Balloonfish on Molasses Reef

I always enjoy seeing a Balloonfish on the coral reef. 🙂

I’m back to quoting from the Florida Museum of Natural History website for species information. Their article about the balloon fish says,

This slow-moving fish has small fins for navigating the shallow reefs or sea grass beds it prefers. Its teeth are formed into a beak that can crush shells of the mollusks and crustaceans it hunts at night.

The article continues to say,

The body is covered in long, sharp spines that stick out when the fish inflates. The balloonfish inflates by taking water into its body when it is threatened. All members of the family Diodontidae are capable of inflation. Along with inflation, there may also be a color change due to the excitement.

I encourage visitors to go the website and read more.

Reef squid and Permit on the wreck of the City of Washington and Hanna M. Bell

On Monday, July 9th the afternoon dive was at Elbow Reef on a couple ship wreck named the City of Washington. and the Hanna M. Bell. The two best sighting of the dives include an encounter with some Caribbean Reef Squid and a close encounter with some small Permit.

City of Washington

The Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary website tells us ,

the remains of the City of Washington lie on Elbow Reef. On July 10, 1917, while being towed by a tug, the City of Washington ran aground on and was a total loss within minutes.

The article goes on to say,

The Steam Ship City of Washington (SS City Washington), launched August 31, 1877, was an iron hulled steamer for use in passenger transport and the cargo trade between New York, Cuba, and Mexico.

Caribbean Reef Squid

Squid are always a treat to see and I love the way they change color. The Encyclopedia of Life website and Wikipedia explains,

Caribbean reef squid have been shown to communicate using a variety of color, shape, and texture changes. Squid are capable of rapid changes in skin color and pattern through nervous control of chromatophores.[2] In addition to camouflage and appearing larger in the face of a threat, squids use color, patterns, and flashing to communicate with one another in various courtship rituals.

Hanna M. Bell

The second tank dive was on the wreck of the Hanna M. Bell. For years the wreck was known as Mike’s Wreck. An article from the NOAA National Marine Sanctuary site explains how the true name of the wreck was discovered,

Information gathered by sanctuary staff and volunteers from the National Association of Black Scuba Divers (NABS) during a September 2012 field survey enabled maritime archaeologists to confirm the wreck’s origins.

Permits

The encounter with the “Permit” was a treat! I spotted them early in the dive but they were too far away for good video footage.I figured I lost my chance to get some video. I was happy to seem them again later on and to be able to get close video footage.

I must admit, I’m not 100% sure these fish are Permits. The dorsal fins are sloped like the Permit in the illustration below but the tail has what seems like a wide fork like the Pompano in the illustration below. The shape of the forehead looks more like a Permit than a Pompano. If the fish were larger (Pompano don’t grow as large as permits) then identification would be easy. At this size, they could be small Permit or large Pompano. I think the key is to line check the alignment between the dorsal fin and the anal fin. I have look at the video numerous times and am not sure. What do you think?

pompano-permit

Image from https://fishbites.com/identifying-permit-vs-pompano/

Shark sightings at the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary

In July of 2018 I was visiting Key Largo, Florida to dive at the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary and surrounding dive sites. Shark sightings are usually one of the highlights during a dive on the coral reef. I encountered many Nurse Sharks and a few Caribbean Reef Sharks. I put together a compilation video of the better video clips I was able to take during the trip.

I was sad to see that one of the Nurse Sharks had a large fishing lure in its mouth and another had a fish hook and leader hanging out of its mouth. 😦

Resource Links

Squadron of Spotted Eagle Rays

I had many fantastic wildlife encounters during my July 2018 trip to Key Largo, Florida. One of the best was the squadron of Spotted Eagle Rays that our diving group encountered near Permit Ledge on Molasses Reef.

Previous to this I had seen groups of 3 or 4 together but this was by far the largest squadron I have ever seen.

The Florida Museum of Natural History tells us,

The spotted eagle ray is commonly observed in bays and over coral reefs as well as the occasional foray into estuarine habitats. Although it occurs in inshore waters to depths of approximately 200 feet (60 m), the spotted eagle ray spends most of its time swimming in schools in open water. In open waters, spotted eagle rays often form large schools and swim close to the surface.

The Florida Museum of Natural History website article (quoted above) about the Spotted Eagle Ray is one of the better sources of information that I have found.

I made another edit of the video where I focused and zoomed in on the last two rays in the squadron since they were a little closer to me. Notice that the last Eagle Ray is missing its tail.

2017 Reading List

2017 was a year of nostalgia and new discoveries. In January I re-read The Second Deadly Sin by Laurence Sanders, which featured his character, Edward X. Delany. I enjoyed that so much I re-read the four books in his Commandment series which features a variety of interesting main characters which Sanders is famous for creating.

In the spring I got back into Jack Higgins novels after many years of not reading anything from him. Back in the early 80’s I discovered the book, The Eagle Has Landed. It’s the story of a secret mission by German Paratroopers to parachute into England and assassinate Winston Churchill. It has remained one of my favorite novels to this day. In the early spring, one of my co-workers was reading a Jack Higgins novel from his Sean Dillon series. I purchased the first book in the series, titled The Eye of the Storm, and was hooked.

