This afternoon Mike Malone took me out for my USAKA-required check-out and orientation dive. First we pedaled down to the scuba tank house and selected our tanks. Along the way, Mike familiarized me with the lagoon dive sites and some of the features and wrecks there are to be seen. He told me about the flags that might fly above the Harbor Tower: a red flag means small craft warning; black and white pennant means the hyperbaric chamber is not available and diving is restricted to above 50').
Mike oriented me to the tank house. There are hundreds of scuba tanks in numbered racks. Each tank has a number and it goes into the rack slot that matches its number. We tested our tanks for a full fill and loaded them into Mike's Tipke Foldit Cart with Bike Trailer Attachment. Off to Emon Beach we rode.
Emon (I'm told it means "good" in Marshallese) Beach is about 50 feet from my front door. It is a lovely family beach with a volleyball court, large clean sandy beach, a pavilion for grilling and dining, restrooms, and a lifeguard tower that is staffed on weekends. The photo above is from Emon Beach.
Mike lent me some extra gear and we got suited up. The water temperature was about 82 degrees Fahrenheit, somewhat cooler than normal since we had a torrential downpour about two hours earlier. We waded in from the beach and floated out about 200 feet. Then down we went. There was a huge coral head at about 30 feet that was loaded with fish and fry. Attached to this coral head was an enormous carpet anemone. Along the way down the reef there were many more anemones. The thing I noticed was that the anemones were home to scores of clownfish. I am accustomed to seeing just one or two clownfish per anemone, so this was quite a surprise. The other unusual finding was the plethora of sea cucumbers littering the sandy bottom. The coral heads were teeming with a wide variety of small fish.
After a satisfying and relaxing dive (70' max. depth for 52 minutes) we rinsed off our gear in the fresh water tank and packed it back up. I was then introduced to Mike's wife and one-year old daughter. They live just one block from me, in similar quarters to mine. Mike will take the tanks back to be filled when he goes to work in the morning. It was a great experience for my first dive on Kwajalein.