• Photo by Rantje Allen

  • Photo by William Tan

  • Photo by Rantje Allen

  • Photo by William Tan

  • Photo by Rantje Allen

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Yearly Archives: 2003

We Stop for Dolphins and Whales

Miguel’s Diving has been drafted into the Indonesia Oceanic Cetacean Program. Program Director and cetacean expert Benjamin Kahn notes that Indonesia is located uniquely in the Indian/Pacific Ocean access for migratory whales. The program is run by APEX Environmental with its main goal to fill in the gaps in knowledge of Indonesia’s whales and assist with marine mammal conservation. APEX is especially active in eastern Indonesia with projects from Komodo to Alor to Sangihe-Talaud. Dr. Kahn is particularly interested in baleen, sperm, beaked and killer whales (Orcas), since very little is known about them from Indonesian waters.

The Sulawesi diving locations that Miguel’s Diving offers in the equatorial waters of Tomini Bay provide opportunities for cetacean sightings. We see whales annually and dolphins regularly, often during surface interval or on the trip back to town. Miguel’s Diving intends to follow the responsible code of conduct that APEX promotes, so that wild whales and dolphins are watched with minimal disturbance.

Our first report on the standard data sheet provided by APEX is about the sighting of two pods of Risso’s Dolphin (Grampus griseus) just a few meters from the wall where we dive. Over 25 dolphins in all were playing on the surface of the water one morning a few days ago. Some were even doing the ‘head-stand’ characteristic of this species.

It’s no wonder that Gorontalo is a prime location for diving in Sulawesi.

New Wreck Dive!

Because of its coral walls and deep oceans, North Sulawesi and the Togian (Togean) Islands are not known for wreck diving. This is even truer of Gorontalo?s southern coastline where depths fall almost immediately to several hundred meters. However, we found an excellent wreck while diving this morning.

On December 26, 1993 a dredging barge was towed to the entrance of the ferry port, so the small harbor area could be cleared of silt. However, rains and massive night waves sunk the barge. Workers tried to use 3,000 barrels to re-float it, to no avail. It currently rests firmly on the steep slope at the ferry port entrance almost up side down, still trailing cables and numerous barrels now enveloped in marine life. The wreck peaks at 4 meters and bottoms out at 25 meters. The barge?s bottom is only sparsely encrusted. But everything that hangs below is a maze of sponges and encrusting corals.Some large soft corals grow on the ends of hanging cable. As expected, the wreck has attracted much fish life in its ten years below, including lionfish, large sweetlips, various angelfishes, and batfish. The barge also hosts an unusually large number of Raccoon butterflyfish (Chaetodon lunula), a pair of large Mappa puffer (Arpthoron mappa), and mature Painted lobsters (Panulirus versicolor). Various thorny and cock?s comb oysters grown on its surface. There is even a Giant giant clam (Tridnacna gigas)! The uncommon Twinspot chromis (Chromis elerae) thrives in its underbelly, as do many cardinalfish species.

Miguel?s Diving can now offer this wreck dive an alternative to the spectacular wall diving typical of Gorontalo.

President Megawati Visits Gorontalo

President Megawati visits Tomini Bay
President Megawati’s October 2003 visit

On October 11th when President Megawati Soekarnoputri visited the waters off Gorontalo, she viewed underwater photographs. Miguel’s Diving staff felt honored to be invited by Fadel Muhammad, Governor of Gorontalo Province, to display two frames of photographs aboard the Indonesian navy vessel Tanjung Dalpere.

Photos from Friends

Several months ago, Paola Bearzi had eleven amazing photographs printed from the slide originals. She and her husband Massimo took these in Gorontalo earlier this year. They are actually the first underwater photos ever taken in Gorontalo. These beautiful prints were arranged in two large glass frames with subtitles in English, Latin and Indonesian. Both were displayed on the naval warship when everyone came on board. These included the president, her husband, three governors and several cabinet ministers, as well as other government officials and the press. Ceremonies were held in the waters of Tomini Bay off the Togian (Togean) Islands in in Central Sulawesi Province. The president inaugurated several government programs related to fisheries and coastal development. One new program is a vessel monitoring system. Its purpose is to insure that large fishing vessels have legal permits and are operating according to Indonesian law.

President Megawati’s Historic Visit

The presidential party actually arrived by helicopter. They landed on the flight deck of the navy vessel. After ceremonies on board, the president and other dignitaries boarded a smaller vessel to greet local people on the islands. The digital photo of President Megawati and her husband disembarking from the naval ship to return to Gorontalo is courtesy of Michel DeJean of Collecte Localisation Satellites. Merci beaucoup, mon ami!

One of the frames of underwater photos viewed by President Megawati is on display at baggage claim at Jalaluddin Airport in Gorontalo. The other is at the branch office for Miguel’s Diving in Gorontalo City.

Salvador Dali sponge identified

Salvador Dali sponge is our name for the strikingly beautiful sponge found in Gorontalo. However, we now know its proper scientific name, Petrosia lignosa.

Initial Discovery

In May 2003, Miguel’s Diving flew Massimo Boyer to Gorontalo to take underwater photographs. These photographs would begin our archives of local marine life. As a marine biologist based in Manado, Massimo quickly spotted marine life uncommon or missing from Bunaken Marine Park. Giant, strangely formed sponges grabbed his attention. He had never seen anything like them, although they could be easily found on Gorontalo’s pristine walls.

