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2015/07/20 Submarine Rides in Cocos with DeepSee Sub
π 2015-07-20 00:00 in Diving



As part of our trip on the Argos in Cocos Island, we signed up for 2 dives on the onboard sub from DeepSee submarine that is part of the boat (although sub dives do cost extra :) ).
The sub is a 3 person sub (pilot and 2 passengers), has 3 different battery systems, and the equivalent of a rebreather system for the cabin to give occupants breathable air for 3 days in case of emergency. While it has full freedom of movement, it's not very fast for horizontal trust, so it gets towed by the surface boat which also keeps constant comms (both voice and telemetry). The cool thing is that they can send location to the sub underneath by locating it compared to the boat's GPS location using sonar.

After arriving Cocos on the Argos and doing some dives on the first day, the second morning we went for our first dive to 100 meters. The whole thing was almost 2H.
A few pictures below:

Diana, our pilot
Diana, our pilot

the surface boat crew supervised the sub going down and back up
the surface boat crew supervised the sub going down and back up



it was bullying us, even though we were bigger :)
it was bullying us, even though we were bigger :)

distortion made it looks like it jumped inside (not photoshopped)
distortion made it looks like it jumped inside (not photoshopped)

some hammerhead sharks buzzing us
some hammerhead sharks buzzing us


back from the first dive
back from the first dive

A few short clips from my camera:

And a 6mn summary of the whole thing taken from my gopro (feel free to skip forward inside it, it's not action packed :) ):

The next afternoon, we went back for a longer 3H+ dive to 300 meters. We got lucky to see Rays swimming around us during the dive, and had a peek at the ocean bottom and the critters that live there in virtually no light:




200 meters deep
200 meters deep

300 meters deep
300 meters deep

rays were checking us out during a good part of the dive
rays were checking us out during a good part of the dive

deep sea crab working in mostly dark seas
deep sea crab working in mostly dark seas

Here are some videos of the rays going around us during the dive:

And 7mn summary of the 3h dive:

So, my impressions?

  • It's obviously an experience in a lifetime, not many people have gone to 300 meters under water
  • As a geek, of course, I could not but be impressed with the sub. It's super cool see it work, especially if you think about the geolocation technology, marine com technology, and how it can even know how it's moving compared to the ground thanks to 4 sonar pings going down and using the doppler effect on the returning signal.
  • Taking pictures was difficult because the dome acts as a big prism that splits light colors and makes all pictures somewhat blurry, especially if you try to zoom. The one exception are pictures you're taking without external lighting (mostly pictures above you) which since they're mostly blue, don't have the light splitting problem and look nicer.
  • And the crew was fantastic
  • Definitely glad we got to do this:



    2015/07/17 Diving Around Cocos Island with Argos
    π 2015-07-17 00:00 in Diving
    Cocos is interesting and different, starting with the fact that it requires a 36H trip each way to get there (no runways and too far to get via helicopter). We chose the Argos since it was part of the dive alliance, which contains the best boats in each location, and because they had a special research trip chartered by TIRN (Turtle Island Restoration Network) that was longer than usual (9 days of diving and 3 days travelling).

    We got the chance to get talks from Todd and Randall about their efforts to save turtles and sharks from overfishing, fishing bycatch, and illegal shark fining. Brock, who volunteers or has volunteers and multiple such organizations, including Sea Shepherds, also joined us. They have been responsible for so much work to help sea life along the years that it was great to learn about it, even if much work still needs to be done. You can read more on the seaturtles.org, Pretoma, and Sea Shepherd sites.
    They organized this trip to tag some sharks and turtles (to see their migration patterns and help keep zones fishing free to hopefully help curbing their clear decline) as well as take some tissue samples from some sharks.

    We also did 2 submarine dives to 100 and 300 meters respectively, as explained on this page

    Here is the map of what we dived (3 dives a day and just a few night dives):

    Argos is a big converted boat with a crane to move skiffs and the submarine on and off the boat:


    the inside was spacious enough
    the inside was spacious enough



    The crew kept us well fed :)



    Of course, we were there to dive. Argos had some nice skiffs:



    Cocos was full of sharks, and mostly fish that sharks don't eat, like lots of puffers, boxfishes, and porcupine fishes (they are all poisonous):
    When these two have sex:


    with those two:



    You get this :)



    porcupine fish
    porcupine fish


    this one actually looked pissed off :)
    this one actually looked pissed off :)

    boxfish
    boxfish


    this one is "hunting" by blowing on sand to look for things:

    This shows sharks bumping into a poor puffer fish and confirming that they don't want to eat it:

    Lots of eels, mostly moray eels that have an understanding with sharks, and don't get eaten either:




    they always look mean, but this one genuinely seemed to be
    they always look mean, but this one genuinely seemed to be

    this one looked mellow
    this one looked mellow

    and had nice bloodshot eyes
    and had nice bloodshot eyes

    Plenty of other eels:





    Same thing with triggerfish, some of which were quite colorful:



