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Turks & Caicos Aggressor II Captain’s Log
July 20 – 27 2019
Turks & Caicos Islands
Air temperature: 80° - 84° F
Water temperature: 82°F - 83°F
Visibility: 60 - 100 feet
Thermal recommendation: 3mm full wetsuit
Captain: Amanda Smith
2nd Captain: Alex Brett
Engineer: Robert Smith
Chef: Sarah Pearson
Instructor: Alizee Zimmermann
Stew: Deikie Quant
Alan & Nancy, Ann & Bill, Joe, Bert & Candace, Nick, John, Michelle, Debbie & Isaiah, Ricardo & Cecilia, Cesar, Claire.
Our Dive Sites
Sunday: Eel Garden & The Dome - NWPT
Monday: Driveway & Boat Cove – West Caicos
Tuesday: Spanish Anchor & Brandywine – West Caicos
Wednesday: Gullies & Magic Mushroom – West Caicos
Thursday: Elephant Ear Canyon - West Caicos, Amphitheatre - NWPT
Friday: Sharks Hotel- NWPT
A new week aboard the Turks & Caicos Aggressor II saw 16 new faces board the vessel on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Due to the tides we left the dock at 2pm and proceeded to pick the guests up via chase boat as they arrived from the airport. Once all aboard we had a safety briefing followed by a lovely meal cooked by Sarah. Around 8:30pm the engines fired up and we made our way towards to North West Point and Eel Garden, ready for the morning dives.
After the back deck briefing it was time to suit up. As our first divers hit the water, several curious Caribbean reef sharks came up to check them out. They cruise up and down the wall, patrolling, as if to keep us all in line. This dive site is named after the garden eels that inhabit the sandy patch that stretches from the mooring pin out to the wall. They are not the only inhabitants though, Southern stingrays can often be seen hunting the garden eels and usually have a small Bar Jack or other scavenger fish following behind in hopes of getting the scraps. A number of brightly coloured head-shield slugs can also be found crawling along the sand. The wall here is sheer and covered in whip corals & sponges on which one can often find one of the smaller of our reef dwellers; the Wire Coral shrimp. These tiny critters match the colour of the wire they inhabit and are often difficult to photograph as they move to the opposite side, taunting those behind the lens.
At lunch we moved over to one of North West Point’s iconic dive sites: The Dome. This dive site is named because of a large metal dome that sits in about 35-40 ft of water and was home to a level of the 1980’s game show Pago Pago. Today it is a veritable eco-system of its own, housing schools of grunts as well as Pederson cleaner shrimp and another tiny favourite; the Secretary blenny. The other great thing about this dive site is that it is a 2 for 1 site with a fabulous wall as well as the shallower structure. Out on the wall our guests were delighted by a sharks and a friendly Hawksbill turtle. This also happens to be a great night dive and some of our guests were lucky enough to see a sleepy turtle make its way out of the dome as well as several huge channel clinging crabs, and a free swimming spotted moray which was actually caught on tape hunting, attacking and eating a fish by one of our guests! Also spotted on this lovely dive were several Orange balled Coralamorphs, a couple enormous lobsters as well as a few Caribbean reef squid. Not a bad first night, capped off with a lovely cup of hot chocolate with Caicos Cream and marshmallows.
On Monday morning bright and early the engines started and we began our crossing over to West Caicos, an uninhabited island with incredible walls along its western shoreline. Our first dive site here was Driveway. Named because of the large sandshoot that cuts through the vertical wall, this dive site is always a pleaser. Navigation is easy and the wildlife abundant. Swarms of Creole Wrasse cascade off into the blue like purple rain, while numerous friendly Reef sharks come by to say hello. A scorpion fish and spotted moray eel may have been the highlight here. That is until and Eagle ray swooped over two of our guests and waved goodbye as it soared above them through the water column.
During lunch we moved north just a little to another well-known dive site; Boat Cove. This dive site’s namesake is due to the natural inlet that cuts through the island’s iron shore creating a safe harbor and cove that has been used for centuries by sailors and seamen alike. The night dive here was really something. A few guests decided to take advantage of the ‘try-fluoro’ dives with Rob, a treat that is available in few locations. This type of diving involves ultra-violet light and reveals a whole new world beneath the waves. Different corals luminesce in day-glow shades of yellow, green, orange and violet/blue. Creatures almost invisible to the naked eye pop with such brightness that they can’t be ignored. 6 nudibranchs on one barrel sponge. Miniscule fire worms and neon orange decorator crabs are just the start of it. The other fascinating use of black light is to find coral recruits. Juvenile corals that are barely a couple millimeters can be easily seen when under UV light. When spending a week on the Turks & Caicos Aggressor II, this is an experience not to be missed.
