James and I are planning to make a trip to the USS Emmons in a few months. The two of us normally do dives no deeper than 60 feet so I took up a friend’s suggestion to do some practice deep dives at Maeda Point before making the dive at the USS Emmons. After suggesting it to James we decided to do one deep dive and a second shallow dive to no deeper than 35 feet. We had a great time on both dives and James enjoyed the thrill of diving to the deepest depth he’s ever gone to date.
I gave an in-depth dive brief to James before we made the deep dive, being sure to hit on hand signals, special procedures we would use (deep stop and ascending to the surface without a reference line), maximum amount of time we would spend at depth (5 minutes), and also the information his dive computer would be showing that normally isn’t displayed on more shallow dives. Feeling confident that we had a good game planned we walked down the lengthy staircase towards the water. Once in the water with our fins on, we confirmed that we were both prepped for the dive and we started down the metal chain.
James Checking His Air At 110 Feet
We followed the slopping bottom down to about 40 feet and we made sure we stayed close as we descended into deeper water. At 60 and 80 feet we confirmed with each other that everything was still “ok.” At this point there wasn’t much too look at except for some rocks and sand. We continued our descent and made it to 110 feet. At this point, we swam to other outer reef and we kicked along the bottom for about 5 minutes. As we kicked along we both confirmed to each other how many minutes we had left of cruising around and also confirming how much air we had remaining in our tanks. After 2.5 minutes we turned around and started our return to where the sloping bottom had leveled off. Upon returning, we signalled to each other that we would make our ascent.
Waving To The Camera And Enjoying The Thrill Of Deep Diving
At 65 feet our dive computers notified us to make a deep stop for 1 minute. We hovered in mid-water facing each other while also checking our depth gauges to make sure we maintained a constant depth. Making an ascent or hovering in midwater without a reference line can be tricky because you don’t have something to reference for your ascent rate or positioning. I find that it’s best to focus on my depth gauge because it won’t lie. After a minute, we then ascended to 40 feet for another 1 minute deep stop. Once again, we didn’t have a reference so each of us face each other and focused on our depth gauges.
Chromodoris Elisabethina Or Chromodoris Colemani….We Might Never Know!
We came up to 30 feet and checked the amount of air we each had left. Because we hadn’t been down at 110 feet for very long we still had plenty of air left in our tanks but, to dive conservatively, decided to only tour around for another 5 minutes. The first thing I noticed was a nudibranch that looked like several different types, but not one in particular. While speaking with Randy Birt a few days later we were discussing how it’s currently hard to tell the difference right now between the Chromodoris colemani nudibranch and Chromodoris elisabethina nudibranch. Just a few months ago, this wasn’t the case. The above photo is a good example of how the nudibranchs appear to be in transition. Randy wrote to me, “Thats exactly it Kim. I dont know what to call that. Looks like elizabethina, but the brown between the black lines make it look like Colemani. I am not convinsed that these guys are not changing color over time. It would be interesting to see what this exact nudi looks lik in 2 or 3 months, but there are no nudi tracking devices that I know of :)” Some of the possible reasons for the color change could be the time of year (perhaps the change color amount now) or it could also be based on their diet.
A Beautiful Chromodoris Tinctoria Nudibranch
While combing over the rocks I spotted a beautiful Chromodoris tinctoria nudibranch crawling over some rocks. I swooped in the hopes and getting some photos. The little guy was positioned almost vertically on the rocks so I had to contort my body in a very strange position to get photos of his face. After snapping a whole bunch I decided to get one of his backside and I actually like the photo a lot. It was also a lot easier to take and I didn’t have to wedge myself into a tiny space to get the shot either! After snapping a whole bunch I decided to get one of his backside and I actually like the photo a lot.
Chromodoris Tinctoria Nudibranch
After finishing my photographs of the Chromodoris tinctoria, James and I ascended to 15 feet and made a 4 minute safety stop. We then exited the water and made a lengthy surface interval. We would rather play it safe then sorry. One of the cool things we enjoyed doing while waiting was to check out our theoretical tissue saturation in the dive planning mode on our Suunto dive computers (I have a Vyper Air and James has a Cobra 3). When we first got out, our tissues were very saturated with nitrogen. As time passed we saw that we were off-gassing the extra nitrogen and our theoretical saturation was lowering. James is very interested in dive theory so he really enjoyed seeing the dive computer’s calculations.
