Indonesia Trip Report Part I: Lembeh

March 10, 2017


In the last 13 hours, I have haggled over 65,000 rupiah (what amounts to about $7US) for a west Papuan penis gourd, dipped my toes in the Indian Ocean, and because the Indian Ocean might be polluted, I had my toes cleaned by fish in what was probably the weirdest tourism ritual I have ever played along with.  And as I sit here and wait for my airport transfer out of Bali, I can’t help but reflect that none of this has anything to do with why I am here.


Coconut Octopus (Amphioctopus marginatus)

Three weeks ago, I grabbed my favorite dive/travel buddy and caught a series of meandering flights eventually bound for Raja Ampat, Indonesia. The resulting trip has led us on 48 dives through the heart of marine biodiversity.
  Our first stop was an extended five-day layover in northern Sulawesi at an area known as Lembeh Straight.


Pygmy Squid (Idiosepius sp.) with shrimp dinner

The area is famous for rich muck dives packed with unusual macro critters.  Muck divers search the silt and sand for whatever tiny life happens to pop up.  The point isn’t sweeping reefscapes or big animals, muck divers want the little stuff and cover small search patterns in their search.  Our hosts were the gracious folks at Two Fish Divers as led by our world-class guide, Heskiel.  Heskiel could spot a polar bear blinking in a snowstorm, or more useful to our expedition, a pygmy squid from 10 feet away.


Stargazer (Uranoscopus sp.)-Never miss a night dive.

Sarah and I went to Lembeh with a lofty hitlist of animals that we wanted to see, and we ended up seeing most of them.  We saw the infamous Lembeh sea dragon (that is actually a species of pipehorse, but who’s counting?), wonderpus, coconut octopus, Indian Walkman, stargazer, and even a gaggle of bobbit worms.  And if this sounds fun, stay tuned for the second installment on the highlight of the trip: Raja Ampat!


Marionia sp.


The Lembeh Sea Dragon, or more accurately, the Lembeh Pipehorse (Kyonemichthys rumengani) was discovered in 2006.  Distinguishing these from the other muck is nearly impossible for all but the most experienced guides.  Fortunately, Heskiel was top notch!


Bobbit worm (Eunice sp.)-NEVER miss a night dive, unless bobbit worms are around, then you might want to think twice.  Bobbit worms were named in 1996 after Lorena Bobbit chopped her way into infamy.

 

Go Team America! 2016 World Shootout Nationals Gold!

January 28, 2017
This is already shaping up to be an amazing year.  I am headed to Raja Ampat and Lembeh (Indonesia) next month, Papua New Guinea in November, and this morning I just found out that my Team America just won Gold in the World Shootout.  It is considered the Grand Prix of Underwater Photography.  Teams consisting of three photographers from all over the world compete with six images (two per entrant).  The teams were narrowed down to the top five last month, and just this morning, the ceremony a...
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Florida 2015 recap

May 21, 2015
I have always enjoyed the Australian aboriginal concept of a "walk-about" defined in Merriam Webster as "a short period of wandering bush life engaged in by an Australian aborigine as an occasional interruption of regular work."  A few weeks ago I planned a last-minute trip to meet my dad at his Florida vacation rental at Anna Maria Island.  My flight arrived in Miami, 4 hours away and 5 days ahead of him, which gave me 5 days to wander about Florida at my own pace as an interruption to my re...
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A Day With False Killer Whales

March 14, 2015

False killer whale coming in for a closer look at the boat.

Two weeks ago I woke up at 6 am to a dilemma.  On the one hand I was meeting my friend in an hour to try to find some hammerhead sharks from my boat.  Option “B” was a cryptic text message saying, “Jeff, call me if you are up.” Satellite tags deployed by Cascadia Research Collective on the back of a pod of endangered false killer whales (Pseudorca crassidens) showed that they were 14 miles south of the harbor and making their...

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I Was A Scientist Featured On Shark Week and I Was Not Lied To

August 25, 2014

I was approached in March to help out with an episode for this year’s Shark Week on Discovery Channel.  From the get go, I knew what the premise of the show was about.  I figured it would be hyped and sensationalized.  I assumed I would be misquoted because that’s just what the media does.  And when we went out three nights in a row and didn’t see anything, I knew they would CG some sharks in place because a Shark Week show without sharks would be rather dull.  And bec...


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Feeling Small

December 30, 2012


 
For the most part, the ocean is a vast pit full of a fat lot of nothing.  How much nothing?  If you set sail from California on a straight path at a cruising speed of 12 mph, you might not hit land or see anything of interest for 22 days.  Underwater is a lot of the same.  When working on an open ocean aquaculture project where we dived in the middle of the ocean twice per day for months on end, most of the dives were in deep, unbroken, gin-clear blue water.  I spent hours looking at nothing...

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A Watery Union

December 14, 2012

 On Wednesday, I was honored to help wed two of my good friends, Amanda Tucker and Alan Brockman.  Their one request was that the ceremony be held 80 feet underwater.  As the bride made her way down the mooring, the guests, headed up by Reverend Gabe Scotti, arranged themselves on the deck above the wheelhouse of the Sea Tiger.  The dappled light of the afternoon sun and turbid visibility created a unique atmosphere that contrasted sharply with the bride's white dress and red bouquet.


 
I had n...
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Day of Sharks

November 27, 2012


There is a saying that goes “Never meet your heroes.”  The idea is that your heroes only seem invincible because you don’t know their dirty secrets and character flaws.  So when I noticed that National Geographic’s premiere shark photographer Daniel Botelho was in town, I reluctantly suggested we should go find some sharks.  His photos depicting oceanic whitetips and white sharks are of incomparable caliber, but it was his shots from Tiger Beach that really impressed on me.  After spe...

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Tiger-Quest 2012

September 19, 2012


My friends and I are a little light of pocket to go to Tiger Beach, Bahamas, so, needing an adventure, we sought to find our own local animal, a tiger shark known as "Laverne" who is known to make a living in the waters of Honokohau Harbor.  We headed for Kona to dive like crazy and hurry back before anyone noticed we were missing.  What we found was not one animal, but at least four all crowding the area looking for scraps from fishing boats.  They ranged in size from about 10 feet up to may...
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There's No Place Like Home

September 3, 2012

  One of my fondest memories growing up in Connecticut is the way the world wakes up in the summer.  Since moving to Hawaii 5 years ago, I’ve dearly missed using overly hot, muggy days as an excuse to find a body of water and just jump in.  In addition to its coastline, Connecticut has a multitude of lakes, ponds and rivers to keep a growing biologist busy and out of trouble.  I have always wanted to take what I have since learned back to my home state and explore with my new set of eyes.  ...
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