Walked into my office this morning daydreaming about Monday’s trip to Molasses Reef and there on the floor was this shot of me with sheefish at Sewalik Lake in northwest Alaska in the late 80s. It had fallen off the bookcase where I keep it propped up to remind me of my 12-year detour to Alaska…
Species identified during Monday’s excursion to Molasses Reef, a Sanctuary Protected Area about 5 miles southeast of Key Largo: Scrawled Filefish, Hogfish, Blue-Striped Grunt, Black Grouper, Blue Tang, Yellow-Tail Snapper, Blue Chromis, Smooth Trunkfish, Yellowtail Damselfish, Chub, French Grunt, Sergeant Major, Stoplight Parrotfish (juvenile), Spotted Goatfish, Gray Angelfish, Whitespotted Filefish (orange phase), Tomtate, Gray Snapper, Margate (White), French Angelfish, Permit, Nurse Shark, Green Turtle, Foureye Butterflyfish, Spotted Eagle Ray, Barracuda, Blue Parrotfish, Southern Stingray, Queen Angelfish, Spanish Hogfish, Trumpetfish, Barjack, Schoolmaster, Porkfish, Rock Beauty, Atlantic Spadefish, Hawksbill Turtle, Blacktip Shark.
And I was snorkeling, not diving, and only about 2 hours – little time on the bottom, not much time to look closely, peer under ledges, spot little critters, wait for things to come out.
- That Scrawled Filefish nibbling placidly on the rim of a jellyfish floating about a foot from my mask. I kept thinking I heard the jellyfish say “ouch!… OUCH!!”, felt my first sympathy ever for their need for stinging tentacles.
- The small (18-20 inches long) Hawksbill stroking up right past me to breathe… floating on the surface about 6 feet away, stretching its neck up to suck air, lowering its head, peering slowly all around (looking for…?)…then up to breathe again, and again, then flying lazily back down past me, down 20 feet or so, to continue feeding.
- Those two huge (5-6 feet ‘wingspan’?) Spotted Eagle Rays cruising by below, flying in formation just above the bottom, like alien spacecraft on an alien mission.
- The little Blacktip Shark, only about a yard long, small enough to make me think “cute” about a shark for the first time.