“Mom! Mom! Dad! Dad! Come quick! Hurry! Hurry!” We heard Leah exclaim from outside the boat on the dock where she had been laying quietly watching the water. She was squealing with excitement. “You have GOT to see this! Something is swimming under the boat with many legs!”
Now we were intrigued. We had got to see this.
We stepped onto the dock and peered under the boat. And indeed we saw the beautiful creature too, a translucent sea animal swimming, no, undulating peacefully through the murky marina water. It had countless soft spines, each with a dark brown tip that looked a little ominous. “Get the bucket!” our budding biologist commanded and Michael grabbed the white bucket that has now held many a sea creature. He gently scooped up the 6″ long animal with some sea water and set the bucket on the dock for all to view.
“What is it??” Leah asked us. We were certainly stumped. While we’ve had hundreds of jellyfish swim past our boat, thousands of teeny, tiny fish and there’s a handful of healthy sea anemones on our pier this fascinating animal was a mystery. It definitely seemed out of place and we wondered how it had gotten stuck in our marina.
We grabbed our Audubon Field Guide to North American Seashore Creatures and identified it as some type of nudibranch. None of the species in our book seemed to match, but a quick check on Google (oh how we are going to miss the internet when we are cruising!) identified it as a Giant Nudibranch. It turns out that these are quite a sight to see while diving in Puget Sound, especially if you get to view one feeding on an anemone; we felt very fortunate to get to watch one from our nice dry dock.
Leah just had to share her new discovery so she ran a few boats down and told the girls from Pearl what she had found. They were intrigued and came over for a look and were fascinated too. Turns out it was their first marina nudibranch sighting as well.
For a number of minutes the creature did not move at all, clearly terrified. You know, that playing dead trick. Then it must have realized it was not actually dead yet and started to swim around our bucket. We observed our unique visitor for another 10 minutes then gently set the creature back into the sea where it quickly undulated away. Leah was tearful but it was yet another chance for us to explain how we can look at the sea creatures we find for a short time but, no, they are not going to become our pets. They must be returned back to their home, the sea. She understood and was grateful, as were we, for the chance to have this beautiful creature visit us for a while.
Which just goes to show that if you lay on your stomach on the dock peering in to the depths of the sea for long enough you never know what will come swimming by.