Feb 282008

During a night dive last week we noticed a number of brightly lit boats off shore and guessed they were fishing for squid. That’s exactly what they are according to the UT:

The mystery lights belong to a fleet of seiners fishing for market-sized squid. Witnesses have seen as many as 10 to 20 boats fishing.

‘There’s been about 700 tons of squid caught in the last four nights,’ Gomes said. ‘You’ve got boats out there wrapping 50 to 60 tons each. With squid going for $800 a ton, do the math. They’re making out pretty well.’ Gomes said one squid boat actually had so many squid it rolled but didn’t sink. The crewmen managed to get the boat towed into Mission Bay.

700 tons. Wow. Hopefully the squid can get some mating in before they get caught. One thing we noticed was when the boats are out, there were a lot of loud explosion sounds that we could only hear at depth underwater. I’m assuming this is some sort of compressed air system to scare the sea lions off. Does anyone know?


UT's photo of a seal bomb

Those explosion sounds were actually explosions. It turns out squid fishing boats use waterproof M-80’s called seal bombs to try to scare seals and sea lions out of the nets. From an article called “Squid fishermen’s seal bombs rattle nighttime scuba divers“:

Federal law allows commercial fishers and sportfishing charter boat operators to use seal bombs to ward off sea lions and harbor seals. Fishermen say the nonlethal explosives spare the animals from death or injuries that can occur if the marine mammals get entangled in their nets.

Experiences range from those who have been startled by the explosions to terrifying percussions from seal bombs detonated within a few feet of a diver, said dive master John H. Moore of San Diego.

While the seal bombs aren’t powerful enough to blow off a diver’s finger, the percussive sound waves could damage eardrums or sinuses, Moore said.

Kristine Barksy, a U.S. Fish and Game Department biologist who dives frequently, said sound waves are amplified under water and the percussion from seal bombs can be disorienting to an unsuspecting diver.

“You’re down at night. It’s all dark and then all of a sudden – BOOM!” she said. “It’s very loud even if you’re not close.”

…Studies show that pinnipeds become conditioned to the noise from seal bombs, “which end up being like a dinner bell,” said Carrie Wilson, a Fish and Game Department spokeswoman. “It may help for a few minutes, but it’s not a long term deterrent by any means.”

Brockman believes commercial fishermen probably are using more seal bombs than ever because there seem to be more sea lions and seals trying to steal the fishermen’s catch.

Scuba divers would be wise to keep their distance when the squid fleet is working because the fishermen can’t tell whether divers are in the water at night

Uh, yeah. The seal bombs were loud enough a half mile away. I can’t imagine how crazy it would be in the water near a boat.

Feb 202008

Some bright folks have dumped and upgraded the firmware for the Canon A570 IS, A610, A620, A630, A640, A700, A710 IS, S2 IS, S3 IS, SD500 and G7.  They unlocked raw mode, high speed shutter speeds, live histograms, highlight cropping indicators, and better battery indicators.  Quite amazing.  If you own one of the above and want to push its limits, check them out at http://chdk.wikia.com/wiki/CHDK

Feb 122008

I have really enjoyed our visit to the big island. We spent a bit over a week on the Kailua-Kona side, getting our fill of sand and sun. We have a bit under a week on the Hilo side, and have enjoyed sunny days here as well. This morning we are finally enjoying some of the rain that makes Hilo famous – and provides all of the water for the house we are renting.

Yesterday we headed to the coast and enjoyed tide pool snorkeling, volcanic hot pools, and steam vents. Today we are headed out to volcano park. Unfortunately there isn’t much lava flow right now, and a lot of sulfur dioxide at the caldera – many trails are closed. I’ve got a feeling it will still be pretty amazing.