Tuesday morning saw us move all the way to West Caicos’ most southern dive site; Spanish Anchor. A stunning dive site with gorgeous coral and sponge formations both along and on top of the wall. As divers went through the gully one by one to have a look at a several century old anchor, our photographer Rob captured their portraits so that if they claimed they couldn’t see it, the evidence would be there for the showing. This dive site is a great spot for spotting odd-shaped bottom dwellers such as the peacock flounder, a beautifully patterned fish with a less beautiful flattened face. They change colours depending on external stimuli and change from camouflaged to iridescent blue in the blink of an eye. The real prize here though was a large Hawksbill turtle who was quite literally sitting on the giant sponge which he also happened to be munching on for breakfast. As the divers approached and the strobes fired this old soul stared at our divers and continued dining un-perturbed by the action. What a wonderful start to a gorgeous day.
Whilst warm soup was served the vessel once again moved for the afternoon dives. This time we moored up at Brandywine. Two lovely afternoon dives were complimented by another fabulous night dive involving a plethora of eels ( 5 spotted and a large green moray), A gorgeous squid, Long-horned nudibranch, and, oh-yeah, an Eagle ray just happened to swim past! What an epic adventure! All topped off with some hot chocolate, marshmallows and Caicos Cream.
As the sun rose over the horizon and our chef began preparing cooked to order breakfast for the guests we moved over to Gullies, one of the Turks & Caicos’ most well-known dive sites. An open-topped gully that cuts through the sheer wall from about 50 – 75 feet is lined in whip corals creating an almost stained-glass effect as you swim through. At the exit of the gully zipping in and out of plate coral layers was a very large juvenile drum, its mystical fins waving through the water column. As we swam along the wall a pair of Honey-comb cowfish danced through the water column, nipping at each other and changing colours in a courting ritual. A busy morning in the ocean! Two more scorpion fish, a free-swimming spotted moray, a massive female Hawksbill turtle and several more friendly Reef sharks came out to play on this sunny day.
During lunch we moved to our second site of the day; Magic Mushroom. Named after a mushroom shaped rock along the shoreline that disappears during high-tide, this dive site is home to a large coral structure just south east of the mooring pin that we call Lobster Hotel. There were no vacancies this week with numerous lobsters all shoved into a crack that goes from top to bottom of the coral structure. Also hiding amongst the coral colonies was a young spotted moray eel. Another turtle encounter topped off the afternoon dive. The night dive though was on a whole other level! A friendly octopus spent over 20 minutes with one of the groups, but then as Candace filmed it she was interrupted by a Caribbean Reef squid that wanted to play in the light of her camera. Slipper lobsters, nudibranchs and squat lobsters added to the parade of unique and fun creatures on this beautiful dive.
First thing in the morning had us moving over to some of the crew’s favourite dive site; Elephant Ear Canyon. This is the dive site for the lover of little creatures. Several varieties of Headshield slugs, pipe fish, pipe horse fish and of course the hard to find but so wonderfully named; Flapping Dingbat! The wall here is also rather spectacular with huge sponges and large boulder corals housing all kinds of fish and critters. One of our guests even found the tiniest little juvenile Spotted Drum, barely the size of a finger nail!
At lunch we crossed back over to North West Point to a beautiful dive site names Ampitheatre where we stayed for our 2 afternoon dives and the night dive of course. This site was a favourite among the guests with incredible encounters big and small. A multitude of Arrow crabs, blennies and shortnose pufferfish as well our usual big guys; sharks, rays, turtles. The night dive here is spectacular as well. We had slipper lobsters, red-banded lobsters, shrimp of all kinds and a gorgeous big Caribbean octopus! The fluoro divers also enjoyed this site as it has a lot of UV reactant organisms.
Friday morning for our last site of the week we moved over to Shark Hotel. This dive site is another stunning wall with a very friendly Nassau grouper that always comes up and greets divers and poses for photographs. A great way to end the week!