The Perks of Shore Diving

Two hydrophones recording away at Electric Beach, Oahu

Initially we thought we would be spoiled rotten during our time on the cruise.  The idea of working from a small boat with a tender seemed so much easier than lugging all of our heavy equipment between car and beach, and beach and dive site.  Such luxury would be hard to come down from, and we weren’t sure how we would handle it.

Turns out that some of those original assumptions were wrong.  Fortunately, it wasn’t too big of a shock- since our original assumptions often turn out to be wrong!

These urchins were so animated. I am feeling increasingly fond of them, despite their intimidating form.

Working from the Hi’ialakai was awesome, and we got to visit some of the most amazing underwater places on earth.  However, it was also extremely difficult.  We had to move heavy equipment between decks, and on and off our small boat every day.  The small boat was often out in rough seas, which made dealing with our gear challenging. We were both looking forward to begin shore diving operations this past week to see how it compares.

The Perks of Shore Diving:

1- All gear (diving, photographic, and acoustic) can be assembled on land.  It may be sandy, but it will definitely not be rocking, and no one will be seasick over the side while putting hydrophones together.

Look at all of the space to spread stuff out around the car!

2- No one uses our car except for us!  Unlike the small boat, which had to be emptied every day, our car can be the semi-permanent home for clean gear, removing one of the lugging stuff around steps.

OK, I admit that this is not a perk. Our hot water ‘showers’ from the car are difficult to keep at a comfortable temperature and often reach scalding levels. The trick is to keep the bottles out of direct sunlight…

3- Towing a raft full of stuff isn’t much harder than towing an empty raft.  We had to tow a surface float at all times on the cruise, so our trusty SeaHawk raft doesn’t seem very different in terms of effort.  It does serve a much more functional role as the main gear transportation device, however.

Simon towing SeaHawk out for a dive

4- Surface swimming is great exercise, and you get all the pros without much risk of serious injury. At least, not much risk compared to lifting 50-100lb piece of equipment or bracing oneself against 2-3 meter seas in a small boat.

Screwing in sand anchors is also great exercise! The underwater part of our routine hasn’t changed

5- I get to pack our cooler!  With whatever I want!  Instead of sifting through the same array of potato chips and crackers that weren’t particularly appetizing on the first day (much less the 21st), we fill our cooler each morning with foods we like for lunch and snacks.  What a great idea.

The camera ‘windmill’ was more challenging than expected to get to the surface while snorkeling, but Lauren eventually pulled it off. Our time lapse cameras captured quite a few of those damselfish!

6- If someone becomes sick and can’t dive, the other one can just pick the gear up snorkeling- no lost equipment!  This happened today when Simon’s cold was still too persistent for diving, and I recovered the two small hydrophones and camera tree from a dive site.  He helped from the SeaHawk, which incidentally also works well as a small rowboat.

Lauren snorkeling to recover hydrophones and cameras. It’s called Electric Beach because of the proximity to the power station.  The water is significantly warmer by the outfall.

7- Shave ice. Instead of celebrating another successful deployment with increasingly stale cookies, we can each select our own preferred flavors of Hawaii’s best frozen treat.

Since arriving in Hawaii, this is our new favorite dessert

All of our experiences in Hawaii have been incredible, and our time on the Hi’ialakai was nothing less.  We both learned so much and got to see the most amazing things.  But the challenges of really working at sea were real.  We learned how to take it all in stride and had an awesome time, but being relieved of those challenges makes us appreciate what we doing now that much more!

After a month at sea, we feel even more appreciation for Hawaii’s beautiful coastlines and geography. This is the view from our dive site at Electric Beach, looking towards the west end.
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