by Barbara Eller
We got a message from Patrick's daughter: "We are coming down for a visit." Great! We have been inviting them for a couple of years and they finally decided on the spur of the moment to pack their bags and hop on a plane. Patrick's daughter, Cheryl, and her husband, John, and their children, Alex, 15, and Andrew, 14, are all divers so I knew I was going to be in the water a lot once they got here.
The first three days we saw nothing but dark clouds and rough water because of high winds. Everyone was disappointed about not being able to get in the water so we did some sightseeing in the area. Then one morning we woke up to a clear sky and very little wind. We couldn't pack our gear into the car fast enough and head for Zona de Buceo Dive Shop.
John is into underwater photography and he wanted to use his macro lens, so Jorge took us to Rio Bermejo, a dive site where we could find lots of little critters. The water was clear and the visibility was perfect; even the water temperature was a nice 87 degrees. John started taking pictures and videos as soon as he hit the water. Lionfish were one of the first fish we saw. Unfortunately since their invasion they have multiplied at an alarming rate. John found some Sea Plumes and, as I swam closer, I saw what he was focusing on—at the end of the plumes were small tentacle-like extensions that had "flowers with little fingers" on the ends. Remember that these are living plants and animals and each have their own unique way of getting food. These "flowers with fingers" are catching very small organisms to ingest which are in the water.
Andrew helped his dad find some interesting things to photograph and he signaled that he had found something. It was a juvenile Spotted Drum, black-and-white striped, measured only about an inch, and the dorsal fin was extremely long (to me it looked like a long ribbon flowing in the wind). Nice find, Andrew; we don't see too many of them.
We continued along the wall and something caught my eye: a Crinoid, also known as a Feather-Star. These animals have not changed much through time and they are sometimes referred to as "living fossils." They have long, brittle arms that are used to gather food. The one I was looking at was orange in color and in the center was an arrow crab. Its body, gold color, was almost an inch long, with long, thin legs. It looked as if it were made of gold, the way the light was reflecting off of it.
In a couple of previous stories I have told you about Flamingo Tongues. Well, John was able to get a great picture of one eating a soft coral. Look really closely and you can see his foot and also two tentacles.
Cheryl and Alex were trying to get our attention as a turtle swam over the top of the reef. That fish you see attached to the shell is a Shark Sucker, or Remora. They attach themselves to larger species in the sea and are not harmful but just getting a free ride.
Looking at the large brain coral, you can see a couple of Christmas Tree Worms; they really do look like little Christmas trees! They are about two inches tall, but when you get near them they instantly retract. If you wait a minute or two they will slowly reappear.
Our dive came to an end. We headed back to the dive shop and took a break for about an hour, then headed out for another dive.
Until next time ...
Note: A special thanks to John Patterson who took all the pictures for this story.