Friday, June 13, 2014



I had been out snorffeling around the rocks near the far markers, and had seen nothing more interesting than a couple of big red starfish and some brightly coloured fish-fish and was thinking I ought to get back to work, so started back to the shallows. I had interrupted my writing day to go because I could see that it was looking like clouding over, and we're supposed to be in for a couple of days of cooler weather and rain, so I got out there for a quick splash.

Every time I'm out there, I'm always on the lookout for an octopus, which I consider the coolest and perhaps most scary and interesting of all the local fauna. I know there are lots of them out there, and the scubies are always bringing in buckets full to sell to the supermarkets or to put in Mamma's stew pot.

But in all this time, I'd never seen one. I was beginning to think that maybe I was looking in the wrong places, or maybe that they were mostly nocturnal or something. A friend had said, "Oh, you're seeing them, you just don't know it."

Of course, we've all seen that video...

So I figured at some point, I'd just ask one of the divers what they do to find them.

And at the same time, I was kind of scared of seeing one. I mean, they're pretty rugged individuals, and they seem to be very little afraid of the dumb two-flukes.

But for the most part, I was looking for them. I know they hang out in the rocky parts, and that a trick is to look for their caves where there is a cleared space near the opening and a lot of shells and things. I figured that you have to be sneaky, maybe not splash around too much, and just hang out in one spot so they don't notice you're there. Or something.

But anyway, today the swells were a little pushy and I had to get back to work so I was heading back. I had taken a little detour to look at some rocks I hadn't checked out yet. Sure enough, I'd seen a big fish, much bigger and ... more finny than the usual little seaweed grazers I'd been used to seeing up til then. It was just sitting in the shelter of some green reeds, and I snuck up on it, and clapped a couple of times to flush it out so I could get a better look at it. It scooted off a few feet, and settled down again. I did this a couple of times, and then the fish suddenly just took off in the opposite direction, so fast I couldn't follow, so I turned around, figuring I'd got as much as I was going to get out of the day and there it was.

It looked straight at me, and was already bright red all over, with white spots. It curled several of its legs at me in a way that said, "You know, I'm really not interested in eating you right now, but come at me, see what happens."

I didn't move except to reach down and grab a rock to hold myself steady while we sized each other up. We were in water that was no more than three feet at most, but man, I was scared. And elated. And excited. And really just damned impressed.

It scooted off, elongating itself to full length of about three and a half feet long, which is pretty big for these waters, and I followed it for a few yards, but realised that I'd had about as much excitement I wanted for the moment.

It was ...


(And this weekend I am TOTally going to go price underwater cameras!)



Steve T. said...

Wow. Totally, absolutely wow.

Anonymous said...

Hi Hillary. I had the pleasure of meeting you, James, and Father Athanasius in Sta. Marinella last month. I was with the group of students from Texas. I love your blog. I just finished reading your post on the golden light coating the buildings in Malta. I tried to capture the same effect there in Sta. M., specifically during the late afternoons. There is so much beauty to be found in the world if one is willing to look for it.