2015.06.02

Hawaii Big Island scuba manta dive night underwater photography mouth
Thursday: Flight out

Nothing really to report, save for an interesting TSA experience. I received some extra attention because a dive housing apparently resembles a fluid-filled container when x-rayed. So the pat down the conversation began with expensive hobbies and progressed to the TSA dude talking about skydiving and the explosives involved in reserve chute deployment. Connection: pyrotechnics are necessary for automatic deployment and must be inspected (for a fee) on a regular basis.

I almost remarked on the strangeness of the conversation, and potential hazard if we had opposite hobbies. Almost.

Obtw the Point Break trailer looks... well... it involves skydiving, surfing, and Hawaii so it's topical.
Friday: Water day

I spent most of Friday enjoying the 80-degree water. First there was a brief swim at at Keauhou Bay. When nobody else wanted to hazard the rocky entry, we went up to White Sands Beach for a fun shorebreak and a volleyball court. After that was some snorkeling at Kahaluu.

Hawaii Big Island shore beach lava rock

There was no surf to be seen, save for some softtop ankle break at Kahaluu. Oh well.

Around mid-afternoon Jon and I headed to a dive shop in town for a two-tank boat trip. The essential Big Island dive is watching mantas feed after dark.

The shop/boat/staff were pretty good and the trip felt way too comfortable after the cold, choppy Coronados dive. There were some challenges though.

I fiddled with the flashes that I borrowed from Shane for the entirety of the boat ride. Completely dry, one of them would strobe every few seconds and the other seemed to work intermittantly. When the latter seemed to begin behaving, I decided on that one. Perhaps because the flashes gave me tunnel vision perhaps because I had never had the issue before, but after checking the clasps and dunking the gear I was greeted with the horror no camera-owner should ever experience - the housing filling with water.

By this time I was already the last diver in the water, and didn't want to be that guy who holds up the entire group. There wasn't much to be done, so I handed the housing up to (bahhh I forget his name now, but we had talked briefly and he knew his way around a camera) hoping that maybe the memory card could be salvaged.

So I dove. Despite the looming sense of dread, I was able to to enjoy some amazing coral formations, fish, and even a manta heading to the feeding grounds with the sun still up.

But then my mask began filling with water. At first I thought it was just tears for my longtime friend, now passed, D700. But no, this water was coming from the ocean. Ugh, I was still evaluating my new mask - I had found that sometimes exhaling through the reg would break the seal - but after numerous dives this had never happened.

I cleared it. And I cleared it again. And for a time, it found equilibrium at eye-level. So as long as I didn't move my head, I wouldn't get an eyeful of salty water. I cleared it and tightened it, then things got worse.

Through a mixture of clearing, applying select pressure, and dealing with a blurry view of the world, I managed to stumble along and not hold back the group. Hell, I was pretty constantly blowing air through my mask and still didn't have to take the early exit that Gaspy McBreatherson (that's Jon) did.

Back on the boat I went to pay my respects to the lifeless remains of my once proud full frame dslr, only to find that it still appeared completely functional. Academically I know that a light-tight piece of equipment ought to be water-tight as well, but that doesn't apply to battery compartments, buttons, and other electronic pieces that can fry from any contact with liquids. I tried not to be optimistic, but thought of my SB-800 that had gone for a swim and was still kicking.

Captain Alexi (I think) had inspected the housing and found that a length of the lens dome o-ring was sticking out of the coupling. Wow, I didn't realize the o-rings could become that loose. It was obvious upon inspection, but not part of my normal checklist.

The lens dome problem was a quick fix since the o-ring was just loose, not damaged in any way. If the camera was going to succumb to creeping water or corrosion, one last dive probably wouldn't affect things, so I put everything back together during the surface interval.

Hawaii Big Island scuba manta dive night underwater photography

Shortly after nightfall we headed down to about 40' where divers from a half dozen boats were congregated. Again the mask issues, so our awesome divemaster Sarah took me back up to borrow one of theirs. It barely made a difference. Keller, the divemaster/videographer with about a million dad jokes, had suggested that maybe stubble was the issue. Maybe, but you'd think it'd have given me problems before.

No matter, the loaner mask equilibrated amply below eye level, so I just couldn't look up. And despite adding weight after the first dive, I was still too light, but could stay planted if I lay back. Ugh, the best dive ever (?) was not without challenges.


The flash worked intermittantly, which may have been a curse. It would probably have been better to (Rob, earmuffs) crank the iso to 800 and rely on the surprisingly bright dive torches. When the strobe did work, things were pretty well blown out and often bespeckled by all the particulates in the water. Anyway, Jon found an eel.


There was a lot going on, but it didn't seem like it. The manta aerobatics were simply amazing.

Saturday: Volcano day

Hawaii Big Island Kona Brewing brewery

Saturday started out pretty mellow, but we did manage to get in some tennis. Pizza and beer at the Kona Brewery followed, then we headed down the saddle road for Mauna Kea. Haleakala was a highlight of the Maui trip, Mauna Kea was like her taller, more rugged sister.


I'd have traded the M1000 from before for a Hyper since the last few miles of road are gravel. Ted got to have all the fun in an underpowered rental Jeep.


Black rock, snow, many observatories, and an epic sunset.

Sunday: Back to the water

Hawaii Big Island beach shore tourists

Sunday we went down to see the Cook monument and find a beach for freediving. The swells had come up since Friday, but we happened upon the sheltered Honaunau Bay.

This would have been a great scuba spot, the reef is excellent and quickly drops to considerable depth. There were some spinner dolphins hanging out on the bottom.

Monday: Flight back

No excitement, except for the flop-eared grey dog. I'm a decent way through number9dream and quite enjoying it.