Saturday, June 25, 2011

Little Baby Lobsters & Big Old Hiding Octopus

Baby Lobsters

It’s easy to remember what we saw in the water on any particular day. After all, it's all in the photos.

Every evening back at the hotel we religiously download from both cameras. During the day my wife mans the Cybershot up on land; while I of course, use the Canon for my underwater compositions. With the daily download, my laptop file manager has all the photos and videos stored by the day taken. So, it’s simple to keep track of it all for future reference; like now, more than two weeks after the fact.

There are several particularly memorable things seen during those two dives on our first day in “the canyons.”And by the way, if you’ve read any of the posts just before this one, you'll know that area is just outside the lagoon to the east.

And speaking of memorable, looking through the photos now it occurs to me how many lobsters we observed. They are everywhere, even in the warmer waters inside the lagoon itself. Just about every available cubbyhole contains one, two and even three of them.

But here’s the thing; no matter how hard we looked, and we looked everywhere, except for one exception, all we saw were babies or very small juveniles. That realization, that in the environs around the lagoon, there are few large specimens of any of the available sea critter species. They are just not there. Considering how many places there are for them to hide from fishermen this lack of larger fish was a mystery. They SHOULD be there.

That notwithstanding, the baby lobsters are adorable. Depending on visibility you can spot them from a long ways off, 10 or even more feet away if you pay attention. The primary reason—the ONLY reason—they are so detectable, despite the fact that they hide in holes and under rocks, are their extremely long and very white antennae. You cannot miss them; they tend to poke way outside their little chosen holes and burrows. I don’t know if they remain white as they mature, but those white whisker antennae are like twitching little lobster beacon beams.

In the photos above and below you can see a few of the little guys. Notice the colorful bands on their legs and the cute miniature claws, so endearing, to me anyway. Their bodies are so slight and insubstantial that they resemble insects more than lobsters.

These small ones evidently haven’t learned to fear anything yet, because I was able to push the camera right up on them and they would remain in place as if posing for me. It really seemed to me that they were curious about me. I’m sure they were watching me as I watched them. You can see it in the photos.
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Big Red Octopus, or is it brown?

Somewhere deep in the maze of the canyons I looked back for my dive partner as I tend to do at least every couple of minutes. I saw him totally absorbed in the pursuit of something. He was chest deep into a very large hole at the bottom of a wall. Both of his arms were up in there along with his spear gun. I went over to see what could be so enthralling.

After a couple of minutes he pushed himself back and out. Shaking his head, looking disappointed, he made both his hands into claws and then held his hands apart in the age old fisherman’s motion for “it was THIS big!”

I knew he must have been trying to get at a large lobster, but later he said this one was more than big, it was a monster. My response, laughing, “Well, GOOD, I’m GLAD it got away!” I always root for the fish (chuckle).

Only a few minutes later I saw him deeply engaged once again, this time with something under a large rock. He motioned me over, which I immediately did with camera in video mode and already on.

As I arrived at the rock he pointed beneath it. Then he held his hands together palms toward me with fingers splayed. Then he made a figure eight with one finger and then held his arms wide apart before finally pointing at my camera. I knew right away what he was telling me: “There’s a really big octopus under this rock; take some pictures!”

With the camera in front of me I pushed it in close and craned my head around it for a view. Don puts his spotlight on it and whenever it’s light envelopes the animal the full effect of its color can be seen—it is bright red with the light and just a dull brownish red without it.

It’s a lesson in underwater coloring, where the deeper you go the less of the full color spectrum is available. At that place we were about 30 feet down, which is why the spotlight or the camera flash is so important for good deep underwater photography, or as in Don’s case, just being able to see the true colors of what he's looking at.

Don has a lot of experience with octopodes and based on the size of this one’s head he thinks its arms would stretch out at least 3 or more feet. I would have loved to have gotten this one out for a better view of it, but it was determined to stay under that rock.

Using a foot long stick I even tried poking it a little to see if it might not grab it for a better view of at least an arm. Instead he grabbed the stick, and try as I might, I could not pull it back from him. Don even tried to push it gently with his spear gun but all it did was clutch it so firmly that he had a bit of a struggle just getting it back.

The bulging drooping head of the octopus is very obvious in the video and photos. You can see its mouth and one eye. The action of its eye, with its odd shaped pupil, is fascinating. I didn’t realize this about octopodes, but their eye balls move to constantly keep their pupils horizontal. In the video you can see movement of the eyeball. It’s very cool.


Ed said...

Have you ever harvested anything, lobster or oysters while diving? As much as I love seafood, I would be tempted as long as it was legal and they were within limit size if there are such things over there.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Don has, but not just anything; he's very discriminating. I could never do it from down there, ever. I think I would still fish from the surface, but after being down there with "my guys" I just wouldn't want to hurt them, much less eat them. It would feel like a betrayal. Anyway, to me, the whole purpose of scuba diving is the gift of observing sea life where they live, from the inside right along with them. Its right up there with sex Ed. (play on words) heh heh