Two Chromodoris Colemani Nudibranchs Mating
We entered the water for a second dive in agreement that we’d dive no deeper than 35 feet. As I cinched my fin up, the strap broke. Ugh. I had been diving with a single fin due to my tow for the past 3 weeks so I thought nothing of it, and I REALLY did not feel like walking back up to the car just to switch out my fins. I ended up asking James to carry my unusable fin so I could take pictures unimpeded. He agreed (I suspect he didn’t feel like walking up the steps either) and we started our dive. We descended along the chain and then began out dive to the north. After only about 2 minutes underwater we came upon two Chromodoris colemani nudibranchs. I suspected they were mating so I snapped a few pictures and then gestured to James as to what I thought they were doing. hahaha! James told me it was rather hilarious.
Paradoris Species 1 Nudibranch
A few minutes later I noticed a small, white object with black spots crawling across some red coral. If there hadn’t been such a distinct difference in colors, I probably would have missed it entirely. I wasn’t sure if I had spotted a nudibranch or flatworm initially. It first appeared to by cylindrical (like a nudibranch) but as it continued to crawl it flattened out. I made sure to take lots of photos in the hopes that i would be able to identify once back home.
Paradoris Species 1 Nudibranch
After returning home I attempted to identify the nudibranch but I wasn’t able to figure out exactly what it was. I ended up posting the photo in the facebook group “Okinawa Nudibranch Round-Up” and still wasn’t convinced by the several suggestions that were posted. Later that same day I dropped by Randy Birt’s office to pick up my 2012 Nudibranch Round-Up T-Shirt (it totally rocks!) and asked him if he happened to know what it might be. As soon as he saw the picture he said, “You suck!” For all of you who don’t know, this is the ultimate compliment among nudibranch enthusiast whenever you happen to spot a nudibranch another person hasn’t seen or has rarely seen. hahaha! He skimmed through Robert Bollands “Okinawa Slug Site” and clicked on the thumbnail of Paradoris Species 1. Yep! Bingo. He was spot on. Mystery solved!
Phyllidiella Pustulosa Nudibranch
Hypselodoris Bullocki Nudibranch
After swimming northward for about 10 minutes we came into an area that is nearly always inhabited by longfin spadefish. I took some pictures of the fish as they swam by and then I motioned for my husband to pose for a picture with them. At the exact moment my shutter went off, a longfin spadefish swam directly in front of James’ face. When back on the surface I showed it to James and we both got a good laugh out of it. I knew it would prove to be a great photo for “Create A Caption!”
James With The Photo Bombing Longfin Spadefish
I received the following captions and comments from fellow Okinawa divers:
“Photo bombing like a boss!” – Myself
“Looks like he’s getting eaten. Good pic.” – David
“Nomnomnom…nom..nom…nom” – Ty
“Fish Head, Fish head, rolly polly fish head….” – Terry
“In an effort to get closer to the action, some divers have started using fish decoys.” – Chris
“Can’t breathe!!!!!! Laughing tooo hard!!!!!” – Lawrence
“Extremely photogenic fish shows his good side.” – Gil
“I’m ready for my close up Mrs. Spears!” – Gil
“You shall not FLASH” – Bert
“Does this fish make my face look fat?” – Jason (personal favorite)
“It’ all about ME!!??” – Melanie
“..and in this evenings game spadefish set a new record for blocked shots….” – Randy
“This same fish photobombed my shot on Saturday lol and then tried to eat my camera” – Erica (hahaha)
“Holy Bubbling Bat fish Batman!” – Bradley
The Best Dive Buddy Ever – Holding Onto My Busted Fin
From my personal experiences diving, longfin spadefish are extremely friendly. They will swim to within a few feet of you and it’s pretty cool when there is a small school of them. It’s also pretty easy to photograph them. In general, they cruise around with at least 1 other partner….so if you see one, be on the lookout for another nearby. I really get a kick out of when they swim directly at me and then dart away at the last second possible – it’s almost like they are playing chicken.
