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All About Alice --Scott Putnam talks diving at JMC and elaborates on his newest video

As you can imagine, the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort does diving. The dive shop, named "L’Aventure Dive Shop" (just the title is French) is a full-service dive operation, offering everything from Discover Scuba classes to Advanced Diver/Master classes. Nitrox is also available (as are the Nitrox classes) for those seeking to decrease nitrogen fatigue.  

There are a lot of boats at the resort – all, except the glass-bottom boat, are used for diving, fishing, outings, and snorkeling. Today, we’re taking one of the small boats to visit, "Alice in Wonderland". There are three of us: the captain, Johnny, and me. It’s a skiff, so entry into the water will be backwards over the side. I always like these types of entries: you hold your mask with one hand, your regulator with the other and you go in doing a backwards summersault. It’s a bit disorienting, but really cool. Of course, this is just the entry. Getting back into the boat is a bit of a haul. Without a ladder, you hand your gear to the captain and then haul yourself up and over the boat’s side.

I got everything prepared before jumping on the boat. No more disorganization at the time of entry. I’m also putting on the red filter from the get-go. I haven’t experimented too much with this filter, as the instructional manual warns against using lights and a red filter at the same time. I tried the filter at Nukubati, but the footage was so short and the screen on my video camera is so small, it’s tough to tell whether it’s a good idea.

Last time I was at "Cousteau", I dove this site. Besides the large porites lobe corals, the chance of white tip reef sharks under the lobe corals, and murky water, the site is memorable because two of my sisters took off on their own and surfaced a good quarter mile from the boat. It’s in the middle of Savusavu Bay and shallow. Anyway, Johnny’s promised me good water clarity, but I have very low expectations.

Like I expected, the entry in was disorienting and despite my prior statement about what to do in a backwards entry, I only held my regulator in my mouth. As soon as I landed backwards, the mask came right off. As it started to slip below the surface, I grabbed it before Dorie could read "Putnam" on the back strap. My BCD was filled with air, so the backwards flip was short lived – I popped right back to the surface, bobbing away like one big shark lure. The captain handed me my video camera/housing/lights. Looking at Johnny, he gave me a big grin and said, "Let’s go!" I released the air out of the BCD and descended down along the mooring line.

We didn’t go more than ten feet (3 meters) before we hit a school of barracuda. It was a very large school, but not a school of big barracuda – definitely juveniles. I turned the camera on and started filming. "Man, I hope this red filter works," was all I could think about. My housing has an LCD screen, but the viewing is more a reference guide. I looked on the screen and saw that everything was red. "UGH!!! Do I take off the filter or hope against hope?" I kept the filter on.

As I watched the school swim around us again and again and again, I noticed a small aggregation of yellow finned surgeonfish swimming amongst the school. The scene reminded me of a barracuda school picture I took at Motualevu, just north of Laucala Island in 2002. In the picture there are these 2 meter (6’) long barracuda and a lone yellowfin surgeonfish. Hmmm… is there some sort of symbiotic relationship between these two species? What’s the connection?

As I ventured away from the mooring line, the large porites lobe corals came into view. Shaped like large mushrooms (the size of a garage), all that was missing was the caterpillar character from Lewis Carroll’s book to tell me about nonsensical musings. ‘Tis not my favorite book… nor movie(s), but I digress . . .

The water clarity was crystal – an incoming tide does make all the difference. I could still see plankton in the water, but the visibility was really good and it was sunny.

The sun’s reflective rays were dallying around the corals, wreaking havoc with my video camera’s light sensor. There’ll be quite a few "hot spots" to edit out. I ventured close towards a sweetlips that was being cleaned by some cleaner wrasses – a true cleaner station – and I kept thinking as we rocked back and forth in the gentle surge, "How cool. How cool …"

Well, the dive was great – although I didn’t see any sharks or large fish (other than one sweetlips and the barracuda). I’m looking at the video right now with Johnny at the bar (drinking water, thank you very much) and it looks like the red filter worked – although I won’t know until I can download the images onto a large screen. I’ll eat lunch and then venture off to another site, "Lighthouse". Johnny tells me that Cyclone Tomas did some damage here, so the water clarity will not be good, but he’s hopeful something good comes of the experience. Me too.

Johnny just quipped, "Are you going to keep typing or are you going to eat? You only have ½ an hour before we leave." Well, it’s time to close up.

To see the dive on YouTube, click the below link, or go to the video section on Video Guide and click the link for "Alice in Wonderland".

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