After seven enjoyable but tiring days of the trip, Raoul Island treated us to calm seas and sunshine today. The sea was bluer and the colours of the underwater world brighter. Some of that brightness was also contributed by some exciting new tropical finds.
We first shifted around the island to Boat Cove in the morning. The transit was slow so that we could enjoy the humpback whales that were also lolling about in the sun. There are so many, we couldn’t avoid them if we tried. Once in Boat Cove, the calm seas meant Braveheart could tuck in close to the rocky shores lined with Kermadec pohutukawas – familiar, but just a little bit different. Different enough to make seeing them in early bloom that much more special. Their flowers and leaves seem more diminutive and their branching more intricate than pohutukawa at home, particularly as they have been fashioned by prevailing winds to lie prostrate to the island in some places.
Our dive site started at the base of the slope leading from the pohutukawa-clad shoreline. As we gradually ascended the slope moving into shallower waters, the diversity of the reef increased. The calm conditions meant all the smaller fish, such as the yellow, blue and mauve Kermadec demoiselle and the New Zealand two-spot demoiselle were happily dancing above the reef without the surge tossing them every which way. Upon closer inspection, Tom noticed a third pretty little fish seen only once before in the waters of the Kermadec Islands. There were two small yellow, blue and black Vanderbilt’s chromis. In the absence of any other of its species, these two chromis had found company in a school of Kermadec demoiselles.
The surprises did not stop there in this delightful little bay. Moving over the grey and pink cobbles, several large bright yellow sunset wrasse were busily moving about. These wrasse have a distinctive tropical look about them, with iridescent pink dappled faces and mauve lined pectoral fins. And, last but not least, Tom noticed a small spotted wrasse dancing along the wall that met the island coastline. Upon return to the Braveheart, Tom keenly queried the tropical fish books to find it was a very young yellowdotted wrasse (Macropharyngodon negrosensis), never-before-recorded at the islands. And then another new record for the islands was a large scrawled filefish (Aluteres scriptus) that was trying to blend into the reef by lying very still against a rock. It seems this calm little southeast facing cove provides a haven for some of the more tropical residents of Raoul Island.
Today we felt spoilt by the calm, shiny weather and the treats of Boat Cove. It made ‘working’ on a public holiday a pleasure.