Welcome to my Kosrae-Pohnpei blog - May 1 - May 20!

I hope you enjoy my blog about my solo trip to Kosrae and Pohnpei May 1st through May 20th.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Last full day in paradise

I was still not feeling the greatest but still ventured out on the town of Kolonia for a brief walking tour and shopping spree.  I started out at the German Bell Tower which is the only structure from Pohnpei's original Catholic mission that managed to survive WWII......

Right near the belltower was the Spanish Walls which were built in 1887 and once enclosed Fort Alphonse and large sections of Pohnpei's Spanish colony.  One section of the wall comprises left to center field of the local ball park..........

Nothing like the left field foul pole near an old entrance to the Spanish fort.......

And a shot from home plate......

I then headed to Porakiet village to purchase some handicraft stuff.  Most of these people are descendants of the outer Polynesian atolls of Kapingamarangi and Nukuoro following typhoon and famine disasters in the early 1900's.  They do a lot of carving of local woods and ivory nuts........

If only I had room for the big shark in my suitcase!

I then happened upon an old Japanese tank leftover from WWII which are one of many scattered throughout the island.

I finished off my day with a nice massage in my hut by a local woman named Mirako.  She was very nice and had me good and relaxed using fresh coconut oil and her magical hands.

I then had delightful dinner conversation with my friends Russell and Carrie and another couple from Poulsbo, WA that are really nice people as well.  I finish this blog for my last night's rest and then strategic packing in the  morning.

See you all at home!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Last dives in warm water until next time.........

I woke up not feeling the best this morning but rinsed out my sinuses, popped some sudafed and headed out on the water for what I think are my last dives on Pohnpei and warm water in general until I am able to get in it again.  This was a scouting trip, right Carrie?!?!

Dive Twenty One
Site: Palikar Pass 

Dive Buddy: Jay
Other divers: n/a
Duration: 42 minutes
Max Depth: 70 feet
Visibility: 110 feet
Outside temp: 86.2 degrees F
Water temp: range from 82.4 - 86.7 degrees F

The weather was absolutely perfect.  Had a decent dive but really could tell I am under the weather as my ears were squirrelly and I was just plain beat. Perhaps it had a little do with the long boat ride to the SW side of Pohnpei only to find they had forgot my weight back at the Village.......45 minutes back if we elected to go that far.  So - I suggested going to Kolonia and have someone meet us.  

Well, they already had screwed up with me earlier this week and he called his boss who wasn't happy so we found a friend of Stamp (boat captain) who loaned us some weight so we headed back out to Palikar Pass.  Dropped down to about 70 feet and enjoyed all of the larger fish.  Pohnpei's waters are actually a bit clearer than Kosrae with much bigger fish as we encountered a school of jacks and then was able to swim right through a school of barracuda which was a neat experience, saw a napoleon wrasse, spotted eagle ray and a white tip reef shark sleeping on the bottom at about 150 feet of depth (him, not me).  We then moved along the reef to see lizard fish, puffers, small vibrant star fish, many clown fish and other small reef fish.  A very nice dive but I was gassed given my apparent sickness so we  surfaced after only 42 minutes.

We then headed further west to the point where we could see Ant Atoll to a dive site called Pehleng Pass

Dive Twenty Two
Site: Pehleng Pass 

Dive Buddy: Jay
Other divers: n/a
Duration: 56 minutes
Max Depth: 73 feet
Visibility: 100 feet
Outside temp: 82.9 degrees F
Water temp: range from 82.4 - 86.7 degrees F

This was a nice relaxing last dive of the day.  We saw a couple barracuda, clown fish, nudibranch, the largest flat worm of the trip at about 3 inches long, and two playful tuna rubbing against each other.

Here is a shot of a transport plane I shot while on the boat that comes in to Kolonia twice per week with Sokehs rock as the backdrop; to pick up fresh tuna to sell to the States......$19.99/lb+ there - $0.75/lb here.  Good stuff - I think I've had sashimi yellowfin 13 times since I've been down here - unbelievably good.

Tomorrow I'm due to head to town but apparently there are divers going to Ant Atoll so may join them depending on my ear situation...............

