Palau’s Extreme Diving | JONATHAN BIRD’S BLUE WORLD

Palau’s Extreme Diving | JONATHAN BIRD’S BLUE WORLD

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Coming up! The Palau Adventure continues as Jonathan
braves the wicked currents of Peleliu corner for some big shark action! Welcome to Jonathan Bird’s Blue World! The Republic of Palau is an island nation
consisting of more then 500 beautiful, unspoiled islands in the Pacific. Camerawoman Julia and I have traveled halfway
around the world to visit this tropical paradise, exploring both above and below the water. Our diving this week will be aboard the Rock
Islands Aggressor, a luxury liveaboard dive yacht. Palau is located 500 miles east of the Philippines
in the middle of the Pacific Ocean—pristine waters for world-class scuba diving. We have already done some incredible dives,
and experienced some of Palau’s spectacular underwater wonders. We have visited coral caverns, found lots
of sea turtles, met a curious Napolean wrasse, and swam through walls and walls of fish over
healthy reefs. But one thing we haven’t seen much of: sharks. Yet Palau is known for its shark action. One of the only places we have seen sharks
so far is off the stern of the boat. Blacktip Reef sharks often approach large
boats looking for some free food. Fishermen often throw their scraps to the
sharks. So where are all the rest of the sharks? Well it turns out they like to hang out in
some places where the diving is not so easy. After a few days of getting used to the underwater
conditions, now our group is ready to take on a legendary dive site. We awake in a small protected bay off the
island of Peleliu in the southern part of Palau. Peleliu is notorious for being the site of
the bloodiest battle of the Pacific during World War II. Here, the United States and Japan fought for
control of this tiny island in a battle that took over 2 months. 13,000 men lost their lives. Remnants of the battle are everywhere. During the battle, American troops stormed
Peleliu Beach, now a peaceful lagoon. Just off the beach is Peleliu Corner, a reef
that juts out into the ocean with a steep dropoff. Extreme currents rip up and across this reef. And this is where we are diving. If the current is strong, we’re not going
to hook in, we’re just going to… The morning begins with a dive briefing and
we all need to pay close attention because this dive site can be dangerous. We can go to the corner, but we usually just
stay in shallows depths rather than just on the reef. But we’re ready! We drop into the water and quickly descend
to the reef, which is bathed in clear oceanic water. The divemasters have dropped us upstream from
the dive site, so we can drift with the current down to the perfect spot on the corner of
the wall. This part is easy. Once we reach the spot, we have to fight the
current to stay in position, and maneuver to our desired places. Once we get there, we do something quite uncommon
in scuba diving. We actually anchor into the reef with a short
line that has a hook on it. Then we flap in the current like flags. This actually does less damage to the reef
than having a bunch of people hanging on and kicking the coral. We float above the reef without any effort. And soon we have Gray Reef sharks around checking
us out. So why are they here? The strong currents bring nutrients and plankton,
which attracts large numbers of fish. They don’t mind the current. And that attracts sharks. Unfortunately because the sharks are here
for fish, they have little interest in us. So sometimes, they don’t come very close. But every few minutes a curious shark makes
a pass to have a look at us. Without the reef hooks, this dive would be
almost impossible–especially with a camera. The safest way to conduct this dive is to
keep the group together. So after a while, we all unhook at the same
time, and drift down the reef to be picked up by the boat. We pass a large school of jacks. And a Whitetip Reef shark. And then a huge school of fish comes by. These are Sailfin Snapper, also known as Blue-lined
Sea Bream. Astonishingly, these are normally solitary
fish. The only time they get together in schools
like this, is to spawn. And this school of fish seems to go on forever
like a river. But the shark action as it turns out, isn’t
quite over. Just as we are getting ready to ascend to
the boat waiting above, a huge shadow emerges from the blue. It’s a whale shark! She is not the biggest whale shark I have
ever seen, but whale sharks are extremely rare in Palau for some reason. And this is the first time most of the divemasters
have ever seen one in their lives. As she heads off into the blue, everyone is
a little disappointed. But I have been around whale sharks a lot. So I keep my camera ready. They often circle back for a look. And here she comes! I believe whale sharks are pretty intelligent
and truly curious. Of course when you see a whale shark, you
have to do a celebratory dance! Whale sharks are so rare that when we tell
the crew back on the Aggressor, they don’t believe us! Are you serious? They actually saw a whale shark? Are you serious? What did you see on the dive? Nothing! Whale shark! As we celebrate over lunch, Captain Ike drives
the boat out to open water on our way to the next dive site. Our next dive will be in the German Channel,
where we will experience what could be described as an underwater river dive. So we kneel down for a while, wait a little
bit… Soon we are on our way to another adventure
involving strong current. We begin the dive at the mouth of the channel
where the tide is pushing water up into the channel. With reef hooks in place, we wait for some
shark action. A few sharks pass by, but there isn’t too
much going on. So we unhook and do a drift dive with the
incoming current up the channel. The coral flies by and we don’t even have
to kick. Scuba Steve is impersonating a manta ray. When we pass a couple of giant clams, I tuck
out of the current to get a few shots. Even though giant clams are protected, it
takes a long time for them to get this big. Although they feed on plankton by filtering
it from the water with their siphons, they also collect solar power with the photosynthetic
symbiotic algae in their skin. Soon I continue on my extremely strenuous
dive, making my way back to the boat. Zooming at high speed back towards the Aggressor,
Captain Ike spots something in the water off the port side of the tender. A huge pod of dolphins is converging on us
quickly. Dolphins love to play in the bow wave of boats. It’s their version of surfing. Zach runs to the bow to catch the action with
a GoPro! I can’t believe he even got an underwater
shot! Soon we get too far from their stomping grounds,
and the dolphins turn back. And we return to our floating palace! The currents of Palau can be challenging,
but the rewards are worth the effort. You never know what you might see. But not all the amazing things in Palau require
diving in heavy current. The battle of Peleliu created quite a few
shipwrecks that we will explore in the next episode of our Palau Adventure! Stay tuned! Hey everyone! Thanks for watching our latest episode all
the way to the end. Hit that subscribe button now so you won’t
miss our next episode. And check out our new second channel, Blue
World Plus, for some awesome behind the scenes, vlogs and extras!


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