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Posts tagged “Pufferfish



I wrote this post in my head and then never put it to paper. Someone I know laughs. I have no blank paper in my villa. I have, maybe, a pen and I don’t think there is a pencil. And, I’d dearly like to have a ruler. I needed to measure my bed mattress. Who knew? There are king and super king bed sheets. One does not fit the other. And I was put out that my sheets were too short. Yeah, so I measured. My hand span is roughly 9 inches. It’s a nice number to know. But this ain’t horseshoes. And the difference in sheet size is not so large. Anyway, it’s standard king. I got a measuring tape from the hospital. We use it to measure baby head sizes. I will parenthetically add, that tape is free too. I was shocked to actually buy a roll of adhesive tape (not related to measuring tape) in the drug store. Really?! They charge that much? No wonder medical costs are out of control.

So, meandering along the bottom on a night dive this puffer appeared out of the dark. …Lots of people hate the dark. And night dives seem to bring out the fears in even more detail. After all, monsters of the deep come out of the dark and eat whole ships! Oh my! But mostly I think “JAWS” the movie is a lingering memory. Shark! Attack! And even if you never saw the movie, there’s plenty of limbs and life injuries around the world with unwary unfortunate swimmers. If it’s any consolation, sharks like fatty seals. They get few meals. So when they taste human, there’s not enough fat, they spit you out. It’s nice to know you don’t pass the taste test. So mostly you don’t get eaten. I dunno, I think the very bright LED light is calling sharks to dinner, “Here sharky. Here sharky. Dinner!” And if you are ever on a night dive with me, and, my light goes out, “Well, dinner is served. Him (the diver next to me), not me…” Yes, be afraid… be very afraid.

Anyway, this poor puffer – white spotted puffer – was just down along the bottom. And it’s not common enough to see that I pass an opportunity to take a picture. And as I shot I saw something in its mouth. Was it eating another fish? Nope. A hook. A shiny reflection, the darned thing was embedded and would stay for the rest of his life. Now if he would only let me help…. Yeah, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you…”

Puff Daddy


Not the music man, the puffer fish. It’s a spiky puffer. The secret to night diving is that the light is brilliant. The new LED lights are very bright. There is a rule. Do not shine your light in someone’s eyes. No they won’t go blind. But they will not be able to see. Same difference? But it’s terribly rude. Fish have the same problem. And as far as I see (see, ha, pun?) they have no pupils to regulate the light. So it is playing with the wildlife once again (sorry, kids – mine). They don’t read here so I get away with stuff… You shine your light into their eyes. They are blinded. And you can take your pictures.


You could also pull on their tail. (another big no no!) And then they puff up. With what? Air? Helium? What? … water, silly, yup, water! Duh! Well, it took me a minute too. I did not ask, but still, it was a matter of common sense. When they expand – blow up! – they are bigger. The spikes are sharp – like rose thorns. And then Mr Puffer is not so appetizing as he is so intimidating. The problem is that if you are the size of a basketball your fins do not propel you well. So, it’s Catch 22. You move slowly away and I get to take lots of pictures. It works!. The things we do in the dark are amazing. And this is all just between us. I don’t need animal rights guys hounding me.

Run away…hide….

Look What I Caught

IMG_9056I’ve seen this trick but never pulled it off myself. And please don’t tell the kids I was annoying the wildlife. Puffer fish get a bright flashlight beam in their face and they don’t move. So I grabbed it. It puffs. It’s not air. I was wondering. No, it’s water. The feel is like sandpaper. He was not hurt. We got some pictures. Night diving is a challenge to get exposure. The fish looked better then I did. Hey! It was my camera. But I didn’t take my own picture.IMG_9065

Swim With The Fishes

IMG_6879(I bet maybe you thought this was going to be about something else, eh?) A while back I related the story about how Omar, one of the dive instructors, had caught a puffer fish in his bear hands. The girl I was diving with did not let it go until we left the water. She held so tight, I thought she was going to go home with it.

We were on a fun dive again with Omar. We started by seeing a stone fish and a moray eel right next to one another. It was a great dive for seeing things. With J off photographing something, David would swim above just observing. Then Omar came along; he’d done it again… caught another puffer barehanded.IMG_6612

This time J and David were horrified. Their mother had raised them with strong morals and they were against harassing the wildlife. Omar came along and tried to place the puffer in David’s hands. Omar mistakenly thought David was afraid. And J took the puffer only because it would be the only way to let the poor fish be released from torment.IMG_6615

And when we were on dry land again, I had to explain to Omar that my kids don’t torment the wildlife. Good kids raised by a good mom.IMG_6617

Don’t Touch Nothin’

IMG_3998I paraphrase Shorty’s (Short Round – Indiana Jones, Temple of Doom) words with emphasis. The stinging did feel like life and death for a moment.

This picture looks worse than it felt. I will admit that it scared the “.…” out of me. I’ve told you the rule about not touching anything under the sea. Everything is setup to do some nasty thing if you are careless. The image here is the aftermath of inadvertently touching a sea urchin. Honest! I didn’t mean to do it. After all the first lesson applies. Don’t touch nothin’!!IMG_4900

My first lesson was with fire coral. Here’s a neat image. A baby “giant” clam is unexpectedly nestled here. IMG_3654 copyI inadvertently brushed up against a fire coral once while I was doing the decompression stop. In my mind fire coral was red in color. Nope! As soon as I touched this my wrist started to blister. I mean right there underwater I could see blisters like a second degree burn. By the time I was out of the water minutes later the blisters were gone. Hmmm! But then I had the worst itching rash there for several weeks. If I look I can still see the scar. So yes!!! I know not to touch stuff.