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The ancient city of Nan Madol

Today we set out for Nan Madol.  I say we because I met an extremely nice couple at dinner last night by the name of Russel and Carrie.....

They are NOAA scientists based out of Honolulu who just got done doing a 2 month cruise through the Western Pacific Islands.  They do coral monitoring - scuba diving 7 days a week - 4-6 dives per day.  They call it work - I call it a dream job and they were very gracious in answering all of my questions.  I was like a kid in a candy store.  They are on a delayed honeymoon of sorts having been married 4 months ago so are island hopping back from Saipan to Honolulu as that is where their work cruise terminated.

We first attempted to snorkel with the mantas after leaving the Village harbor but we struck out so headed off to the Kepirohi Waterfall as part of our tour.  The trail leading in was even spectacular......

And then the gorgeous waterfall itself.  It was fairly tall as you can see compared to the palm tree and was quite majestic.........

We had a nice lunch on a beach on a small island within the Pohnpei lagoon and then off to Nan Madol.  Nan Madol's construction began in 1100 AD and took 200-300 years to complete.  It is spread over 92 artificial islets extending over one mile on the reef on the southeastern side of Pohnpei.  It was a place of worship housing royalty and their servants.  Wide basalt pillars, up to 23 feet long, formed naturally into hexagonal columns and some weighing over 60 tons make up the construction.  Legend says that the pillars were moved by "magic" as they were obviously much too heavy for men to lift; even in teams.  That theory was challenged many decades ago by attempting to construct rafts made by materials believed to be available at the time; sturdy enough to float a medium sized pillar high enough using high tide and each attempt failed miserably so no-one really knows how the ancient city was actually built.

A tomb......

I liked this shot because it shows the sound engineering - obviously to last 900+ years in this good of shape..........

They used coral in between the basalt columns as filler as shown in this shot........

We then headed off to explore the rest of the ancient city by kayak which was stunning and a ton of fun.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Big animals on our dives today

Met Stamp (Captain), Ward (Dive Master) and Bernard (Deck Hand) at the front desk in preparation for diving with the Village this morning. Not sure why we need such a large crew with my being the only diver.  Drove down the hill and boarded the boat.   Headed out to our first dive spot - Manta Road.  This is a manta ray cleaning station so Ward and I geared up and headed down........

Dive Nineteen
Site: Manta Road

Dive Buddy: Ward
Other divers: n/a
Duration: 48 minutes
Max Depth: 73 feet
Visibility: 50 feet
Outside temp: 83.3 degrees F
Water temp: range from 83.1 - 91.8 degrees F (keep in mind this is my computer telling me this which can record little bits of water shortly after surfacing - the water temp is mostly towards the bottom range for most of the dive(s)

The viz was not good but I expected this given that it was a cleaning station inside the Pohnpei lagoon.  For those that don't know - a cleaning station is where large animals come to get cleaned by wrasse, remoras, etc.  Mantas are large animals with wing spans of nearly 10 feet wide!  We were lucky enough to see one manta swoop through and several small white tipped reef sharks settled on the bottom.  Also saw my first spotted eagle ray swooping past to our left - majestic! Not much else to be seen on this dive.  We had to abort early because Ward ran out of air as his regulator was leaking.

For our surface interval and lunch we went to Langer Island where the Japanese had a seaplane base during WWII.  It was actually really cool.  Stamp wanted a long surface interval as our dive profile would be deeper on the second dive so needed to rid our bodies of most nitrogen before heading down again.  There was a large cement pier running out into the water ending at a ramp that the seaplanes could run right up on.  Stamp led me on a tour through the jungle showing me several bomb craters from the US bombing this location during WWII.  He also showed me the collapsed hangar where the Japanese seaplanes were kept - pre-bombing.  Massive structure built into the side of the mountain. You can still plainly see the door on it's side and the track it once slid on.  There was also a plane engine lying on its side.  He then brought to me where a gun emplacement once stood with the swivel base and massive wheels jutting out (for when they transported the gun I guess).  A tall mangrove tree was growing right out of it so most of the iron was not visible.  Of course - I forgot my memory card for camera at the resort so was unable to snap photos but may have another surface interval there in future days so will be sure to snap some photos!  We then hopped on the boat and headed out for the next dive....

