Sunday, May 27, 2007

Podcast: Zealandia

This morning we had a break from our normal schedule with a series of dives at Zealandia Bank. Zealandia rises from a depth of nearly one hundred and thirty meters to a bank at about thirty meters. From there, two pinnacles come to within breaking distance of the surface. We approached from the south, careful not to get our small boat too close to the rocks. It was eerie seeing such a small piece of rock, not two feet across, breaking the surface of the ocean with the closest land more than 10 miles away.

Zealandia is seldom visited and only by the occasional fishermen out for the weekend or on their way to Pagan or one of the northern islands. Typically subsistence fishing, they take just enough to feed themselves, their family and maybe a small sale.

Such a low fishing pressure would certainly explain the sight that met our eyes. As we rolled into the crystal clear water we could easily see the bottom nearly 150 feet below. Graceful batfish (Platax teira) greeted us as soon as we hit the water and stayed with us until we past 30 feet. As we reached the bottom twin-spot snappers (Lutjanus bohar), grey reef sharks (Carcharhinus amblyrynchos) and Fairy Basslets came up to meet us. We only had half an hour to spend on the bottom; we are off to Anatahan this afternoon to pick up some oceanography equipment, but those 30 minutes are ones we will always remember.


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