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Marine life and instant karma victims in the Canary Islands
Suffering for my art again
In the words of that old song I do like to be beside the seaside, but not for the sun and sandy beaches and all that holidaymaker stuff, no, for me there is nothing better than to go and see what has washed up or what lies hidden in the rock-pools. Here in Tenerife in the Canary Islands there are plenty of rocky beaches so plenty of pools.
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Marine life photos
Never one for sandcastles
When I was a kid and my parents took me to the beach I was never one for sandcastles or even going in the water, well, not unless I fell in! I delighted in turning over stones to see what creatures I could find, or rummaging through piles of seaweed thrown up by the tide and watching the sand-hoppers leaping about. Best of all was the excitement of finding prawns, small fish, crabs and rag-worms hiding in the pools.
The habits of my childhood are still with me and so the black volcanic beaches of Tenerife are my idea of heaven. In the pools here there are a multitude of fish and strange marine life to discover. Creatures like the Sea Cucumber and the Sea Hare, both of which I have found on the beaches at Los Cristianos and Las Galletas.
Sea Cucumbers look a bit like large pickled gherkins that have turned brown. I haven't eaten one but I understand that they are regarded as a delicacy in China.
You simply cannot miss seeing the Sea Hare because it is so exotic in appearance and yet the majority of people seem completely unaware of them. The ones that are most common here, and yes, they are common, are Speckled Sea Hares. They are unmistakeable with the large dark brown circles that cover their pale buff-brown or creamy-yellow bodies. They grow at least as long as your hand and can be seen gliding, and grazing as they go, over the bottoms of weedy pools.
The Sea Hare moniker is because they have tentacles on their heads that look a bit like ears and in Spanish the creatures is known as "Conejo de Mar" (Rabbit of the Sea).
They are actually a type of sea slug or nudibranch, aptly named because their soft bodies are nude and unprotected by any outer shell. However, pick one up or disturb it and suddenly a cloud of purple ink gets squirted into the water. Squid use this means of defense too and the idea is that the ink would blind a would-be predator, while the victim makes good their escape.
Another marine creature I love to see and which is certainly good at making its escape is the Sally Lightfoot Crab, so named because of its speed at running away over rocks. I remember when I first came to Tenerife when I spotted some of these black crustaceans basking on volcanic boulders in Puerto de la Cruz.
There are crabs with red legs as well and I find I get to thinking about Charles Darwin and his theories of evolution when I see these creatures hauling themselves out on to the rocks. My mind goes leaping to David Attenborough TV documentaries with Marine Iguanas and Giant Tortoises in the Galapagos Islands. None here, of course, but I am sure Darwin would have said his theory explained how the land crabs evolved and how this type has black backs to match the stones. However, I don't know what he'd say about the ones with colourful limbs.
I did a bit of research and found out that it is very difficult to get a good photo of a Sally Lightfoot because the crabs are very camera-shy. I can confirm this and that's why you won't be getting a picture here.
Speaking of photography in relation to marine life, an unfortunate accident happened to me when I was attempting to get some pictures of a rock pool and what was in it. I had been talking to a friend about how there are lots of blennies here in Tenerife and ended up having to try to explain what this fish is like.
One day whilst on a small rocky beach near where I live I saw a pool that had not only blennies but also all sorts of seaweed and what looked like a type of coral. Ideal, I thought. Now is my chance to get a picture to show my friend exactly what a blenny looks like. I got my digital camera out and edged down so I was looking right over the water. But then it happened. I lost my footing on the slippery wet weed-covered rocks and tumbled right into the pool, grazing my knees in the process.
What a fool I felt as I stumbled dripping wet out of the water, with blood running down my legs just like a little kid who has taken a nasty tumble. I then had to walk home like that and you should have seen the looks I was getting.
My knees healed up but my camera never did recover and this is why I am now a bit wary of taking photos on the beach, at least the type of pictures that I want to get. I suppose you could call this incident an example of me suffering for my art!
Not only that but a couple of days earlier I had been walking on another strip of shoreline with my friend Keith and his dog Scampy and they had slipped in a rock pool. I had thought it was funny but of course I couldn't laugh out loud.
Anyway I was telling Keith about my accident and he said: "I bet you thought it was funny the other day when Scamp and I got wet, well look at this!" Pointing to his arm he showed me a tatto and it read "Instant Karma!"
Footnote: Originally published in the Tenerife Sun in 2006.
© 2008 Steve Andrews