Dive Twenty
Site: Mwand Pass

Dive Buddy: Ward
Other divers: n/a
Duration: 36 minutes
Max Depth: 86 feet
Visibility: 100 feet
Outside temp: 90.3 degrees F
Water temp: range from 83.1 - 90.3 degrees F

This started out to be a fabulous dive.  Saw a manta ray swooping down below before my attention was brought to a spotted eagle ray climbing the wall to my left.  Spotted a large grey shark - probably 6 feet long?  I then was treated to a massive manta swooping towards me.  I sunk down to about 80 feet and he went right over my head - probably less than 5 feet away.  He had a remora stuck on the bottom of him.  AWESOME sight to behold.  This was a fairly heavy current dive so was simply watching depth and watching for large animals while flying along next to the reef.  Spotted another manta down below and then Ward gave me the shark signal and started to swim out into the blue so I followed.  I then saw many sharks on a "corner" of the reef. (I say "corner" because this apparently rivals Blue Corner in Palau - only to have a reef hook to stay!)  I started counting 1, 2, 3, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25......too many sharks to count!  There were white tips and large grey sharks.  BEAUTIFUL sight!!!!  I then turned around to head back to the reef only to be treated to another close encounter with a manta gliding right next to me - we made eye contact but went our separate ways - not my choice but his, lol.  We then hit some heavy current coming right at us so I wanted to turn around and let it take us but Ward was too far out in front to stop him.  I'm not sure what he was thinking as I really became tired swimming against the current with my split fins.  I went through 1300 pounds of air in about 6 minutes.  Not happy!  I had to abort the dive and was so tired out I could barely do my 15 foot safety stop.  I climbed on the boat huffing and puffing and not a happy diver as I was really enjoying swimming with the large stuff.  Oh well - I expressed my displeasure to the owner when I returned to the resort so will work out payment (or lack thereof) for today's diving later.

I then took a nice nap after doing some reading and am now blogging, drinking ice-cold San Miguel and heading to dinner soon.  I will try and post more pictures later.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Extreme Adventure Diving!

Went to Pakin (pronounced paw-keen) Atoll yesterday which sits about 30km West-Northwest of Pohnpei.  I had met Dan on scubaboard.com and he had chartered a boat for the local dive club to take us out to Pakin from Nihco Marine Park.  There were 5 divers and 3 snorkelers with us for the trip.  The boat was owned by Wilbur who went with us and operated by his son Joe and assistant KM.  His other Jayson was in an assist boat (as needed so many tanks) with two other helpers.  The boat we were on is a 30 foot long skiff, open-bow boat.   It was a bit rough out on the open ocean with some pretty big waves - I'd estimate 8-10 feet?  Big waves for what seemed a small boat.  Travel time to the atoll was about 2 hours.  We were to meet some Seventh Day Adventist teachers (college students) out by the reef but they were nowhere to be seen.  So, we prepped our gear and went in the water.

Dive Seventeen
Site: Pakin Atoll 

Dive Buddy: Dan
Other divers: Brian, Rick, Ron
Duration: 66 minutes
Max Depth: 65 feet
Visibility: 175+ feet
Outside temp: 86.0 degrees F
Water temp: range from 82.4 - 85.3 degrees F

People keep asking me if I've found what I'm looking for on this trip and if I were looking for fantastic visibility, I found it today.  Estimated 175 feet of viz+.  The cleanest water I've ever dove in.  Pakin is a sheer wall with all sorts of caves, etc. all along.  We dropped down right on a stingray in about 60 feet of water.  He was propped in a crack in the wall and Dan took several photos.  You can see Dan's photos of the ray and other things we saw here:  Pakin Atoll - May 15th.  We slowly moved along the wall at our own leisure and as the viz was so fantastic - could dive your own profile while easily keeping track of your fellow divers.  I saw several nudibranchs, tons of giant clams, christmas tree worms, soft coral, hard coral, clown fish and I did spot a white tipped reef shark cruising at about 150 feet below the surface...below us.  It was an amazing dive and loved the viz!

We then had an hour surface interval where our boats would hand fish.  If you saw the gear I showed you the first day on Kosrae - the fisherman don't use much more except the line test is more and  their spool a bit bigger.  They call it hand fishing.  No pole.  The other boat pulled in a huge grouper while we off-gased nitrogen.  We then headed to the northwest point of the atoll and prepped our gear to go in the water.

