Monday, January 11, 2010

The Great Blue Hole of Belize...


The Great Blue Hole of Belize is one of the most astounding dive sites to be found anywhere on earth and lies right in the center of Lighthouse Reef one of the three atolls found in Belize.

It is a large, almost perfectly circular hole approximately one quarter of a mile (.4 km) across.

The Blue Hole is more than 300 feet across and 412 feet deep. The array of bizarre stalactites and limestone formations which mould its walls seem to become more intricate and intense the deeper one dives.

The diameter of the circular reef area stretches for about 1,000 feet and provides an ideal habitat for corals to attach and flourish. The coral actually breaks the surface in many sections at low tide. Except for two narrow channels, the reef surrounds the hole.

The hole itself is the opening to a system of caves and passageway that penetrate this undersea mountain. In various places, massive limestone stalactites hang down from what was once the ceiling of air-filled caves before the end of the last Ice Age. When the ice melted the sea level rose, flooding the caves.

The temperature in the Blue Hole at 130 feet is about 76 F with hardly any change throughout the year at that depth.

For all practical purposes, the over 400-foot depth makes the Blue Hole a bottomless pit. The walls are sheer from the surface until a depth of approximately 110 feet where you will begin to encounter stalactite formations which actually angle back, allowing you to dive underneath monstrous overhangs.

Hovering amongst the stalactites, you can't help but feel humbled by the knowledge that the massive formation before you once stood high and dry above the surface of the sea eons ago. The feeling is enhanced by the dizzying effect of nitrogen breathed at depths.

The water is motionless and the visibility often approaches 200 feet as you break a very noticeable thermocline.

In the deeper waters of the Blue Hole itself, you might see a curious blacktip tiger or hammerhead shark, but on most dives you won't see anyone except your dive buddy. But as you venture into the shallows around the rim of the Blue Hole to off-gas after your dive, you will discover a wonderful area filled with life.

Pederson's cleaning shrimp are everywhere inhabiting the ringed and knobby anemones. With the frantic waving of their antennae, these shrimp invite you, along with passing fishes, to be cleaned. Neon gobies also advertise their cleaning services from the various coral heads. Angelfish, butterflyfish hamlets and small groupers are also commonly seen. Elkhorn coral grows to the surface and purple sea-fans, resplendent of their rich hues, sweep at the calm surface waters. If you look up, you will double your pleasure as you catch the reflections of sea fans in the aquamarine mirror of the calm water.

A rare and wonderful dive, The Blue Hole is a once in a lifetime must see for all serious divers.

An entire diving trip to Belize is worth the effort and expense for this single dive.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Turneffe Atoll, Belize


Turneffe Atoll features spectacular diving suitable for every level of diver. Along the western reef line north of the Elbow, novice divers can feel comfortable on shallow reefs, removed from the steep and deep walls so typical elsewhere. A varied terrain, wrecks and an abundance of marine life make the eastern reefs on Turneffe's southern end sensational for seasoned divers.

Current and walls make the diving here challenging but great for finding large pelagics.

Turneffe is the largest of the three Belizean atolls and the only one with an extensive cover of mangroves. Most established dive sites are limited to the southern end, but there is enough here for several weeks of diving.

The marine life at Turneffe Island makes the scuba diving an adventure like no other dive destination in the Caribbean. The vastness and variety of marine life and coral formations are truly unmatched.

With more than 200 mangrove islands, the atoll is a natural nursery for a wide variety of exotic fish, including the rare Whitespotted Toadfish, which is endemic to Belize. Other types of tropical marine life commonly viewed include eagle rays, playful dolphins, turtles, huge green morays, giant jewfish, nurse sharks, reef sharks, trunkfish, grouper, snapper, permit, and horse-eye jacks.

The Turneffe Atoll area stretches 30 miles long and 10 miles wide. It has often been described as a myriad of different dive destinations all bundled into one.

The depth of the water and distance from the mainland of Belize result in excellent underwater visibility, normally in excess of 100 feet and often ranging up to 150 feet.

The numerous mangrove islands and tidal zones support the Caribbean's most abundant collection of marine life. Large pelagics, rays, turtles, eels, and schools of snapper, jacks and permit are common sights.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Getting noticed on the Top 50 Marine Biology Blogs...

Recognition is always a nice thing.

Recently, we received notification from The Engineering a Better World Blog that our Blog had been chosen as one of the Top 50 Top Research Marine Biology Blogs, quite a nice plug we think.

