Jul 19

More underwater stuff on the site

Have you seen the home page of my site today? I updated it. Just go to W-W-W dot KennySmith dot Org to see some pretty new imagery on the front page. And then come back here, of course. We’ll wait.

(This’ll take about 30 seconds, but go at your own pace. I’m good.)


Welcome back, then. And since you’re already here, you’ve likely already seen the good stuff from our dive trip, and if not, kindly click on that “Roatan” link above the post’s title. In addition to all of that wonderment, I had a lot of fun making these little social media promotional bits from the extra dive footage we shot.

This little number comes from an ill-timed photo burst. Sometimes it is challenging to figure out what the GoPro is doing underwater. We plugged the card into a computer later and saw a huge sequence of photographs of nothing in particular and this little thing was born:

When I say footage we shot it, I mean what my lovely wife shot. She was happy snapping away with the camera, and I was happy inhaling a tank of air much too quickly while watching the world go by. Probably 97 percent of the photos and videos we brought back are things she shot. Oh, I’d point out things not in her line of sight from time to time, and I edited all the things you’ve seen go on my site the last few weeks, but she captured almost all of it. She’s excellent at being talented.

Of course I had to get a few of her here and there. And I can’t take just one photograph. While she’s mugging for the camera, I’m firing off multiples, and that led to this fun little gif:

At least 20 people clicked through from those tweets, so it was worth it.

Also, my Photoshop and video editing software are presently loaded up with other spare and recycled clips that I’ll use for … something or another.

Jul 19

Our final dives in Roatan

We had our last two dives of the trip last Friday. While every other day had been three or four dives, the last day is on a bit of a clock. Again, because of the chemistry going on in your bloodstream, you’re not supposed to dive within 18 or 24 hours of your flight. So we had two dives on Friday afternoon and other activities until it was time to leave.

So our last two Our last two dives featured El Aguila, or The Eagle, is regarded as one of the best diving sites around the island. El Aguila is a 230-foot long freighter. It was hauling concrete and bound for Haiti when it wrecked. It stayed where it stopped for a long while and had quite the adventure as a former freighter before being purchased, cleaned and put at this final spot, sunk at 110 feet in 1997. It sat upright for about a year, and then Hurricane Mitch blew through in late 1998 and snapped the weakened ship into three pieces.

We also saw plenty of fish and groupers, plenty of garden eels and a very curious green moray eel. You can see some of that in this video:

Here we are, diving off down the bow of The Eagle:

Doesn’t it look spooky and cool?

Here’s The Eagle amidships:

Count your coral while you can:

I certainly was:

It’s just so pretty:

Thanks for following along this week with last week’s diving adventures. Next week we’ll show off a few other things from this trip and, eventually, get back to normal.

I guess. If we must.

Jul 19

More dives from the depths of Roatan

Last Thursday was our last four-dive day of that trip. The Fourth, when you watched fireworks, I watched fish. While you looked up into the night sky, I looked up into the ocean on a rapid ascent trying to avoid jellyfish. While you ooohed and aaahed big percussive explosive, I enjoyed the quiet of a starry Caribbean night. There is nothing wrong with the July Fourth celebration, but there’s nothing wrong with trying something different, either.

There is an accumulative effect, even at a recreational dive depths, of the pressure on the oxygen in your blood stream. By day five, which is what last Thursday was, most people are really starting to feel it. Nitrogen buildup makes you feel rather tired, they say. Plus it is a tiny bit more physical than you’d realize. But mostly it is the chemistry.

I didn’t feel that, but by Thursday my ears and sinuses — delicate little features, to be sure — were wearing down. I have to clear my sinuses at least twice every atmosphere, like clockwork. If I can keep count I don’t have to even look at my depth gauge, I just usually know. And somewhere between dives 14 and 18 last Thursday they were beginning to voice their displeasure.

But the diving continued to be great. The weather was pleasant. That big storm system brewing in the Gulf of Mexico kept the temperatures nice and mild for us. We had the roughest seas of our trip last Thursday on our morning dive and the water was barely moving. The whole week was like that, perfectly designed, pleasantly enjoyed.

We did our last night dive of the trip, but there’s no footage of that. We do, however, have more terrific footage taken from the first three dives of the day, and plenty of neat pictures below. (If this whole professorial thing doesn’t work out The Yankee might consider a career in the media.)

(See that joke is funny because … hang on. ‘What’s that, hon? Yeah, you’re probably right. They probably know.‘ Sorry. Anyway, yeah, that joke is funny.)

To the video! And yes, there are more turtles to be seen here and below …

It never stops feeling like an other-worldly adventure, if you ask me.

Do you see what I mean?

In these next four I’m being an explorer, bravely exploring things which ought to be explored:

Here’s one of our delightful little turtle friends now:

They are always a big hit:

No, the reefs never stop being fascinating:

We’re trying to come up with the right human shot. It’s an ongoing experiment. I think we’re getting sort of close. What do you think?

Nailed it!

At the end of each dive you have to do a safety stop. Again, this is about the pressure and chemistry. On some of the dives here we’ve been situated in such a way that we can play around with overhead photos and video, like this one:

Of course there are still plenty of things to see, even at these somewhat more shallow depths:

This is the best photo of the trip and having brought a GoPro was worth every little bit of effort for it. The thing shoots better video than photos, we have come to realize. And you’re just sort of guessing on the older models. It is a wide angle lens, but there’s definitely a point and hope methodology to this camera. This one was supposed to be another overhead, full-body shot, but it didn’t work out that way and, in fact, it works out better this way, I think. Oh, the laughs we had when we were reviewing these at the end of the night.

