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April 2000 Flower Gardens Trip Report

Text and images copyright 2000 David M. Read.  All rights reserved.

Christmas tree worms at East Bank
Christmas Tree Worms at East Bank.

It's hard for me ever to turn down a trip to the Flower Gardens, especially a free trip! I signed up to lead an April trip for Tom's Dive & Ski, mainly because no one else in the shop thought it would go. Much to everyone's surprise, "go" it did, and we had a great trip.  The passengers I was guiding consisted mostly of graduate students from UT's Laboratory for Intelligent Processes and Systems (LIPS), plus a few others, including some friends of mine.

Mostly the diving conditions were excellent. The visibility ranged from 80 feet to as little as 60, and water temps were in the lower 70s. I won't bore you with a lot of details that are found in other trip reports.

This trip had a couple of special moments, including my second sighting of the golden smooth trunkfish, a creature that is endemic to the Flower Gardens. It was also a sort of strange trip for me, photographically, as I was testing out the new Ikelite Auto 35 camera system.  As a result, I dove with my big housed system only a few times.  The results from the Auto 35 were excellent, but of course they don't really compare to the pictures from the housing! In this report, if I don't tell you which camera setup a picture came from, it came from the housed system.  I'll annotate the Auto 35 pictures as such.

Dive Log Excerpts

Dive #1: West Bank Buoy #5 -- Excellent dive.  Lots of critters out and about: ocean triggers, parrot fish, tons of huge barracuda, huge streaming schools of crevalle jacks, lognose butterflyfish, etc.

Dive #2: West Bank Buoy #5 -- Another great dive, but this one was about the little things. Whitespotted filefish, including a juvenile about 3 inches in size.  We also saw a couple of cooperative queen angels, a huge green moray, more.   Still, the coolest part was the schools of crevalle jacks, hundreds of them, but in a single-file line in groups of ten or fifteen.  The came in a line, out of the blue distances to my left, moving off to the right.

Dive #3: East Bank Buoy #7 -- First dive with the 105mm lens, and it's obvious that this is the lens for fish portraits. The working distance is incredible. I found a juvy queen angel and a juvy yellowtail damselfish, and neither was particularly difficult to photograph. Neither eactly cooperated, but the lens let me stay far enough away that I was able to bring home a couple of decent shots anyway.

Dive #4: East Bank Buoy #7 -- Short dive with Beth to try one more swipe at that yellowtail damselfish. Success, I think. No sign of the queen angel.

I also found a pair of lizardfish, late in the dive, and got a couple of shots of them.

Dive #5: East Bank Buoy #7 -- Night Dive! Not much to tell, as this was only an "average" FG night dive. Took a picture of 2 banded coral shrimp next to a slipper lobster, played with a puffer, and chased off that cursed dog snapper with my light.

The funniest sight was the attack of the crazed balloonfish.  Ed and I were swimming along peacefully, until we spooked a small balloonfish.  It swam up Ed's light beam at maximum speed, did a couple of quick spirals around his body & head, and them shot off towards the surface.  Weird, but hilarious.

Dive #6: Stetson Bank Buoy #3 -- Stetson never disappoints. This dive delivered the whole range, from tiny to large. The dive started with a huge stingray on the ground right next to the mooring bolt.  I saw every manner of small fish while touring, along with a medium-sized spotted moray, another golden smooth trunkfish, and a hand-sized juvenile French Angelfish.

The end of the dive was not fun. The current picked up, and by safety-stop time it was cooking along at 2+ knots. I had to use 2 hands to hold on to the side line, with the line vibratin wildly the whole time. I sat out the next dive at Stetson due to rough seas, poor light, and general exhaustion, and the rig dive got scrapped due to the seas, currents, and wind. Only six dives this trip, but that was enough.

A rock beauty at West Bank (Auto 35)
A rock beauty at West Bank (Auto 35)

A juvenile Queen Angelfish.
A juvenile Queen Angelfish.

My favorite fish in the sea, the juvenile yellowtail damselfish.
My favorite fish in the sea, the juvenile yellowtail damselfish.

A spotted moray at night (Auto 35)
A spotted moray at night (Auto 35)

A juevnile French Angelfish at Stetson Bank.
A juevnile French Angelfish at Stetson Bank.

The rare and beautiful Golden Smooth Trunkfish.
The rare and beautiful Golden Smooth Trunkfish.

Dive Log Details

Dive # Location Depth Time
1 West Bank #5 74 0:41
2 West Bank #5 75 0:45
3 East Bank #7 67 0:48
4 East Bank #7 70 0:38
5 East Bank #7 72 0:31
6 Stetson Bank #3 80 0:37

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