The holy grail of night diving around where we dove in the Red Sea? The Spanish dancer. You can see them. Lots of night divers have seen them. Right! But, it’s a rare sight. They look like the skirt of a Spanish dancer – duh! Beautiful! They are very large nudibranch. Not too sexy, huh? But the holy grail nonetheless. The feather star is also a coral that will shrink if the light hits it. You see them only on night dives. And you flash photo them. A flashlight will cause them to shrink. And the last animal with the tentacles was definitely a one-time shot for me. I was with Farid in the southern site we sometimes dove. Ugly and monstrous it spooked me and fascinated me at the same time. Whoa!
It’s interesting that looking at an image, I can recall the circumstances and location I took the shot. At other times I have completely forgotten the image until it showed up again in Lightroom. Memory is funny. It’s amazing what triggers memory recall. I especially like the images where, “I took that?” pops into my head.
TMI – too much information. See the horns? It’s an unretouched photo. Yes, it actually looked like this.
So, after yesterday’s post you have questions. The horns at the front are rhinopores – chemosensory receptors. And the frills at the back end are gills. The Spanish dancer is so named because in the water it moves like the skirt of a Spanish dancer. You can imagine the frilly edge. And it is quite colorful. And, no, we did not play with the wildlife. I would have, but too many people were all around. But it would have been fun to watch it dance. And so I took my pictures and cleared out so the next diver got his chance. What is hard for me to understand is how one is happy just to see the animal without getting a trophy image. I don’t need a stuffed head or anything. But if you saw it and don’t have an image, did you see it? I’m so excited that I saw this! And, it’s my blog and I get to post what I like.
I have seen this nudibranch, technically not a fish, the famed and almost mythical Spanish dancr. I see it every time I dive. There is a picture on a poster at the dive center. It’s not rare. Other divers have seen it. You don’t see it during the day. But on a night dive this is something like a quest for the unicorn. I have seen this nudibranch once in three years and many night dives later. In other words everyone jokes with me that we will see one and I never do. So it was “world night dive” night. Everyone went on a night dive together at 20:15 in keeping with the current year. How nice! Twenty plus divers under the sea with lights and noise and flash and…. So no way we are going to see a Spanish dancer. This is a big nudibranch – about a foot in size. Most are tiny tiny, not this big guy. And bright red and just sitting on the coral waiting, oh my. Yeah. We all got shots. One is enough. They all came out. No fiddling with the camera. The exposure was good from the first image. So I got my shot. And I will tell you it was an outstanding dive. And I will tell you that the next night dive I will quest once again. Have I told you how many divers I know are afraid of the dark? You dive with a buddy – always. I tell my buddy if my light suddenly goes out, it means that he is shark bait. You’d do that to yours too, wouldn’t you?
In all the night dives over the past three seasons, I had yet to encounter a Spanish dancer. It is a mollusk. I have seen a picture on a poster at the dive center. But it was a goal of mine to finally see and photograph one myself. So on this night which started so slowly, Farid suddenly began swinging his light wildly to make me stop and join him. I have to admit he finds some of the best wildlife.
I had to check my book later. But, yes, it’s a Spanish dancer! And yes we played with it. Lifting it above the sea floor it flapped and wiggled down to the sand again. I guess that’s why they call it a dancer. Or otherwise it is the skirtlike edge which reminds you of a Spanish dancer’s skirt. Either way this was pretty thrilling.
What I learned is that you never give up on a dive. Something turns up to make it special. And with all my familiarity with the reef, there is always something I haven’t seen.