Dive Eighteen
Site: Pakin Atoll 

Dive Buddy: Dan
Other divers: Brian, Rick, Ron
Duration: 71 minutes
Max Depth: 61 feet
Visibility: 175+ feet
Outside temp: 86.0 degrees F
Water temp: range from 82.4 - 84.6 degrees F

I enjoyed the second dive more than the first.  Perhaps because I was more comfortable with the other divers and/or the site.  I entered a small cavern and explored around - several red grouper hanging on the top. Saw wahoo, nudibranch, small black urchin, small star fish, box fish and more clown fish.

The ride back is where the adventure comes in.  It was POURING rain and we couldn't see the atoll we left or the island we were going back to and the waves were big and we were going against them.  We actually had to grab my compass and guide the captain back at 95-100 degrees East. It was wet - we were all soaked and our gear got a nice rinse even though in bags, etc., lol.  We spotted several schools of fish on our way back in.  The birds play an important part in the fishing because the birds close in on the bait fish where there's a school of larger fish eating them.  I'm talking hundreds of birds - all in on spot on the ocean.  It looks like a black cloud!  We finally started to see land again and the waves did calm down a bit but it was a bit of a scary ride most of the way but I did feel safe.  We drank beer and talked about our dives and life in general on the way back.  One of the deck hands - KM - is of Polynesian descent and looks very much like my nephews.  Shary - is Julian part Polynesian?  Same eyes as Luke/Danny - exact!  Wish I had my camera to snap a photo (was recommended to me not to take it as everything gets wet - glad I listened).  We were then greeted by a school of dolphins that guided us back into the harbor.  Probably 30-40 dolphins?  I went up to the bow of the boat and watched them cruise right in front - it was really cool.  The fisherman don't like them because they can't fish with them so near the boat.  We arrived safely back to Nihco.

I was going to call a taxi but Wilbur offered his son Jayson to take me back to the Village so I accepted.  This family must be doing quite well because he picked me up in a fully loaded Toyota Tacoma - beautiful rig.  Felt so luxurious compared to what I've been riding in, lol.  I offered to buy him dinner and we had some very enjoyable conversation.  He went to school at UC-Riverside so we talked about the Lakers, sports, life on Pohnpei, etc.  He is really a neat kid and was happy to be able to buy him dinner.  He is leaving for Vegas in two weeks to go party - I asked him if it was his first time - he says he goes 2-3 times per year.  Funny kid.

Then came back to the village for a much needed shower and a wonderful night's sleep.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Pakin Atoll dive today

Today - we dive Pakin Atoll.  I had met Dan on ScubaBoard.com from Pohnpei about a month ago and he is hosting a boat full of divers out to Pakin today.  I am told it is approximately 30 km west of Pohnpei and a two hour boat ride there and a 3-4 hour boat ride back due to throwing some line in the water and doing some trolling which will be really cool.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Hello from Pohnpei

I'm staying at the Village resort in Pohnpei which is awesome.  I have my own treehouse in the jungle and it's beautiful!  Great view of the lagoon and Pacific Ocean beyond.  

I'm just settling in and have discovered that the internet appears to be free here so I may post more pics, etc. from Kosrae as have unlimited use (at least from what I can tell now).  Oh - and I just sat down on the bed to test it out - a water-bed?! Yes - I'll be sleeping in a traditional Micronesian hut in the trees in a water-bed - not bad if you ask me!

An update on the weather I mentioned last night.  I thought it seemed a bit severe and apparently it was a waterspout tornado that literally ripped right through the resort.  When I say resort - I'm talking the length is only maybe 50 yards.  They were cleaning seaweed off of the TOP of the walls INSIDE of the lobby this morning!  I thought it was a bit loud for just your normal storm - I guess I can now say I've lived through a tornado!

