Updated: Sep 28
No, not the kind you might find down at your local clothing-optional beach. What I am talking about is Nudibranchs, sea slugs that are outrageously colourful and ornately decorated.
They live in the rock platforms along the coast, there are many species all around Australia. They’re notoriously difficult to find and even harder to get a good photograph of. I've been on a couple of late-night sessions, one to Eagle Rock Marine Sanctuary, where I looked and looked, and in about the fifth “OK this is my last rockpool” at around midnight, there they were. Three of the same species and an exciting creature to see. The night was outrageously clear and still, and a full Milky Way graced the sky.
On my latest adventure, just this week to Point Danger Marine Sanctuary, I was hopeful for more Nudi action. Recently, another nudi-head had posted some amazing pictures from there of species I would love to see. I arrived about 45 mins before low tide and headed out into the pitch black. The wind was icy, and for ages the search was turning up nothing.
I kept pushing further and further out, until the unusually low tide allowed me out hundreds of metres to the very edge of the rock platform. It was now complete low tide, and the critters out there were mind-blowing, sea spiders rarely seen, feather stars, and of course Nudi’s. I had a nagging voice starting to harass me in the back of the head “You’d better go back in soon” and after hearing a distant “coo-eee” probably aimed at me, I thought I should probably call it a night and listen to that sensible fun-police voice.
Not a Nudi! Lamellaria ophione
While walking back I got distracted by a few more nudibranchs - this spot was gold!
The thing is, the camera gear I am using is tricky. Combining that with the difficulty of the environment itself and most of the photos turn out very badly indeed (attached a couple for your viewing displeasure).
9/10 are like this
So it can take a while before snapping something worth sharing.
So, by the time I finished with them it was 45 mins after the turn of the tide, and when I looked up the faint light of my headtorch revealed I was standing hundreds of metres out, on what was now an island.
The tide had risen and cut me off – a tightening of the chest, a little pang of fear, and a voiced "oops that was a mistake", combined with an “I told you so” from the sub-conscious, and the mission was now clear – back to shore as soon as possible.
There is something about the inevitability of the rising tide. No waiting around is going to make the situation any better. The creatures I’d been admiring were going to be fine with the incoming tide, they welcome it. As a land animal, I was very much in the wrong place.
Fortunately, it was just an easy wade back, only up to the knees, and I didn’t notice anything amazing that I would have had to regretfully splash on past.
Pallenopsis macneilli - Sea Spider - Male (holding the eggs) - with crustacean friend on his leg.
Pallenopsis macneilli - Sea Spider - Female (developing the legs in her femur).
-- Photos and words, Pete Crowcroft -- iNat @possumpete