Foureye Butterflyfish in Cozumel, July 19, 2021

A tropical fish that I enjoy watching is the Foureye Butterflyfish since they are often in pairs. The Florida Museum website tells us, “This is one of the few fish that seems to mate for life.”

The website continues to say,

Male and female foureye butterflies form pairs early in life. These pairs can be long lasting, suggesting that a monogamous relationship may exist between the pair members. If the two fish get separated, one partner will swim upward for a better view in an effort to rejoin the other partner. Courtship between the two is prolonged and energetic. Often the fish will circle each other, head to tail, until one fish breaks and runs, with the other close behind. They will chase each other all about the reef, and chase away any lone foureye that approaches them. Actual spawning takes place at dusk. The female releases from 3000 to 4000 eggs a night. The eggs are small, pelagic, and hatch within a day.

https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/discover-fish/species-profiles/chaetodon-capistratus/

Although the fish are beautiful, take a look at how healthy the coral is that they are swimming near! After seeing so many diseased and dead coral in Florida, healthy coral is a welcomed sight. Although coral identification can be a challenge for me, based on the star coral identification page on the scubadiverslife.com website, I think we are seeing Mountainous Star Coral and Lettuce Coral.

Queen Triggerfish in Cozumel, Mexico on July 21, 2021

It took me most of the week to get a good video of a Queen Triggerfish. Notice how it changes color as it swims by. Since many of my favorite fish can change color, I became interested in learning how it happens.

The New World Encyclopedia tells us,

Chromatophore is a pigment-containing and light-reflecting cell, found in various invertebrate and cold-blooded vertebrate animals, that can help bring about changes in color or brightness in the organism. Among animals with such cells are various crustaceans, cephalopods, amphibians, fish, and reptiles. Through aggregation or dispersion of the pigment and reorientation of reflective plates in single cells (in most animals) or through the muscular movement of complex chromatophore organs (in cephalopods), the color or brightness of the entire organism or part of the organism can change, which is useful for camouflage, signaling, temperature regulation, and protection from radiation.

https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Chromatophore

It looks like this Queen Triggerfish was changing color to blend with the surroundings for camouflage.

The Ferguson Rifle

The Ferguson Rifle is one of my favorite books by Louis L’Amour. The Ferguson Rifle was a breech loading rifle, which was extraordinary technology for 1780. The main character is named Ronan Chantry. When Ronan was a boy living in South Carolina in 1780, Captain Patrick Ferguson gave him this rifle before leaving for what would be known as the Battle of Kings Mountain.

Amazon.com describes the plot,

It began with gold that had once belonged to Montezuma. Stolen and cached in a church in Mexico, it was recovered by two army officers who fled north for the French settlements. Along the way one stabbed the other to death. The remaining officer was eventually killed by Plains Indians, but he buried the treasure just before he died.

Now Ronan Chantry, a handful of trappers, and an Irish girl whose father was killed after telling her a few vague landmarks are searching for the lost treasure. But they are not alone. The girl’s uncle, Rafen Falvey, wants it, too. Like Chantry, he is well educated, bold, and determined. Under different circumstances the two men might have been friends. But in all likelihood it wouldn’t have made any difference. When it comes to gold, even friendship doesn’t keep men from killing each other.

I was excited to find an article on the War History Online website named Revolutionary War Tech: The Ferguson Rifle. It meant that Louis L’Amour had done his research and the rifle was based on real technology of the time. The article included a diagram that showed how the breech loading mechanism worked.

British Army manual for the Ferguson rifle
A sketch of one of the world’s first breechloaders, the Ferguson. Image: Antique Military Rifles / CC-BY-SA 2.0

The article goes on to explain,

As the story goes, Ferguson managed to produce several prototype rifles that he placed in the hands of ten trained marksmen who, along with Ferguson, demonstrated their use in front of the British War Office and Board of Ordnance. Despite being forced to perform in driving rain and gusty winds, Ferguson’s cadre of sharpshooters won the immediate admiration of the Board.

Among other accomplishments, the test demonstrated that the rifle could “put 15 balls on a target at 200 yards in 5 minutes,” and, “after pouring a bottle of water into the barrel… fired as well as ever.” Ferguson’s design was a vast improvement over the Brown Bess, which was only reliably accurate up to about 50 yards.

Revolutionary War Tech: The Ferguson Rifle

The article goes on to say,

Claims that the Ferguson Rifle later saw action during the Southern Campaign of the war are unsubstantiated, although Ferguson himself was killed in action at the Battle of Kings Mountain (South Carolina) on October 7, 1780. Contrary to some popular reports, Ferguson was not armed with his breech-loading rifle at his final battle.