Last full day on Kosrae - Friday, May 13th

Woke up this morning to a ton of blue sky and sunshine!  The sunrise was beautiful.  I had previously arranged to rent a car to explore the island further and do a mangrove tour out of Utwe.  I first headed up to Tafunsak to the “biggest store on the island” in search of souvenirs of any kind.  None to be had.  I hit every store down back to Lelu and nothing.  Sorry for those that requested a Kosrae shirt, zero.  With the sun shining so bright and tons of time – I hit the resort for some pool time before I headed down to Utwe.  I stopped at many spots along the way snapping pictures of various beaches, etc.

I arrived at the Utwe harbor to meet up with Tadau Waguk who leads the mangrove tour in an authentic Kosraen outrigger canoe (albeit with an outboard motor).  Tadau has been doing this many years and came by recommendation of my sister as she had done the same tour many years ago.  He had his grandson with him and we headed out into the mangrove channels south of Utwe.  

The mangroves were beautiful.  

We wove through some very tight spaces – hardly wide enough for the canoe.

We went by an area nested by birds that apparently are very important for fisherman on the island as they track the tuna so the fisherman can follow them to an almost guaranteed catch.  There is certainly no shortage of food on this island with what the sea and land provides these people; fish, fruit¸ etc.  We then went to a small beach near Utwe Ma (as previously mentioned on my post about my cultural day) where we got out and stretched our legs and viewed some fruit bats.  These bats were HUGE!  At first I didn’t think I saw them as I was looking for bats hanging in the trees and was annoyed by the huge birds flying overhead.  Wait, those aren’t birds!  Those are bats!  You can just see one on the right hand size of the open space here.....

Wingspan I would guess to be 20 inches or so. Creepy as you could see right through their wings as they were so thin and obviously no feathers.  We looked for monitor lizards which were introduced by the Japanese many years ago but didn’t spot any.  We then wove back through the mangrove back to Utwe harbor to finish the tour.  An excellent tour.

I then drove back up to the Nautilus and stopped at Malem to try and find some Japanese caves while driving up the Malem “river”.  This river was no bigger than a stream back home.  I struck out on the caves and every local I asked didn’t speak English.  I did stop at some Japanese steps leading up to an old gun emplacement that was kind of cool.  So, at least I did connect with some actual World War II history.

Then back to the Nautilus where I’ve been packing and stalling to go to dinner as there is a strong storm blowing through.  Apparently the bad weather I’ve been experiencing is a severe low pressure cell that is likely to turn in to a tropical cyclone.  I was told today that many a cyclone have been formed right over Kosrae – only to gain power as they drift through the Pacific and doing damage to places like Guam, Saipan and the Phillipines.

It really does feel a bit sad to be leaving this beautiful place and the many great experiences I’ve had here; both on land and underwater.  Tomorrow I fly to Pohnpei and am looking forward to more adventure there.

Last dives on Kosrae - Thursday May 12th

Dive Fifteen 
Site: Eagle Ray Wall
Dive Buddy: Doug Beitz
Other divers: Rick Brooks
Duration: 62 minutes
Max Depth: 53 feet
Visibility: 70 feet
Outside temp: 78.6 degrees F
Water temp: range from 78.8 – 83.8 degrees F

We were on the north tip of the island for this dive on a sheer wall down…next stop – about 3000 feet below the surface. The viz was not good at 70 feet but was still a fantastic dive. Given the name, Eagle Ray Wall, I was hoping that at last I would see one or more of those magnificent creatures. It was not to be but I did spot a SHARK! A white tip reef shark cruising about 30 feet below through the coral. I haven’t seen once since Hawaii and look forward to more on Pohnpei where the sightings hopefully will be more frequent. There were reports from Chinese fisherman that three tiger sharks followed their boat into dry dock here on Kosrae but we weren’t lucky enough to see them. Probably a blown out of proportion story anyway. Also saw many clown fish, lion fish, lizard-fish, nudibranch, and puffer-fish.......the lighting is bad on this but this is me gliding towards a puffer.........

Saw two massive Napolean Wrasse that seemed as large as me and was actually probably bigger – no kidding. Those things can push 300-400 pounds. (And no, I’m nowhere near that!)

