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View Diary: BP Oilpocalypse ROV Diary #117 (311 comments)

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  •  My close encounter with a humpback (18+ / 0-)

    In another lifetime (metaphorically) I worked for the DOD in Hawaii. I learned to scuba dive and spent many happy hours sightseeing the reefs.

    On this dive my dive partner and I were seeking nudibranchs to photograph and spiny lobsters for dinner.

    I was out of sight of my dive buddy across the ridge of one fairly large lava and coral formation - a cardinal sin but we did grow complacent to some extent. I kept an eye out for his exhalation bubbles between peeks in the viewfinder of my camera.

    I looked up and saw a steady stream of bubbles. That's not good, to my mind it meant real trouble, an air line break or worse. As soon as I did that, I also heard the sound of him banging the heel of his knife on his air tank. That is a common way of getting someone's attention and can also be a distress call.

    I streaked over the top of the ridge and I'll hold off telling you what I saw until I relate the tale from his perspective.

    He was cruising the wall of the other side of the reef and saw lobster antennae peeking out from a crevice. The trick with teasing a lobster out of its lair is to gently grab those antennae and wiggle the critter. If they aren't already wedged too tight for that, it will make them let go and you can pull them from there without pulling off their antennae or legs.

    So, he was intent on that and felt a brush against his calf. He thought it was me and kept trying to coax the lobster from its hole. He felt a stronger bump and looked to see what it was I wanted.

    He was eye to eye with the biggest eye he'd ever seen. He began hyperventilating and backing away as fast as he possibly could.

    When I came over the ridge I saw him flailing backwards and banging his tank and blowing bubbles like I'd never seen.

    There was a smallish (~20 ft long) humpback whale hovering very close to the reef wall. When my buddy had backed off and started streaking for the surface (a lot faster than I thought was safe), the whale put its eye close to the hole he was investigating, then slowly swam away.

    It was just curious, and wanted to know what was so interesting in the hole :)

    I followed him to the surface and we we were both completely twitterpated. I was so flabbergasted and concerned for my dive buddy I forgot I had a camera.

    When we calmed down and headed for the shore he asked me if I'd snapped the whale. He hasn't forgiven me to this day, and I admit I kick myself pretty often, too.

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