Anchovy School

We continue to dive in the vicinity of the Misool Eco Resort where Greg and the topside crew are working.  Staying close to the Resort is fine with me since some of the best diving in Raja lies in close proximity, including Nudi Rock and Boo.  We had several good dives at Nudi Rock where the Pindito guides showed us a spectacular pinnacle literally covered in soft corals of myriad colors.  I shot a full roll of 15/70mm film here, allowing the camera to drift over the corals as the movie lights bathed the reef in kaleidoscopic color.  Most images captured underwater tend to be very blue because the warm end of the light spectrum is filtered out as light passes through water.  By the time we are down forty or fifty feet, reds, yellows, oranges and most of the most brilliant colors are invisible.  But our powerful underwater lights reveal these colors for the camera.  As I bring the lights to bear upon the reef, seemingly blue and grey shades suddenly explode with color.  During this dive our lights allowed us to capture some of the most vibrantly colorful images of our trip.

We loaded a second film roll and made another dive to shoot more on this beautiful pinnacle, but after our first shot, we found another turtle feeding.  Once again our priorities changed and we followed the turtle as it swam between red sea fans and lavender soft corals. 

When Michele and I were in Raja last year we captured spectacular images of jacks and tuna feeding upon vast shoals of anchovies that surrounded one of the islands.  I had hoped to capture this for our IMAX® film and we have checked a dozen islands looking for the anchovy schools without success – until two days ago.  Dive guides at the Misool Eco Resort reported seeing anchovies with Mobulas feeding on them at a reef they called Grouper.  Pindito headed out immediately.

As I first dropped down to the reef at Grouper, I suspected the report was another false alarm.  The reef was pretty and I saw small groups of anchovies flashing in the water above the corals.  But I didn’t see the giant shoals of fish that I was hoping to find.  But Pindito dive master Bob Brunskill beckoned us to follow and after a few minutes swimming out over deep water, we came upon a dark pinnacle that seemed to be undulating.  As we got closer I could see that the pinnacle was engulfed in shoals of anchovies that rushed and flashed as Mobulas (a ray similar to manta rays) and tuna attacked the tiny fish. 

We have now spent two days filming at the Grouper pinnacle capturing truly amazing images.  Beneath our movie lights, the shoal of anchovies seems to ignite, almost like lightning, as the predators attack.  In most of my shots jacks and tuna can be seen diving through the shoal at high speed.  But I have only captured one distant shot of a Mobula attacking.  As I write this, Pindito is preparing to leave her anchorage and head back to Grouper for one more try.  I will shoot at least two more rolls there and I hope the giant delta-winged Mobulas will be captured on film as they strafe the anchovy schools like jet fighters.

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