Revolutionary War Tech: The Ferguson Rifle

Mr. L’Amour was very clever to use this historical fact to explain how Ronan Chantry ended up with this marvelous piece of Revolutionary War technology.

Lake Winnipesaukee from Gunstock Mt. in Gilford, NH

Sunday October 24, 2021 was a beautiful late fall day. The last time that I had been to Gunstock Mountain Resort was for a ski trip back in March of 2009. All I had with me for a camera at the time was an inexpensive “point and shoot” camera that only took photos in jpeg format. I wanted to go back with a good DSLR camera and a few lenses. So I packed up my Pentax K-x camera and my three lenses and hit the road.

I took the chairlift to the top and went out on the deck of the summit hut to take some photos.

The view was fantastic!

I went down some of the ski trails to get some different views of the lake. The panorama photo below is looking towards the north end of the lake.

I walked down a couple other ski trails to get some views to the south. Below is a panorama showing Rattlesnake Island, which is one of the larger ones on the lake.

I was riding down the chairlift when I got some photos of the southeast part of the lake near Wolfboro, NH.

Imagine these views in the winter and you can understand why I would like to go back there for a ski trip.

Hiking Mt. Sunapee on October 17, 2021

On October 17th I lead an meetup.com group hike to the summit of Mt. Sunapee. It’s one of my favorite hikes and ski resorts because of the fantastic view of Lake Sunapee from the summit and ski trails.

My goal for the hike was to get some late season foliage photos that I could turn into Panorama photos using Adobe Lightroom. The two panorama photos below are from the top of the Skyway Ledges ski trail. I like to stop here for a few minutes and enjoy the view in the winter when I am skiing.

The panorama photos below are from the the top of the Wing Ding trail on the Sun Bowl side of the mountain.

The panorama photo below was shot by turning the camera on its side for a series of portrait photos that I “stitched” together in Lightroom to make a huge panorama photo. I was able to capture both the foliage on the lower slopes of the mountain and entire lake.

Hiking Mt. Moosilauke on September 19, 2021

On Sunday September 19th I joined a meetup.com group and hiked Mt. Moosilauke (See the Alltrails Page) in New Hampshire. It’s one of the 4000+ footers in New Hampshire and an awesome hike.

This is a panorama shot of the view from the Gorge Brook Trail once you start to get above the treeline.

We got a little higher and I got my 300mm lens out and zoomed in on Mt. Lafayette over on the Franconia Ridge.

It was cold at the top (down in the 40’s with the wind chill) so most people at the summit were hanging out behind wind breaks.

The views towards Franconia Ridge were fantastic even though a few clouds moved in.

This photo is looking towards Lake Tarleton, Lake Armington and Lake Katherine in Piermont, NH

This photo is of Black Mountain to the right and North Haverhill, NH down in the Connecticut River Valley.

This is one of my favorite 4000+ mountains to climb it’s the closest one to where I live. Starting from the Dartmouth base lodge is very cool. my next favorite trail is the Beaver Brook Trail from route 112 in North Woodstock, NH.

Whale Shark Snorkel Trip in Cancun, Mexico July 23, 2021

Although I had a full week of Scuba diving in Cozumel, Mexico, and had some amazing sea life encounters, the Whale Shark snorkel trip on my last day of vacation was one of my favorite days, despite the fact that I got sea sick.

They offer these Whale Shark snorkel tours in several resorts in Cozumel, but the tours actually take place off the coast of Cancun, Mexico. Cancun, Mexico is located on the Yucatan Peninsula, which is a summer feeding area for Whale Sharks. However, it takes some effort to get there from Cozumel.

I packed my gear the night before and got up at 5am to be at the Ferry Terminal at 6am for the 7:15am ferry to Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. The van ride to the marina in Cancun was a little over hour.

The snorkel tour boats were a lot smaller than I expected. As we headed out to sea, the waves started getting bigger. After about an hour on the water with 4 to 5 foot waves, I started to feel light headed. I tried all the tricks like looking at the horizon and it helped for a while, but I eventually had to admit I was sea sick.

We were about 34 miles off shore when we saw the others tour boats where the whale sharks were feeding. We soon joined them and were able to see some whale sharks near the surface and put a guide and a couple snorkelers in the water. They would swim with the whale shark(s) for a bit then they would get back in the boat. Then we would find another whale shark and put two more people in the water.

When it was my turn, getting in the water and cooling off helped me to feel better. The video below shows both times I was able to get in the water with the whale sharks. During the first swim I found myself between two whale sharks, which was fantastic, but I did not get as closed as I had hoped. During the second swim I was able to get closer and swim beside it for a while, which was awesome.

