May 072012

Rock octopus at Lissenung

About the site

Lissenung Island is a tiny sandy island in New Ireland, PNG. Located between the Bismarck Sea and the South Pacific Ocean, the waters here see incredible biodiversity. With coastal mangroves nurturing juvenile fish and corals walls down off the continental shelf all within a stone’s throw of each other, the marine life thrives.

I visited Lissenung Island Resort in April 2012 for my prize trip after winning the freshwater category of the Underwater Festival 2011. Over 6 diving days there were clouds of fish, huge barracuda, dolphins surfing the bow wave on glassy seas and some great photographic dives on WWII plane wrecks. As the boat winds between sandy tropical islands over 30 degrees water, paradise is close.

Batfish at Lissenung Island

About the dive

Part of the joy of diving in tropical PNG is the sheer abundance of life. The coral reefs are swarming with fish and other critters, although not all are eager to make your acquaintance. By moving slowly and calmly it’s possible to get close enough to some species and individuals to get great shots. Other animals won’t have a bar of it and flee at the first sign of bubbles.

These two shots were taken on the house reef surrounding the island. After delayed and cancelled planes I finally arrived in tropical paradise slightly later than planned. Instead of heading straight out on the morning dives I opted for a nap and a chance to set up the camera with a clear head. In the humid afternoon sunshine, a dip on the house reef was a great way to check everything was working properly.

About the photo

About half way through the dive a gentle current started, bringing in fresh cool water over the reef flat. The small school of large batfish were circling in behind me, curious but not too close. Just as I was about to turn for home and go with the flow, I noticed this little rock octopus halfway in and halfway out of a rocky crevice. I dropped in behind another bommie to stay out of the current and slowed my breathing. After considering the situation, and flashing his colours at me, the octopus emerged fully from his hole. Having gained a better vantage spot on top of this rock, he stretched up to full extension to get a better look at me.

I took a series of 5 pictures of him, and each time the strobes went off he would flinch and quickly duck down. When nothing further eventuated he would stretch up again, all the time eyeballing me with his head moving from side to side. All through this encounter his skin colours would flash stroboscopically from red to white in spots and stripes. As well as the colour, rock octopus can change the texture of their skin.

I gently moved in closer until I was lined up for this shot, with the tropical blue surface in the background. After a quick glance at his reflection in the dome port, the octopus decided enough was enough and slid back down into his crevice. It was a great start to the trip.

  2 Responses to “Critter interactions at Lissenung Island”

Comments (2)
  1. Hi Liz, great photo of the octopus! And of course the small family of batfish!

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