Sunday, May 29, 2011

Puerto Galera Stingray

A couple of bannerfish had my attention when my dive mate began to raise a ruckus behind me off to my right. I glanced over to see him excitedly waving me over before disappearing down below a steep drop off. I had no idea what was up but I figured it must be something pretty cool. He's learned his lesson; there've been times I've given him hell for not getting my attention when he sees something notable, or even things just new and different.

Keeping the video running I kicked through the water to the edge of the precipice and followed my dive buddy down to where he was at about 60 or 70 feet. He was horizontal at the base of the terrace, pulled back from what He was pointing at, which was something at the base of the cliff. Stare as I might, I could not see what it was. I suspected then that it was a stingray, since hiding in plain sight is there thing.

They use their "wings" to dig under whatever silt and sand they land on. I've never actually seen them do that, I've only observed the result. Actually, I've gotten fairly good at spotting the telltale outlines of their flat bodies, especially the two eye stalks.

Still not sure where or what it was he wanted me to film, I cautiously pushed in with him continuously guiding me. Finally I spotted it.
Normally, when I've come up on a hiding stingray they blast off in a cloud of silt and that's it, they go and they're gone. This time it took off but not all that quickly and didn't go very far. It gave me the opportunity to to continue to film it while following it.

Maybe it was sick or had just eaten or something. It might even have been injured. Examining the video in slow motion and the stills I notice that the back part of its left wing looks split. That might be normal, but that's all I could see out of the ordinary. On second thought though, I just now reeaxamined the still photos and it appears normal, with no obvious injuries at all, except for the slight scrapes or scarring on the center of its back.

After bothering it with my cam in video mode over two of its "escape" swims, I followed it one more time to get a few still shots. It held still for me while I slowly moved around it snapping one shot after another. I was very surprised it let me do this. I've spotted at least a dozen of these things and none have ever allowed me to get that close.

At that depth the coloration is very limited without a very strong flash. I would love to get a more elaborate lighting system for my Canon underwater package. I know they have them. It's on my wish list for some day. We were below 60 feet when I took these stills and the video clip. Although notice that the blue spots on the ray do come through pretty clear.

The final photo is more typical of my stingray sightings. Don was a few feet to my front when I noticed the ray directly to my front. I had just enough time to bring the camera up and push the button when it exploded from the seafloor banking off to the left. I had no idea what its direction of escape was until I spotted movement off to the left. I was lucky to catch this typically shy and very fast stingray in this action shot.


Ed said...

Wasn't it a stingray that did in Steve Irwin?

PhilippinesPhil said...

Yes, a lot bigger than these and he was doing that idiotic Steve Irwin thing of messing around with the animal. He was directly over it, giving it the perfect target of his heart. That boy was ASKING for it!