Dive Sixteen
Site: Buoy 35a
Dive Buddy: Doug Beitz
Other divers: Rick Brooks
Duration: 67 minutes
Max Depth: 46 feet
Visibility: 90 feet
Outside temp: 83.1 degrees F
Water temp: range from 81.0 – 84.6 degrees F

I felt sad when hopping in the water as this was my last dive on Kosrae but God blessed us with wonderful viz at about 90+ feet. It was a wonderful dive – I kind of floated above the coral trying to take it all in not knowing if I’ll ever be able to dive this fantastic island again. Here is a shot to show  you the size of some of this stuff.  Doug's camera is not sophisticated enough to capture coral very good as you'd need about a $20K camera with wide angle lens and huge strobes..........

The usual suspects were down there swimming along with us as we cruised the reef. I took notice of some of the more common and smaller reef fish that we saw on a daily basis and took in their vibrant colors along with other trigger fish, clown fish, various wrasse, puffers, etc., etc. I didn’t want the dive to end and I think perhaps Doug sensed that as we approached the buoy – I didn’t want to look at him as I knew he’d give me the safety stop signal but finally I gave him the signal and we went up as I was getting near red on air. It really was tough.  I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to dive Walung but I guess that means I’ll just have to come back.

I then invited Rick to dinner at Bullys down the road and we had a nice dinner talking about the day’s diving and his travels, etc. He ordered mangrove crab. I think it took them an hour to prepare it (or maybe they went out and killed one) and Rick an hour to eat it! It was all good though – nothing to come back to anyway except blogging which was down the last two nights which is why I finally just got to this one.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I don't think the heavy stuff is gonna come down for quite a while

Tonight we headed out for a night dive.......

Dive Fourteen
Site: Cockle Sanctuary
Dive Buddy: Doug Beitz and Salyk
Other divers: n/a
Duration: 64 minutes
Max Depth: 51 feet
Visibility: 80 feet
Outside temp: 77.4 degrees F
Water temp: range from 77.4 - 83.8 degrees F

This was my second and last night dive here on Kosrae and was just as excellent as the first. It's amazing how confident I feel with my buoyancy, etc. when it's pitch-black underwater - you'd think it'd be the other way around but it's not. For those that don't dive - when you night dive you have a primary and secondary light in addition to a tank light so have some redundancy when it comes to finding your way around but can switch them off to turn everything to black to see the other divers work underwater which looks like you're on another planet or play with the phosphorescent. Tonight I saw the most amazing hermit crab that appeared to have four small plume anemone growing on its shell - was wild. Saw two slipper lobsters - one baby, a baby moray eel, a teeny-tiny little flounder (1 inch), several flat worms, lion fish, lizard fish, big puffer fish, red crab, small vibrant starfish and several vibrantly colored sea urchins. Some of these urchins were huge at probably 12 inches in diameter and they'd just slowly move along the coral - visible movement though. Some colors I saw were black and yellow, purple, jet black, orange and gray. I also saw a really weird looking clam sort of thing that was quite mesmerizing to look into as it was fully open - probably fishing for food although I was a bit much for his little appetite.

When we got out of the water - RAIN! Major rain - no wind - just down-pouring rain. Was like that all the way back to the resort and just as we were pulling in - whoosh - power out. Then power on - power out - power on - power out. They served me dinner in my room.....power out, power on. It's still raining buckets out there but at least the power stayed on long enough for me to shower, etc. (water pumps on all plumbing).

Tomorrow morning are likely my last dives on Kosrae as will likely do an outrigger canoe tour through the mangrove channels on Friday morning before I fly off to Pohnpei on Saturday (Friday in America).

Fong wo

New dive sites this morning

I think I'm getting spoiled with the diving down here..........many anemone hosts with clown fish and their eggs, nudibranch, stingray, several puffer fish (big - like 20-24 inches long), and the typical fantastic hard coral with several other species of reef fish.............

Dive Twelve
Site: Shark Island - North Buoy
Dive Buddy: Doug Beitz
Other divers: Josh and Jess
Duration: 68 minutes
Max Depth: 64 feet
Visibility: 75 feet
Outside temp: 89.2 degrees F
Water temp: range from 82.4 - 88.2 degrees F

This was the farthest north buoy off shark island and it was very cool. Josh and Jess joined us this morning. The current took us nearly out to the point and then switched 180 degrees mid-dive and we came back - this time a bit shallower. Doug showed me two white spotted trigger-fish which apparently are quite rare and really cool looking. Trigger-fish can be a bit nasty as they protect their nest but these two were down deeper than we so no problem. We've had others circle us as we swim through their territory - Salyk doesn't like them as they'll come at you fast and head butt you. These aren't small fish - probably 30 inches or so. At the end of the dive Doug spotted a stingray sleeping in a sandy patch so we checked him out for a minute until he got spooked and swooped off - really cool to see those animals move underwater.

