24 Sep 2012

A Nocturnal Underwater Escapade (with Octopi!)

Is that a collective sigh of relief I hear? "She's finally showing us the night dive!" Well, yes in fact, I am! Sorry it took me so long... busy, busy, busy! And yes, part of the excuse is more diving! Plus there's the fact that although editing video clips with iMovie is fairly straightforward, it takes an awful lot of time! :p

Enough bla-bla-bla! You guys are here to see the Mediterranean come to life AT NIGHT!!! Today's dive program: a visit to "Las Piedras", a dive spot just outside the marine reserve of Tabarca (island in front of Alicante). It's a sweet spot because it's basically just like inside the reserve, but you don't need to ask for permits to dive there! Plus it's not deep (max 15m so ~49ft) so you can enjoy a nice long dive without having to worry about running out of air or entering deco. The name pretty much says it all: "Las Piedras" = "The Rocks". There are several huge rocks just sitting in the middle of a lush Posidonia oceanica prairie, and they serve as a home to a denizen of aquatic critters and plant-life. Some you'll spot easy enough during the day... but others only come out to play at night! ;o)

Ok, first off a reminder of what Posidonia oceanica looks like:


You guys do remember that P.oceanica is a seagrass and not algae, right? If not click here for a marine biology refresher. ASAP! We'll wait for you...


At night most of the various fish we see during the daytime are sleeping. Some we never see (I have no idea where they sleep), while others hover just above the rocks or laying on top of them. Like these little red scorpionfish Scorpaena notata:


Those guys are so abundant around there I barely blink any more when I see one! But they do remind me that I need to be careful as to where I put my hands... they've got some scary needles in those fins!


Before jumping in the water, my friend and I joked that now that I'd finally brought my camera, no way were we going to see any sea hares! Murphy's law and all that... Well HA!!! Gotcha!!! Not as many as during our previous night dive (which was a festival of sea hares, including some swimming through the water), but at least 5-6 happily grazing on the algae stuck on the rocks! :o)

"Don't mind me, I'm just hanging around" :p

Aplysia, or sea hares, are the largest nudibranchs present in the Mediterranean (these guys were approximately 20cm). Basically they're giant sea slugs! :p


But much as I'd looked forward to finally getting a few Aplysia shots, the Star of the night were the Octopi!!! 


Octopus vulgaris, the eight-legged cephalopod which hides in a hole during the day, but comes out to hunt at night (read more here). Active defense mechanism? A cloud of black ink which will confuse its predators allowing it enough time to make a getaway. But it's also got a more subtle "cloak of invisibility": camouflage! These guys are really good at changing their pigmentation to match the surface they're on. Don't believe me? Check out these three photos of the same octopus (different from the one above) taken within a single minute:


Cool! Right?


More scenes from that night? How about a lovely Sea Fan hidden away in a crevasse where its delicate branches are protected:


Sea fans, or Gorgonia, are cnidarians (related to corals, anemones, jellyfish...) that form colonies from thousands of individual polyps, each one stretching out its tentacles to collect organic matter from the water around it.

zooming in on the polyps

Speaking of anemones, this has got to be my favourite picture of the night:


Isn't that gorgeous?! NO flash!!! Kind of an accidental shot, couldn't repeat it... Flash-less photography is harder at night than in the day since it's so dark... But although a bit blurry the shots tend to look really eerie and cool! Here's what she looks like with flash:


That's all folks! It's been an hour down here... but before we head back up Gonzalo needs to make sure the anchor is free so it will be easy to pull up once we're all on-board! ;o)


What's that? You want MORE?!

no comment.

You sure about that? Ok then... enjoy!



This dive was what I'd like to call a successful experiment! During the two night dives I did last year and the one last July, I was really frustrated I didn't have the right equipment (external flash and a constant light so the camera can "see" and focus properly) for underwater night-time photography because I was seeing some amazing things! So this time I decided I'd MacGyver my way through it, but there was no way I was taking the chance of missing out on getting a photo of a sea hare Aplysia again! I'd just have to make do with shining my flashlight on whatever I wanted to photograph so the camera would be able to focus!

12 comments:

  1. Wow,wow,wow! That is something I will never be able to experience. It's just a magical world down there and I am in awe of those photos. Absolutely brilliant. Well done. And thanks for the comments plus links.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Never say never! You might be able to do a "baptism" dive when you go through Australia on your big trip! ;o)

      Delete
  2. LOVED this post! Question - when it's dark like that how do you know which way is UP? Don't you kind of get spacially confused as you're swimming around? My daughter has been talking about taking diving lessons and we even went and checked out a place.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Up is where the moonlight is shining! Unless it's a moonless night of course and then you're in trouble! Just kidding! Up is the direction your bubbles are going.

      Diving lessons?! SIGN UP!!! It's WONDEFUL! PLus you guys go down to Florida regularly and I hear there's some pretty good diving to be done around there! Maybe she can spot some of your seashells while they're still alive... ;o)

      Delete
  3. How fantastic! It's like another world, isn't it? And who is that wide-eyed creature labeled "no comment"? :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, DJan, that is a very rare sighting indeed, one for the history books! ;o)

      Delete
  4. Octopi are very cool, though they do scare me a little bit, because they look like spiders, and because of that James Bond film!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Like spiders? I don't see the resemblance...

      Delete
  5. I am super jealous since night dives are my favorites! I just love that the only thing you can see is within your flashlight beam. The octo is super cool and you are so lucky to get him changing colors - well done!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They are magical outings! Only problem is getting up the next day and being productive. Dive clubs here always seem to do them on weeknights! :p

      Delete
  6. Wonderful post! My husband and I watched the video together and we realized about halfway through that he was whispering so he wouldn't scare away the octopi! :D You got some great pictures. I've only ever been snorkeling so I really admire the night dive - I'm scared of just swimming at night! Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. lol! Nicky that's so much fun! I was trying to breathe as little as possible for the same reason! (but he was probably trying to get away of me for other reasons anyway).

      I'm scared of swimming at night too! (damn Jaws!) But not of diving at night... weird! Probably because a) we have flashlights and b) there's more people involved! ;o)

      Delete

Hey there! Yes you! The quiet one in the back... I'd love it if you hung out for a bit and shared your thoughts!

I might stop by your place with an answer, but I'm more likely to reply right here so click on "email follow up comments" if you'd like to see what I and others have to say and come continue the conversation! ;o)