Category

Underwater Life

Torpedo Ray Photo

Channel Islands, Fish, Underwater Life

In this photo a California torpedo ray (Torpedo californica), or electric ray, is hovering amid the kelp forest while my diving partner Brad Silva is filming it with his bright torchlights and video camera. Santa Rosa Island, Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, California.

Pacific torpedo ray in kelp forest, filming lights, Torpedo californica, Macrocystis pyrifera, Santa Rosa Island

Pacific torpedo ray in kelp forest, filming lights.
Image ID: 01009
Species: Pacific torpedo ray, Torpedo californica, Macrocystis pyrifera
Location: Santa Rosa Island, California, USA

Here are all of my Torpedo Ray Photos

Galapagos Photos

Galapagos Diaries, Sharks, Underwater Life

I have posted 575 new images shot on my latest Galapagos Islands diving trip, a 15-day run on the liveaboard M/V Sky Dancer. We had phenomenal encounters with schools of hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna lewini), literally by the hundreds and thousands on nearly all dives at Wolf and Darwin, not to mention good luck with Galapagos sharks (Carcharhinus galapagensis), Galapagos penguins (Spheniscus mendiculus) and brief looks at marine iguanas underwater. Diving in the central islands was OK, not great, although we did have good fish displays at Cousins and clean water and sunlight at Gordon Rocks.

Scalloped hammerhead shark swims over a reef in the Galapagos Islands.  The hammerheads eyes and other sensor organs are placed far apart on its wide head to give the shark greater ability to sense the location of prey, Sphyrna lewini, Wolf Island

Scalloped hammerhead shark swims over a reef in the Galapagos Islands. The hammerheads eyes and other sensor organs are placed far apart on its wide head to give the shark greater ability to sense the location of prey.
Image ID: 16246
Species: Scalloped hammerhead shark, Sphyrna lewini
Location: Wolf Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Galapagos shark, Carcharhinus galapagensis, Wolf Island

Galapagos shark.
Image ID: 16239
Species: Galapagos shark, Carcharhinus galapagensis
Location: Wolf Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Hammerhead sharks, schooling, black and white / grainy, Sphyrna lewini, Darwin Island

Hammerhead sharks, schooling, black and white / grainy.
Image ID: 16254
Species: Scalloped hammerhead shark, Sphyrna lewini
Location: Darwin Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Galapagos photos (July 2006)
Galapagos photos (all trips: 1996, 1998, 2006)

Photo of a Corynactis Anemone

Invertebrate, Marine Life, Underwater Life

The Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific recently arranged to use one of our photographs of the tiny Corynactis californica anemone for a huge wall mural, to be hung in the coming month. It reminded me of how cool these small creatures are, and how many times I have hunkered down on the reef to spend a dive photographing them.

The club-tipped anemone, or corynactis anemone (Corynactis californica), is common in the nearshore environment in Southern California and Baja California. Its range extends north to at least Washington. Corynactis californica is not a true anemone, but rather a Corallimorph cnidarian. One of the distinguishing characteristics of these corallimorphs is that their tentacles, which are not fully retractable, end in knobs resembling clubs (hence the name club-tipped anemone). Corallimorphs have a number of physiological similarities to hard corals but lack the hard coral skeletons of corals. The corynactis anemone is often found in large groups covering rocks, wrecks, piers and other hard substrate to which it can cling. These groups take on beautiful colors: pink, red, orange, blue, purple. Corynactis californica can reproduce asexually by longitudinal fission in which case all clones will take on the same color.

Polyp of a strawberry anemone (club-tipped anemone, more correctly a corallimorph), Corynactis californica, San Miguel Island

Polyp of a strawberry anemone (club-tipped anemone, more correctly a corallimorph).
Image ID: 01039
Species: Strawberry anemone, Corynactis californica
Location: San Miguel Island, California, USA

Strawberry anemones (club-tipped anemones, more correctly corallimorphs), Corynactis californica, Scripps Canyon, La Jolla, California

Strawberry anemones (club-tipped anemones, more correctly corallimorphs).
Image ID: 02487
Species: Strawberry anemone, Corynactis californica
Location: Scripps Canyon, La Jolla, California, USA

A cluster of vibrantly-colored strawberry anemones (club-tipped anemone, more correctly a corallimorph) polyps clings to the rocky reef, Corynactis californica, Santa Barbara Island

