Mar 112013

Leatherjackets inspecting their reflection in my dome port

About the site

Rye Pier is a long sandy swim down to the end. It’s known for seahorses hanging out on the pylons, and once a year playing host to the spider crab migration. Last week I’d heard a rumour the spider crabs were out and about. It seemed a little unlikely especially given last year I dived with them in May. With the weather looking beautiful for any kind of dive, we decided to head down to Rye anyway and see what we could see.

A split view of Rye Pier

About the dive

We walked down the beach and into the water, rather than walking along the top of the pier in the very hot sun. After a bit of wading, this meant swimming through the shallows and we spotted at least half a dozen pot bellied seahorses hanging out on the pylons. Once we got a bit further down past the ladder it became apparent that they were hiding from the diver traffic. A sunny weekend and flat seas leads to underwater rush hour (including two mermaids in monofins and scaly tails).

The pylons at Rye are covered in red/orange sponge and lots of weed and have little blennies peering out from nooks and crannies. As well as the normal fish life, there were large numbers of baby leatherjackets pecking away at the sponge. As we progressed to the end of the pier the numbers increased until they were everywhere. What we didn’t see were any spider crabs!

About the photo

The fish in the image above are less than 5cm (2 inches) long. Leatherjackets have swum up to me and the camera before, fascinated by their reflection, but these guys were in for anything shiny. This included my regulator, the rings on my fingers, the buttons on the camera, and my dome port. While my 14mm lens is great at close focus I needed these fish to be at least 5cm away, so taking these shots involved moving the camera backwards as the school swam towards me.

Given I spend a lot of time in the ocean sneaking up on fish, chasing fish and trying to work out how to get closer, having the fish chase me was a new experience. On the other hand I’m glad these guys were only small – I wouldn’t like to try this with anything with big teeth.

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