May 19th, 2009 by Marc AuMarc

There was no moonlight at Moonlight tonight, as Marc AuMarc and myself experienced our first night dive in the complete dark of the moon. Pete gave the go-ahead, and we descended into thick blackness. The wavering lights of our dive torches illuminated a conch maneuvering its gawky way across the ripples of the sand patch, its eye stalks revolving up to peer at us with anxious shyness. A gorgeous cuttlefish telegraphing patterned messages across the translucence of its mysterious skin hovered above in our crossed beams, transmitting an emotional semaphore forever alien to us before gliding off into the absolute darkness.

As a banded coral shrimp gave a somnolent initial-phase stoplight parrotfish one last cleaning before bed, the familiar daytime scenes in the nooks and crevices of the reef unspooled into an eerily different life. Bloodworms swarmed in desperate whirls around our lights. Basket stars crept in silence over the coral, grasping with their innumerable slender curling arms to coil in morsels of food. Red eyes gleamed from the rocks and ledges before fist-sized red night shrimp suddenly sprang away in startling, galvanic flips, and lobsters walked the floor like ancient monsters.

When we clicked off our lights, first we saw nothing, not even a faint reflective starlit gleam from another diver’s mask or the slight darker outline of the reef against the water. If I hadn’t been holding Marc’s hand, I wouldn’t have been able to tell he was there at all, even though he was right beside me. All I could hear was the slow sound of my inhalations, then the gurgling escape of my bubbles, in a complete surrounding blackness that felt both claustrophobically small – as if I was the only person in the world – and vastly immense. Then, one by one, like the first darting drops of rain, the bioluminescent strings of pearls began to show themselves above the reef, a growing shower of tiny shooting stars, then closer, closer, faster, and more of them, until their streaks and zings and beads of light were raining and dissolving themselves over and between us like a glimmering storm of the softest lightning against the deep dark.

Pete signaled to turn our lights back on, and we did, swimming slowly up for our safety stop, and then to leave that now-invisible night world, and return to ours above the water.

Here are a few photos from the dive:

May 19th, 2009 by Marc AuMarc

Jose started off the morning two-tank in spectacular fashion with a dive on the famous El Aguila wreck. This huge vessel rests in three sections alongside the reef wall. We investigated the wreck, floated over fields of garden eels peeping from beds of spun-silk algae a few inches above the sandy floor, and returned to the Aguila to glide up to the higher levels of the ship. Gigantic groupers followed us as we spiraled up around the looming mast and finned over to the wall, where huge parrotfish of every kind darted in and out of crevices and canyons.

At Overheat we were lucky enough to see two turtles! One was feeding, and the other one arced gracefully up to the surface, then back down to the reef where we were. We also encountered two big king crabs holding court from their recessed perches in the reef, one with a front claw missing, presumably from a mighty battle of the past. We also spotted our first trunkfish of this expedition. Whole schools of black durgeons swooped above the reef, and butterflyfish stopped in for expert detailing at the many cleaning stations.

Rags took us to the Lighthouse site in the afternoon, where we found a whole crew of banded coral shrimp hanging out in a soft gorgonian on the sand patch where we made our initial descent. We observed another trunkfish bobbling along, and a juvenile trumpetfish pretending to be a frond under a ledge.

A full set of diving photos from the day is posted here.

May 18th, 2009 by Marc AuMarc

Les Fruits de Mer presented a free showing of Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s legendary first feature documentary, “Le Monde du Silence” (The Silent World), this evening as part of our educational outreach initiative. The event was co-hosted by Coconut Tree Divers in the beautiful open-air restaurant above the dive shop, where attendees dined on excellent local cuisine from Chef Vincent and experienced the magic of this award-winning film on a big screen in the tropical night.

From the stunning opening dive descent into the sea with flaming chemical torches, to the epic shark cage scenes, the audience was enthralled by this spectacular piece of cinema. Of particular interest to the divers in the crowd were the early diving equipment and methods employed by Cousteau and his team of menfish in the 1950s, and to see them diving to 200 feet on just compressed air, with no BCDs, no wetsuits, no octopus, their yellow twin tanks strapped to their backs.

The evening was such a success that the team plans to sponsor other film showings in the future. We’ll announce upcoming events on our site!

Thanks Marco, Will, Pete, Matt, Chef Vincent, and everyone else who made this lovely evening possible!

May 18th, 2009 by Marc AuMarc

Here are a few bonus shots from our dives on the 18th:

And a full selection is available on flickr.

May 18th, 2009 by Marc AuMarc

Rags, Juan and David took us on an excellent morning two-tank. Marc AuMarc tested his underwater housing by bringing it down empty, and I tried out a two-light configuration for the first time, with my Epoch 210 video light and a Sea & See YS27DX flash.

En route to Black Rock, we watched from the boat as flying fish skimmed along just above the sunlit wavetops, like narrow birds. Once underwater, we saw a large green moray coiled up under a ledge, with a juvenile spotted drum dancing around him! We had never observed these two creatures fraternizing before, so it was pretty amazing to see the moray weaving back and forth gently in the current, while the little drum flirted and flaunted about in circles and spirals, with his frilly fins floating behind him. Monsieur AuMarc also witnessed a baby moray snatch and eat a little fish, which he described as a flat round oval, black with a white top.