A cluster of vibrantly-colored strawberry anemones (club-tipped anemone, more correctly a corallimorph) polyps clings to the rocky reef.
Image ID: 10165
Species: Strawberry anemone, Corynactis californica
Location: Santa Barbara Island, California, USA

Keywords: club-tipped anemone, corynactis anemone, Corynactis californica, corallimorph

Photos of Humpback Whale Bubble Displays

Hawaii, Humpback Whale, Underwater Life, Wildlife

Humpback whales are famous for their use of bubbles to “net” prey, especially in Alaska where coordinated bubble netting among groups of humpback whales is often seen. However, humpbacks also commonly use bubble displays and air releases in their social interactions in warm waters. It is thought the these bubble releases are signals to nearby whales. This seems most true in humpback groups engaged in “rowdy” behaviour, in which a group of male whales is competing for position in the group, usually alongside a focal female whale. In these situations, bubbles seem to be released by male escort whales in an effort to intimidate rival escort whales, or to create a visual barrier.

North Pacific humpback whale, male escort bubble streams alongside mother and calf, Megaptera novaeangliae, Maui

North Pacific humpback whale, male escort bubble streams alongside mother and calf.
Image ID: 05926
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae
Location: Maui, Hawaii, USA

Bubble curtains occur when a whale swims along emitting a steady stream of bubbles. Seen from above water, the curtain becomes a bubble trail sometimes reaching a length of a hundred yards or more, and can be useful in locating whales that have been underwater for a while. Sometimes several competing males in a group will simultaneously create bubble curtains, perhaps to intimidate one another or “shield” a female from approach by a challenging male.

North Pacific humpback whale, male bubble trailing in competitive group, Megaptera novaeangliae, Maui

North Pacific humpback whale, male bubble trailing in competitive group.
Image ID: 02150
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae
Location: Maui, Hawaii, USA

Bubble blasts usually occur just as a whale is surfacing. They may be both an attempt to intimidate a nearby competing whale and an early exhalation in a particularly strenuous competitive group. Bubble blasts often accompany a head lunge, where the whale surfaces at speed, exhaling hard and with sufficient momentum that it drives forward with rostrum and head partially out of the water. Occasionally, singletons and inquisitive whales perform bubble displays in a non-agonistic situation as they swim near a boat or research divers.

Humpback whale lunging out of the water at it reaches the surface, exhaling in a burst of bubbles, Megaptera novaeangliae, Maui

Humpback whale lunging out of the water at it reaches the surface, exhaling in a burst of bubbles.
Image ID: 01407
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae
Location: Maui, Hawaii, USA

North Pacific humpback whale, primary escort bubble trails alongside female amid competitive group, Megaptera novaeangliae, Maui

North Pacific humpback whale, primary escort bubble trails alongside female amid competitive group.
Image ID: 06034
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae
Location: Maui, Hawaii, USA

Keywords: humpback whale, bubble stream, blow, spout, bubble trail, bubbles, Megaptera novaeangliae, underwater.

These photographs were taken during Hawaii Whale Research Foundation research activities conducted under provisions of NOAA / NMFS and State of Hawaii scientific research permits.

Whale Shark Photo, Darwin Island, Galapagos

Galapagos Diaries, Icons, Underwater Life

The Galapagos Islands, an Ecuadorian archipelago straddling the equator in the Eastern Pacific, is a remarkable underwater paradise. The central and southern islands hold a wealth of temperate as well as tropical marine creatures due to the mixing of currents there. However, it is the northern islands of Darwin and Wolf that divers typically look forward to the most on a Galapagos dive trip. These two islands, along with the smaller Roca Redonda, are the best places in the Galapagos — and indeed one of the best places in the world — to encounter whale sharks. On our first dive at Darwin in 1996 the group had left me behind, riding the current back to the anchorage, while I spent my air exploring the area where we were dropped at Darwin’s Arch. I met up with a young whale shark who happened along and allowed me to swim alongside him for 20 minutes taking photos. Eventually the shark and I caught up with the rest of the dive group, and as each diver noticed us he would swim over and join. Eventually everyone got a good look at the huge shark.

