No, no photos this time. I really must get myself one of those waterproof housings, but until I do, we're stuck with wordy descriptions.
Highlights: I'm finally comfortable enough with the diving to stop consciously thinking about the process, and enjoy the diving. Buoyancy is right, gear is ok, so I spent most of the dives indulging my curiosity. Since there weren't many big fish around, I spent an inordinate amount of time staring at these christmas tree worms (found some pictures on someone else's flickr page), wondering if they had eyes/were light-sensitive or whether their defensive reaction (to withdraw into their tubes) was motion-based. Yes, I could Google that. But dive boats don't have internet connections, and anyway, I was curious.
My conclusion? Motion-sensitive: moving a hand over them to block the light causes no reaction, unless it's close, and shining a dive-torch at them at night, and then blocking the light, also causes no reaction - unless the movement is near. It's possible they have both, but the defensive reaction is triggered primarily by movement. You have to be about 20cm from them before they react, and it takes about 1 minute before they extend their feathery gills again. They usually extend them in slow stages, the same way snails would re-extend their eye-stalks after you poke them - a little bit first, then after the presumed predator does not bite anything off, the rest comes out.
Speaking of gear, I managed to repair the dive mask. The first few dives were tentative, with me bringing a spare mask down and having to replace masks halfway through due to continued flooding, but a little tinkering here and there with tightening the screws and the mask worked out fine. I finally figured out that the mask has to be worn really low on the face because the rubber seal is really short under the nose, and that a lot of flooding was happening through that part of the mask.
Low-points: getting seasick after the second last dive, primarily because they sent the dinghy after us, and sitting in that little zodiac was like the worst of all those assault boat rides back in the army. I had to sit out the last dive, but did manage to spend the time taking some video footage of Sea Eagles diving for fish.
On that last dive I made, we also found a moray eel trapped in an abandoned fish trap. We managed to rip a hole in the wire mesh, and tip the trap over, but the eel wouldn't come out. Blind as bats these things are, and it's hard to see wire mesh anyway, so we had to leave it, being low on air (it figures that you'd find these things with only 60 bar of air left), and hoped that it eventually found its way out. (A while later I found myself wondering whether the fish trap might not have been an ideal situation for the moray: fish would regularly get trapped inside and not be able to escape, and the moray did look quite healthy). I almost got to use my dive knife (Christmas present from the wife last year, an excellent thing , titanium and all) when we needed to cut through the rope, but Gary, our dive leader, was quicker on the draw with his handy little knife and had sawed through the rope before I even got my knife out. What we both lamented was that neither of us had wire cutters to open up the fish trap more - but it's hardly common practice for recreational divers to carry wire cutters.