A version of that, and several other dive photographs, will become banners on the site before too long.

I took this one at a safety stop, whereas The Yankee shot pretty much everything that she isn’t in. There was just something about this little outcropping I enjoyed. Shape and light, and size and wonder, I suppose. It is a tiny little reef mound in the scheme of things, and doing quite well considering the number of humans that stop by it.

Even for this shot, I had to wait for people to get out of the way. That’s always worth it, though.

Tomorrow’s update will feature our last dives of the trip, but I’ve got enough material left over after that to stretch this vacation out until next week. That’s what you should do, anyway, right? Even when you’ve come back home, after you’ve dragged luggage, enjoyed the pleasant Customs experience, sat in the car on the way to the house late at night thinking “The coral looked better than the silhouettes of these trees,” and then found your way to your pillow, you should stay on vacation, right?

That’s what we’re working with over here.

Jul 19

Wednesday was another four-dive day

I’m still writing about last week as if it was today, because I’m still on island time.

Anyway, we added a shore dive to our regularly scheduled boat dives last Wednesday. When we came back to the surface we’d marked dives 10 through 14 for the week. Below is a video of the boat diving we did that day:

The resort offers unlimited shore diving, but unlimited in this context has some limitations. There’s only so much time in the day, after all, and there is some chemistry to consider. You can only dive so many times because of the nitrogen build up (Note to self: Get a nitrox certification so this isn’t a problem.) and there are a few other events going on at the resort as well. Just give me a tank and let me sit on the bottom.

But the shore dive is a little more involved than that. You pick up a tank, wade out over stone and sand and who knows what all has moved into the neighborhood. Then you snorkel out through really shallow water, over sea grass until you find and follow this famous rope down through the shore-breaking reefs. Before too long it dumps out to about 40 feet and there’s just the ocean in front of you and you can choose going down the reefs to the left or the right. Six of us — four people from our dive boat and two other new friends — went to the left. I would have just flattened out on the bottom there at the rope if anyone asked, but they didn’t ask me.

That was fine, too. It was a pleasant little dive in the early evening’s dusk. It would be easy to be poetic about such things. The sun was at an angle low enough in the sky that the bottom where we swam was turning gray. When we returned to the surface over that famous rope, it was still the light of day.

Here are some photographs from the day’s diving. There are plenty of fish to see in this wonderful wildlife preserve:

And you get some time with turtles, too:

As ever, the coral is always a fascinatingly complex backdrop:

And, look! I found a mermaid!

We’re swimming over entire ecosystems, tourists in a landscape that is a gift, ever reminded of the vital and fragile link this represents for us all:

Never mind that guy, though:

And on our shore dive, we saw two lion fish hanging out together. They’re an invasive species, and becoming a favored island cuisine, if for nothing else than an attempt to try to culture a fish that shouldn’t be there:

We should be here. We should be diving all the time. Observing, caring for, enjoying and remembering long forgotten tales about the power and the majesty of places like this. Let’s do it again tomorrow.

Jul 19

We did four dives last Tuesday

The diving pace really picked up last Tuesday. We did three dives on Sunday, our first full day in Roatan, and three dives on Monday. But on Tuesday there was also a night dive.

Night dive days go like this: you do two dives in the morning, around 8 and 10:30 a.m., come in for lunch and then take a slightly shorter, slightly more shallow dive in the afternoon, at about 2:30 p.m. That evening, at about 6:30, you get back on the boat. As dusk falls across the ocean, you jump into the water.

I suppose you could do fewer dives. Some people do, but unless you aren’t feeling well this makes no sense to me. You’ve come to a dive resort for a reason.

For the first few minutes of a night dive you can still see pretty well simply by the ambient light in the sky. But before long you must turn on your flashlight. You turn on your flashlight because, without it, you’re in a perfect darkness. Now you can only see what is in your beam, and what is going on in the beams of the people diving off your boat. We had eight people in the water for the evening dive, so there was plenty of see-and-be-seen. This was The Yankee’s first night dive and my second or third, I think.

You see a few other creatures, more lobsters and an octopus or two if you’re lucky. You see some shrimp. You see fish that are sleeping. I like to run my flashlight along the tops of the reefs, though. It reminds me of being at home in the woods, somehow, in some gothic part of the South.

I describe it a bit because I can offer you no footage. A camera in a night dive just seemed like one handful too many. But, there’s some nice stuff we captured on our first three dives of the day. First, a few video highlights:

And here are some photos The Yankee took over the course of the day’s dive.

I must peer into every vase coral I see, for some reason. This one was on our first, and deepest dive of the day and it was just within range of the dive:

Here we all are enjoying some of the beautiful reefs that Roatan offers:

Look! I’m on the Internet! Twice for some reason!

Did you see the conch shell?

The other guy in the photograph is a man named Tom. He runs a dive shop in Orlando and on his vacation he decided to go diving. I figured he’d have preferred to go snow skiing or something. I don’t go to another university and pop my head in to see what they’re doing on their campus on all of my off days, after all. Tom said he never gets to just dive anymore. He’s always teaching. And you’ve never met a person more enthusiastic about the water. It was great to dive with him and his wife all week.

I also enjoy a good fan coral from time to time. In the center of this photo you see a nice little Gorgonian, the standard of the region:

They offer you some of the most brilliantly blue water in the western Caribbean. The visibility is marvelous and the waters are nice and warm and calm.

How could you not enjoy looking up into a view like that?