A whale shark swims through the open ocean in the Galapagos Islands.  The whale shark is the largest shark on Earth, but is harmless eating plankton and small fish, Rhincodon typus, Darwin Island

A whale shark swims through the open ocean in the Galapagos Islands. The whale shark is the largest shark on Earth, but is harmless eating plankton and small fish.
Image ID: 01520
Species: Whale shark, Rhincodon typus
Location: Darwin Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

During our several visits to Darwin Island (we’ve made three trips there in ’96, ’98 and ’06), we have dove at the Arch repeatedly. In 1996 our group saw a whale shark on every dive there including a final dive at the arch was highlighted by a visit from an enormous whale shark, probably 40 feet or more in length:

Whale shark, Rhincodon typus, Darwin Island

Whale shark.
Image ID: 01503
Species: Whale shark, Rhincodon typus
Location: Darwin Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Keywords: whale shark photo, Galapagos, Rhincodon typus, Darwin Island, underwater.

The Kelp Forest :: Part V

California, Natural World, Stories, Underwater Life

When the goal is simply to swim in and admire a kelp forest, nothing beats the (relatively) warm clear waters of Southern California’s San Clemente Island in late summer. On a good day the panorama at San Clemente is stunning: kelp in all directions reaching from seafloor to surface, summer sun and canopy shadow constantly changing, fish swimming the avenues of the forest and visible over a 100′ away. One is enveloped — literally — by life as far as one can see, an effect I have experienced only a few times, and fleetingly, elsewhere in the ocean. On a day like this I will spend as much time in the water as possible, staying just below the surface to take advantage of the wonderful quality and variety of sunlight in the canopy, waiting for subjects to photograph against a backdrop of kelp. There are always garibaldi, kelp bass, various wrasses and juvenile fish hidden among kelp fronds to photograph year-round. It is September and October — the magical Indian summer months at Clemente — that are my favorite as they have brought torpedo and bat rays, seals and sea lions, huge schools of salema and mackeral and enormous sea bass though the forest in front of my lens: wonderful animals in a spectacular setting to spite my limited ability to capture them on film.

Garibaldi in kelp forest, Hypsypops rubicundus, Macrocystis pyrifera, San Clemente Island

Garibaldi in kelp forest.
Image ID: 01055
Species: Garibaldi, Hypsypops rubicundus, Macrocystis pyrifera
Location: San Clemente Island, California, USA

California bat ray in kelp forest, Myliobatis californica, Macrocystis pyrifera, San Clemente Island

California bat ray in kelp forest.
Image ID: 00267
Species: California bat ray, Myliobatis californica, Macrocystis pyrifera
Location: San Clemente Island, California, USA

Jack mackerel and kelp, Trachurus symmetricus, Macrocystis pyrifera, San Clemente Island

Jack mackerel and kelp.
Image ID: 00380
Species: Pacific jack mackerel, Trachurus symmetricus, Macrocystis pyrifera
Location: San Clemente Island, California, USA

Kelp fronds, Macrocystis pyrifera, San Clemente Island

Kelp fronds.
Image ID: 03423
Species: Giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera
Location: San Clemente Island, California, USA

See more kelp forest photos

The Kelp Forest :: Part IV

California, Natural World, Ocean Sunfish, Stories, Underwater Life, Wildlife

Further to the south, Santa Barbara and Catalina Island kelp forests offer somewhat less profuse animal life but warmer and clearer waters. While I don’t dive these two islands often anymore, I do dive kelp originating from these islands throughout the summer: drift kelp. I was introduced to the notion of seeking out floating paddies of kelp by bluewater photographer Mike Johnson and have been hooked ever since. It is a strange pursuit, driving miles of open ocean in search of drifting kelp in the hope of finding something under it. You see, kelp plants that lose their hold on the reef continue to float and grow, drifting with the winds and currents until they are beached or reach warm water. Along the way they gather a variety of passengers including juvenile fish, Medialuna eggs, barnacles and pelagic nudibranchs. Paddies and their passengers further attract a variety of open ocean life: diving birds, bait fish, yellowtail, tuna and marlin, blue and mako sharks. Perhaps the oddest of these visitors is the ocean sunfish (Mola mola), which recruits small fishes at paddies to clean it of parasites — a cleaning station for the largest bony fish in the world, miles from shore in deep oceanic water, circling a scrap of drifting seaweed.

