The Stressful Short Life of the Pelagic Tuna Crab

The past few months the waters around the Channel Islands have been inundated with tiny little pelagic tuna crabs. These poor sea creatures are about 3 inches long, bright red and seem to live life within three feet of the surface. They float around just below the water’s surface, constantly working to evade death from above and death from below.

I got to see these little creatures on a dive last November, and felt so sorry for their stressful little lives. As they sink towards the bottom I watched fish flash up and and devour them. To escape that horror the little crabs would swish away towards the surface, where they’d get dive bombed by the circling sea gulls. There was no rest, there was no safety.

So here’s to the little pelagic tuna crab. May your short life be free from terrors above and below. May you ride the currents of the sea until that time when you become lunch.

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ID Insanity.

One of my favorite aspects of diving is looking up the fish and critters I photographed during the dive to learn what they are. While I’m not great at retaining the knowledge, especially with places I only visit infrequently (or just once), I enjoy knowing what I saw. I also try to log the names as keywords in Lightroom so I can reference them later.

Of course there are always those critters that don’t quite match the options available in my book and you start to wonder. Could it be? Maybe it’s? Hmm, I wonder….

Luckily for me, we live in a digital age, where I can upload a photo into google image search, add a keyword and bring up all the similar images floating around the interweb… mystery critter no longer!

This was the case for one of my nudibranch from the 2013 Anilao trip. In my book there were a few possibilities, but none of the photos matched. My nudi had white bumps when all of the pictures had orange or yellow bumps. Another species had major variation with either orange or white bumps, but I dismissed it because it still was not quite what I had seen. Turns out I was wrong. That last species was the winner, thanks to a google image search which brought up several matching nudis, more than one of which was labelled Phyllidia ocellata. While you can’t believe everything you read on the internet, I feel pretty confident that its a good ID. I guess I should have put more faith in the first two words on that entry in my Reef Creature Guide…. “Highly Variable”.

Hello Phyllidia ocellata.

Phyllidia ocellata

Phyllidia ocellata

Anilao Nudibranch Heaven.

Anilao is known as the nudibranch capital of the world and for good reason. Not only are you apt to find a nudi on every dive, but its very likely that you can find a different nudi on every dive (or several different nudi’s). In 2013 I got my first chance to dive Anilao, in Batangas, Philippines, as a trip leader for Bluewater Photo. Nervous, as it was my first time leading a trip… let alone my first ever international diving trip, it all ended up going very well. We had a great group of guests, really enjoyed the resort (Crystal Blue), and my co-leader, Ron, was excellent.

I had heard tales of the variety of life found throughout the Anilao region and had perused through some fish and invertebrate ID books prior to the trip but was still floored by the incredible biodiversity found on every dive. This region varies from beautiful coral reefs to seemingly barren, sandy muck dives. The knowledgeable guides really make the trip, as they know where to find unique critters and help you discover all the treasures hiding throughout the dive.

I love the various colors, shapes and sizes of nudibranchs found throughout the world and getting to dive in Anilao was amazing. Here are just a sample of what I saw throughout my (too short) week diving with the hundreds of nudibranchs in Anilao. (I tried to ID them properly, but if I am incorrect, let me know in the comments!)

Ranging in size from extremely small to bigger than my fist, one of the most enjoyable parts of diving in Anilao was searching for as many different nudibranchs as I could find. It was easy to spot the Choromodoris annae as they stand out and can often be found out and about. The better camouflaged ones were often spotted by the incredibly talented guides, who know where to look and what to look for. More often then not, the guide would point at a nondescript section of reef and it would take me a few moments before I could discern the nudibranch from the surrounding environment. These of course were often the most unique sightings, and usually the ones most difficult to photograph well.

One of my favorites from Anilao is the Chromodoris willani, which I dubbed “Sparkle Butt” as its gills were speckled and looked like they sparkled. In addition to that, the Ceratosoma alleni was incredible primarily for its size and unique shape, though easy to miss despite being nearly 5 inches long as it camouflaged well with the surroundings.

There are so many more incredible nudibranch and other critters from the Philippines, way too many for one simple post, but I figured this would be a great place to start.

 

Worlds Collide.

Worlds Collide.