Reading List

  1. Odessa Sea – Clive Cussler
  2. The Second Deadly Sin – Laurence Sanders
  3. The Sixth Commandment – Laurence Sanders
  4. The Tenth Commandment – Laurence Sanders
  5. The Eight Commandment – Laurence Sanders
  6. The Seventh Commandment- Laurence Sanders
  7. 1984 – George Orwell
  8. The Emperor’s Revenge – Clive Cussler
  9. The Einstein Prophesy – Robert Masello
  10. The Lost Codex – Alan Jacobson
  11. Duty and Honor (Jack Ryan Jr. Series) – Grant Blackwood
  12. Deception Point – Dan Brown
  13. Eye of the Storm – Jack Higgins
  14. Thunder Point– Jack Higgins
  15. Angel of Death– Jack Higgins
  16. Drink with the Devil– Jack Higgins
  17. The President’s Daughter – Jack Higgins
  18. Dragon Teeth – Michael Crichton
  19. Midnight Runner – Jack Higgins
  20. Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies, and Three Battles – Bernard Cornwell
  21. Nighthawk – Clive Cussler
  22. Raiders Wake – James L. Nelson
  23. The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival – John Vaillant
  24. Medicus (did not finish) – Ruth Downie
  25. Bad Company – Jack Higgins
  26. The Archers – Martin Archer
  27. Tucker – Louis L’Amour
  28. The Eagle Has Landed (re-read) – Jack Higgins
  29. Without Mercy – Jack Higgins
  30. The Archer’s Castle – Martin Archer
  31. Touch the Devil – Jack Higgins
  32. The Dogs of War  (re-read) – Fredrick Forsyth
  33. Confessional – Jack Higgins
  34. Lost City of the Monkey God – Douglas Preston
  35. The Bormann Testament – Jack Higgins
  36. The Holcroft Covenant – Robert Ludlum
  37. Shock Wave (re-read) – Clive Cussler
  38. The Odessa File (re-read) – Fredrick Forsyth
  39. Typhoon Fury (Oregon Files)– Clive Cussler
  40. Pharaoh –  Wilbur Smith
  41. Myths of the Norsemen (Puffin Classic ) – Roger Green
  42. Loch Garman – James L. Nelson

Fall hike to Mt. Moosilauke

Back at the end of October I went on a meetup.com group hike to Mt. Mooslauke in Warren, NH. Although it was a little past the foliage peak, a hike to Mt. Moosilauke is always a treat. Another bonus of the trip was that I could see the new Dartmouth Ravine Lodge.

I think they did a great job with the design and construction. The inside was equally impressive.

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Mt Moosilauke October 28 2017-7It was a beautiful fall day for a hike. At one of the viewpoint along the trail were were able to see remnants of the “valley fog” that happens on many fall mornings in the area.

We finally made it to the summit. There was enough snow at the top to remind us that winter is coming!

Since it was a sunny, clear and cool day the views were spectacular.This is a view towards Franconia Ridge. The plaque in the rock is a memorial plaque for Dick Sanders, who was the manager of the Moosilauke Summit Camp and president of the Dartmouth Outing Club for a number of years.

The photo above is a view of Mt. Lafayette near Franconia Notch. Lafayette is on my list of mountains yet to climb.

The photo above is a view towards Lincoln, NH and South Peak part of Loon Mt. ski area. You can see one of the ski trails on the upper left hand corner of the photo. The tall building with the red roof is the RiverWalk Resort at Loon Mountain.

View towards Long Pond and Black Mt in Benton, NH.

View towards the Webster Slide cliffs with Lake Tarleton and Lake Armington in the distance.

We rested and had some food near the foundation stones of the Summit Camp that burned in 1942. The Moosilauke page on the Hike the Whites website tells us,

In 1860 the Prospect House, a stone hotel patterned after the Mt Washington Summit House was opened on the summit of Moosilauke. It went through many changes over the years, and it’s name was changed to the Tip-Top House. The hotel and a circular tract of land on the summit was given to Dartmouth in 1920 and students ran the place during the summer months like an AMC hut. It burned in 1942, and the stone foundation can still be seen.

Below is my favorite image of the hotel from the Hike the Whites Moosilauke page

It must have been quite the experience to have stayed up there overnight. I bet visitors witnessed some fantastic sunrises and sunsets. I bet they witnessed some wild storms as well.

Foliage hike to Mt. Abraham and Lincoln Peak

In the fall I like to get in a hike as close to the foliage peak as possible. This year I joined a Meetup.com group for a hike on the Long Trail to Mt. Abraham in Warren, VT.

Mt. Abraham Trail Sign

There were lots of other hikers on the trail and the summit of Mt. Abraham was a busy place.

We had a great view to the west through the gap to Bristol, VT and Lake Champlain in the distance.

Naturally we had to go see the Mt. Abraham plane wreck while we were there.

The New England Hiking page tells us,

“On June 28, 1973, a pilot on his way from Twin Mountain, Vermont to Newburgh, New York was trying to navigate through a thick cloud and struck some trees at roughly 3,000 feet elevation on Mount Abraham. He survived the plane crash, but parts of the place still exist on the mountain today.”

I had been studying the maps for this hike for some time and had the crazy idea to hike past Mt. Abraham and the plane wreck along the ridge to Lincoln Peak, which is also the top of Sugarbush Ski area. I wanted to get some photos of the views in addition to the ski lodge from the summit.