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The first thing I can say is it can be a little IMG_5869 V2intimidating jumping into inky black water out in the middle of the ocean. I think being able to see land from the boat as the sun sets makes it not seem so “distant.” Right off the bat, once you enter the water and turn on your lights, you will notice strange translucent worm-like things curling and unfurling as they methodically undulate past you in no apparent hurry to get wherever. They seem completely indifferent to my lights. My first thought- do these things even have eyes?  As it turns out, some do and some don’t.

In the normal course of a Blackwater dive, the first thing you notice is particulate matter. Sometimes it looks like it’s snowing. But as your eyes adjust, you suddenly become aware that about 50% of this “stuff” (or Space Junk as I like to call it) is actually living creatures.  That’s when the fun begins. I’ve gone 30 minutes watching this black & white movie before I start shooting, just because it’s all so foreign, so alien, and so 3-ring circus-like.  You just don’t know what to look at first.

First key, keep an eye on the float ball line and stay with your buddies. Second, just hang and stare into the darkness. Become aware of the current movement. You will want to make sure you are “up-wind” of things that sting. You will start to see incredible creatures. So prehistoric-like, that you wonder why you haven’t been doing this your whole life!

Spiro Gyro- Siphonophore throwing out it’s fishing net of sticky tentacles. By Suzan Meldonian

Spiro Gyro- Siphonophore throwing out it’s fishing net of sticky tentacles. By Suzan Meldonian

Look for specific movement. The current is gently blowing this way- but that little thingy over there is doing wheelies. Home in on that little fellow. Then white knuckle it. Hold that camera tight, and follow the creature through your viewfinder, and keep tap-tapping your focus so that you are the ready as soon as you can see the whites of his eyes!  Okay so some things have red eyes. Oooh, creepy.

Forskalia saccula by Suzan Meldonian

Forskalia saccula by Suzan Meldonian

You will see animals expanding and contracting what are called sticky tentacles- this is Vertical Migration feeding time- and since they don’t have hands- they spread out fishing nets with hairlike fibers- that collect anything the swims into their deceiving web. When you see something that looks like this, beware, as it is most likely some type of Siphonophore, whose “sticky tentacles” are not only barely visible, but sting like the dickens, paralyzing their prey, or giving your exposed skin a nasty burn.

The Critters range in size from two foot long Aequorea forskalia or expanding universe Siphonophores to things no bigger than a pin head. I honestly think if we could get even more microscopic, that the list of weird is never ending.

Pura Vida Divers offers Blackwater Dives throughout the year. To view upcoming dates and book your next dive, visit our SCUBA CHARTERS page. 

Guest Blog by: Suzan Meldonian

View more of Suzan’s photos in the gallery below, or visit her website: www.niteflightphoto.com

To learn more about Blackwater Diving or schedule your next dive with Pura Vida Divers, give us as a call at 561-840-8750.