Sunday, June 26, 2011

Hilarious "ostriches" of the deep

This entire post is about this one video. It’s a little long, almost 6 minutes, and was even longer before I whittled it down some. Even so it’s one of my favorite clips from the Claveria trip. I’ve probably watched it more times than any of the others. I think I enjoy it so much because it really showcases some of the mysterious beauty and attractions of what I now like to call “The Claveria Canyons.”

The video begins as we enter the canyon labyrinth by way one of its largest entrances, perhaps THE largest, as far as I can remember.

As I swim forward with the camera there is some kind of strange looking temperature inversion going on, causing a very visible stratification. I should have begun filming sooner while we were still above the milky deeper waters trapped beneath the clearer upper waters, but I neglected to start recording until we were already moving through it.

The view of the slowly swirling murk hugging the seafloor below looked just like the cemetery set out of a horror movie. The sight of it really creeped me out, but I confess that I liked the feeling. I half expected a monster hand to grab at me suddenly from within the greenish obscure soupiness just beneath me.

Entering the canyons, swimming over what looks like a submerged beach, was an eerie experience, especially with the relatively tranquil yet hazy conditions of the water at that time. That’s another wonderful thing about diving—we passed by that same spot two, maybe three times on different dives, and each time it all looked different. Visibility and sunlight or the lack thereof, the tides, wave action, so many variables, all change the look of the terrain. It happens that way topside as well, but not nearly as radically as it does down under.

Two minutes into the film and Don stops to point at something out of the shot. Directly behind him, a solitary house-sized boulder provides a perfectly centered backdrop. The shot couldn’t have turned out better if I had planned and directed it.

I pan to the left and up so the viewer can get a feel for our depth at that moment and then back down to check out what has caught Don’s eye.

What he sees isn't immediately discernible to me. There is the flitting of a myriad of blue fish along the wall but I cannot grasp what would cause him to stop and point. I move in closer and that’s when I realize that some very active bright blue fish are darting into little hollowed out areas up and down the rock face. I’ve seen similarly shaped but differently colored fish at Puerto Gallera, but never learned what species they are or even what possible genus they belong to.

Moving closer to the wall, taking shots as Don lights the holes up with his spotlight , I chuckle into my regulator. The holes that these fish are “hiding” in are not nearly big enough to conceal their entire bodies. Much of their tail ends are hanging out. I reach into one hole and tap the fish on the fin just to let it know. It squirms but that’s about it since it’s as deep as it can go. Funny things, I begin calling them “ostrich fish,” after the myth that ostriches bury their heads in the sand to hide, while leaving their entire bodies exposed.

Leaving Don to his own devices for a while, I continue exploring with the camera, capturing each new thing as I first view it. That’s when I come upon a place in the wall decorated by colorful flat patches of coral or sponge and pause when I come upon a deep depression with two baby lobsters seemingly hanging out as if they are sunning out on their front porch.

These little guys are cute, with their colorfully banded little legs and bodies. Each has a host of bright white antennae that they constantly twitch and reach out with; I believe to explore their surroundings. For being so miniscule and apparently defenseless, they are fearlessly curious, actually coming out of the depths of their little rock void seemingly to check me out from up close.

Turning back in Don’s direction on the other side of the gorge, I see that he has something in his hands and it’s not his spear gun. I head over, swimming down to him, as curious as a baby lobster to see what he has.

He has pulled one of the bright blue “ostrich fish” from its hidey hole and is carefully cradling it in his hands. I can tell that the fish is powerful; Don is having a time trying to keep it from squirming out of his grasp without hurting it.

Now that I can see it up close, from the shape of its body, style of mouth, and constantly clicking teeth, I can tell that it is some type of triggerfish. It’s only now that I stop capture the video that I notice that either its teeth or inside of its mouth has a hint of red. And finally, it has a distinctive hornlike dorsal fin that I really love. This unique fish looks like it should be a cartoon character in a Disney movie.

I’m glad Don didn’t hold on to it for long. The little fellow is continuously gnashing and clicking its sharp little teeth together. You can’t hear the tapping teeth in the video but we sure could there in the water.

Once again, as I have with many others, I spent a long time trying to positively ID this bright blue funny fish; but even with all that time checking, I STILL cannot conclusively narrow it down to the exact species of triggerfish. It’s frustrating—it’s either a blue triggerfish or a redtoothed triggerfish. The one in my video mostly resembles a redtoothed trigger, but I’m not sure since the redtoothed pictures don’t seem to have the prominent dorsal fin horn. Now, the blue triggerfish DOES have the horn in most of its photos; but everything named blue triggerfish online show it to have more green than blue on its body. Aaargh! So which is it?

Anyway, watching the video several times again as I wrote this post about it happily reminds me how much I enjoyed diving “The Claveria Canyons.” And yet, there is still more to show. . . Next: chasing the deadly banded sea snake, also in the canyons.

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