Monday, July 31, 2006

There was some current today. It was kind of like diving in a river. We went to a dive site on the east side of the island. It was probably the prettiest site I've been to so far but it was kind of difficult. We trailered the boat over there and found that the wind was blowing pretty good. The lagoon was really choppy so it was a bumpy ride from the marina out to the site and we had a hell of a time getting the defective anchor to set in the sand.

There were quite a few fish at this site though. The first thing I noticed was dozens of large porcupine fish hovering over the coral. They were all facing the same direction and swimming into the current to hold their position. I didn't get to look at them long though becuase the next thing I noticed was that there were dozens of very large anemones in a deep channel with a coral wall on one side and a sandy slope on the other. We only caught four clown fish in two dives despite the fact that there had to be at least ten within the small area we saw. The current made it very difficult. We couldn't set anything on the bottom without wedging it into a crevice because the current would sweep it away. We had to swim hard to hold our position while trying to net the fish. It was kind of a pain but it was a great site and we took few minutes off from chasing clowns to take some photos. I also made some video clips with my camera but they're far too big to post here and I think I'm too lazy to figure out how to reduce the file size.

Anyway, I'm tired and I'm being attacked by mosquitos. Good night.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Nothing terribly exciting happened today. The wind was blowing 15 or 20 knots but we managed to get out and clip the last remaining nemo at the site we've been working on. We were really careful with our anchor. I got a bunch of pretty good photos. So you should go and check them out.

Also, you should post comments here (or on flickr). I know people have been looking at this crap because they've been emailing me but, for some reason, I want to see comments. I've set it up now so you shouldn't have to sign up for anything to do it. It's not that hard and it makes a poor lonely fish mutilator happy.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Here's a photo that I was too embarrassed to post yesterday. The car is fixed now so I'm willing to put it up.

I may be flammable right now because I just soaked myself in gasoline while repairing the damaged fuel line on the car. It's a bit of a hokey repair but I think that's o-kay, it matches the rest of the car. Anyway, it will work. I feel better now that I've cleaned up my mess. The parts cost me a whole 300 francs but don't worry, that's only about 3 dollars.

This morning I went out diving with someone from the Gump station. We caught and clipped seven fish. It was a bit of a challenge today because the wind was blowing really hard. It made dealing with the boat difficult. On the way over to Gump, I have to navigate some very narrow channels through the coral. It was choppy and the wind kept trying to blow me off course and out of the channel.

When we finally found our dive site we threw the anchor in and got in the water. It was then that I noticed the anchor dragging so I had to get back in the boat and let out more anchor line. It also doesn't help that the anchor is broken and won't hold in the sand the way it's supposed to. Russ, the head guy at Gump happened to be out there too and noticed that the anchor had slipped so he wrapped out anchor chain around a rock. That's a bit embarrassing but I'm still not sure if our boat slipped more after I let out more scope or if he just saw the sand tracks where the anchor had slipped before.

While we were catching the clowns, Chris pointed out two really cool leaf fishes and a four foot barracuda that was swimming by. Both of those were really cool and made me wish I'd brought my camera but I didn't. We did get a picture of the leaf fish with a Gump person's camera but the barracuda wasn't photographed. He swam by very slowly about ten feet away from us and turned to do a half circle around us. He was checking us out but, as I understand it, it's very rare for them to do anything more than look at people.

When we surfaced (after another 90 minute dive), we found one of the guys from Gump sitting in our boat. That was a bit of a surprise. It turned out that he'd tied his kayak off to a coral head and gone snorkeling. The rope slipped off while he was snorkeling and he returned to find that his kayak had buggered off. He had been waiting in our boat for about 30 minutes by the time we showed up. We set off down wind to look for the kayak and found it a mile or two away being towed upwind by another boat. If we'd been a minute later, we would have missed them and someone would have had a free kayak (unless they were on their way to Gump to return it - they only spoke french so we could really tell). They were very nice though and happily gave he kayak back to us. The guy that lost the kayak was very relieved and I was happy that something bad that happened had happened to someone other than me.