    And same thing with rays too, from marble rays, eagle rays, and mobula rays, some were bigger than sharks:










    whitetip sharks mating:

    Interstingly, sharks didn't seem to eat flounder fish either:


    Hell, they don't even eat lobster, they really go after the easy prey:

    Lots of sharks, many many whitetip sharks:








    this shark had an old tag
    this shark had an old tag


    Of course, there were plenty of hammerheads, but we're told not nearly as many as there used to be, unfortunately thanks to illegal shark finning, sadly a lot came from Taiwanese boats :(









    Usually we got to see hammerheads at cleaning stations. Here, you can see the barberfish which act as cleaning fish. The hammerheads find them and swim in the middle of them:

    Other sharks:

    a tiger shark, those are huge and eat turtles amongst other things
    a tiger shark, those are huge and eat turtles amongst other things

    silvertip
    silvertip

    The night dives were 'interesting'. Sharks followed us to feed. That was impressive and sad for the fish being eaten:



    But we found some crabs and lobsters, and even a slipper lobster:






    On a couple of dives, some wild dolphins came to check us out:





    We got to see several huge schools of fish, mostly jacks:









    Other misc fishes:










    those fish change color from black to white
    those fish change color from black to white


    Also, some jelly fishes:


    One day we went on the island for a short hike:


    a collection of fishing hooks collected by the rangers
    a collection of fishing hooks collected by the rangers

    the coast to coast hike which unfortunately we were not allowed to do
    the coast to coast hike which unfortunately we were not allowed to do



    this bridge was made with confiscated fishing gear
    this bridge was made with confiscated fishing gear





    And here are a few pictures taken from the dive boats:




    lots of small volcanic islands
    lots of small volcanic islands

    Of course, lots of birds, mostly boobies and frigate birds:








    Unfortunately the location of our boat prevented viewing any sunsets, and I didn't catch any sunrise, so I got this:




    Unfortunately, we didn't get to see any turtles, having over 63,000 turtles fished and killed per year just in Costa Rica waters, by long line fisheries (thousands of hooks on multi kilometer lines strung under water).
    Also, what doesn't help either that tiger sharks have become more abundant in Cocos and like to eat turtles :(

    But this was a great trip, 9 days of nice diving, plus 72 hours traversing to Cocos and back :)

    100_Saturation 101_Saturation 102_Saturation 103_Saturation
    2015/07/15 Costa Rica Day 6-8: Monte Verde and Santa Elena
    π 2015-07-15 00:00 in Costarica2015, Trips
    After getting back to La Fortuna to return our rental car, we took a transport to Monte Verde, which took a little while. We arrived at our hotel (hotel Belmar) just in time to have dinner and plan for the next day. We elected to go to Sky Adventures earlier than our planned time so that we got time to go to an insect and butterfly sanctuary afterwards, and then do a coffee tour at Don Juan before doing our night tour at El Bosque Reserve.

    view from our room
    view from our room

    We started with hanging bridges and a nature tour:




    trying out vines for strength :)
    trying out vines for strength :)





    Next, was ziplines:












    Next, we went to the insect and butterfly sanctuary:











    Jennifer got a friend during the tour :)
    Jennifer got a friend during the tour :)

    Arturo too
    Arturo too









    From there, we went to our coffee and chocolate tour at Don Juan:






    coffee
    coffee

    cocoa beans
    cocoa beans




    Then, we went to our night tour at El Bosque:






    The next morning, we got up early to go to Santa Elena for a bird tour in a high forest, but we got rained out, so we didn't see much :(






    From there, our transport took us to Puntarenas to meet our boat going to Cocos Island.

    2015/07/13 Costa Rica Day 4-6: Cano Negro River, Celeste, Tenorio Volcano NP
    π 2015-07-13 00:00 in Costarica2015, Trips
    After time around Arenal, which wasn't ideal, Arturo had reserved a car in la Fortuna, and we drove to Cano Negro for a boat tour around the river going into the lake. We got to see nice wildlife, which while it mostly was birds, included some monkeys. The roads there were iffy at times.


    the roads sucked
    the roads sucked



    termites
    termites








    those bats were awesome, almost impossible to distinguish from the bark
    those bats were awesome, almost impossible to distinguish from the bark








    Eventually we got to our nice eco-hotel:





    yummy dinner
    yummy dinner


    The next morning, we went to Tenorio Volcano NP for a guided hike on muddy trails after a nice breakfast:



    those leafcutter ants have been busy :)
    those leafcutter ants have been busy :)

    I was happy to have rented mud boots
    I was happy to have rented mud boots

    very nice green-blue
    very nice green-blue

    you can see the volcanic water mixing with the river and causing the nice blue
    you can see the volcanic water mixing with the river and causing the nice blue








    Next, we went to a river to due tubing. It was a bit more extreme than normal tubing with lots of rocks to avoid, and low branches here and there, and we saw a huge tree on the way:











    We then drove back to our hotel and went for a hike and night hike on celeste trail:













    The 3rd day, we had to drive back to Fortuna but Arturo found a cool cave we could go visit on the way, and we got lucky to find 2 sloths while driving there. One had 3 toes, and the 2nd one had 2 toes and a baby:






