If I hope to reach 100 dives before my 2-year scubaversary (October 17th), I need to get cracking on my weekend dives! So this past Sunday, Danielle and I headed out to Fort Wetherill (located in Jamestown, Rhode Island) for a chilly morning dive (seriously…I could see my breathe when I was outside…).
After saying our hellos and gearing up, we headed down to the water. Before my booties had touched the water, I noticed it looked decidedly different. Upon closer examination, I saw that the whole cove was covered in a thick, mat of gelatinous Salps, Sea Gooseberrys, and Sea Walnuts…and while that might sound like a recipe for a salty pie, they’re actually planktonic creatures (small to microscopic organisms that don’t actively swim against a current). We were very clearly wading through a bloom that was pushed into the cove by the incoming tide (for our second dive, when the tide was going out, the density had be severely reduced).
The salps (a free-floating tunicate) were the most fascinating (I’ve seen plenty of the other two during previous visits) – both Danielle and I agreed that we could skip the dive, watch the salps, and be perfectly happy. Salps resemble those little water beads you put in the bottom of a vase…barrel-shaped, jelly blobs. They were found both as a singular unit and as a long, colonial chain. It was one of those moments where I rued not bringing my camera…though any picture probably would’ve seemed out of focus due to their see-through bodies distorting the images behind them.
We decided to surface swim out for a bit, just to see if the density went down. Nope. Nada. So we signaled to descend and sank beneath the surface. Though the aggregation was thickest at the surface, we were still floating through jelly at 10 feet beneath the surface. Every time I glanced to the side to check on Danielle and then faced forward again, any exposed skin was bombarded with little jelly balls. A little disconcerting at first, but not as weird as the time a Sea Walnut got stuck between my regulator and my mask… Imagine what it looks like if you’re driving through snow with the white spots whizzing by or when the Millennium Falcon jumps into hyperspace…now image those spots and lines are little jelly creatures…that’s what it was like swimming through them. Granted, we were not swimming anywhere near the speed required to turn their bodies into streaked lines. 😛
We finished off a quick 20 minute dive in relatively clear and still very warm water (69ºF!). Spotted lots of fish, big and small, along with a massive sea star, colorful macroalgae, inverts, and a shy Needlefish (first time seeing one).
During our surface interval, Danielle and I went and hung out on the rocks. While making the trek over, I noticed distinct lines of “wet sand” that were peculiar. Looking closer, I realized they were more salps! Left on the shore by the receding tide, they created a slippy, gooey mess. Poor guys. Again, I didn’t think to take a picture of them…but I did manage to capture how beautiful the day and water was! Now 12 dives to reach 100…stay tuned. 🙂