The title of this blog was what I used to describe the fish you see in the photograph above to Ian, one of our dive guides today. Known to the rest of the world as a yellow bar angelfish, this non-native fish, who originates from the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea, has taunted me for over a decade. He appears throughout the reefs and wrecks of Palm Beach when I least expect it, maybe two or three times a year, and has garnered the name in my book of “Dr. Claw” — my arch nemesis.
I call him this because numerous times I have attempted to capture a decent photograph of this unique fish, but he has other ideas in mind. Always swimming at the edge of a decent photograph, which with a wide angle lens means inside the 2-foot range, he teases me with the possibilities — all the while giving me a good cardiovascular workout.
Today was going to be different! Thinking I would be the smarter of the two, I kept a distance and paced myself as we swam nonchalantly with the slight north current. About ten minutes into the swim, Dr. Claw turns and begins his swim up current. Heart rate check: okay. Air supply check: okay. I had acquired a new set of power fins since our last meeting, so I thought I would have the upper hand this time.
Ten minutes up current and I could hear Dr. Claw with his sinister laugh fading into the blue horizon while I tried everything possible to slow my heart rate and not drain my air supply 20 minutes into the dive. This photograph was the best I could do. On a previous encounter on the Governor’s River Walk wrecks in 90 feet, this same fish gave me a similar run with the same exhausting results. I’ll get you next time, Dr. Claw… Next time!
Little did I realize at this point that the rest of today’s dives would follow this theme. But the arch nemesis would turn out to be a different character. One whose villainous traits have a more treacherous effect. That arch nemesis is the uneducated human! Its means of destruction… Anything he/she can think (or should I say not think) of!
As I swam along the reef I found, wrapped across the reef, thick anchor line. This simple act of anchoring on the reef has devastating consequences. These anchors will tear apart huge chunks of the reef as the uneducated boater tries to pull it, many times with the full force of the boat engines, off the bottom. Not smart!
I wrapped the line up into a one-foot diameter ball and attached the end to one of my BCD rings. As if the exercise from Dr. Claw wasn’t more than I anticipated for the week! Two minutes afterwards, a friendly green moray eel goes zooming past me. Here I go again swimming at a faster than normal (i.e.. not swimming) pace for me. The drag from the line was too much so I set it down and continued after the moray for a photograph. Unlike Dr. Claw, the green moray was more than happy to swim at my pace and smile for the camera, too.
I turned back to pick up the anchor line and arch nemesis number 3 was staring at me with its sinister blank stare. A plastic bag lay there waving it deadly siren call to all the sea turtles nearby (and there were a lot!). These bags, often mistaken as a delectable jellyfish, are swallowed by numerous marine life including sea turtles. Starvation and death of marine life is the plastic bag’s sinister plot.
As I was picking up the plastic bag I began to hear a deep rumbling roar. A few minutes later the ocean went dark. Looking up I could see a tug boat towing what appeared like a large barge. The sounds were deafening, but my fears were even worse. Not so long ago it was presumed that a similar tug, towing a barge, let the towing cable go loose and slide along the bottom of Breaker’s reef (read about the story here). It ripped corals, some hundreds of years old, clearly off the bottom. Was this event to take place again with me and countless sleeping loggerhead sea turtles in its path?
Thankfully, this didn’t happen but a little education goes a long way. The tug boat operator, as well as the boat owner who anchored on the reef, simply needed to move 100ft. east to avoid catastrophic damage to this very special and sensitive coral reef.
Thankfully, where there is an arch nemesis there is also a super hero. That super hero is you! Your duty is to educate the uneducated and rid the world of this arch nemesis of the natural world. Get them to appreciate the wonders of nature — love the ocean!
As for that other arch nemesis, Dr. Claw… Well, let him be! His only real crime was giving me a good workout. Something I am in dire need of anyways!
PS – Aside from these couple of not so great incidents, today’s diving was top notch. Visibility in the 40-50ft range, warm 80 degree water temperature, a light north current, dozens of loggerhead sea turtles, a rare sighting of a chain moray and a purple mouth moray on the hunt, and tons more made it so.
I hope you will join us for an ocean adventure of your own. Just keep a watchful eye for those ocean arch nemesis. They will appear when you least expect it!
<<< ROLL CREDITS >>>
<In a dark evil voice>
“The world (and Laz) have yet to meet the most evil of all arch villains. One day soon everyone will know me, Dr. Damsel Claw, and my plot to gnaw at every cuticle in the ocean! BUAAHAAHAAHAAA!!!”