|"Blue Heron Bridge," Riviera Beach, Florida|
|What wonders await in the water under the bridge?|
|Lantern Bass (Serranus baldwini)|
|Artist's rendition of the frantic unloading...|
As fate would have it, several divers had flocked to the water's edge for the high tide. Where had they come from? I introduced myself to a couple of med students - Jason and Byron - who were also having a photo dive. I realized that it would be impossible not to be within sight of at least one diver while under, and the whole site was only 10-15 feet deep at the maximum. I decided to dive; I wouldn't be alone. I put in my regulator, grabbed my camera, and let my dive weights pull me to the underworld. The clear water brought by the high tide revealed what beauty had been masked only minutes before. Wrasses danced in the bouncing light just outside the bridge's shadow, while brooding predators lurked and plotted just within it. The pilings loomed out of the shadows like skyscrapers of life in a forgotten sunken city, residents peeking out curiously at the unidentified swimming object drifting down their boulevards. How rich in life! When I was shooting a shame-faced crab, Calappa sp., it actually walked right over the back of a small flounder! Unfazed, the flounder posed for my camera - but the flash startled it and it swam into an arrow crab's den (Stenorhynchus sp.)! Normally, these creatures require a bit more of an eye to find - they don't just swim into each other's company! These normally "hard to find" critters were everywhere! I lost count of the beautiful boxing shrimp (Stenopus hispidus) that were in every crack and crevice, crustacean apartments. I had to watch the bottom to avoid the spines of countless decorator urchins, sunken city soldiers wielding broken shells and rotten seagrass atop their tests like shields. Young lobsters filled holes where Stenopus did not. And of course, among the algae and the rubble, there were even a few opisthobranchs, the rare gems of the city!
|Shamefaced Crab (Calappa sp.)|
|Arrow Crab (Stenorhynchus sp.)|
|An urchin defender, with many swords and shields!|
|Juvenile High-Hat (Equetus acuminatus)|
I don't regret the adventures I had after the dive that day, but I could have - should have - spent days under that bridge. I felt like a newborn there; completely unprepared for the world around me, with so much yet to learn. Hopefully I'll return someday to find more fascinating "macro" life!