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Mission Blog: August 12, 2009
Necker Island

By Yannis Papastamatiou, PhD, Scientist, Diver

Archaeologist Kekuewa Kikiloi taking field notes at a small valley on Nihoa.

Lobster at Necker. Click on thumbnails for a larger image. (Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA/ONMS)

Yesterday, we used the Hi'ialakai's multi-beam sonar to try and find a good dive spot at Necker Island. A ledge was found on the outer banks, so we split into teams and headed over there this morning. I was on the first team with Greg McFall. As we got kitted up on the small boat with doubles, stage bottles, lift bags, reels, sampling bags, I got this feeling of wishing I had just stuck to normal scuba or free diving. This was getting ridiculous... but I am now used to this feeling, and as with all tech dives, as soon as I rolled over the side into the water I remembered why I love doing this. We descended

Archaeologist Kekuewa Kikiloi taking field notes at a small valley on Nihoa.

Spansih Dancer Nudibranch Egg Ribbon. (Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA/ONMS)

into blue water and hit the bottom at about 130ft deep. We were right next to this cliff with a straight drop to 200ft, so we made our way down to the bottom. Right from the get go there were huge schools of fish and a large number of sharks (mostly Galapagos and grey reefs, but even one sandbar). Looking up from the bottom of the cliff, we could see the silhouettes of sharks as they blocked out the descending sunlight, and we could even just make out the boat on the surface 200ft above us. We collected some invertebrates for genetic analysis, but unfortunately after 20 minutes it was time to leave. On our way up we ran into a big school of juvenile bigeye trevally, with sharks causing the school to part and then reform as they swam through them. We now had 60min of decompressing ahead of us.

Archaeologist Kekuewa Kikiloi taking field notes at a small valley on Nihoa.

Lacy Bryozoan at Necker. (Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA/ONMS)

In some places decompression can be mind numbingly dull... but not here. We had a constant parade of Galapagos sharks for the whole 60 minutes, and I could have stayed in the water for several more hours just watching them. However, the second team (Rich and Randy) were waiting for us, so it was time to get out after 80 minutes underwater. Once back on board, Greg and I realized that we were probably the first humans to ever see that ledge. And that's a real privilege. Off to Laysan Island...

Archaeologist Kekuewa Kikiloi taking field notes at a small valley on Nihoa.

Tunicate at Necker. (Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA/ONMS)

 

 

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