Now I'm going to eat some dinner and head over to Gump. There's some sort of party thing going on. I tried to get some people from Criobe to go with me (you know, in the spirit of scientific collaboration and whatnot) but they don't want to go. Oh well, what can you do.

Thursday, July 27, 2006


Originally uploaded by Cephalodork.
Today started out okay. This morning, Caroline and I went out to the site that I had been shown yesterday. The fish gave us some trouble. We were down for almost 90 minutes (at ten feet) and only clipped three fish. Nearly an hour of that was spent on one fish that refused to be caught. Caroline had to be back at the lab by noon so that's all we were able to do.

Then I drove over to Gump for the second half of the coral class. That was really interesting but I had a hard time absorbing everything. He was talking about differences among various genera and species while I'm still confused about how to sort out the various orders. Oh well, I took notes that I can look at and being exposed to all that information even if overwhelming, will help later on when I go back to study that stuff more.

So I left Gump feeling like a fairly intelligent person that sits around and learns stuff from brilliant professors at a biological research station. Then I got back to Criobe and cleanly disproved my delusions of adequacy. I put the frickin' car in a ditch. I was preparing to back the thing into the garage and completely forgot there was a ditch right next to the garage. Fortunately, I wasn't going very fast and put the car into the ditch fairly gently. I had to get help to get it out. We had to use the truck. The fuel line was damaged but that was about it. ...actually one other thing was damaged; my pride. Actually that was totalled. I feel like a complete ass. The only thing that cheered me up was when Donatien told me that another American put the truck in a ditch about a week before I got here. Maybe it's a flaw in my national character.

I'm sure I'll get over it at some point but I expect to spend at least a couple of days feeling totally incompetent. Oh well... adventure.
I think I may have sounded like a bit of a Complainy Complainerson in my last entry. I'd just like to state one more time for the record (such as it is) that I'm quite happy to be here. If there weren't a few rough edges, like millipedes in my shower, then this wouldn't be an adventure. It would just be a vacation and vacations are for lame people (otherwise known as people who have more money than I do and also known as people who I might be a bit jealous of and therefore inclined to call lame). So anyway, let there be no mistake. I'm happy god damn it!

There was no diving today for me, only some snorkeling. Jeremie has come down with an ear infection so he went off to the doctor this morning while I went over to the Gump station (UC Berkeley's research station). Russ and Sally (the head honchos over there) went out in the boat with me to show me where there are some more clown fish. Sally and I snorkelled so she could show me exactly where they were and we marked the positions with the GPS so we could find them easily when we come back to sample them. When we were done with that I headed back home to Criobe (that's the french research station I'm staying at in case you haven't been following allong).

In the afternoon I realized that I'd left my hood at Gump (like the genius that I am) and, since I had nothing to do at Criobe anyway, rode a bike over there to get it. As it turned out, I was just in time for a talk about corals given by Dr. Gustav Pauley from the university of Florida. That was great since I know next to nothing about corals and yet I'm around them all the time here. I learned a lot and hope to go back tomorrow afternoon for the second part of the course.

I'll be diving tomorrow with someone else from Criobe since Jeremie has to stay out of the water for a few days. We're going to go to the spot that I was shown this morning and see if we can catch and clip the 13 clown fish that are out there. Once again, I plan to take the camera tomorrow so, hopefully, there will be pictures.

I borrowed the movies Anchorman and The Forty Year Old Virgin from someone at Gump so I think I'll go introduce Criobe to some of the finer aspects of American culture now.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Today did not rank particularly high on my scale of favorite days on this island. The day started with helping to clean out an attic with five other people. I'm glad to help but it's very confusing when all five of those people are speaking a language you can't understand. I was given occasional instructions in english but I spent a great deal of time stand there being confused.

Actually, "standing there" would have been a vast improvement. Actually I was hunched over the whole time because the highest point of the ceiling was about 5'5" above the floor. The fact that it was hot as the devil's balls up there and twice as humid didn't help the situation either.

