 20m of seawater. I'm in a weightless bubble. The outside world (and all its problems, stress etc.) forgotten. It's just me and the sea. And the fish. And the sponges. And the algae. And... and... and...well and sometimes the other divers. :p I'm so thankful I finally took the plunge and started scuba diving my last year in college. It's brought me one fabulous experience after another!

I'm really happy 'cause this year I've managed to get quite a few dives in, and it feels GOOD! Particularly special have been the two night dives I've done, the second of which was last Wednesday night.

Diving at night is a totally different experience from during the day. You feel like you're in an even more alien environment, which you only discover in the patches of light that your torch shines on. Everything else is pitch black. It can be quite intimidating! (beginner divers aren't allowed to do these dives). Why add the extra challenge to an already risky sport? Why ensure you won't get to bed until 1-2 am on a weeknight? (dive clubs rarely do these on weekends because it would be too hard for them to work the next day, Sat and Sun are their busiest dive days) Because you get to see many different critters who don't come out during the day! So many marine animals are nocturnal, all we usually see them do is snooze in a hole. If we see them at all. At night you can come across an octopus wandering around the sea bed looking for a meal (we saw a huge one but still in the hole, plus lots of empty holes!). Ditto the moray eels looking to munch on someone else's leftovers. If you turn your flashlight off for a moment and swish the water in front of your face you'll see stars! Thousands of tiny bioluminescent plankton activate and you realise you're surrounded by a microscopic world.

getting ready to head out for a dive!

Last Wednesday a friend and I joined a club we've discovered recently in Santa Pola (on the other side of the Bay, about a 1/2h drive) for a night dive in the waters just outside the marine island reserve of Tabarca (you need special permits to dive in Tabarca). The sea bottom was a lucious Posidonia oceanica prairie (I wrote about the importance of this habitat for World Oceans Day a year ago). The whole place was like an invitation to lie down in it for a comfy nap!

Posidonia meadow in a nearby location during the day

We swam through the grass, peaking through fronds looking for critters who might be wandering about. We examined the surfaces of huge rocks in the middle of these prairies. We spent an hour down there. An hour that seemed to fly by so fast. I wished we could have stayed longer! But my dive buddy was on her reserve air so safety dictates heading up to the boat. Waiting for the others at the surface has its own rewards: the wetsuits make floating the easiest thing in the world, and floating at night gazing up at the stars and the Milky Way? Priceless!

checking my depth gage for the security stop (at 5m) on the way up

Yet by far my favourite moment of the night was when we discovered a cuttlefish just hovering above the Posidonia. Slowly moving to and for, its mantle fluttering and its tentacles twirling about. It poked two of those tentacles above its head pointed at us, as if warning us away. And yet it wasn't scared. It let us get so close I was able to tickle it! Pretty large fellah, about 30 cm. I tried not to think about eating sepia a la plancha! yummm :p

Sepia officinalis, cuttlefish similar -just a bit smaller- to the one I saw

All these night-time photos I've included were taken by another of the divers who shared them on the dive club's Facebook page and was kind enough to let me share them with you here. He had this awesome set-up, I was totally jealous! But then you're not as carefree when you're loaded with camera gear and spots. You're more focused on the small zone you're searching for something to photograph, instead of taking in the bigger picture. And yet I totally get the allure... I'm too much in love with photography to not be! Here are a few more things he captured:

hermit crab peaking out from his shell
a small rockfish of some kind, must have seen a dozen of these that night!
a polychaete or plume worm, eats suspended organic matter it filters from the water

I just got a new compact camera and underwater housing for my birthday (courtesy of my parents, my sister, my aunt and myself), so I plan on sharing many more underwater adventures with you as they happen! I'll have to re-activate my underwater photography instincts (not that they were that great to begin with), spend time learning how to operate all the manual settings on the camera (the "underwater" mode is really only good at compensating the light and colour differences in the first ten metres), learn how to deal with RAW and then clear up space on my computer to process the photos and videos! ouf! Lots of work ahead. An example is that Posidonia meadow in the first photo (taken 2 weeks ago).

Is anyone interested in more dive stories?

25 Aug 2011

Tennis laughs

Fun!!! :o)

I hope he can make it through the US Open to the final... and WIN!!! (but Djokovic won't make it easy...)

21 Aug 2011

Quickly Speeding By

No, I don't mean the summer, although that is flying by real fast. I'm referring to a bunch of crazy people who went zipping down my street at lunchtime today! :p

"La Vuelta", Spain's major cycling race, started yesterday.  Think "Tour de France", but in Spain. It's the last of the "big three" cycling races that take place during the summer, the first being the "Giro" (in Italy) in May. An arduous month-long race around the country. Starts in different spots around the country depending on the year, always ends in Madrid (just like the "Tour" ends in Paris and the "Giro" in Rome).

This year, the "Vuelta" started out in Benidorm, with a "contrareloj" (against the clock, so a timed race on a city circuit) around the city's streets. Then this morning they headed out from a spot just outside of Benidorm, headed up into the mountains and then back down to the coast, and pretty much zipped through Alicante in a matter of minutes! 

The official itinerary said they were supposed to be at the Playa de San Juan at approximately 14h50. From there the itinerary had them crossing through my neighbourhood (right at my back doorstep!), then along the coastal road that goes all around the Bay of Alicante. 

I'm not at all a cycling fan, but when an event like this lands at your doorstep, then one should definitely participate! ;o) So my dad and I headed down to the avenue behind the appartment building and waited for them to zip by. 

smart spectators waiting in the shade

And waited. And saw police cars and motorcycles. And waited. And saw publicity vans. And waited. We went down at 14h50 because we didn't want to risk on missing out. I figured they'd show around 15h10. Pretty close! At approx 15h13 the lead cyclists just zipped past us.

Followed by more service cars than cyclists! :p

And about 6' later the rest of the pack. Seeing that many at once was a bit more impressive.

And then again plenty of service cars... those guys sure do have a lot of extra bikes! :D

All in all 30' of baking in the glaring sun and African heatwave, for 30s of excitement. Was pretty fun! ;o)

Here's a little video I put together of the clips I took: