I've been diving quite a bit in the last few days - 2 to 3 times per day. The students are on Spring Break, so the staff have had lots of time on their hands. We've done and seen a lot. First off, we did a little more exploration and re-discovered another lost dive site - The Cone. This site is at the far end of the allowed range and has been missing for quite some time. It was listed on a paper map that we found, so we estimated it's coordinates on a digital map and located it using GPS. Once we were underwater, we located the mooring and marked the exact location.
There's no good reason it's called the cone - at least we haven't found anything distinctly cone-like yet. It's not an overly impressive site, unlike the last one re-discovered. There's a lot of sand and some sickly looking Gorgonians. At the drop-off, however, there are some nice coral blocks, but they're very deep. My low opinion of it might primarily be due to coincidental poor visibility, so I'll give it a chance before I write it off completely.
On our first dive to The Cone, Jessee stayed on the surface - something one person is required to do ever since one of the boats was lost. She missed the dive, but lucky for her, she got to see whales because of it! They passed right by the boat. If only we had gone 15 or 20 minutes later, we would have seen them from below too (we had already passed through the area where they were). So close!
Jessee did go on another dive where we had a really impressive sighting. We saw a swarm of 39 Eagle Rays! And, today we saw them again, but there were only 20 this time around.
Here are a few more photos I've taken in the last few days:
There's also been a lot of big Groupers around lately too. Some of them are quite fat - as if they are carrying eggs. Groupers spawn in large aggregations at precise times of the year. This makes them particularly vulnerable to fishing because the whole lot of them can be scooped up at once. Fin-fishing (i.e. not conch or lobster), though, hasn't been very big in this area so Grouper populations remain relatively high. The spawning aggregations are supposed to occur in December or January, but seeing so many has made us wonder if they could actually be getting ready to do it soon. I caught the following footage of a couple Tiger Groupers on a dive at The Cone.
To top it all off, it looks like the health care bill is finally going to pass! I've been checking in on C-SPAN throughout the day - which has been surprisingly exciting - and it looks like it will just squeak through.