We then drove the car to a distant dive site to look for clown fish. After being attacked by mosquitos we got in the water and discovered two things. First there were urchins all over the place. These urchins were the kind with really long sharp spines too. The second thing we discovered was that the current was running really hard. It was very difficult to make any headway against it. It was also very shallow (okay, so I guess that's three things). At any rate, it made for some rather difficult snorkeling (we left our tanks on the bottom while we scouted the area for clownfish). I was swimming around in less than three feet of water between coral heads with sharp spines sticking out of every possible place and not finding any clownfish at all. We ended up finding several anenomes but none of the fish we were after. On the upside, the water was very clear and there were a ton of other types of fish.

After we gave up and got out of the water, I got the opportunity to witness an authentic drunken polynesian fist fight when some drinking on the beach went bad. That was entertaining. Oh yeah... on the way out to the dive site we were almost killed in the car. Someone coming the opposite direction was making a pass around a blind corner. Rather than hitting the brakes and getting back behind the car they were passing, they just kept coming. Jeremie locked up the brakes in our truck and we narrowly avoided the car.

O-kay, I'm done complaining now. Tomorrow we'll be trying to do some more diving. Apparently there's a south swell that may interfere with our plans to go to the south side of the island but I think we'll find somewhere to get in the water. No pictures today. Sorry.

Chud and the rest of the internet will be pleased to know that my gastric difficulties seem to have been resolved and we were able to make the trip to Papeete after all (I did bring an extra pair of shorts just in case). Papeete is hot and comparatively crowded after coming from Moorea. It actually kind of reminded me of a cross between Santa Cruz and Tijuana. The really odd thing was that there were a whole bunch of stores selling American brands of surf clothing. There was a giant o'niell store for instance. It was a bit dissapointing in that respect. I want exotic Tahitian crap, not the same crap I can get at home. There was some exotic Tahitian crap as well and we purchased some of it. I was also able to get the battery I needed for my dive computer which is good because it's unpleasant to go diving when you have no idea how deep you are or how long you've been there.

Someone approached me on the ferry ride back to moorea and tried to sell me pot. In a strange way, I was sort of happy that I apparently look someone who'd like to by pot from a stranger on a ferry. I guess I sometimes worry that I've become too respectable or something.

Tomorrow we'll be back in the water for at least one dive. Hopefully, we will mutilate some more clownfish and I'll get to take some more pictures underwater.

Monday, July 24, 2006

There was no diving today. We had planned to go to the outer reef but it was very windy. That means it would be very choppy out there and our little boat has no built in floatation. In other words, if it fills with water it sinks. The lovely thing is that the scuppers are plugged with tennis balls. If we fail to notice when those come out, as they sometimes do, the boat stands a pretty good chance of sinking. That's o-kay though. It's adventure.

So today we went to fill our drinking water supply from the supposedly pure spring up in the hills. Actually, it's a faucet by the side of the road but it alegedly comes from a spring. I'm a little suspicious of the whole thing because despite being careful to avoid drinking tap water, I've started to have some... uh... gastric discomfort. I just thought I should announce that to the internet.

After filling the water jugs we went up to an overlook area where you can see both of the island's bays. I took some pictures. If you've been paying attention to previous entries, you'll know where you can see them. In the afternoon I went on a long ride on a small bike. It was uncomfortable but worthwhile.

I think I'm sick of typing right now.

PS - I think this thing is set up so that you don't have to sign up to leave a comment so go ahead and tell me something.

...Alright. I was just about to stop typing but an epic battle between mammals and arthropods just happened on the lawn outside. We have crabs here. We have freaky crabs that live in holes in the ground and get pretty big. During the day they scuttle around in their little crab holes but they come out at night. The dog and cat confronted a crab out on the lawn and I went to take some pictures. Here's my favorite:

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Today we left the research station at about 9 am and didn't get back until about 6 pm. We went to an area on the north east part of the island and we caught and clipped 16 clown fish. The previous record for this project was nine in one day. I was too busy to take the camera underwater today so there are no new underwater pictures. There are a few above water pictures though. They can be found in the usual place. It's a bit of a pain to post the pictures here so, unless I'm feeling really motivated, I'll probably just make you go there if you want to see pictures.

