Christmas Island January 2009
UNDERWATER NATURALIST COURSE
Christmas Island map with a number of the local dive site areas marked. The nature of the island makes it possible to dive at different locations, depending on which way the wind is blowing. Artwork: Christmas Island Tourism Association)
The very fact that the first Project AWARE UNDERWATER NATURALIST COURSE to be run at Christmas Island was such a success is very encouraging, and to see the enthusiasm shared by all concerned was a tribute to the entire project.
It always seems amazing to me (even after 45 years) that we can go down and collect images of creatures, identify and record living animals without having to kill everything each time we wish to know what we have taken pictures of. The reality is that today it is possible to visually recognise over 6000 species of underwater flora and fauna.
Everything needs to be photographically recorded and the process is relatively easy and lots of fun, especially with out in the open subjects as shown here by Lisa Preston. ( photo: Jorina van der Westhuizen)
When taking photographs underwater it is not always possible to control the subjects aspect, or even get the camera close enough sometimes, due to the nature of the habitat. This very fact makes recording images with enough characteristics to recognise a species or genus the most important thing. Not every image has to a prize – winning shot as long as it is in focus there is every chance I can recognise enough features to identify it.
Chris Boland photographing a Tiger Cowry Cyprea tigris which was located by JoeY. Chris has a very straight forward point and shoot digital camera that could be used for snorkelling and then put into a housing and taken down to 30 metres. (photo: Jorina van der Westhuizen)
It is somewhat unfortunate that I was not able to gather all the images as recorded by the course participants in time for this issue but there are certainly enough to illustrate the project and to communicate the collective spirit.
To get this close to a pod of Spinner Dolphins Stenella longirostris is not an easy ask. This exceptional image was captured by Linda Cash, right next to the boat. (photo: Linda Cash)
( photo: Lisa Newton)
( photo: Jorina van der Westhuizen)
The first record of Corallimorphs being present on Christmas Island reefs was found and photographed by Marjorie Gant.
Another species I saw for the first time was the Flagellate Sea Jelly Thystanostoma flagellatum. This an oceanic species, only coming close to the coast on rare occasions. ( photo: Linda Cash)
When I found this strange creature ( only 15 mm in size) I was absolutely stoked. Although I had found the Magicians Sponge Cranellia abracadabra in the Maldives many years ago, I had never seen one that small.
However, upon scanning it there was another surprise in store. Living in the sponges tissues were microscopic animals called Entoprocts. We had discovered an entirely new Phylum not recorded from Christmas Island before.
( photo: Neil Chan)
We found two of these sea stars during our initial Photographic Marine Life Inventory of Christmas Island Dive Sites and both were similar in proportion, with an almost identical pattern of magenta spots. Although I have 4 species of this genus and many variations, none are similar to this species. For the time being I will refer to it as the Christmas Island Sea Star Neoferdina sp. until its identity is confirmed. ( photo: Marjorie Gant)
Found beneath the skirt of the Adhesive Sea Anemone Crypodendrum adhaesivum was a beautiful little Spottted Anemone Crab Neopetrolisthes maculatus feeding with rhymic sweeps of its hairy food collecting appendages. ( photo: Pat Richardson)
Congratulations to all..
Once again I would like to thank every body concerned for such a brilliant effort. We have proved the concept is possible and over the next few months I will be setting up the concept of the Christmas Island Marine Life Inventory of Dive Sites as a working model on my website before transferring it to Christmas Island Tourism Association and the Christmas Island Divers Association.