The squid have come back to Los Angeles, with a huge squid run happening up and down the coast. Down at Veteran’s Park in Redondo Beach, thousands upon thousands of squid have been gathering to mate, lay eggs and die. Last night we ventured out to see them and I was amazed at how many squid were just swimming around down there. They couple up for the males to fertilze the females then eggs are laid in groups called baskets before the squid, life’s goal of procreating complete, simple die and become tasty food for all the other critters down there.

Electric Encounter.

One of the diving best days on Farnsworth Banks, off the back side of Catalina Island – clear skies, warm weather and water, with visibility stretching on and on and on! Among the many wonders this large ocean pinnacle holds we enjoyed a sighting of a Pacific Electric Ray – or Torpedo Ray. This guy was lazily swimming along and allowed us to approach, swim near and snap a few pics. These guys usually hang out at Farnsworth, in deeper water and can offer a bit of a jolt if you get too close!

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Close Encounters of the Shark Kind

One of my lifelong dreams has been reached, and it was fabulous. Swimming with sharks. Now it wasn’t Great Whites, or anything scary, but beautiful blue sharks. These animals are long, lean and graceful in the water with a temperment akin to a puppy. Curious, bright eyed and constantly moving, exploring and checking out each swimmer the experience of being in the water with one was incredible. We had two different blues, one about 9ft and another closer to 6ft, both stunning to encounter. In addition to these sleek swimmers was a rare sighting of a Salmon Shark, one that looks very similar to a young white, though with a larger rounded dorsal fin and differently shaped snout. The Salmon didn’t linger though, these sharks are not a curious as the blues and buggered out pretty quickly when people or the other shark showed up. However, it was still awesome to see them from the boat.

Before the sharks showed up we had a friendly sea lion hang out at the boat, this was great as he provided some great opportunities to test and fine tune the camera settings for the sharks!

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Luckily, after taking some test shots and enjoying the acrobatic antics of the sea lion, we didn’t have to wait long. About an hour and a half after getting out the Capt. let us know that lunch was ready. So of course.. that meant it was time for the sharks to show!! Jeremy the “handler” got in the water first, to help lure in the shark so that it will relax and stick around. This also is for safety so he can gauge the sharks temperament. Once given the OK, it was go time!

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One part of the day for the folks working on the boat was working with the shark. Below Jeremy uses gentle, knowledgeable touch to turn over the shark. This inverted position overloads their senses, putting them in a tonic like state. When done correctly, it looks really cool, and the sharks gets a chill overload.

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The day was incredible as I mentioned above. A day, I’ll always remember, and a trip I will gladly sign up for again!!

Long Time.

Hello dear readers! There are apparently some of you that haven’t given up hope in light of my silence over the last few months… there seems to be an average of a whopping 3 views per day with weird spikes like 112 views on Sunday, April 7th. Perhaps that was because I was supposed to dive, but it was cancelled for weather. Regardless, thanks to the faithful, I hope to earn your readership back as I plunge forward once more.

I apologize for the silence… its been a combination of things that have kept me from updating, namely Ironman training. What’s that you ask? Just a small little race of insanity that has completely overidden my life. (you can read all about my previous IM adventure here). Due to the IM training I’ve been in the water only a handful of times this year, and I’m surely missing it. We’re 10 weeks out from the race and things are ramping up. Work has been super busy as everyone starts gearing up for their summer holidays, however this little blog, and my joy of sharing my underwater photography activities has always been in the back of my mind. I have a little catch up to play, and I hope that I can get a few posts up here over these next 10 weeks, to revive this little site and keep sharing my favorites! Here’s a little sneak peek of what’s ahead…. so for now, hello! Goodbye! I promise it won’t be so long next time.

BB-Goby

This Blue Banded Goby was hanging out at Casino Point in Catalina. I used a Sola 800 Photo light with the red light on to be able to sneak up on him. Took this on a day I was out diving solo testing three new lenses for the store. It was a perfect day, with great visibility, calm conditions and lots of little fishes for my macro tests.

Up from the Deep.

I went out blue water diving with some friends a couple weekends ago and while we were shunned by any of the big stuff… no molas or other large pelagic life, we did see lots and lots of jellies. Small and transparent most of these would be hard to photograph on a normal dive. Since this was a blue water dive we were tethered to a line dropped off the boat and just floating along with the current. Drifting as such means that I only get about 30 seconds to compose, focus and shoot any passing jelly before the float past and out of my reach. This makes the dive more exciting as I tried to get a good shot, or even just a shot in focus. This was my second time out, and I was a bit more successful.