Friday, August 29, 2008

Spotted Eagle Ray - The most beautiful thing I've ever seen!

To be continued from: False Killer Whales in Danger of Extinction?

While continuing to follow false killer whales, Pseudorca cassidens, we found a pair of spotted eagle rays, Aetobatus narinari, swimming at surface. It was very odd to find them a mile offshore around 3,000 feet deep water as they were usually found near shore where you can see some bottoms of the ocean.


We were a bit bored of following whales without seeing many actions for a few hours, so we started investigating the eagle rays, and soon learned that there was something wrong with them. They seemed struggling to swim.


spotted eagle ray, Aetobatus narinari, Kona Coast, Big Island, Hawaii, USA, Pacific Ocean

Normally they are very difficult to approach in the wild. Very shy and usually stay away or simply flee from divers or others when they are approached. However, at this time, they behaved quite differently. It was after 3:00 pm and just about getting into the golden hour. It was already dark underwater as the light rays started hitting everything sideways. At this time of the year, I could probably shoot without artificial light underwater until 4:30 pm.


spotted eagle ray, Aetobatus narinari, showing long whip-like tail, venomous, Kona Coast, Big Island, Hawaii, USA, Pacific Ocean

As soon as I saw them underwater, I understood why they looked struggling. There were two eagle rays swimming together, but one of them had a huge belly and seemed having difficulty just swimming right.

I soon realized that the large one with pot-belly was female and was pregnant. She was accompanied by a smaller male eagle ray with large claspers - a pair of male organs. Two were swimming near the surface together, and sometimes breaking the surface with their tips of fins.

Like any woman in labor, she looked like she was in a lot of pain and her mate was looking after her helplessly. I thought I might have a chance to photograph the "live-birth" of the spotted eagle ray, so I tried to hang out with them without disturbing.


spotted eagle ray, Aetobatus narinari, Kona Coast, venomous, Big Island, Hawaii, USA, Pacific Ocean

I've heard that during the birthing process, eagel rays have been seen leaping out of the water and dripping their offsprings in midair! (find more info at John Hoover's HawaiiFishes.com). That would be an awesome thing to see if that happened, regardless I get a shot or not.

They seemed careless about my presence underwater, or they seemed just too busy with what they were supposed to do. I was successfully able to follow them for about an hour or so while keeping the distance, and then, suddenly they disappeared into deep, dark water as the sun was setting on the horizon.


spotted eagle ray, Aetobatus narinari, showing long whip-like tail, venomous, Kona Coast, Big Island, Hawaii, USA, Pacific Ocean

What a beautiful creatures they were! The whitespots were beautifully laid out on the top of their redish brown color that was lit by golden sunlight... Gliding ever-gracefully through the dark blue water with super long whip-like tails gently trailing its spotted, diamond-shaped body. It was one of the most spectacular and the most beautiful thing I've ever seen in my life.

No comments:

Post a Comment