This leads to the circumstances of my mistake. We were on a night dive. (I love night dives. There’s different things you see at night and I like that.) IMG_0166The dive master stabbed a porcupine puffer fish with his big long flashlight. He trapped it and it blew up. Wow! I was impressed and wanted to get that ‘special’ image. There are only so many things you can do (two hands!).IMG_3952 copy I had my light in the left hand and my camera in the right. I dropped my light and put my hand down to steady myself for the shot. Immediately I felt the sting of my mistake. I hadn’t looked. And right through my glove I got the sting of a red sea urchin around twelve or so stinging spines. They are barbed and have venom. To make matters worse, no glove on the right hand, it’s dark, and I can’t really see well without glasses underwater. The marks up my thumb came as I tried to extract the stingers and remove my glove.

Luckily it was a red sea urchin that I encountered. Armand, another diver, told me that the gray ones are even more vicious and that he suffered for weeks when he touched one of them.IMG_4915

So here’s what I learned online. Use vinegar and hot water. Shave off the spines with a razor. Don’t use a pin to dig around and remove the stingers.

And what I can tell you: Throw away your glove. I did. The secondary stings you get from trying to separate yourself and get the stingers out of your hand will make matters worse. Initially underwater it appeared that I was bleeding under the skin – little blue hematomas had formed around each stinger where I had been stung. That’s not true. The stings have a dye which tattoos you. Funny. The tattoos began to disappear within hours and were gone by the morning. The stingers biodegrade quickly. You can’t remove them easily. In fact because of the barbs it’s pretty difficult to get at them. Infection seems to be some risk but keeping the area clean works mostly. You get swelling but it wasn’t too bad. At least the pain was tolerable. It was my dominant left hand so there was a moment of concern about being hampered to do surgery.

Don’t try this at home: I didn’t have the stuff to remove the splinters (spines) at home. I hate splinters. So I was determined to take care of this despite the internet warnings. Besides, I’m a surgeon (arrogant bastard thinking). I emailed my assistant to prepare the operating (Zeiss) microscope and micro forceps. I spent an hour in the pool in the morning to exercise (and soak) my hand. Then with my operating nurse and my assistant (I needed an extra hand), we spent about 45 minutes digging around and extracting the embedded spines. They were soft and really fell apart. We had to dig (a bit painfully) to remove the foreign debris. I got most of the stuff out. We worked under high magnification (Zeiss operating microscope est price $250K) and with the finest forceps (ophthalmology – not fine enough) and finally cleaned up about twenty to thirty sites where there was embedded sea urchin. Yeah!! Priceless!! It’s now 36 hours later and two nights have passed. There are some spots you can see where we dug around yesterday but the swelling has subsided. There’s very little pain and I promise not to do this again. (Note to myself: Don’t touch anything! Never!)

IMG_3959 copyOops! Back to my story… so the divemaster has trapped the porcupine puffer and it blew up. There I am screaming (figuratively) from pain. He actually saw me struggling but didn’t know I was stung. I, I’m juggling camera, flashlight (I want to see what the Hell had stung me), trying to look at my hand, and trying to get an image of the blown up puffer before they look let it go. You can all have a laugh, I was literally as they say trying to decide whether to “shit or get off the pot.” And the flash on a point and shoot is not geared for fast recycling. So I’m mashing my finger on the shutter release and watching the flash indicator blink as the flash slowly slowly recycles all the while thinking that I’m about to die from sea urchin venom. And no!! I did not think about surfacing and tending to this wound. My reasoning was that the cool water was keeping the swelling in check. The pain would come later. My dive buddy held onto the puffer for a good long while. It ain’t easy catching one. So he didn’t want to part. And more cruelly he spun the sucker like a basketball. No harm. It did swim away and I understand why it shies away from human contact.IMG_3928 copy

This leads me to remind you that I had previously posted about a small puffer we caught on a night dive. This time the story has a lot more color.IMG_4860

It is a laugh now. But while it’s happening, you think some pretty grim thoughts. Of course the big thing is not to panic. And the second is not to do something stupid, which I did as I tried to remove the stingers underwater and stuck myself higher up on my thumb. And the smartest thing was to throw away the glove, which would have caused more pain if I had tried to remove the stingers and use it again.

Out In The Open

IMG_0222 copy 2I was just about to get separated from my dive buddies. They were up ahead and leaving me behind. You can’t really ‘call’ to slow down. In the open swimming along the sand were a moray eel … and a puffer. I have not seen a moray in the open. And I have not seen one with blue striations. It’s possible that this is not a moray. Whatever, it was not happy to be in the glare of my dive light. But I had the ability to shoot some images. I just couldn’t get low enough for a sea bed shot.

‘Never leave you wingman,’ Tom Cruise, Top Gun… yes, I did get separated. At night this could be an issue! Visibility is poor in the pitch black. So I turned off my own light and watched for the glow of the other divers. It worked and I caught up to everybody. Worst case scenario, I surface on my own, but I wanted to continue the dive. I was happy to be reunited.

Spike Pufferfish

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Here’s one that I haven’t seen before. My last night dive was so much fun I couldn’t wait to do it again. This pufferfish has been a unique find. I now know there are three kinds – pufferfish, masked, and spiked. This one looks the most unusual, almost bizarre and cartoonish. I imagine the spikes to be like thorns on a tree. And then I wonder why nature evolved this way.

Wrong! Reading helps. This is a porcupine fish also called blowfish but apparently are related to but are not pufferfish. It turns out that the spike erect as the fish blows up. So far I have only seen this fish with its spikes up. As a puffer or blow fish, I had imagined them inflated like a balloon with its spikes out on all sides. Wrong again, I guess.IMG_1959