Dive Thirteen
Site: Split Rock
Dive Buddy: Doug Beitz
Other divers: Salyk
Duration: 66 minutes
Max Depth: 54 feet
Visibility: 80 feet
Outside temp: 80.2 degrees F
Water temp: range from 81.0 - 85.3 degrees F

This was the first time we've been able to dive the north side of the island as the wind was coming from the south. Split rock is a massive rock structure underwater that has split and you can swim right through at different heights. A really cool dive with tons of macro to look at including hermit crabs, several nudi's, small, colorful star fish, lizard-fish, flat worms, lion fish and then there were three huge snapper (30 inches+?) at the base of the rock in 54 feet of water. Doug apparently was on the other side and rustled them up while they shot for the opening near me only to stop and swim around as I blocked their exit. Was a very nice dive but had sections of barren coral as apparently that site took a pounding several months back with 15 foot waves. Tons and tons of hermit crabs, etc. sleeping for the day - would be a cool place for a night dive.

I was tired after this morning so took a nice nap after a video conversation with Hannah.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Very nice day in Utwe Village

Moses' brother picked me up shortly after 10:15 so not bad for island time. He then drove me to Utwe to meet Moses and Joselin and some of their family. Here is a picture of Moses, Joselin and their daughter Seline who is a sweetheart. She didn't want to smile because she had just eaten a blueberry jawbreaker or something and her mouth was all blue and she was embarrassed.

We first went for a little cruise out of Utwe on Moses' boat and around the harbor over where Bully Haye's pirate ship sank in the harbor in the late 1800's due to a typhoon. They wanted to take me to Utwe Ma (Old Utwe- where the people of Utwe used to live many years ago) but the tide was too low so we couldn't which was too bad because it sure looked nice over there. They have a hut or two over there and sometimes go over to sleep and they have a mangrove crab farm there too. We headed back to their place and they took me to Sipyen Waterfall which was stunning. The jungle so lush and beautiful.....

Seline jumped right in and it took a bit of coaxing but I thought - what the heck - I have to do it. Plus I was hot as heck! So, I went in and swam around and stood underneath the powerful waterfall due to all of the recent rain. Was quite exhilarating and I thought it knocked my contacts right out of my eyes but thankfully it didn't. I won't subject you to any photos of that event, lol.

I then treated Moses and Seline to lunch at Kosrae Village Resort which is the other dive resort on the island. It was a nice place with authentic Kosraen thatch huts for rooms and their restaurant was a much larger traditional Kosraen hut.

They then took me back to my room to get ready for dinner and then I was told they'd pick me up at 5:15. Island time kicked in and luckily enough Doug and Sally invited me for a glass or two of wine on their veranda while I waited, and waited.......until about 7:00 when I was picked up and driven back to Utwe.

I arrived and was immediately seated for dinner without any introductions to any of the other members of the family (I later found out that introductions are done after dinner). I was presented with a lei and given the only glass plate and told to serve myself. There was sashimi, green salad, taro, breadfruit, fried fish (whole, head, eyes and all), watermelon, rice and bottled water and a shasta cola (I passed since I don't drink much soda). Really, I was treated like royalty. After I sat down and told to start eating then the other men got their food, then the women. Also - they presented me with a whole mangrove crab to eat - just me. I took only a small amount as there was no way I could eat it all but they intended for me to be the only to eat the crab. I hope that I didn't offend them but I forced them to share it with me.

A little side note here - it appears that women definitely do not have equal rights here. For example, I would constantly practice my normal manners of letting the woman (or girl, in Selene's case) go in front of me through a door or whatever but they consistently let me go ahead. That has been something I've noticed since my arrival.

