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Night Time is the Right Time to See Whitetip Reef Sharks (Day 5)

(Editor’s Note: This is the third post in a series of blog posts about the Feb. Cocos Island Expedition to track sea turtles and sharks in order to create a protected science-based swimway that will safeguard endangered marine wildlife during their migrations in the Eastern Tropical Pacific. You can read the first blog here. View the entire series of blog posts here). 

Sunday, Feb 15, 2015 

Today is a four dive day because we are adding on a night dive!

On our first three dives we are treated to some incredible scenery including a Galapagos shark, a spotted eagle ray, a hammerhead shark in the distance, and a beautiful blue starfish. Our underwater science team (comprised of Todd, Mark and Lohana) make note of these and other sharks and ray species sighted on our dives.

todd-science-launcha

Todd reviews his shark and ray data collection on the skiff.

 

On our second dive, my dive buddy Mark points out a trumpet fish hiding and hunting behind another larger fish. The trumpet fish uses this technique to sneak up on unsuspecting prey that mistakenly view it as different fish.

trumpet-fish-jn

Chinese Trumpetfish.

Around 6 pm Cruise Director Jim rings the bell indicating that it is time to get ready for our night dive. We gear up and head over to hear Dive Master Giovanni explain the plan, and to pick up our lights.  Tonight, the yellow team is joined by two members of the blue team, Steve and Justine.

This is my first night dive ever and I am in awe of the way the ocean comes alive in the dark.

steve-justine-jo

Left to Right: Steve, Justine and I.

Dive Master Giovanni guides us underwater with with the help of Laurent, who uses his bright camera lights to illuminate the ocean floor, while Dive Master Jim slowly follows behind the group.

We form a semicircle and all shine our lights in the same spot. We hoover about 10 feet above the ground, and watch as at least a hundred or so whitetip reef sharks swarm through the coral in a feeding frenzy below us (Diver Jim likens the sight to worms crawling in a skull).

During the day most of the white tip sharks I’ve seen have been fast asleep on the sandy ocean floor, so to see them hunting and active now is a completely different experience than any daytime dive can offer.

During the dive, Justine, my buddy for the night, grabs me and turns off my dive light. Then she moves my hand back and forth . . . all of a sudden the black ocean is alive with the golden specks! We are witnessing bioluminescence!

As the dive nears an end our group begins a very gradual float up to the surface and within 40 minutes I have completed my first night dive! But the night isn’t over yet. The dark boat ride back causes the bioluminescence to flare behind us like embers from a fire leaving a tail of golden wake behind the boat.

See the entire blog series here.

Read the Day 6 blog here.

Learn more about how to join our next Cocos Island Expeditions here.