Day Dive, Night Dive

Last night I did a combination late afternoon dive and night dive with my friend Andrew. The weather was supposed to be dicey, with rain and possibly thundershowers, but we lucked out; the rain held off until the end of the second dive, and there wasn’t any lightning at all.

We decided to do Back Beach in Rockport. The advantage of Back Beach, especially for a night dive, is that the entry and exit is easy, and you can park at the dive site. We met at 4:30 and were in the water for the first dive by 5:16. There is a small rocky outcrop visible from the beach, and we decided to head for that.

The bottom was kelpier (to coin a word) than I remember, at least the area we covered. I remembered Back Beach as having more of a sandy, stony bottom. There was lots and lots of kelp covering the bottom. We passed a few lobster traps, a couple in use, and one very obviously abandoned. We surfaced a couple of times to get our bearings; at one point, we’d worked our way around the jetty on the left and into the little embayment beyond.

Visibility was great – we could see for around 20 feet, which is awesome for New England. The temperature, on the other hand, was a frigid 50° for most of the dive.

We came out, and waited for nightfall. This time of year, when the sun starts to set, it sets fast. We swapped out our tanks, put lights on the tanks and a glowstick on the flag, and set up a Coleman lantern up on the shore as a beacon, and headed back into the water with the last of the light. The intent was to head out diagonally out of the beach towards bearskin neck.

Shortly after we started, Andrew flashed his light on the sand to get my attention, then pointed it into the water column, at a squid in mid water. I was able to get my strobe’s modeling light on it, but never got close enough to get a picture. After a few moments trying to set up an intercept course, I realized it was taking me away from Andrew and I gave up the chase without a picture.

One of the neat things about a night dive is the bioluminescence. Periodically, I’d turn of my lights, or hold them against my body, and wave my hand through the water and be rewarded with a swirl of green glowing dots. In fact, at times as we swum through the water, I’d see a stray glowing dot pushing past my mask.

The other neat thing is the animal behavior. We saw that squid, which Andrew had never seen before, and tons of baby lobsters. We never did see the big mother lobster on this dive, but I saw lots of little lobsters— the smallest was probably about three inches long, and many about six inches long. I also saw a couple of skates.

The water was noticeably warmer on the second dive. Still chilly, but 57° was warmer than 50°. Eventually, it was time to turn around. We started heading back, and eventually Andrew decided it would be wise to get our bearings. It was a good thing we’d left the lantern by the entrance; we were way by the jetty again. We got a fix on it, and went back down.

The tide had gone out quite a bit, and we were in standing depth quite a ways out from the shore. We surfaced, and started wading back in. It had started to rain moderately hard as we came in, and I’m not sure if the raindrops were catching our lights, or tripping the bioluminescence, but they seemed to light up the water as they hit the ocean. As w came out, we both had our lights on, and the lights drew a ton of small little fish—minnows, basically— trying to frantically get close to our lights as we came out of the water.