pix of live paper nautilus

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Posted by RogerC on March 13, 2004 at 14:29:08:

OK, so there we were, at San Nick, on the Great Escape, last Saturday. It's 10:25AM, Terry's calling for the last dive to be a short one, back at the boat by 11. We're staying at the same site, and it's not a rocker for photography, it's just freeway pavement and scattered kelp stringers. Don't get me wrong, there's no bad dive, and there's always a reason to get in the water with a camera, but I'm cold, water's 51 or so, my drysuit is leaking a bit, and I'm really having second thoughts. But what the heck, if nothing else, I'm learning that I have a lot to learn about sea lion photography, and there are a few around, so I ask Capt. Don for a quick short fill and hop back in.

I stop about 20 feet down to look for the sea lions, and I see something hanging next to a kelp frond. It's an oval, looking right at me, like a small triggerfish or something. I slide over, and it backs up, and I get the feeling that it's looking at me. The feeling you get from a cephalopod, not a fish.

I don't go very far before I recognize the shell. Gotta admit, the refresher course we had here a few weeks ago helped. I knew *exactly* what it was: a paper nautilus.

It hovered away from me, rolling a bit, and I kept after it. It went up to about 10 feet, and I thought it was going to hide in the surface clutter, the way some squid will, but it leveled off and headed back down. It was pretty comfortable with me about 3 feet away, and it let me get sideways on it for a shot or two. Its tentacles (it's an octopus, not a squid or real nautilus) were inside out over it's head, and realizing that and watching it change its "face" from a pretty solid mass to one made up of loose tentacles was pretty cool. This is one strange creature. I wondered how much fun the sea lions would have with it. I later read that they eat jellies, and there sure were plenty of those around.

anyway, it was one of the weirdest things I've ever seen, and I was pretty happy I made that last dive.

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