Diving in Palm Beach does not stop when the wind and seas build. We are fortunate to have the Blue Heron bridge dive at Phil Foster park available to us no matter the weather. A short beach walk to the water, I was soon underwater on the west side of the park. With my 100mm macro lens and a slew of lights and a Go Pro Hero 3 attached, I was on the search for all kinds of creatures. The Go Pro was ready to film in case another leatherback turtle swam passed me (again!).
Many people ask me how I get so lucky and find so many amazing creatures. After ten years of diving at the Blue Heron bridge, the secret is… there is no secret! The trick is simply to go VEEEEERY slow. If you’re seeing all of the west side of the park on one dive you have gone waaaaaay too fast! If you see a twenty square foot area in one dive… That’s more like it! A ton of creatures are hiding right under our noses at the Blue Heron bridge.
Just minutes after entering the water, a tiny shadow in the distance swayed back and forth. I could tell from a distance that this was a tiny seahorse. Its face was towards the current snatching any little tidbits of food that would drift passed him. Like all animals in the natural world, these juveniles with the oversized extensions of their body have a certain cuteness factor that is hard to overlook. Even though I have seen hundreds of these little seahorses in my lifetime of diving at the Blue Heron bridge I am still awe struck by them. I hovered nearby just gazing at this little miracle.
Nearby, a tiny female lancer dragonette scurried along the bottom. Upon a distance view, these tiny fish appear quite bland in color. It isn’t until you view them under the meticulous view of a macro lens that the fish’s colors stand out. When attracting a mate, these tiny fish display a dazzling show of colors.
A bright green mollusk, half buried in the sand, catches my attention. A closer look shows it to be an invasive Asian green mussel. Although striking in coloration, like the lion fish, this creature was introduced into our waters and is running rampant replacing many of the local species.
There is some kind of little treasure where you least expect it. Looking at a sea urchin, I come across a squat urchin shrimp dancing around the urchin’s spines. It’s own body has evolved to blend as best as possible with its host.
Over an hour and a half had passed and, like every dive, the Blue Heron bridge dive was not disappointing. Quite the opposite… It beckoned for future returns. As I was making my way back to the shore I came across a diver who was busy photographing some tiny creatures. Sadly, her body was completed splayed across the bottom. Her path along this rich animal habitat was noticeable by the trail of overturned rocks, urchins, and sand where she drug her body across the bottom.
I can never understand the train of thought that goes into such a behavior. If the diver did not realize that there was any life in what seems like a lifeless rocky area then perhaps I would be a little more accepting of such behavior. But watching her take photo after photo of these minuscule creatures in this area leaves me to believe that such behavior is simply a matter of selfishness and carelessness. The animal’s well being should always come first.
Too many people complain that the animals at the bridge disappear too often. More certain than not, they are probably displaced from their homes or worse… killed! We should learn to take better care of this very special place. It doesn’t take much work! A little proper dive training, which will benefit your dive (and photography!) in countless ways, and a little more caring, and I think this amazing dive site can be a hundred times more amazing.
To drive the message home… I noticed a lovely yellow seahorse tumbling across the bottom. I could see it was still breathing, but the odds of it surviving seemed bleak. My heart sank to see this wonderful little creature dying. I know no one sets out to destroy another life, but our unknowing carelessness can sometimes be detrimental to the life around us. I hope with all my might that we will one day become better stewards of this planet. We will take the time to look at our actions, at sea and at home, and consider the effects it has on the planet. Taking care of our only planet is worth it!
Mother ocean would not let me go on such a somber note. It raised my spirits again as I encountered a sargassum frogfish near the shore. The strong east winds had brought in numerous amounts of sargassum sea weed to the shore. Unfortunately, this little fish had just lost its home to the littoral zone. It was out swimming near the water’s edge when we saw each other. Within seconds, it swam directly towards me — quite the odd behavior. As I sculled backwards, the frog fish continued in its pursuit.
I stopped and it swam right into the crevices of my camera housing. I guess if there was no sargassum around, this aluminum fortress would make due. I could not help but laugh away hundred of pounds of air in my tank. I swam out into the turning tide and found some sargassum sea weed. I thought the frog fish would jump at the chance to hide in its proper home, but, to my surprise, it would have none of it. It insisted on chasing me down and continuing to hide within my camera housing. It took a bit of coercing before the frogfish finally settled in its proper home. Hopefully heading back out to sea.
The natural world is full of wonders, and once you become submersed in all its intricacies you will find that your life is enriched in so many ways. Take care of it and it will take care of you.