Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Lions, crocodiles and purple puffers, oh my!

The pre-breakfast dive today was at the site of the wreck of the ferry El Arish, which had gone near dry dock facilities. Now done with my AOW classes, I was properly buddied with Chris for the first time on an entire dive.
Being a fairly recent wreck, the El Arish only had small amounts of coral growth, but I did see some blue wrasse sleeping in vertical access tubes amidships. More photos on Chris' blog.

Later that day we dived the Sha'ab Sheer reef, south east of Safaga. Some divers went to view another wreck here, but I'd had enough of those and elected to do a tour of the eastern part of the reef which had coral gardens near some pinnacles. There was a lot of crown-of-thorns starfish damage to the coral near our moorage, but further around was much more pleasant. After being dropped off in a Zodiac launch, we cruised back towards the Blue Seas with the reef wall to our right.

Chris prepares for his dive.

Off to the right I discovered the wreck of a day boat that Pia hadn't been aware of. At about 18m in length it was hardly impressive, but the wooden timbers were easily viewable where it sat on the sea floor at about 15-16m depth. I saw two crocodile fish (carpet flathead) sitting on the decking amongst the general boat rubble. Chris took a great set of photos, stitched together (above) to give a complete view of it - it's a real "Disney" wreck, sitting square on the bottom of its hull, rather than twisted onto its side and broken into sections.

After posing in front of my "discovery" (I was really just the first person that day to find it), Chris gave me the camera to try my hand. My first real picture, of a baby lionfish, came out quite well.

We dived the same site in the evening, with Chris doing a very commendable job navigating back to the little wreck using a compass bearing. One of the crocodile fish was still hanging around, this time on the sandy floor by the hull. There were a few larger lionfish around. These gaudy predators are attracted by light, so if they come for you at night, you have to cover your torch beam, generally by pressing it against your abdomen.

Dinner that evening was very entertaining: Chris was in fine form, giving a hilarious mini-lecture on the purple puffer fish (a partially deflated balloon).

I was reminded of the Ask Dr Stupid sessions from Ren & Stimpy. In lieu of the stupomatron helmet, Chris is wearing the bottle-wrapper from the local version of Fanta, which looks like a liquid form of some radioactive isotope of beta-carotene and doesn't taste like any version of Fanta I've tasted before. On board we generally referred to drinking it as getting our daily dose of E-numbers.

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