James And A Longfin Spadefish Playing Chicken
Longfin Spadefish At Maeda Point
Longfin Spadefish Close-Up
I spotted a new type of nudibranch today. It was a Phyllidiopsis fissuratus – very rare for Okinawa but more common in the Kerama Islands. It was resting on top of some rocks so it was very easy to photograph. Robert F. Bolland gives an excellent description of the physical features of this nudibranch on his website (http://www.rfbolland.com/okislugs/phylfiss.html).
Phyllidiopsis Fissuratus Nudibranch
After turning around and starting to make our way to the exit point, I came across something really neat. Perched on top of a rock ledge was a lizardfish with a half swallowed butterflyfish. When James saw it we immediately looked at each other with wide eyes. Almost as if we were saying, “Woah! Are you seeing what I’m seeing?!” I took a few photos from behind just in case it swallowed the rest of the butterflyfish before I took take a photo from the front. Thankfully it didn’t so I slowly moved into position and took a few pictures.
We Almost Didn’t Believe Our Eyes When We Saw This
Upon looking at the pictures on my computer, I knew this would make for another great “Create A Caption.” Here are what some local divers said:
“Quick! Catch that fish now and its a Two-fer!! (2 for 1)” – Mason
“nom nom nom” – Alexander
“Do I have something in my teeth?” – Jason
“This is not medium rare.” – Josh
“Butterflyfish: Hmm…I don’t like the look of this…not one bit” – Gil
“Wha ohh hee hack here??!!” – Gil
“One fishy, Ah Ah Ah” – Robert (personal favorite – good reference to The Count on Sesame Street)
“Awesome shot- perfect timing! mouth full!” – Shawn
“Improvising a lemon smile” – Erica
“MOVE! Get out the way!” – Scot
“Butterflyfish: Uh..Oh…I’m going to be late for dinner…..” – Scot
“Excuse me! Do I have anything in my teeth?” – Kelly
“yum…yum…yum… burp” – Kelly
“oops, my eyes are bigger than my stomach I guess.” – Melanie
“Anybody want to take leftover?” – Melanie
“Ouch” – Bradley
Lizardfish Swallowing A Butterflyfish
Nicely Camouflaged Tasseled Scorpionfish
Another interesting nudibranch that James and I came across was slowly making its way across a rock face. While photographing it I thought I had spotted a new type I’d never seen before. After returning home and looking more closely at the photos on my computer I noticed a faint yellow ribbon along the edges of the nudibranch. I looked a bunch of photos online but didn’t see anything exactly like my photographs. I eventually posted the picture on Okinawa Nudibranch Round-Up and Randy Birt came back with a post saying, “I believe this is a juvenile form of Chromodoris magnifica. There were several examples of this seen during the round up. They look exactly like magnifica, only very muted, and they always seem to be significantly smaller than a full color magnifica. Having said that, I can’t know this with certainty. It is really just a guess. Check out the magnifica pictures and see if you agree.” I think Randy’s assessment is spot on.
Chromodoris Magnifica Nudibranch (Juvenile)
The last great find for the day at Toiletbowl was spotting a Glossodoris cincta nudibranch in between some rocks. As we neared the exit, my eyes spotting some sort of object stretched out and sticking off the side of a rock. I ended up having to back up to get a better look and what I saw was amazing! The Glossodoris cincta was stretching out as if it were trying to smell the water. I quickly readied my camera and starting taking as many photos as possible. The last time I had seen one of these, my flash was playing games and the pictures didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped. I wanted to make sure I really captured the beautiful colors on the nudibranch this time. I must have spent at least 3-4 minutes photographing the nudibranch as it swayed back and forth and I managed to get some really nice photos.
Glossodoris Cincta Nudibranch
For the below picture, I had another “Create A Caption” post and here are some of the responses I received:
“i believe i can fly!!!” – Jon
“(singing) Do Ray Me Fa So La, La, La,,,,ok I’m ready for the opera now…” – Joe (personal favorite)
“…..You do the hokey pokey and you turn yourself around……” – Randy
“Back Blast area clear.” – Josh
“I can’t breathe in here.” – Jason
“Stretch it out!” – Myself
” planking. level: nudibranch” – Alexander
Glossodoris Cincta Nudibranch
Upon surfacing James told me that Maeda Point was his favorite dive site to date. I must admit that it really does have some great wildlife and I’ve never been disappointed with a dive here. I’m hoping to soon make a night dive here – I bet it would be totally amazing!
Chromodoris Willani Nudibranch With A Sea Urchin