“ Pelagic Magic®”
Diving in Kona Hawaii has so much to offer both the novice and the advanced scuba diver. The warm water and the colorful reef ecosystem are like no other, spanning every color of the rainbow, and about 1/3 of the animals are endemic to Hawaii. The night diving is equally spectacular, especially when you include the Manta Ray Night Dive, the worlds most famous night dive. Jack’s Diving Locker in Kona holds a little known secret, and it’s called “Pelagic Magic”.
After Mother Nature finishes with an unbelievable sunset, the crew finishes loading the boat for a dive like no other, the “Pelagic Magic” Black Water Night Dive. The boat ride takes us straight out to sea about 3 miles from the harbor, just beyond the 1000 fathom line, where the water is 6000+ feet to the bottom. The lights of Kailua Kona don’t appear very far away, but the world we are about to enter truly seems not of this planet. Six weighted lines, 3 on each side of the boat hang to a depth of 40 feet. Each line is equipped with a short tether, one line and tether for each diver to freely move from the surface to a max depth of 40 feet. A maximum of 6 divers plus a dive master prepare to enter the darkness, stirring with as much anticipation as newly certified divers about to take that first giant stride.
Dropping a few feet below the surface of the water, the demeanor of each diver begins to change to one of an eerie calm, breathing slows with the realization of having just been transported to a realm far too bazaar for even the greatest minds in Hollywood. As dive lights are turned on and eyes adjust to the darkness, the beauty of this world comes into view. Within minutes all six divers are drifting neutrally buoyant and tethered like marionettes to the boat above.
The animals of “Pelagic Magic” are gelatinous deep water animals that come to the surface at night. Under the cover of darkness these deepwater dwellers rise from the depths in search of food, a mate, or perhaps both. The animals move with the grace and beauty of a ballet dancer at the height of her career. Appearing transparent from a head on view, their translucent forms flawlessly drift through this 3 dimensional liquid dreamscape moving with the motions designed to attract and excite a mate, fool a predator, or to capture prey.
One of the more common and easily recognizable animals is the Venus Girdle. It swims like a flying wing by utilizing its cilia, the tiny hairs that encompass its body. The shimmering colors of refraction illuminate the cilia in a rainbow of light and motion as it searches for zooplankton to capture and consume. The zooplankton are attracted to dive lights much the same way that moths are drawn to a street light, and this makes for a fantastic photographic opportunity as the Venus Girdle folds itself in half and curls into a ball capturing as much of the tiny crustaceans as it can hold. Brilliant colors seem to jump off the otherwise clear animal as it feeds.
So little is known about many of these animals that most of them lack common names, but that doesn’t stop them from entrancing the mind. The Pyrosoma is one such animal. Actually it is a colony of animals that link together to create a larger entity in the shape of a tapered tube open at one end. As the name suggests (pyro is Greek, meaning fire) Pyrosoma have the ability to give off light in the form of a mild flash that can be seen from a distance of 150 feet or more. Vibrant pink and blue light come into view as the animal slowly spins, occasionally housing a pelagic shrimp inside. Symbiosis isn’t limited to the Pyrosoma, the shrimp and larval lobsters can readily be found hitching a ride on top of the bell of a Medusa Jelly, scouting for food and protected from predators.
Half way through the dive we are surrounded by dozens of different species of drifting animals. From the carbon dioxide feeding chains of Salps, to the prying tiny eyes of the Heteropod, to the lightning fast schools of squid racing around the outer edge of the circle of light, when suddenly time stops and a living jewel appears before us in the shape of a 3 inch long Pelagic Hawaiian Seahorse. The concerns and fears experienced on board the boat seem a million miles away as shutters click and strobes begin to fire in an attempt to capture a photographic memento of this mind blowing experience.
A variety of other animals show up with increasing frequency in every shape and form imaginable, from larval stage to full grown adults, ranging in size from microscopic to the size of a basketball, some have rarely if ever been seen in the wild. Before long our time underwater is up, air pressure is running low and the time has come for us to resurface and leave this strange and beautiful world behind.
Back on board the boat the scene is far different from an hour ago. The divers are reeling from the adrenaline rush of the dive, openly discussing what was seen and reviewing pictures and sharing stories of animals and creatures that still defy comprehension. By the time the boat reaches the dock some of the divers are still recounting the moments of the last few hours while others have already begun planning their return trip with “Jack’s Diving Locker” into the world of Pelagic Magic.
Text and photography by:
Matthew J D’Avella