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Diving in Mare Nostrum III - 8

Part 2. Free diving in Mare Nostrum with Andreas I. Iliopoulos

a pictoral article by Andreas I. Iliopoulos

(photos: MCH/ Evangelos Demestichas and Andreas I. Iliopoulos)

      The main difference (and limitation) in this part is the method of diving. Due to my (most probably unjustified) fear for scuba diving coupled to my financial constrain I only do snorkeling and free diving, at least up to now. All I have to do is to load my camera with a fresh set of charged batteries and an empty flash compact card, load my gear (a pair of flippers, my diving suit, a mask and snorkel, belt and weights as well as my camera with its water proof case) in a back sac, drive my bike to the closest beach, make the last checks, do some planning and proceed with the dive. Some times I am alone (which I do not recommend even to very experienced divers) while in most occasions I dive with another person, someone I trust completely. Most of the times my pair is my friend and well-known MCH collaborator Stefanos Xenakis.

     The photos that follow are the “crop” of my very first dives for this season. I had not performed any dives during the winter months for two main reasons. First, I lack the necessary body fat and second, my diving suit is only 3 mm thick. Although the water is still ice cold – at least for my taste – I was tempted by the first sunny days of May. A new friend helped me on this so I had the opportunity to dive with a qualified marine biologist. The name of this friend is  Konstantinos Margaris and you should take a note of it since I have a hunch that you will see it again in the pages of MCH in the future.

     Although I did not spend more than 45 minutes in the cold waters, it seems I was lucky enough to find some anthozoans on the spot.  Note the tentacles at the tips of the plant like animals in the photo below.

 

     Colorful coralline algae filled the viewer of my camera. On the right side of the photo some vegetation is shown. The genus is Dictyota, but I am not sure about the species, so any help will be appreciated a lot.

Click on the image to get the high resolution picture. Photo by Andreas Iliopoulos / MCH

      But the good stuff came a bit later, while I was ready to come out of the sea, after making some acceptable photos of the target species of the day. I had spotted – during my first dive on the previous day – a ♂ Tripterygion delaisi (see the relevant entry on Fish Index Mediterranean section on MCH pages), displaying and defending without fear its territory, even against larger fishes (i.e. combers measuring five times its size), but I did not manage to capture it with my camera as I was supported by Konstantinos with a pair of diving “socks” and a head cover measuring 6,5 mm, thus my buoyancy was a disaster and the photos totally out of focus.

     I have to admit that these fishes were my main “target”, so I went again in Armeos Bay to get more photos of them and this time I made it. After I had some good shots of the fish in my camera I decided to get out of the water since I hadn't been in the water for a long time and I felt I was not in an acceptable condition. Moreover, I had to take many successive dives to take the photos of the triplefin blenny and I felt quite dizzy. Finally, I have a low tolerance for cold water which made things even worse. While I was heading for the beach I saw "it" and of course I started “dancing” with it, taking as many photos as I could.

 

 A spectacular and delicate animal. I knew that this was a benthopelagic jellyfish species I had noticed in a documentary film of BBC, and I was impressed I found it on the surface as you clearly see in this photo.

 

 But, as I’ve already told I am not qualified, so I had the desire to identify it. George was my next target for help.

 

 An e-mail message to Dr P. Nicolaides was sent on the spot …

 

 … and the accurate answer came back soon: the name of the species is Beroe ovata. I have to thank personally and in public this  fine scientist and dedicated man for the swiftness.

      Note the pale blue, purple, green and red lights on the animals external tissues. This is called bioluminescence, which is quite common in bathypelagic animals. They use this ability to attract animals of different sex for breeding purposes as well as their prey. Bioluminescence is also used to mislead their predators at the total darkness of the great depths they live.

     Of course, although I managed to take these acceptable photos, my greed made me think that it would be even better if I could capture the animal during night, when these fading lights would be much more striking. This would create a much more interesting photo of an almost alien creature looking like a discotheque or a brightly illuminated Christmas tree.

     After this meeting my courage came back and I performed a couple of dives more. The fact is that I saw many of these animals at shallow depth during this dive for reasons I am not able to understand. They were found among crevices, sometimes more than two or three individuals together.

 

This sea cucumber was shot without a second thought. I hope Dr. Nicolaides will identify this as well

     I was already happy and I decided to get out of the water as I was already very tired (being a smoker for a quarter of a century without a good physical condition and a long period with no dives made an explosive mixture). Moreover, I felt dizzy and frozen so I got on shore as fast as I could.

     I hope you enjoyed this dive, too.

NOTE: The dive took place in Armeos Bay, at depths from zero to about 6 m at most.

The bay is a fine place for diving and snorkeling and it is exactly the same spot where I had found and shot an Umbraculum umbraculum (http://www.malawicichlidhomepage.com/other/umbraculum_umbraculum.html), during last summer.

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