Saturday, December 29, 2007
Straits of Tiran - 3rd day diving
The Straits of Tiran are at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba. Egypt's Sinai peninsula is on one side of the strait and Saudi Arabia on the other side. There are only two channels through these straits that are deep enough to allow large ships. Controlling this bit of seaway controls the only sea access for the countries of Israel and Jordan. Tiran island in the center is a military base and we sport divers can't get very close to the island without risking an international incident. For those not involved in politics or shipping the Straits of Tiran mean excellent diving!!!
These four reefs are named. The reef furthest north and at the top of this photo is Jackson reef. Next along is long thin Woodhouse reef. Then there is Thomas reef, the smallest of the reefs, but the one with some of the strongest currents. Lastly is big old Gordon reef at the bottom of the photo. You can see a big rust stain across the center of Gordon reef from the wreck of the Loullia which ran aground in 1981. This is my photo of Gordon reef with the Loullia on it. You can see that the coral reef is just under the waterline, this fact combined with strong currents are why theses straits are so dangerous for ships.
Our dives on this day (the 22nd of December) were lovely. One has to be so very careful about staying within dive plans when diving on the Straits of Tiran. If you swim too far past the protection of the reef, you run the risk of getting pulled out to sea by the fierce currents that wash past these reefs. It are these currents that make Tiran such a great place to dive. Lots of lovely reef fish live on the sheltered sides of the reefs while schools of pelagic fish and the bigger fish that eat them can be found in the currents. It was just here last year that we saw two different types of dolphin, bottlenose dolphins, a family of Rizzo's dolphin and a young marlin that kept leaping out of the sea. We always keep an eye out for hammerhead sharks, but they tend to stick to the areas with strong currents.
So, into the sea . . . . . .
Blue Triggerfish - Pseudobalistes fuscus - handsome beast, isn't he? Those are little anthias Pseudanthias squamipinnis with him. They're pretty too with their orange bodies and little blue eyes.A Clearfin lionfish - Pterois radiata - not very common is this particular species. He seemed shy and had his face turned toward his hole.
Lyretailed or Zebra angelfish - Genicanthus caudovittatus- very pretty and not very common.
Another bluespotted stingray - Can you see the bright blue spot just to the right of this ray? That electric blue belongs to the Orchid dottyback - Pseudochromis fridmani - There were loads of those, but they were very small and shy so it was hard to get a photo.
This funny Freckled hawkfish - Paracirrhites forsteri - looked like he was answering the door. He was just sitting there with his head sticking out of a large soft coral. "Whadda want?"
Then there is this stunning Arabian or Yellowbar angelfish. This one was about half a metre long and so full of his own fine self. "I make this place look good!"
The Man of the Place and George skipped the third and last dive of the day on Gordon reef so I buddied up with Lars Lundquist from Denmark.This, as were all dives in Tiran, was a drift dive. A drift dive is what you plan when diving in strong currents. The boat drops you off in one place, you dive to depth (this dive was about 18 metres) and just float along on the current. When you get to the finishing point of your dive, you ascend and the boat picks you up from the finishing point at the planned time. Dive buddy Lars was diving in a 3mm shortie wetsuit and got a bit cold during this dive. When doing a drift dive, you don't move much and therefore you get cold much more quickly.
Lars with bubbles
Lars without bubbles
This dive had some wonderful gifts to show us. First there was this MASSIVE grouper - over a meter long and looked to weigh about 50+ kilos. He was very tolerant of me and allowed me to get fairly close for photographs before he went his way and we went ours.
Mister Big Grouper - Malabar grouper - Epinephelus malbaricus. He looks like I owe him money.
Then there was an eel garden. Red Sea garden eels - Gorgasia silneri - are cool. You can see them waving in the distant current but if you try to approach them, they slip back down into their holes. The only photos I got were out of focus pictures taken with what little zoom my camera had. You can see by the way the sand looks, how fast the current was in this part of the dive.
A Red Sea topshell - Tectus dentatus - sitting on a rusting tar barrel. Lots of tar barrels from the wreck of the Loullia. Nature eventually claims everything back.
Emperor angelfish - Pomacanthus imperator - Isn't this a wonderful fish?
Little bitty Shultz's or Guilded pipefish - Corythoischthys schultzi - can you make him out? Pipefish are related to seahorses. We couldn't give him a little poke to make him more visible to the camera, so if you can't see him all camoflaged there in the sand, I'm sorry. Sawtoothed feathered star - Oligometra serripinna - related to starfish Clown anemonefish - Amphiprion bicinctus - It's Nemo!! Very cute but territorial little fish.
Grey Moray - Gymnothorax griseus - We saw two of these 1 meter long eels during the day's diving. Lucky us! Just as we finished the dive, there were three cornet fish - Fistularia commersonii - just hanging out by a coral pinnacle. I like how one can see that the sun was getting low in the sky by this point.