Seasonal observations of an ever changing coastal landscape 
by Bold Bluff host Tamar Griggs 

Ocean Night Life

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Date: 16 May 2005
Time: 21:22:15


On the night of May 12th, when all was dark and the crescent moon was slipping low in the sky, we went down to the dock to see what we would see. Shining a spotlight in our open sea aquarium, we lay down on our bellies and waited. Up came teensy-tiny creatures about 1 inch long, irredescent pink darting around like torpedoes. Oooooo! Then came the worms which we later identified as Sand worms (Nereis vexillosa). They looked like Chinese dragons, irredescent pink with shimmering electric blue down the entire middle of their bodies, hundreds of paddle-like feet churning so they swam in undulating motion. These were between 6 - 12 inches long - really BIG! Spooky and fascinating. The tide was slack at this moment. They swam back and forth in our open aquarium, burrowing into the sugar kelp attached to our dock.

Then came the fish fry (salmon? shiners?) about 3 inches long, slender and blue-green. We think of salmon as "beautiful" and worms as "yucky". It is just ingrained into our psyche. Even I thought "yuck!" when I saw those worms. "I sure wouldn't want to swim with those brushing against my body". We are conditioned by the judgements of our culture. Children instinctively feel all life is wonderful - even slugs - until we parents react with a warning: "Don't touch! They are slimey, gooey, awful!"

Then the clear jelly fish came pulsing in the current that began to pick up. And would you believe it? The Sand worms vanished. It is amazing how swiftly the current in Sansum Narrows gains momentum. We turned off the dock light, and sitting down on the edge of the dock, I stirred the ocean with my gumboots. Clouds of sparkling lights lit up - the microscopic plankton, and the pilings lit up in swirls of ghost-like light.

We brought our guests down to the dock the next night, and only one Sand worm appeared. Perhaps we were too early! Perhaps they are moved by the position of the moon! It was nothing like the night of May 12th.

You never know what you will see in the night ocean. Night by night, the life and the behaviour changes. We were lucky to be down at the dock exactly when we were the night of May 12th.

       Last changed: January 26, 2012