What would you do to protect an endangered species?

One of the interesting thing about doing a fair amount of traveling is that you get to meet a lot of different people.  Now during my travels I can say that I have never met two people who are exactly alike.  And, to my way of thinking that is a good thing.  Too many similarities and I think life could become way too boring.

The thought occurred to me recently that some people I have met are very committed to making sure that certain animals  are not wiped from the face of the Earth.  It’s my understanding that we are in the mist of a significant extinction period of time.  To my way of thinking the ocean would not be the same without turtles, manta rays or even sharks.  Now I don’t get particularly excited about reptiles, but turtles are just fun.  Their expressions always remind of grumpy old men.  Were sharks to go away after hundreds of millions of years of survival it would mean that an apex predator would be gone from the ecosystem.  Removal of the apex predator would mean that there would be far less balance in the marine ecosystem than there is now.  Mantas, until recently I had never had the chance to see them up close in the ocean.  They are graceful and are able to glide through the ocean like no other animal I have seen.  

 Now, I will be the first to admit that I have always enjoyed eating seafood.  The problem is that the nets that have been used over the years often are damaged or lost and can create a hazard to marine life in the form of ghost nets.    

Ghost net
Ghost net

Often marine life cannot see the lines that make up a net.  When a net is cut lose in the ocean, it is not uncommon for it to catch creatures that it was not intended to catch.  Not long ago I was sailing with a young boat captain who had come across a net that had captured a giant manta ray.  Now manta rays are endangered and quite often they are enormous.  Cutting one loose while you are on scuba gear takes quite a bit of courage.  If you get caught in the net with the animal and it can still swim, it can drag you down to depths that you cannot survive.  Now, think about jumping in the water with no scuba gear on and cutting an animal loose from a net when the animal is only slightly wider than an SUV.  Now that takes courage.  So my caps off to you Captain Jordan. 

Hurray it’s shark week again

Grey reef shark
Grey reef shark swimming overhead

In my opinion, apex predators are very interesting.  From what I have observed they are curious and will investigate what they think might be food.  If there is food in the water they will take an easy meal.  

This is why you wear the suit-
This is why you wear the suit

Sharks unlike people do not have hands which might otherwise allow them to tactically check out potential meals.   So what do they do, they taste potential entres with their mouths.  Now that might seem bad, it can have a bad effect on anyone the shark chooses to sample.  

Grey reef shark at shark junction
Grey reef shark at shark junction

So I keep thinking they sure are interesting but I ill try to avoid becoming a meal,  

 

In search of small things

Much of my time spent doing underwater photography has been spent shooting through a wide angle lens, which allows me to capture some of the grandeur of what can be found underwater.  Shipwrecks, large reef structures, sharks, and substantial schools of fish have been interesting to me.   It has only been in the last few years that I have begun to start making images of smaller creatures found in the ocean.  

wire coral shrimp
wire coral shrimp

The thing that strikes me about the creatures in the ocean is the extraordinary diversity among the animals.  

For example, one of the animals that I have observed during my diving career is wire coral.  Wire coral like other coral is composed of colonies of polyps which live in a colony to form the length of the coral.   To me wire coral looks like a curly strand of coral, similar to a pigs tail, only much longer.  Generally wire coral is only found on deeper dives.  It was not until I stopped and looked at the length of several wire coral strands that I notice there were sometimes shrimp that were less than a couple centimeters in length living on the wire coral.  I started looking at all of the wire corals I could find, and  only in a small number of wire corals did I find any shrimp.  Put it this way, I have never found a “herd” of wire coral shrimp on a single strand of wire coral.  

Wire coral shrimp are tough little guys to take a picture of.   Think of it this way, wire coral is often a centimeter or less in diameter.  So getting the camera lens to focus on a spot that is that narrow is not easy, especially in current.  Add to the complexity the fact that you have to put quite a bit of light on the shrimp just to try to acquire focus on them.  And, of course, the shrimp don’t particularly like my focus light so they tend to move all over the wire coral, which makes taking a picture of them even more difficult.  In the image above one of my dive buddies had to use the tip of a chop stick to block the shrimp from scurrying aware from my focus light.  

When I have searched wire corals, which are often 6 to 10 feet in length, it is pretty uncommon to find even one shrimp on the entire length of the coral.   On my last dive trip we did about twenty dives.  I did not find more than a couple dozen wire corals.  And, only on two wire corals did I find even one shrimp.    And people say that hitting a major league fast ball is hard.  At least the batters know where the plate is and the plate is more than a hundred times larger.  What if baseball allowed the opposite team to move home plate around the ball park randomly?  That is what trying to shoot wire coral shrimp is like.  I keep telling my self patience is a virtue…

On the other hand, sometimes sea critters act as if they are just walking out on stage waiting for some one to take a picture of them.  

white spotted shrimp on red rope sponge
white spotted shrimp on red rope sponge

This white spotted shrimp was for much of the time I observed him hiding in the arms of the giant sea anemone which he claimed as his home.  But, much to my surprise he eventually jumped from the anemone to the red sponge which made it possible for me to acquire focus for the picture.  Sometimes patience is a virtue….

Have you seen the array of colors underwater?

Orange Elephant ear sponges off the coast of little Tobago

I admit it, as a photographer the first thing I see in an image is color.  Some people see texture, some see composition, but I see color.   Growing up,  most of the time I spent in the water was either in a pool or in a fresh water lake. Ok if you are lucky a pool is a nice color blue and a lake is some what clear and you can see fish.    Imagine my surprise the first time I went snorkeling in the Caribbean.  Lots of colors in sponges and fish and coral.  Continue reading Have you seen the array of colors underwater?

Have you had a chance to dive the RMS Rhone?

In the British Virgin Islands, in my mind there are two iconic dives.   The dive site known as the “Indians” is near a three rocky outcroppings that bear the name the Indians.  The aquatic life is about as close to an aquarium as I can remember diving.  Great variety and abundance of underwater life.  

But, the iconic dive in the BVI is the dive of the RMS Rhone.  When the ship sank only one porthole remained intact.

The magic port hole
The magic port hole

Nevertheless, the rest of the ship which has been submerged for more than a century is still in relatively good shape.  Here is a link to what I wrote about the dive of the Rhone several years ago.

 http://www.campbelljournal.com/rhone.html

I hope I get to go back to dive the Rhone again in the near future.