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February 2017    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 32, No. 2   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Dive Into Ambon; Maluku Resort & Spa, Indonesia

a psychedelic experience without drugs

from the February, 2017 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Dear Fellow Diver:

I returned from my first day of diving off the island of Ambon to find a big, red-haired Viking from Finland I'll call Aleksi regaling our congenial dive hosts, a big, easy-going former Londoner, Kaj (pronounced "Kai") Maney and his vivacious Aussie partner, Barb Makohin. The table before him was littered with empty bottles of "Big" Bintang beer. The grinning Finn explained that he possessed the directions to find an ultra-rare psychedelic frogfish, first discovered in 2009. He had flown in for a few days on news that the frogfish had returned. He had reconnoitered the location and was now happy to share it with Kaj, a long-time friend.

Dive Ambon ResortThe next morning Aleksi pointed out a stand of palms to triangulate the "secret" spot. Within minutes, I beheld the pink- and white-striped psychedelic frogfish -- a mesmerizing peppermint swirl of color straight out of a '60s Jefferson Airplane poster -- not seen since 2014, and before that, not since it was discovered in Ambon on the north rim of the Banda Sea. Taking turns, the three other divers patiently waited while I enjoyed photographic ecstasy with my all-purpose Nikon 60mm macro lens. She was a female behaving in typical frogfish manner, staring fixedly upward, nestled in a protected nook.

Our two guides gave me plenty of reasons to be flying high, skillfully pointing out such critters as delicately colored nudibranchs, a juvenile painted frogfish, lacy ribbons of eggs, a spiny devilfish, and many others I have yet to identify -- the Tropical Pacific Reef Fish Identification book labels some fish as simply "undescribed." The two other sites we dove that day were Laha III and Laha I, both in 30 to 40 feet of water near a turn in the bay that sheltered a small fleet of local fishing boats. The currents were crazy. Because of the locals' habit of tossing trash into the ocean, the bottom held a sandy swirl of "cultural artifacts" that made for challenges when photographing the giant frogfish, Pikachu nudibranch, rhinopias, leaf fish, ornate ghost pipefish, flatworms and schools of scadfish. By day's end, my camera card was loaded with 350 photos, almost exclusively creatures and fish, since hard and soft corals were scarce on these sandy-bottomed muck dives. (Bob Halstead, that Aussie curmudgeon, gets credit for coining the term "muck dives.)...


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