The Engineering A Better World Blog is about applying the general principles of engineering; testing, method, research, creativity, and artistry, to our world in a very practical way. By highlighting the creative work of others and by presenting new ideas, they attempt to improve the world around us in our little way.

Practically speaking, they cover new ideas and highlight people who are making a difference, and provide resources to inspire and give you the resources to assist you in changing the world for the better as well.

Read more here >

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Moho Caye Lodge, Belize.


It is with sincere regret that I must write this article regarding what was at one point in my life, my favorite place to dive in the world- Moho Caye in Belize.

An article I wrote several years ago describes what is what like to visit Moho in the late 1990's and early into the 21st century;

Moho Caye

"One of my other favorite spots in Belize was Moho Caye. It is a simple dive but there is a large coral pinnacle that starts in about 85 - 100 feet and makes it way up to within 20 feet of the surface and there are a large variety of critters to watch for while you circle this pinnacle.

The nice thing about this site is that you can end your dive in fifteen feet of water and still be seeing lots of marine life, like anemones and feathered sea cucumbers.

There are numerous ways to dive Moho Caye. I considered the starting point just off to the left of the small spot of sandy beach you can see in center of the right photo. From there, you could head south towards the pinnacle or north, towards a more sandy bottom and round the tip at the northern-most point. where the reef forms a sort of mini wall... quite steep with an eighty foot maximum bottom depth.

You can see from the photo at right how much shallow area there is surrounding the island. Its hard to pinpoint it from here, but if you were to begin your dive approximately halfway on the top middle side of this photo and swim left, you would find the pinnacle I am referring to. If you really want to find it, I recommend finding a woman named Lloydia in Placencia Village (its not hard. Ask anyone in the center of town) and go with her. She loves this spot.

In March, if you are around visit the east side of the island where the Pelicans roost and build their nest. Its fun to wander the island at that time... you can literally walk up to the nest with albino white baby pelicans squawking away.

I can honestly say that this is one of the nicest dive spots I have ever spent time at. No matter how often I visited, I always enjoyed myself. Yim and I used to take one of the boats out on our off days"

---

Imagine what they are doing with their sewage now... this Island is small. I could walk across it in fifteen minutes even hacking my way through the very middle of the Island. And of course, the next hurricane that passes through the area will wipe the place out but the Island will never be the same.

Sigh...

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Endeavour Hydrothermal Vents...


The Endeavour Hydrothermal Vents Marine Protected Area off the coast of Vancouver Island covers a unique deep water ecosystem.

Located 250 kilometres southwest of Vancouver Island and 2250 metres below the ocean surface, the vents are part of the Juan de Fuca Ridge system, an active seafloor-spreading zone. At the vents cold sea water is heated by molten lava, emerging through the seafloor as plumes of particle-rich, superheated water.

Deep ocean areas normally have sparse marine animal abundance, but in the vent flows, abundances can range up to half a million marine animals per square metre.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Lion’s Mane Jellyfish (Cyanea capillata)


There are two types of cnidarians: the Hydrozoa and the Scyphozoa.

The largest scyphozoan in the North Pacific is the lion’s mane jelly. Large specimens can exceed 2 m (6 feet) in diameter with 9 m (27 feet) long tentacles. It is often abundant in coastal waters in late summer. The tentacles can give a nasty sting so it is best to leave this animal alone. In the water they are graceful creatures.

The lion’s mane jelly is a pelagic species is found from Mexico to Alaska. It eats plankton caught in the mesh of trailing tentacles which are drawn up to the mouth under the bell The Lion’s Mane Jellyfish grows up to 60 centimetres in diameter with two-metre long reddish tentacles. It is fairly common and well known to divers for its painful stings.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Marine Parks surrounding Southern Vancouver Island...


Marine Parks are coastal areas that have been given park designation to protect them from development and to ensure that the public has ongoing long-term recreational access.

Of the marine parks in the Victoria area, the largest and newest is the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. Each of these parks has been established to protect specific ecosystems, species or heritage resources. When visiting these parks, it is important to abide by all of the posted signs and warnings, and not to remove or disturb any of the natural or heritage features.

Gulf Islands National Park Reserve

Established in 2003, the park protects a large portion of British Columbia’s beautiful southern Gulf Islands - a landscape of rocky headlands, forested hills, and shores studded with colourful tidal pools. The park resembles a patchwork quilt of protected lands interspersed among farms and residential areas and is scattered over 15 larger islands and many smaller islets and reefs. Several former provincial parks have been incorporated into the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve.

To see a larger image of the panel, visit www.stephenroper.com here >