    Usually sloths are very very slow, but we found this mother that was going fast across phone cables to get to the safety of a tree

    Finally we got to the cave where we got a guide and photographer. That cave tour was really nice, it was quite tough to get through some holes, and challenging not to get my flashlight or camera under water in some crossings (some had to be done on my knees). That was definitely an experience you wouldn't get in many other places, and definitely not in the US where some tourists would get stuck or be physically unable to get through some passageways, and likely complain bitterly and/or slip, fall, and try to sue :-/
    Thankfully this kind of stuff is still possible in Costa Rica, so that's what we did :)


























    the frog was guarding its eggs
    the frog was guarding its eggs

    you can see the eyes on those tadpoles
    you can see the eyes on those tadpoles


    We then just had enough time to go back to La Fortuna for our transport to Monteverde.

    2015/07/10 Costa Rica Day 1-3: Arenal
    π 2015-07-10 00:00 in Costarica2015, Trips
    After arriving in San Jose (yes, we would have liked to have a flight from San Jose, to San Jose, but we got SFO to San Jose via Houston instead :D), and a night at hotel aeropuerto, we took our transport to Arenal.
    Arenal is a geothermic area that's supposed to be a highlight in Costa Rica, but during the rainy season, it's obviously very rainy. That said I think for our group it just wasn't a highlight because we've all seen better volcanos and much better sceneries, but oh well...








    We went to the volcano national park, but unfortunately the rain started and then got really bad, so we didn't see much and got pretty wet:


    the path ended up with a stream that was almost knee-high
    the path ended up with a stream that was almost knee-high


    view wasn't great
    view wasn't great



    The next day, we went on a kayak and mountain biking tour. Thankfully we only got light rain during the kayaking, but we didn't get to see many animals, outside of one at the parking lot:








    Since we didn't get to see that much, we went to the Hanging Bridges Park where we took a naturalist guide to help us spot wildlife:











    tarantula
    tarantula








    Leafcutter ants are super cool. They cut and bring back leaves to their nest to cultivate a fungus which they eat afterwards.



    the leafcutter ants worked hard :)
    the leafcutter ants worked hard :)

    After our day, we got back to our room to enjoy the towel art :)


    The third day, we had a hike to the top of a point where the volcano erupted, then collapsed, and is now filled with a big lake. Thankfully the rain stopped as we started our hike and we got decent enough views. The trail was very rough though and I'm not certain it's a must do hike, just an ok one:





    we got lucky and got a good view
    we got lucky and got a good view


    did I mention the trail is bad?
    did I mention the trail is bad?



    After the hike, we went down to an impressive waterfall (especially with all the rain we had gotten). That one was worth the trip:







    We then had a quick stop at La Fortuna to pick up our rental car to enjoy our towel art:



    See more images for Costa Rica Day 1-3: Arenal
    2015/07/02 Biking up to Ridge Winery and Picchetti for picnic
    π 2015-07-02 00:00 in Exercising
    We hadn't done biking in a while, so we decided to fix that:





    Then we went back down to Picchetti winery for a tasting and picnic:






    Then, there were chicken walking around, so I grabbed one :)



    2015/06/28 Speed Ventures at Laguna Seca, 105db
    π 2015-06-28 00:00 in Cars
    After 5 years of not having been able to go to Laguna Seca due to their sound restrictions on most day, I heard that Speed Ventures was putting out an unlimited (enough) 105db day (my car is around 96db from what I know).

    I had hired a professional racer as a coach for the day since I hadn't been to Laguna in 5 years and I figured it would save me some time relearning the track and it would be good having someone tell me whether I was braking too hard and too late, or not (he said I wasn't).

    I bought 2 sessions back to back, so I had 40mn, and sadly my gas tank isn't actually quite big enough to do 40mn, so I had to exit a few laps early to avoid running out of gas on the track. I got 3 of those sessions (about 90mn) and my brake pads ran out after 20mn in another session after that.
    Considering they were over 80% when I started the day, that was vexing, but thankfully I met someone who told me about 3rd party CCM pads that can stand track heat better and won't wear out as quickly. I'll be trying that next.












    Thanks to Joon, I got a few nice pictures in the corkscrew. Thankfully he was able to ride with me one session before my brakes ran out.




    Here is my last and best session just before the brake pad gave a wear warning (I then stopped right away to hopefully avoid destroying the rotor). Many 1:41 laps, although my timer says choosing the right points, I apparently did a single 1:40:x, and putting all the best track sections together, I ought to be able to do 1:38:x:

    Turns out the rear facing videos were actually useful to see after the fact both when I should have been quicker to point some people by (I did, but not fast enough for some), and also see where people behind me were gaining on me. Thanks to that, I saw plenty of turns where I wasn't familiar enough with the track and was slowing down too much instead of keeping speed through them. It's pretty obvious when people farther behind me end up on my bumper right before the corkscrew for instance. Anyway, here's the session I did with Joon:


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