Hammer(head) Time!

On Thursday we were able to get back in the water for a relatively short four hour dive. It was my first experience filming with another passenger in the sphere, and to be sure, it was cramped. A few elbows and shoulders in the nose were totally worth some of the footage we were able to capture in the Lophelia Reef area though. Karl also took the opportunity to deploy a temperature and salinity recorder, as requested by last week’s visiting crinoid scientists. Some of the highlights of this dive included several tinselfish, swimming polychaete worms, spiny crabs, and a pair of strange pre-historic-looking (who knows?) fish (see pic below). Karl’s only ever seen this fish on a few dives, and usually it swims off immediately. We were able to get some jerky footage – enough to send off a still shot for species identification at least!

Rare unknown fish filmed at 1200 feet.

Rare fish at 1200 feet.

We learned a valuable lesson on this dive: never put away the camera equipment until the sub has surfaced! Usually, I begin to put away gear at 600 feet to avoid the inevitable condensation that occurs as we rapidly ascend from 50°F water to surface water temperatures around 85°F. Just as I had disconnected the Ninja field recorder and started loosening the camera from the rig, Karl yelled out, “There’s a hammerhead above us!” Cursing and feeling slightly panicked, I quickly retightened the camera, reconnected the Ninja, and turned everything on. Unfortunately, the Ninja can be temperamental as it tries to interpret the frame speed settings on the DSLR, and this, of course, is what happened. While the hammerhead cruised above us, I frantically waved my fingers in front of the camera in my usual attempt to connect the two devices. After what seemed like an eternity, but was likely only a minute or two, the Ninja finally connected, and I firmly jostled my elbow into the passenger next to me to get a good shot. “We don’t see hammerheads very often,” I explained, as if I even needed to say anything at all after my frenzied attempts to reattach the gear.

For the next few minutes, we followed the hammerhead down the wall until it disappeared into the hazy blue of the thermocline at 600 feet. At one point, we thought that the hammerhead was coming straight at us, but the low-light and symmetrical body shape created an optical illusion: the shark was actually swimming away from us, and it had gained too much distance for us to keep up once we powered up the motors at full throttle in hot pursuit. Nevertheless, it was a rare and amazing sight – only our second hammerhead sighting in 40 hours of diving, and our first where it stuck around long enough to be captured on camera! Check out the footage below.

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~ by twonakedapes on May 18, 2014.

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