The food was good. After dinner the whole family (all of Moses' descendants) sang me a song. I recorded it but it is too huge to post on here at the rate I pay per meg. It was very nice - they are truly gifted with their voices here. I was then introduced to Moses' family - but only the men. None of the women were introduced by Moses even though all of his sisters were present. I then introduced myself to the family sharing my relation to Shary (Shrue). This was not something that I had a choice in - once my introduction was complete - then normal conversation could commence as instructed by Moses.

Shary - you are truly LOVED here on the island and can't thank you enough for showing them your love and compassion so many years ago as it has allowed me a connection here that I couldn't have dreamed of having without you.

I then passed out candy to all of the kids and then I was really treated like royalty. All of them smiling and smiling at me. It was soooooo cute! We mostly laughed at the kids with all the candy I gave them cause they were in heaven (and all hopped up on sugar, lol). Here I am with some of them........

I then gave Joselin, Moses and Seline their gifts from Shary and they were very thankful. Kulo ma lulap Shrue (Thank you very much Shary)! Rex wasn't around but did give Jos the shirt you sent.

Then it was time for me to leave as it was getting late and I'm planning on diving in the morning but wanted to post this blog before bed.

Fong wo (Good night)

P.S. - many have asked how my dad is doing so I apologize for the lack of updates on him. He is still in the hospital and is stable - out of ICU. He is disoriented but I did talk to him yesterday and he seemed normal to me so maybe he goes in and out but he did seem very tired. Hang in there Dad!!!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Cultural day today

Finally..........the sun! Oh, how I've missed you!

I'm so glad it's nice today because I am going on an island tour and then dinner at Shary's Kosraen friends (Josila her bff) while she lived here more than 20 years ago. Moses will be picking me up at 10:00 (or noon or later if he's running on island time) and then he will show me around a bit which I'm really looking forward to. Then he and his wife Josila and family are hosting me for dinner in Utwe village. Should make for a memorable experience I'm sure. I will report all about it tonight.

Monday morning and rain again? Ok - let's go diving

When it rains like it does here - there really isn't much else to do but head under water (for me at least). We have a new diver at the resort this week - Richard. He was doing a nursing contract on Guam and is slowly making his way home by way of diving Palau, Pohnpei and now Kosrae. Nice, calm morning once we got out there and stayed close to the marina again.....

Dive Ten
Site: Buoy 35b
Dive Buddy: Doug Beitz
Other divers: Richard
Duration: 63 minutes
Max Depth: 53 feet
Visibility: 80 feet
Outside temp: 77.4 degrees F

A pretty ordinary dive now that I've been here for a while. The clown fish have laid their eggs in their host anemone and are guarding them fiercely while the anemone seems to curl up where the eggs are hatched - truly a symbiotic relationship of some sort. Saw yet another lion fish, several black flat worms, lizard-fish, etc.

Dive Eleven
Site: Shark Island
Dive Buddy: Doug Beitz
Other divers: Richard
Duration: 76 minutes
Max Depth: 48 feet
Visibility: 75 feet
Outside temp: 84.6 degrees F
Water temp: range from 81.7 - 86 degrees F

The dive started out with some pretty bad viz but it turned out to be a killer dive. I took up the rear this dive and Doug/Richard stirred up a turtle that shot out right in front of me and slowly waded its way down and out into the blue. I desperately tried to get Doug/Richard's attention with no luck. Then I happened upon a very playful, but quite small, flatworm that I played with for a minute or two.....

I then spotted an octopus hiding in a coral head and called Richard and Doug over. Richard was low on air so he headed up to his safety stop but Doug and I got in real nice and close as he was quite tolerant of us. I checked my downloaded dive log from my computer and figured we spent 26 minutes with him. I got so close that he was literally only 8 or so inches in front of my mask. It was killer!!!!!! He kept a close eye on us and I was hoping he'd shoot out of his hiding spot so I could see him swim but I can't be too picky as I was humbled to be in such close proximity to such a fantastic creature. I reached out to touch him at one point and he turned black instantly and pulled back so I kept my distance. Doug snapped several shots as I looked on. Easily the best animal/fish experience I've had since here........

This was the longest I've ever spent under water at 76 minutes and didn't want to leave but had to as was getting towards 500 lbs. left of air so was sorry to leave but I sure loved it!!!! Hovered over him at our 15 foot safety stop and he turned black as if to say goodbye.