Fall Collecting Trip: Guest Blogger - Jim Duffey

I haven't been this tired since my thesis in architecture school. Pretty much everyone was goofy with exhaustion by the time we had the fish and inverts packed on Friday morning, but the iron-women and men of the Aquarium staff (Sarah, Murph, Wedge and Emily) along with the inexhaustible Scott Bobek still found the energy to make the drive to the airport to hand off the 58 boxes of critters. All-in-all, a fantastic trip with an absolutely fantastic group of people.

Since my last blog I have logged another 10 dives over 3 days--not bad for 50+ management type. I was able to make all 22 dives of the trip! It would have only been 21 if it hadn't been for Dave Wedge. Each dive, one person stays on board to act as a safety observer. It was my turn yesterday during the Sapona dive, but Dave was kind enough to come back (with a moray eel in tow) only after a half hour and relieve me so that I could get in the water. After the short swim to the boat I was able to meet up with Sam Benton and her dive buddies. In fairly short order Sam and I were able to catch two yellowhead wrasse super males (something our collection was missing) with help of an unfortunate crab that one them was preoccupied with eating. If I didn't mention it before, Sam is an AWESOME collector!

Other highlights of the past 3 days of diving included a copper sweeper round up with Captain Lou, 2 more grunt round ups--one with Captain John using a seine net which was a complete team effort. The final collecting dive was at a site called 3 Sisters (it was our 3rd dive at this site in 2 days--nice and shallow and a lot of bottom time). Our instructions from Sarah were to pick up anything interesting. On the edge of the main search area I spotted a small fish diving into a conk shell--I put the shell in my bag and out popped a little, funny looking fish so I transferred it to my catch bag. When I caught up with Bill a bit further on and signaled to him about keeping it or not, he gave me a thumbs up and an OK sign. I finished off the dive by chasing a couple of juvenile gray angels unsuccessfully and bagging one nice glasseye sweeper.

Back on the boat I found out that the funny looking, little fish was a redlipped blenny, on our list and only one collected. This was definitely a case of being lucky rather than good, but I will certainly take it.

Before I end I want to thank my superiors at the Aquarium for giving me this opportunity and thank the Aquarium staff (Sarah, Bill, Dave and Emily) for their companionship, support and extraordinary effort. I also want to thank all the guest divers--they were all truly great people--and especially Captains John and Lou and our Chef (and my roomate) Orvis (we ate very, very well!). I am truly grateful for this life changing experience!


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