A Sojourn with the Shawls
The Spanish Shawl was my favorite nudibranch before I ever dove in California.
I'd seen photos of the Shawl and the colors were just ridiculous. It didn't even seem real.
With no idea how common they were out here, I probably did something embarrassing like march on the dive boat for the first time loudly proclaiming my intense hope to see one of these little slugs. I don't remember. But I probably did.
Now I see them all the time, and people tease, but I still obsess just a little. :)
We took a private boat out to the Point Loma kelp beds on Saturday. I haven't gotten around to fixing my drysuit neck seal, so I was in a 7/5mm wetsuit, which was almost impossibly cold. I don't know how people regularly dive wet in cold water and still enjoy the sport. I mean, the dive was fun and all, but I realized about 45 minutes in that I hadn't had a thought that wasn't thermally-inclined in quite some time ("I wonder if rebreather divers stay warmer." "Know what's swell? Socks. Warm socks. From the dryer." etc.) and made my way back to the boat. After peeling out of that miserable wetsuit and swaddling myself in towels and fleece, I opted to skip the second dive in favor of hanging out in the February sun (I love you, California) on the flat, flat Pacific water (see earlier statement re: love).
So I was having some issues with my strobe connection, which made my lighting situation pretty much suck, especially when it was called upon to light anything farther than 0.000000001 cm away. Incidentally, there aren't a whole hell of a lot of sea creatures who tolerate that kind of proximity to us noisy bubble-blowers. So I opted for my old standby, the nudibranch, which either doesn't care or can't get away or both. And Spanish Shawls were all over the rocks. Awesome!
One of the things about Spanish Shawls that I didn't realize before I dove out here was how small they can be. Here, this itty bitty nudi family--none of these little guys was longer than 1/4"--are seen munching on their favorite food, orange hydroid polyps.
My dive wasn't 100% about the nudibranchs: another thing that doesn't try to get away is kelp.
Aww, Mr. Starfish! I love kelp, too!