When it was time to leave, the waves were still big enough I was happy to go back to shore. On the way back a huge rainstorm overtook us. Although it thoroughly soaked us, it did calm the seas down and make the waves smaller. It also cooled me down and helped with my sea sickness.

Before taking us back to the marina we anchored in the shallows off the beach in the hotel zone in Cancun. The water was only about 4 feet deep but we got hang out in the water and drink Corona beer while the crew made ceviche. They used fresh Grouper for the fish ingredient and a jalapeno pepper for the heat. The captain of the other tour boat made fresh guacamole for us.

Now I wish I had taken more photos from that part of the trip, at the time I was happy be feeling better after being sea sick and and drinking a beer off the beach in Cancun, Mexico.

Spotted Moray Eel in Cozumel, Mexico on July 19th, 2021

Another fantastic encounter on July 19th was with a Spotted Moray Eel.

Make no mistake, this is a big Eel. We can’t see it’s full length but it’s pretty thick so I bet it’s between 4 and 6 feet long. It’s more common to see a Green Moray Eel but finding a Spotted Moray is less frequent. So I was really excited about this encounter.

I found a couple fantastic online information resources about Spotted Moray Eels. One is Oceana.com. Their page about Spotted moray Eels says, “Spotted morays, like most morays, have poor eyesight and rely heavily on their sense of smell. For that reason, it can be quite easy for SCUBA divers to approach these fish, but caution should be taken, as the spotted moray’s bite can be strong.” They go on to say,

“In amazing recent research, scientists demonstrated how morays use a second set of jaws in their throats to manipulate food that they have captured. Morays are unable to create suction with their mouths, so their prey has to be manually pushed to the back of the throat, something that is difficult to do without limbs. On land, snakes have a similar problem, but they are able to unhinge their jaws, one at a time, to “walk” their mouths down the prey’s body. Morays do not have that ability, and instead use their second set of jaws to manipulate their food. Attached to the esophagus via strong muscles, these “pharyngeal” jaws reach forward into the mouth, grasp the prey item from the oral jaws, which release at that time, and pull it back to the muscles of the throat. Using slow motion cameras, scientists have been able to video the exchange of food between the two sets of jaws. X-ray images of morays clearly show the pharyngeal jaws and highlight their similarity to the oral jaws.”

I found good video on YouTube of a Spotted moray Eel that shows its “pharyngeal” jaws.

Queen Angelfish in Cozumel, Mexico on July 19, 2021

Cozumel Mexico seems to have a healthy population of Queen Angelfish. During the week I shot lots of footage of Queen Angelfish but the encounter on July 19th turned out to be the best.

The Florida Museum Website has an excellent page on Queen Angelfish. The site describes the fish as, “blue-green with blue and yellow highlights on its fins, and can be differentiated from the similar blue angelfish by the prominent dark ringed ‘crown’ spot on its forehead.” They go on to say, “Its brilliant blue and yellow color easily separates it from all other western Atlantic angelfish species except the blue angelfish (Holacanthus bermudensis). These two species are very similar in coloration but the queen has a dark, ringed spot with blue dots on its forehead that resembles a crown. The queen is also more iridescent than the blue and has a completely yellow tail. These two species have been known to occasionally interbreed and create a hybrid.”

Although I saw many of theses fish while diving, most of them did not let me get that close and were always moving, which made then difficult to capture on video. However, this one swam right at me and gave me a good opportunity for a close look.

Hawksbill Turtle in Cozumel, Mexico on July 19, 2021

Back in July 2021 I took my first trip to Cozumel. Mexico. Although I was diving for five days, one of my favorite encounters happened on Monday the 19th. For the first two-tank morning dives we went to a site named Delilah. Early during the first dive our group encountered a Hawksbill Turtle.

The NOAA Fisheries Website tells us, “In many parts of the world, Hawksbills face the unique threat of being hunted for their beautiful shell, also known as “tortoise shell”, which is used by craftspeople to create many types of jewelry and trinkets. The historical hunting and killing of hawksbills for their shell nearly drove the species to extinction. Today, the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) forbids the trade of any turtle products on the international market, including hawksbill tortoise shell, but illegal hunting continues to represent a threat to the species in many parts of the world.”

I did not realize how close they had come to extinction. I feel fortunate that I have been able to see and video so many of them during my time diving.

The site also mentions, “Hawksbill turtles are omnivorous (feeding on both plants and other animals), but their preferred food in many areas is sea sponges. They will also eat marine algae, corals, mollusks, tunicates, crustaceans, sea urchins, small fish, and jellyfish.”

As you can see from the video, there are lots of healthy coral and sponges on the reef for a turtle to feed on.