Good night.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

I went to the store today to by food. Then I learned how to say, "we went to the store" in french. I'm not sure anyone will actually understand what I said if I say it to them but I learned... sort of. Aside from that, I just went diving and looked confused while everyone around me spoke french. I took some decent pictures today. As usual, photos can be found here. I'm too lazy to post all of them here so I'll just put up one that I think is kind of funny.

Is anyone actually reading this?
It's evening here now and I just saw a big ass spider. It was about five inches across. I'm usually not too bothered by that type of thing but this one was kind of creepy because it moved really really fast. It hauled ass down a wall and across the walkway in front of me. Moorea has no shortage of freaky looking insects.

Today we caught and mutilated two clown fish. We also got a chance to swim around with our cameras. Unfortunately, mine wasn't behaving itself. I took several pictures that were not retained and more or less gave up using it today. It seems to be working fine now so hopefully tomorrow will work out better photo wise. Jeremy, the french grad student I'm diving with (that's him diving in the photo below), had better camera luck. He got the nice picture of the clown fish below and a bunch of other good shots.

There are probably all sorts of things I could think of to type right now but I'm being attacked by mosquitos. I'm going to stop typing now.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I arrived in Tahiti just before sunrise and dragged my confused and groggy self over to the little air taxi that goes to moorea. It was kind of scary. There was no door between me and the cockpit. There was only one pilot. The ride was bumpy. I kind of liked it.

As soon as I got to the research station, it was time to go diving. I barely had time to put my luggage in my room. Then we launched the boat and went out to do two dives. Each dive was about an hour. It was lovely. We saw a black tip reef shark and a couple of turtles on the first dive but we couldn't find any clown fish. On the second dive we found lots and we cut little chunks out of their tail fins. Actually, I just watched this time. Tomorrow, I will do some cutting and catching.

After the diving we went and visited the UC Berkeley Gump station down the road. The rumors I had heard were true. Gump is pretty nice and Criobe is a bit of a dump. On the up side, rules are pretty lax here and I get a room all to myself. I'm quite happy to be here so please don't take my statement about this place being a dump as complaining. It's just a fact. It's a topical paradise kind of dump so it's o-kay.

Here's the view from Gump station:

I'm really tired right now and I've got to dive in the morning. I think the text formatting is going to be a little off here but I don't care right now.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

I'm on my way. Actually I'm sitting in the LAX international terminal right now on four hour layover. It's a bit booooring. I'm using my brand new laptop. My old hand-me-down one took a crap yesterday so I rushed out and bought a new one. Yippy. Since there's no exciting pictures of tropical paradise to post yet, here are a couple of pictures from diving at Point Lobos last Thursday:
Here is a link
to more of my photos than you're likely to want to see. I'll post more crap here at some point. When depends on how easily I can get internet access in Moorea.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

I was supposed to be in Moorea already. That's an island in French Polynesia. I am being sent there to help get tissue samples from clown fish. It sounds like great fun. We scuba dive, find the cute little fish living on their anemone friends, abduct them, cut a piece of their tail fin off, and let them go.

I was scheduled to spend 38 days out there but, at the last minute, discovered that the French require that I get a visa to be out there for over 30 days. I scurried around to get my paperwork together and get my butt up to the French consulate before my scheduled departure date (last sunday). I didn't work out though. They turned down my visa application (that's a long and rather boring story so I'll skip it). Now I have changed my departure date to July 16th so that I will be there for 30 days.

So assuming that I get out there and that I have internet access, I will post more crap next week.

Is this thing on? This entry is merely a test.

Here's a picture... maybe: