Under the Sea

Today when I was swimming I saw coiled tubes that I thought might be tubeworms, but then I couldn’t see the hole at the end where the filter fan of the tubeworm would come out. Suddenly I noticed that the coils ended in a sea cucumber as big as my whole arm! It was coils of sea cucumber poop I was seeing. Suddenly, everywhere I swam, I saw sea cucumbers. And their poop, lying around everywhere. How did I miss them before?

Next I saw two crabs on the bottom. One was the size of my fist, and then had legs to make it twice as wide. I tried to pick it up as it was whirring its owl beak face, gleefully stuffing some dead baby crab into its ferny mouth area, but the big purple claws scared me off.

This was a really great swim, because I also saw two sea slugs eating algae off the sea grass. They were black with a yellow ring around the edge, and yellow dots and lines, and a burst of feathery fronds like an egg cup on their backs. I just WISH I had an underwater camera so I could show you what I saw!!! I looked them up when I got home, and they are called Regal Sea Goddess, which pretty much captures the awe I felt when I saw them. I can also report that they seem to be a non-stinging kind, since I poked them a bit and nothing happened. I found a picture online.

Regal_Sea_Goddess_Nudibranchfrom “Regal Sea Goddess Nudibranch” by Greg McFall (NOAA’s National Ocean Service) – Regal Sea Goddess Nudibranch. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org   /wiki/File:Regal_Sea_Goddess_ Nudibranch.jpg# /File:Regal_Sea_Goddess_Nudibranch.jpg

My favourite fish is turquoise with a black spot in the middle, and they are very friendly. They hang out in the middle of the water column, so we often find ourselves in the same neck of the woods. There is another fish that is striped yellow and white lengthwise. I call them Jackfish. They school together, and seem to be in charge of emergency vacuuming needs. They swim along, and suddenly all dart to the bottom and start smashing and gobbling at the coral. Just as quickly, they stop and swim off as one, until another coral emergency arises a bit further along. It makes me laugh.

I was following a school of Jackfish when I accidentally swam into a boat. Luckily it was stationary and also a paddleboat, so I wasn’t hurt, though I think the people in it were a bit surprised. A bit after that, I was thinking about my stroke and looking at the sandy bottom when I almost swam into an enormous translucent pink jellyfish (uh, so, maybe my peripheral vision isn’t so good in my mask?) that was booting along in my direction. I had to actually swim to keep up. It had a bell the size of a salad serving bowl, but looked more like a table lamp with a light pink shade with purple rickrack at the bottom and a base made out of white filigree. Then there were some decidedly un-lamp-like transparent squid appendages.  Like this:

source: http://blacksea-education.ru/images/178.jpg

The coolest part was that there were little fish inside the lamp base, and every time the bell contracted, the fish would dart up to the purple rickrack line and snack on the free meal streaming by. I swam with the jellyfish for a while and then got brave and bopped it on the bell. The jelly took evasive action by immediately swimming deeper for a few moments. We traveled for quite some time in companionable silence after that.

So, check out this chart, Jellyfish Identification Tunisia . I have seen 3 of the 6 kinds of jellies on this list!  Last time I wrote about Olindias, and the one I saw this time is Rhizostoma pulmo.  I saw the Auralia when we were swimming in Nabeul.  It was the size of a dinner plate, with about 2 feet of white tentacles trailing along.  I stayed away.

What a swimming day it was! I wish the kids wanted to see this stuff! Rich said he is never going in the sea again, now that the details of the sea life are being so vividly described. I think in his imagination the sea is piled all the way to the top with living things and he would have to wade through theses creatures just to get wet.

Update: This all happened a few days ago, now, and today at the beach THERE WERE NO JELLYFISH! I offered a dinar to anyone who saw one, and only had to pay out to Zaylie, who saw one while OUT SNORKELING WITH ME! She managed to calm herself down pretty well, overall.  Tayo came out for a snorkel, too, though the actual snorkel was too tricky so she just held her breath and stuck her head under.  We worked out a system where Tayo lay on my back while I swam, and she looked in the water from under my arm.  It was sweet and fun.  We are leaving Tunisia in two weeks, so I am happy they are liking the sea again before we go.  Last time, in Costa Rica when they were little, Zay decided she liked swimming and body boarding two HOURS before we left, during our last swim. They try me.  They really do.

OH.  Also I saw the cutest little 3 inch flounder sliding over the sand.  It’s twisty little face and two eyes were hard to keep my eyes on because it was so well camouflaged.



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One Response to Under the Sea

  1. Alison says:

    Fantastic! I’d rather learn about jellyfish and other gorgeous, frightening, awe-inspiring sea creatures through your vivid descriptions than through a field guide any day. Thank you for sharing with us! I love that your particular style of teaching and your particular humour and your particular storytelling permeate your posts. I can hear your voice! Also, I’ve never ever been afraid of jellyfish. Do you suppose this is from being a good Maritimer, or perhaps because I tend to stick close to the shore and therefore am never at risk?! A. xo

    PS The photo of the stair-stepped legs on the camel is one of my favourite things ever.

    And from Sam…

    I could hardly read this blog post out loud because I was laughing too much. Your stories are so funny and interesting too. I hope the kids don’t get stung anymore and I hope you and I will see cool sea animals together. I want an underwater camera too.


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