Sea Beasties

Two Years Under the Sea

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Top Left: 2014 SECONN Pumpkin Dive. Bottom Left: 2015 one-year celebration. Right: 2016!

It has been seven hundred and thirty-two days since I took my first dip under the ocean surface. Sadly, I did not manage to fit in the last ten dives in my quest for 100 before year two. But such is life. However, I did celebrate with one dive yesterday and two today!

When I find something I love and am passionate about I always want to share it with others. Sometimes that is accomplished through stories…like my frequently told story about getting bulldozed by a horseshoe crab (seriously…those dinosaurs can move when they want to!) or that time a giant lobster crawled off a rock, onto the back of my legs, and then disappeared into the dark (talk about a freaky sensation)…but today those of you who requested pictures of my adventures will be rewarded! For I finally remembered to bring my camera AND it was a fun dive AND I was not in charge of the flag…aka I could float about as I wished and follow whatever creature caught my eye. I wish someone had taken pictures of me taking pictures…I am positive that I was floating in some funky positions. haha. Though, this dive also just made me wish I had a better underwater camera…but I am still very happy with what I have! So without further adieu…here are some of the pictures I took on tonight’s dive (and since I’m posting this wayyyy late, just know what I give dates, it wasn’t this week haha).

While leaving the water on Sunday, I noticed a perfectly circular blob of goo on the beach. I tapped it with my shoe and it felt fairly firm…while I wanted to poke it some more, dive gear can be fairly heavy post-dive. So I noted it and left. Sharon mentioned that she had seen a strange jellyfish floating in the water, so I did some searching around. What I came up with to explain both sightings was a Crystal Jelly (Aequorea victoria) – however everything I have read (except a jellyfish watch guide by URI) on them says they are a western coast creature. So after further research (aka I pulled out my handy dandy Marine Life of the North Atlantic ID book), I’m more inclined to believe that it is actually a Many-Ribbed Hydromedusa (Aequorea forskalea), but I could be wrong. In any case, I found a dead one floating in the water first thing on Monday and got to examine it a little closer. All the the delicate identifying parts (tentacles, mouth, etc) had been stripped away leaving a clear disk behind. If I didn’t know better, I’d think it was a silicone disk…for it felt nothing like what you would imagine a jellyfish to feel like. (sidenote: it could also be Rhacostoma atlanticum due to the presence of those rows of tiny bumps…but again, who knows haha). And there IS a picture…it just refuses to load…

In all of my dives, I’ve super good at finding small creatures, but the larger ones tend to evade me. Specifically skates. I think I’ve seen maybe six. The first dive on Monday I was with Sharon and two of her students…and one of the students spotted not one skate, but two! Both were male Winter skates (Leucoraja ocellata). You can tell because like their classmates, the sharks, they have pretty obvious claspers once they reach sexual maturity (I got a blurry picture of the second one fleeing the scene…but it also refused to load).

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He, unlike his counterpart, was patient enough for me to take a semi-clear photo.

Sharon is an ace at finding creatures, I don’t think anything escapes her watchful eye. Hidden underneath the overhand of a delinquent lobster pot was this Forbes’ Sea Star (Asterias forbesi), I didn’t want to interrupt his meal, so I snapped a picture and swam on. dscf4828-e

We surfaced after a twenty-minute dive to the beginning of a beautiful sunset. These pictures do not do it any justice. After a windy Sunday dive (aka choppy and wavy), it was a nice change of pace to have such calm surface waters.

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Sharon, my awesome (and unwitting) model.

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The setting sun was a GORGEOUS blood red, this really does it no justice.

After the students left, we waited around for the sun to set and set out on a night dive (my favorite)! Two minutes into the dive and Sharon spotted a cute little Grubby…but I hadn’t figured out how to work the settings on my camera yet…so good luck spotting it. 😛

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Diving at night is a totally different creature than diving in the light…everything is black and fades into a green halo around divers and their lights. It’s not quite as eerie as some of these pictures make it look…the human eye can capture far more light than my tiny point and shoot.

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Everything takes on a different look at night including this seaweed (Sargassum sp.). They use holdfasts attached to rock or secure substrate and float up through the water column…and seem to appear out of nowhere at night.

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Ctenophores are some of my favorite underwater critters. And they are SUPER hard to capture in a picture. Seriously, I can’t tell you how many photos I took before one came out okay. Seems like an alien being beamed to the mothership, eh?

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Keep in mind that on a night dive your sight is limited by the width and depth of your light beam…but by some miracle, I managed to see this itty bitty Box Crab scurrying around out of my peripherals! He was probably pretty close to the size you see on the screen. (You’re looking at the back of him, the two white spots are his eyes).

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And now for the star of the show…the Longfin Inshore Squid (Loligo pealei)! They hover about like alien spaceships until you spot them, then they quickly dart this way and that. Usually we spot them in small squads, but the couple we saw this night were apparently loners. While he was patient enough for me to snap his picture, he very quickly disappeared into the darkness.

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Because what good dive blog wouldn’t have a picture of bubbles? Next time I’ll try to get some bubble rings…I’m not on Gandalf’s level, but I make a get a pretty sweet ring.

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Another picture of the awesome green water of New England.

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Very rarely do I see jelly fish on my dives, though I’m told that everyone else sees them. This weekend I saw quite a few! Including this Lion’s Mane Jellyfish (Cyanea capillata).

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This guy was apparently dinner for a couple Spider Crabs (Libinia emarginata). There were half a dozen or so chowing down while we watched. So in case you wondered what eats a jellyfish…now you know.

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Look at this teeny tiny Sea robin (Prionotus sp.)! He was the length of my middle finger (I had to use one hand for my light and the other for the camera, otherwise I’d have put my hand there for comparison).

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Another squid! This guy was stuck between the four divers and was quite unhappy about it. But I got some sweet pictures! I didn’t manage to capture it, but he was flashing the white and red at us.

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Interrupted this pair of Rock Crabs (Cancer irroratus)...not sure they were too happy about it.dscf4926-e

There were quite a few Channeled Whelks (Busycoptypus canaliculatus) slowwwly moving about. We definitely swam over this guy twice…and I definitely took the same photo twice. haha. These guys are large predatory snails…but don’t worry, unless you are a worm, crustacean, or mollusk, you won’t be on the menu. You might find them, however, on yours! Check out this article about the fishery in New England.

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While I was busying hanging over a rock and looking at what might be below, I saw lights being waved at me…the signal for “Hey! Come look at this!”. I peeked over the other side of the rock and saw this adorable little Bandtail Puffer (Sphoeroides spengleri)!  Again, he was a little thing…probably about the length of my hand.

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Spotted this beautiful Purple-Spined Sea Urchin (Arbacia punctulata) right next to a Northern Star Coral (Astrangia poculata), amidst a bed of bryozoans, whelks, and worms! The is SO much to see if you take the time to really look at what’s covering the rocks and sand.

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Finally, an end to the dive. Which was good, because I was cold. 😛

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Post-dive I went home, grabbed my ID books and went to work. I’m trying to memorize the scientific names (which is why they were all included). I didn’t even both to shower…#priorities. I’ve been told that knowledge is power…who needs to have salt-free hair? 😛

 

Reference and ID books are my jam.

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