Today started out pretty early but we were all well rested after a nice day off. Tooni and Paul were up and out by 9:30 to dive on an interesting geological formation just off the coast of Pemba. Pemba lies on a different geological shelf from the rest of Africa, unlike Zanzibar and Mafia which are both collections of sedimentation flows from different river delta systems. Pemba split off from the mainland millions of years ago and is still slowly moving away from it. Consequently, it is more jagged and rough than Zanzibar and surrounded by deep water on all sides. Tooni and Paul went diving along one of these steep walls for pretty much the whole day, so I was left to get work done and do some recon for my next dive. The coral off of Pemba Island is incredible, huge table corals that fan out many feet in diameter, colorful fish and staghorn corals, lots of urchins and vibrant nudibranches abound. I managed to take a few snapshots (see attached) with a point and shoot, not professional quality but they give you an idea.
Tonight I am scheduled for a night dive and I am looking forward to it immensely. I havenâ€™t done a night dive in quite some time and it always amazes me how different everything is at night. A coral reef (the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world, more so than even rainforests) is totally different at night; but night diving comes with some danger and it goes without saying that I wanted to get in the water to get a lay of the land before I did the dive. The site we chose was suitably exotic with a beautiful flat sandy area in about 15 feet of water that tapers off to a pretty steep wall that descends precipitously into the depths.
When Tooni and I got in the water that night, I was reminded what I love most about night diving is that at night a coral reef is most visible for what it is, a living creature. During the day, each coral polyp is holed up in its limestone abode but at night, they open up and extend their tentacles into the water column to feed, unafraid of the now snoozing predators that harass them by day hoping to get a chance nip at any part of the polyp.
Night time on a coral reef is far from silent and deserted, it is quite a lively place with a whole cast of different characters. It was magic, and we managed to get some cracking good shots of the reef, thanks to Ian Kelletâ€™s (a great cameraman/lighting engineer/photographer) powerful lights and Paul Atkinâ€™s adept handling of the camera. Both Americans, they are one half of the American contingent on this trip, the only remaining member besides (half of) myself and Mike Kasic, underwater soundman extraordinaire and a genuinely funny and outgoing guy who is well liked by all. Indeed, the four Yanks, as the rest of the British crew call us, provide much needed American goofy humor and sarcasm to the atmosphere. As always Tooni did an excellent job. Her passion and knowledge for oceanography and marine biology is an inspiration and over the course of the last 6 months she seems more like a sibling than a co-presenter, as do Lucy and Paul, both fellow family members on this crazy odyssey called Oceans.
So it was another success. We have been incredibly lucky this trip in that we have hit all our story targets and done them well. So far, the fates are with usâ€¦knock on wood.