That is one BIGRay Fish !

And this was the second pass through an opening in the wall that day. 

SCUBA DIVING 

My Latest Hobby - in search of new adventure.

And, some would say ways to die... but YOLO !

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Contrary to the popular image of  them, most sharks & barracuda are not at all aggressive.  They are sometimes curious and may swim by to check you out, but then they just go their own way. You can get a cue as to their status from the apparent lack of concern shown by other small fish in their vicinity, some of which are almost certainly potential prey.

In June of 2014 I added another hobby to my list of ways to spend my time & money by following up on a dream and a promise I'd made to myself over 40 years earlier. While in the Navy, any time we were in a warm water port, I'd try to get in some snorkeling (seems like kind of a natural thing for a submarine sailor to do anyway). And I thought that if I had a good chance I'd like to learn to SCUBA. Of course at that time I had no idea that someday I'd have a son who'd decide to buy a vacation home in Cozumel, Mexico. When he invited us down to stay for a while that June, I arranged to take the four day PADI open ocean diver training . After three days of course work and training dives from the shore, the last day, and my final dive to certify, consisted of two boat dives near "The Wall" a popular coral reef off of Cozumel. Each dive lasted just under an hour at depths ranging from 60 to 100 feet. The video clip to the right was shot by a third diver (you always dive in teams of at least two 'buddies' for safety) and it was from my VERY FIRST open ocean diving experience. In it (a total of about 1 1/2 minutes) you can see me and my dive instructor  / dive buddy to my left. She signals that there's both a shark (a 4 foot long nurse shark) and a eel under a rock formation. They're not too easy to see at first, but after the diver shooting the video re-positions himself to replace her by my side (messing with the video for a bit) you can plainly see the shark and the head of a LARGE Moray eel poking out of an opening in the rock.  A pretty amazing sight a few feet in front of your face on your very first dive ! 

On this dive, we went down to "The WALL" a large coral reef off of Cozumel and while swimming along the face of it we passed through openings in it a couple times; not exactly like diving in a cave (a much riskier undertaking for which you should be specially trained) but it still takes you through a space with an enclosed overhead.  On this dive my instructor was the same as on my initial training. She (wearing an orange head-band) was not only my 'dive buddy' for this dive, but was also the 'dive master' for the entire group of divers you can see.  You can see here checking on me & doing some coaching while keeping an eye on everyone else.  I remain most impressed with her confidence & professionalism  - a product of over 6000 dives ! 

Below is a set of video clips from my second diving experience to certify to dive with NITROX, an oxygen enhanced blend that allows for longer times at max depth while reducing the risk of so called 'divers disease' (commonly called "the bends"). While there's  VERY low risk of that happening at recreational diving depths (unless you're completely stupid AND careless), this certification gives me another option for future dives and various conditions....


THESE VIDEOS REQUIRE A BIT OF AN EXPLANATION.  The first videos (above) were shot by a third diver using a regular digital camera in a water-proof case. These next ones were taken with a mask-mounted diving camera I bought after my first trip.  On the one hand, the video quality and color are better with this camera BUT... it has a couple draw-backs that you'll see immediately.  For one thing I look around (and down) too much while shooting video resulting in a pretty jerky video - I REALLY need to learn to avoid doing that (live & learn, this was my first time using it) -  SECONDLY, one inherent draw-back to this hands-free camera is that the bubbles from the regulator pass in front of the lens ..... kind of annoying and again, something I need to learn is to shoot short clips and to hold my breath as much as possible.  Which is really quite EASY to do when you're breathing  'air' with added oxygen at 2 to 3 atmospheres pressure.  There's a lot more oxygen for your body to use  in a lung-full of that than in normal breathing.  You can't feel any difference - but it's there.

Sea turtles have to be some of the most laid-back critters you see.  This old guy was clearly aware we were there and nearby (REALLY nearby) - he just didn't care. 

At the end of this pass-thru, we came up to a rather plain sandy bottom area about 50-60 feet deep to prepare to ascend to the boat.  Chiaki (pronounced 'Jackie') my instructor and the dive master prepared to send up the orange marker to indicate to the boat where we were and alert other boats that a group of divers were in the area. A she was doing that, one of the group, some distance away spotted a HUGE RAY that had at and LEAST 8 or 9 foot 'wingspan' .  I was in still camera mode at that point but managed to get a couple shots of it ... you can just make out the long tail 'stinger' as the divers spooked it and it headed up and away from the group.    

That was a really cool way to end my last dive of the day. 

As we were swimming along the face of the wall, one of the divers spotted a Lion Fish hiding in a crevasse.  My instructor points it out and makes the hand sign to indicate was was seen. You can just make out its white, venomous spines along its back.  Divers are coached and encouraged to take care to not touch any living thing, but the Lion Fish is an invasive species that are sometimes killed by divers.  In this case all we did was look and move on.

You can get a good feeling for the amazing clarity of the water there by knowing that the average depth of this dive was around 90 feet and these videos were shot with natural sunlight at that depth.