Salvador Dali sponge
A surreal Salvador Dali sponge

The sponge that so struck Massimo we called Salvador Dali. The surreal surfaces of this sponge reminded us of the Spanish painter by that name

Scientific Investigation

In order to discover the identity of this unusual sponge, we sent two samples to Nicole J. de Voogd. She was studying sponges at the Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, Zoological Museum, University of Amsterdam. The interior bodies of sponges are composed of mazes of microscopic spicules. Each sponge species has a unique pattern. After looking at the two samples we sent under a microscope, Nicole could identify our Salvador Dali sponge. It is Petrosia lignosa.

The genus name Petrosia actually means “stony hard.” When compared with other sponges, all Petrosid sponges are hard and rock-like. So far, Petrosia lignosa is known only from vertical walls in eastern Indonesia. It was first described in 1925 from the Togian Islands, south of Gorontalo. However, in other locations this sponge lacks the distinctive swirls found on our Salvador Dali sponges. As a result, Massimo stated that he had not observed any in Bunaken dive sites.

Salvador Dali mural
Enigma of Desire by Salvador Dali

No one knows why this sponge looks so surreal here in Gorontalo. According to Nicole, “Salvador Dali” would be a locally unique morphology of Petrosia lignosa.  

Gorontalo’s Salvador Dali sponge

The extensive vertical walls of Gorontalo host many fine examples of our Salvador Dali sponge. This sponge is usually found below 20 meters in deeper water. Divers will notice that the sponge starts from a small base and grows wide and large. This means the sponge becomes off-weighted. During seasonal storms, wave action can make a Salvador Dali sponge move back and forth. Since its base is not flexible, it can snap off and break. The giant sponge will die and turn to dust within a few weeks.

We took the samples Nicole saw from the Traffic Jam dive site. Both sponges live at 20 meters on a wall exposed to the open ocean. The smaller sponge is shaped like a squashed vase, measuring about 40 cm tall. It has light-colored skin. The other one forms a long tube or funnel and is almost one meter long with dark skin. Advanced divers can see larger ones below 30 meters. Sponge samples were taken in such a way as not to be noticed by passing divers.

To see a Salvador Dali sponge, please make your dive reservations and join us for some great diving. Thanks, Nicole, for your help. And our prayers for the safe delivery of your baby!

Changes in Flying after Diving Guidelines

The Flying After Diving Guidelines Workshop held in North Carolina, USA in May 2002 produced the following recommendations.These flying after diving guidelines apply to flights at altitudes between 600 meters (2,000 feet) and 2,400 meters (8,000 feet) and for divers without symptoms of decompression sickness. Following these recommendations does not guarantee that a diver will avoid DCS.

The New Flying After Diving Guidelines

For scuba diving within the no-decompression limits, the new recommendations are as follows.
Single dives: a minimum pre-flight surface internal of 12 hours is suggested.
Repetitive dives and/or multi-day diving: a minimum pre-flight surface interval of 18 hours is suggested.

For scuba diving requiring decompression stops, the new recommendation is:
A minimum pre-flight surface interval greater than 18 hours is suggested.

These changes to the old flying after diving guidelines are based on work by Buehlmann and Vann et al that suggests that immediate ascent to 600 meters (2,000 feet) altitude is possible with low risk of DCS. In light of this research, the US Navy in 1999 adopted more flexible guidelines.

Impact of Recreational Scuba Diving

PADI is incoporating these revised guidelines in its training programs.

The new guidelines are good news for guests of Miguel’s Diving who wish to get in two morning dives the day prior to boarding the morning flights the next day. Our typical dive and hotel package reflects the changes in these guidelines.

Sarasvati Anemone Shrimp – a New Species!

Sarasvati anemone shrimp
A Sarasvati shrimp sits on the edge of an anemone

Sarasvati anemone shrimp is actually a new species found in Gorontalo.

Life of a Commensal Shrimp

Life for residents of coral reefs can be hazardous. This is especially true for small marine life like shrimps. Some of the most beautiful ones find protection by living around the stinging tentacles of anenomes. These type of shrimps are called commensal. That is because they derive a benefit from the anemone, but neither help nor harm their host. The commensal shrimp most commonly seen while diving in Gorontalo turns out to be a new species!

The Beautiful Sarasvati Anemone Shrimp

This shrimp was named only last year after the Hindu goddess of the arts by Okuno. The Sarasvati anemone shrimp (2002) has purple-edged white spots on its transparent body. Its antennae are white and its claws are white with purple stripes. As with some other commensal shrimp species, it has a red band across each eye. Not all anemones in Gorontalo host this shrimp. Divers can also find it on mushroom corals (Heliofungia) and also bubble coral (Plerogyra sinuosa). Sometimes divers can see numerous Sarasvati anemone shrimps jumping around the tentacles of an anemone. More rarely, they will clap their “hands” to grab attention. These shrimp serve a cleaning function.

Sometimes divers see a butterflyfish or bannerfish hovering above an anemone. That often indicates commensal shrimps are grooming the fish for paracites. Come dive with us to see this goddess of artful beauty. Check out a dramatic close up photo by Steve Jones, taken here in Gorontalo.