Continued…

Ocean sunfish schooling near drift kelp, soliciting cleaner fishes, open ocean, Baja California, Mola mola

Ocean sunfish schooling near drift kelp, soliciting cleaner fishes, open ocean, Baja California.
Image ID: 06308
Species: Ocean sunfish, Mola mola

Blue shark underneath drift kelp, open ocean, Prionace glauca, San Diego, California

Blue shark underneath drift kelp, open ocean.
Image ID: 01006
Species: Blue shark, Prionace glauca
Location: San Diego, California, USA

Pacific white sided dolphin carrying drift kelp, Lagenorhynchus obliquidens, San Diego, California

Pacific white sided dolphin carrying drift kelp.
Image ID: 00043
Species: Pacific white-sided dolphin, Lagenorhynchus obliquidens
Location: San Diego, California, USA

Half-moon perch, offshore drift kelp, Medialuna californiensis, San Diego, California

Half-moon perch, offshore drift kelp.
Image ID: 01933
Species: Halfmoon perch, Medialuna californiensis
Location: San Diego, California, USA

For more photos of the kelp forest, see http://www.oceanlight.com/html/kelp.html

The Kelp Forest :: Part III

California, Natural World, Stories, Underwater Life

Central and Northern California kelp forests are bathed by cold, nutrient-laden currents. The waters here are generally not clear but are rich with animal life. Invertebrate displays on the rocks below the kelp forest are some of the most profuse and interesting in the world and it is common to see large schools of rockfish and pelagic jellies hovering among the kelp. Kelp forests here breed some of the world’s hardiest divers, those who manage year-round dry suits, beach entries and surface swims, winter swells and the distinct possibility of meeting great white sharks in murky water just to dive in Macrocystis.

Continued…

Kelp canopy, Macrocystis pyrifera, San Clemente Island

Kelp canopy.
Image ID: 06119
Species: Giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera
Location: San Clemente Island, California, USA

Giant kelpfish in kelp, Heterostichus rostratus, Macrocystis pyrifera, San Clemente Island

Giant kelpfish in kelp.
Image ID: 05141
Species: Giant kelpfish, Heterostichus rostratus, Macrocystis pyrifera
Location: San Clemente Island, California, USA

Northern kelp crab crawls amidst kelp blades and stipes, midway in the water column (below the surface, above the ocean bottom) in a giant kelp forest, Pugettia producta, Macrocystis pyrifera, San Nicholas Island

Northern kelp crab crawls amidst kelp blades and stipes, midway in the water column (below the surface, above the ocean bottom) in a giant kelp forest.
Image ID: 10215
Species: Northern kelp crab, Pugettia producta, Macrocystis pyrifera
Location: San Nicholas Island, California, USA

Kelp forest, Macrocystis pyrifera, San Clemente Island

Kelp forest.
Image ID: 04675
Species: Giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera
Location: San Clemente Island, California, USA

For more photos of the kelp forest, see http://www.oceanlight.com/html/kelp.html

The Kelp Forest :: Part II

California, Natural World, Stories, Underwater Life

It is my spirited opinion, one that I enjoy defending over a beer after a long day on the water, that diving amidst giant kelp is the most magnificent diving in the world. I am fortunate enough to have had some amazing experiences underwater — watching swarms of hammerheads soar overhead, riding the broad back of an accommodating manta, being eyeballed by an inquisitive whale. However, the diving I consider most dear is that found in the splendid kelp forests along the coast and offshore islands of California. Vast beds of giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) line the shore, rising from rocky reefs nearly 100ft deep to reach the surface before spreading out to form a thick floating canopy. Underneath this canopy, the sensation of swimming amid the columns of kelp plants is akin to flying through a terrestrial forest. Corridors between kelp stalks lead to wide openings in the forest in which schools of fish hover. Shafts of light filtered by the canopy above fall across kelp to the reef below. When the current shifts and bends the kelp stalks in a new direction the topology of the forest changes, creating new avenues and rooms to explore.

Continued…

Kelp canopy, Macrocystis pyrifera, San Clemente Island

Kelp canopy.
Image ID: 02118
Species: Giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera
Location: San Clemente Island, California, USA

Kelp forest, Macrocystis pyrifera, San Clemente Island

Kelp forest.
Image ID: 02409
Species: Giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera
Location: San Clemente Island, California, USA

Kelp bed. Giant macrocystis kelp is anchored on the ocean floor and grows to reach the ocean surface, Macrocystis pyrifera, San Clemente Island

Kelp bed. Giant macrocystis kelp is anchored on the ocean floor and grows to reach the ocean surface.
Image ID: 02502
Species: Giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera
Location: San Clemente Island, California, USA

Divers and kelp forest, Macrocystis pyrifera, San Clemente Island

Divers and kelp forest.
Image ID: 02988
Species: Giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera
Location: San Clemente Island, California, USA

For more photos of the kelp forest, see http://www.oceanlight.com/html/kelp.html