Rags tells us that the Black Rock site has some extremely shallow areas so incredibly rich with life that she recommends the team investigate. We make plans to carry out an E.S.S. mission there.


At Sea Quest we spotted some brittle stars twined around a sponge, an arrow crab perched on a coral shelf, and a spectacular sponge formation with a banded coral shrimp lurking inside one of the tubes. During the safety stop, a remora cruised under the boat, eyeing each of us appraisingly in turn as it looked for someone big to attach to. On the return to Half Moon Bay, a dolphin playfully leapt up beside the boat and kept speed with us. The boat captain stopped the engines and several excited divers jumped in with snorkel gear, but once there was no wake to surf, the dolphin swam away.



Pete took us on a fabulous afternoon dive to Moonlight, where we swam alongside a hawksbill turtle for a super-long time! He was just gliding along, looking for likely things to munch. An oceanic triggerfish flapped above the reef with its odd, off-kilter rhythm as we descended with the turtle. We also saw two juvenile spotted drums, one very tiny and extremely frisky with extra-long frills.


Back on shore, the team relaxed with some Salva Vidas on the Coconut deck, and handed out official expedition shirts to the Coconut Tree instructors & DMs. Below, Steve, P.J., Rags, Pete and Matt model the limited-edition beauties. They proved so popular we’ll have to bring more next time!


May 17th, 2009 by Marc AuMarc

This morning we took a taxi back to the San Pedro Sula airport, passing horse-drawn carts filled with fruit,
an old airplane with sweet WWII Flying Tigers-style nose art,
and a billboard for what appears to be the awesomest educational facility ever: the Albert Einstein International School (“Where imagination is stronger than knowledge”).

An interesting observation: apparently here cacti, rather than tree trunks, are the hot spots for carving one’s name.

We hopped on a tiny plane and flew directly to Roatan,
where we cabbed it to the West End. In 15 minutes flat we checked into our hotel, set up our camera gear and dive equipment, and hustled to Coconut Tree Divers just in time for the 1 pm dive at Fish Den.

There we spotted a turtle, many Black Durgeon, a big grouper, three little arrow crabs, and a rad brittle star clinging to a coral.


Our 2:30 pm site was Half Moon Bay Wall/Divermaster’s Choice, where we found a little cleaning station manned by a couple of Pederson Cleaning Shrimp, some cool coral, a beautiful French Angelfish, and a Queen Angelfish.


We watched the sunset from the dock with our friends from Coconut Tree, and ended the evening with drinks at Sundowner’s and some local pizza.


May 17th, 2009 by Marc AuMarc

Here is one thing we have learned during our unplanned side trip to San Pedro, Honduras: everyone loves soccer. Even the geckos.


Mark took some pics of an awesome praying mantis outside our room this morning.


And we had some kind of local pastry for breakfast, it was sort of like a miniature apple turnover. Speaking for the team, I can say we’re down with anyplace that has pie for breakfast.

We’re headed to the airport in a few minutes to try to get to Roatan–wish us luck!

May 16th, 2009 by Marc AuMarc

As we have learned from the pioneer of oceanic exploration, and our inspiration, Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau, one must always be prepared for the unexpected when on expedition. Les Fruits De Mer have spent most of the first day of our May 2009 Roatan mission in glamorous Miami, due to air travel hijinks. We won’t be arriving in Roatan until tomorrow morning, but our team will be experiencing unanticipated, and surely amazing, adventuring while stranded in the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula this evening.



In the meantime we have conducted a scientific survey of the various mojitos available, here in Miami under the “neon reef”.


Stay tuned for more adventures!


May 12th, 2009 by Marc AuMarc

Madam J and Marc AuMarc are preparing to leave for Roatan, Honduras this Saturday. They anticipate a highly exciting and productive expedition!

May 10th, 2009 by Marc AuMarc

Our video light was nigh unusable, delivering a pronounced hot spot in the image. Although Epoque does make a diffuser for the light, we were unable to order one in the US. This ended up being a great opportunity to improvise a diffuser for this light.

After testing several materials by shining an underwater flashlight through them in the dark, I found that the lid to the container that is used locally for take out Chinese soup and Indian food. This translucent plastic does a good job diffusing the light without cutting down the brightness too much. It can at least handle the temperature of hot food, and is soft and easy to work with.

Here is the red filter that threads into the front of the video light and the homemade diffuser:


Because the material is thin, it fits easily inside the threaded filter, making it easy to attach to the light itself. Here is the light with the diffuser and red filter:


This worked so well, I decided to add the same diffusers to our mini dive lights. I simply used smaller circles of the plastic and inserted them between the bulb unit and the front window of our dive lights:


I used a couple extra-large rubber bands to affix these dive lights to the strobe on one arm of this camera setup, the other arm holding the video light. The resulting system has three diffused lights with minimal hot spots in the video image: