Our second dive on Guam took place within the harbor. My dive partners this time were Casey Quon and Lauren Otaguro, with Dr. David Ginsburg leading the dive. The site was West Shoals, a reef that will be impacted greatly by the proposed Department of Defense dredging for carrier basing.
While the waters of Catalina are beautiful to dive in their own way, they also pose many challenges for beginner divers. The frigid Pacific waters require a wetsuit 5-7mm thick, and divers carry weight belts anywhere from 18-24 pounds to maintain buoyancy underwater. The extra padding and weight can restrict movement and create difficulty to achieve perfect buoyancy, especially for new divers. The dense kelp forests are tricky to maneuver without getting tangled. Guam, however, is a complete 180. Diving in just a rash guard and 4 pounds of weight, I easily maneuvered around the coral reefs without injuring the delicate ecosystem.
This dive, we didn’t go deeper than 35 feet. About five minutes into our dive, we spotted a green sea turtle on the reef. As we approached it, we noticed it was peacefully eating the algae off the coral reef. Our group got within a few feet, and the turtle didn’t seem to notice or be bothered by us. Similarly, the numerous fish species we saw during this dive showed no signs of concern — many of them swam right up to our mask, before quickly flitting away again.
Underwater photography is one of the interesting techniques I am still mastering. You really face a challenge of staying perfectly buoyant when your subject is constantly moving and you face problems staying in one place for an extended time. I’m really excited to be working on my photography skills over the next two weeks, hopefully capturing some of the amazing moments that occur on this trip.
Other things we saw included Moorish idols, parrotfish, triggerfish, a large blue sponge, various types of soft and hard corals, and blue sea stars, common in the beautiful waters of Guam. We surfaced after forty minutes and swam a short while back to the boat.
It’s amazing. Most of us still have less than twenty dives under our belt, yet the moment you begin that first descent, you seamlessly transcend into another world. The movements have become natural, the rhythmic breathing into your regulator the only sound interrupting the silence.