Sea Beasties, Waterlogged Wanderlust

Dive Days of (Almost) December

November 24, 2018  @ 11:25 & 13:16


It’s always a sad day when I turn my dive computer on and it tells me that my surface interval has been 34 days (really anything more than 24 hours is a bummer ha!). As the weather gets colder it becomes increasingly harder to find dive buddies that are willing to brave the cold with you…or just to get your schedules to work when the pool you can pull from is diminished. But Amanda and I managed to find a day that worked and what an absolutely gorgeous day it turned out to be!

In true New England style the air felt a solid 30 degrees warmer than the day before, where Thanksgiving was met with bone-chilling single digit temperatures. At 42ºF it made for a chilly entry and exit, but no teeth chattered and all fingers and toes could still be felt. High tide was at 11:30, so we decided to try Folly Cove first. The beach is made up of ankle breaking cobble stones and boulders which makes low tide entry a true balancing act. We chattered a little excitedly from the parking lot because it looks to be stellar conditions in the water – a slight south westerly wind smoothed out the surface and we could easily make out rocks and seaweed underneath. We got in and were aiming for the big ledge wall, but somehow got distracted and ended up smack dab in the middle of the cove on a big rock mound.

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Beautifully, clear (but chilly) New England waters!

But anyone who has heard me talk about diving will know that I love all things found under the sea, so being a little directionally challenged didn’t make for any less of a grand dive. The sand, upon first glance, seemed to only be disturbed by a few Sand Dollars and tiny Hermit Crabs, but if you looked a little closer, you’d have seen the eyes of many a crab hiding beneath the sand surface. Just a tiny change in the otherwise smooth sand lines. I was too busy being blinded by the bright sand to think to snag a picture of them, but they were there!

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The Common Sand Dollar (Echinarachnius parma)

There were also quite a few tiny little Moon Snails! You can find their shells closer to home, so they must be around, but I’ve only ever seen them alive (both big and small) on the Massachusetts coast.

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Slow moving Northern Moon Snail (Euspira heros)

I am notoriously bad at spotting sea stars and even worse at identifying them (except for the Blood Stars…those are easy!), but we found quite a few today! It must have been lunch time for the rock mound was littered with sea stars chowing down on the Common Slipper Shells (Crepidula fornicata).

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A Blood Star (Henricia sanguinolenta) on the left and a (maybe?) Northern Sea Star (Asterias rubens) on the right.
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(C) Amanda A
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We were two very happy divers today!

Along with the sea stars were countless Green Sea Urchins (Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis)…okay, maybe someone could’ve counted them all, but it certainly wasn’t gonna be me! Normally you see the palm sized ones congregated together, but today we also some quite a few small ones (like quarter sized)! Super cute little guys…though they apparently make a yummy meal for the crabs, many an Urchin was seen clutched in their claws.

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Urchin on Urchin on Urchin!
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Cute little Isopod (Idotea sp.)!

All too soon our fingers started to get cold, and with a second dive on the mind, we decided to call it and go warm up. I guess I should note that Amanda was rocking a drysuit and I had on my wonderful 7mm Fourth Element suit. So our bodies were decently warm, but photographers need functioning fingers! It thankfully was only mildly windy, otherwise it would’ve been a much colder exit. At Folly Cove you can’t park on site, you have to park a little ways down the road…imagine driving along and seeing someone in an all black suit with a big furry coat overtop…now imagine the look you’d give that person. I received a lot of those. haha.

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We moved the short distance over to Old Garden Beach – Amanda and I dove here over the summer and had a great time. This was no different! Just like Folly, the visibility was amazing and water temps were decent. At least, if you’re in the right exposure suits! I’m sure it would give you an instant ice cream headache if you weren’t suited up properly.

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One lone, feisty crab.

Unlike our last dive here, we decided not to cross the great sand expanse and instead opted to head over to the rocks straight away. We knew we had limited time and didn’t want to waste it swimming over a relatively barren wasteland of sand.

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Spotted lots of decent sized Clonal Plumose Anemones (Metridium senile)

Contrasting the summer, there was no kelp to be seen! Many of the holdfasts could be seen, standing up off the rocks like dead tree trunks. A blade or two was seen here or there, but nothing like the complete coverage we saw in July. It’s amazing how different a site can look between the seasons!

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Lots of brown holdfasts, but no kelp blades to be seen

We were slowly making our way around when I looked over to see Amanda excitedly pointing at something between the rocks. Now, as a general rule, anytime you see something cooler than a Spider Crab, you point it out to your buddy – especially if they have a camera. BUT it’s when you see the repeated jabs into the space below that you get excited. I swiftly moved over to where she was pointing and saw a HUMONGOUS Shorthorn Sculpin (Myoxocephalus scorpius), seriously, this thing was huge. Considering all I usually see are teeny tiny ones that are less than 3 inches long, this foot plus monster was a beast!

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Beautiful beast
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Underwater dragon maybe?
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Amanda taking the beast’s photo

I was hoping for a Sea Raven or a Lumpsucker…as they are still unchecked on my Critter’s To See list, but that Sculpin wasn’t a bad second choice!

Thankful for dive buddies who don’t mind the cold and absolutely gorgeous New England days!


25min |  45ºF (min) 47ºF (max) | 20.8ft (avg) 28.0ft (max) | 35/50 dives for the year

27min |  45ºF (min) 48ºF (max) | 12.9ft (avg) 21.0ft (max) | 36/50

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