by Dr. Richard Smith. Marine biologist Dr Richard Smith reveals a local night spectacle that has given Japan’s Hachijo Island a new lease on diving life.
BY NIGHT, pitch-black waters the world over provide cover for an array of miniscule plankton that migrate up from the deep to feed. Hachijo-jima, a small volcanic island almost 300 kilometres south of Tokyo, emerges from deep waters that are bathed by the Pacific’s Kuroshio Current, making it perfectly positioned to access this vertical migration.
With little to keep them occupied in the evenings, an enterprising collective of dive shop owners on the island decided to devise a way of diving with these animals, coining the name “Hot Ke Night”.
As we walked the dimly lit breakwater of a small harbour in Hachijo, we could see a glow emanating from the waters off to the side. A couple of guides from other local shops had gone in ahead of us to install three powerful lamps on the sand. For the 20 or 30 minutes before we arrived, these attracted planktonic creatures from the deep and we simply had to swim towards the light and wait. The name for this type of diving, “Hot Ke Night”, is apparently a double entendre and roughly translated means, “Hachijo nights are very hot, so can’t be missed”. It’s become quite an obsession for the local guides, who go every night the weather allows. For us, an approaching typhoon meant this was our one opportunity so we had to make it count.