After spending five marginally fun or downright miserable days in Neiafu, we are now back with our comrades Oso Blanco and Totem where every day is truly a new adventure. We are back to the usual routine of snorkeling, spearfishing and exploring each new reef. The reefs here harbor tremendous biodiversity with many new faces and numerous color changes on old faces compared to the reef life at Suwarrow or the Society islands. Also the Southern ocean Humpback population is here for calving season and many whales can be seen spouting in close to shore.
Yesterday we heard from a local Tongan man that snorkeling on the reef at night is often very productive for catching lobsters. Until now we have not done much night snorkeling on the outer reef because that's when the Tiger sharks come in to forage. Of all the close shark encounters we have had so far, that's not one I'm willing to risk. However, we were assured by this local that there are no big sharks at this location at night, so off we went, lobster spears and flashlights in hand. The reef we were perched on was on the outer side of all the Tongan islands and abruptly drops off to over 1000 meters (3000 feet) deep. Eric, Jamie and I entered the dark water and snorkeled around a bit enjoying the night reef life. An abundance of nocturnal squirrelfish, pufferfish, seafeathers (crinoids) and shrimp were about, but clearly no lobsters were to be seen. While at the surface of the water you can hear both the water splashing on your head and your breathing through the snorkel, while at depth during a dive, there is only the sound of the reef, that being mostly the snap-crackling of the snapping shrimp. However, on this night while holding your breath underwater, you could clearly hear the billowing song of the Humpback whales that were not so far off in the distance.
As we ended our snorkel and approached the dinghy, the three of us turned off our lights and just floated above the moonlight reef. There, on the edge of that abyss, we hung weightless, while basking in a personal concert of whale-song as it was carried off into the ocean deep.