I’m Blue for You

Of all the creatures in the oceans, it seems like the “blue” ones are the most threatening in our imaginations.  Blue sharks, for example, spark a bit of fear just by their name.  Blue whales conjure up childhood memories of stories of being swallowed and later spit back out in some foreign land.  Some of the most beautiful, and dangerous animals in the ocean are blue.  Beautiful by nature, and dangerous by reputation is the blue-ringed octopus.

Blue Ringed octopus

Blue Ringed octopus

When I arrived in the Philippines, I was given an orientation on some of the underwater hand-signals for various creatures and critters.  One of these signals was placing your fingers in an “okay” sign and tapping it up your arm three times.  This signals that there is a blue-ringed octopus nearby.  When my guide first gave me this signal, I had forgotten its significance and I brushed him off because I was focusing my camera on a very large frog fish.  My guide very patiently waited for me, then gave me the signal again for the blue-ringed octopus.  I wasn’t sure what he was showing me, so I followed him to where a small group of divers were excitedly gesturing.  As soon as I saw it, it dawned on me that I had missed an important sign from my guide.  I sheepishly gave him the okay sign, then began to snap away happily on my camera.

Blue Ringed Octopus

Blue Ringed Octopus

The blue ringed octopus has a reputation for being the most venomous critter in the ocean.  Although this octopus is smaller than the palm of my hand, it produces a lethal toxin called Tetrodotoxin that can kill a person in a matter of minutes.  As menacing as that may sound, there have only been three recorded deaths in the last 100 years attributed to a blue ringed octopus bite.  It is considered the Holy Grail of under water photo subjects by some divers.  Most of the time it appears tan, or golden in color, but when it is alarmed it’s blue rings become prominent.  It was a treat to see this creature with it’s undulating rings as it postured itself against my presence.

Click below to watch an interesting and informative video on the blue ringed octopus.

Watch Video

Charmed, I’m Sure

When people find out I am a scuba diver, the first question most of them ask is, “Aren’t you afraid?”  I can honestly answer that, No, I am not afraid.  In fact, any fear that I should have is immediately pushed aside in favor of fascination when I am under the water.  I believe that this is the innate nature of the sport, and that most divers will claim that fascination overcomes fear.  Some of the creatures that might inspire fear are great photo subjects.  Others appear harmless, but may pack a punch if their environment is disturbed too much.

Snake Pit small

This sea snake, and several others like it, kept several of the divers on the boat.  That was unfortunate for them, because I had a fabulous interaction with the snakes.  They followed me around the dive site, curiously posing for the camera and watching their reflections in my dome port.  I didn’t know it at the time, but two of the snakes entangled themselves in my legs as I was leaving the site, and my husband captured it on his GoPro.  I enjoyed this dive more than any other because of the snakes, and never even considered fear among my reactions to them.

Eels breath by forcing water through their gills through their mouths.  That's why their mouths are often open.

Eels breath by forcing water through their gills through their mouths. That’s why their mouths are often open.

Another creature that inspires fear is the eel.  They do have a lot of teeth, and their mouths are often open which may make them look formidable.  Most of the time, though, they are simply breathing or being cleaned by the shrimp that inhabit their dens with them.

Mooray eel

This barracuda might have been a little upset at my presence in the water.  At the time, I thought he was just very interested in having his picture taken as he kept circling me, coming closer each time.  This is one creature I should have had more respect for, as he is capable of harm if he feels threatened.  However, fear never crossed my mind, and it was only with hindsight that I realized his aggressive behavior was a warning.


This small fireworm looks harmless enough.  It is important that you never assume anything, though and never touch a creature even if it appears harmless.  The fibers on the sides of the worm have a stinging venom that can be quite uncomfortable.


Here’s another venomous fish, that is absolutely beautiful, but has stinging fins.  This one was guarding it’s many children which can be seen along the right side of the photograph.


Sometimes fish just look formidable.  Or just plain ugly, like this toad fish.


This Cabezon aggressively attacked my camera.  He was less than a foot long, and didn’t have teeth, but he had an impressive nest to guard, and perceived me as a threat.  I still didn’t fear him, but I did respect his space, and backed off when I realized I had stressed him.

cabezon with eggs

So to my non-diving friends; the creatures in the ocean don’t need to be feared, but they do need to be respected.  The likelihood of being a victim of an attack is very small when you respect the reef and it’s inhabitants.  A little education about sea life goes a long way too!  Most of the time, I am simply charmed.