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Quote of the Day - I remember Gene always had to take cod's liver oil or drink yeast with orange juice. As a result, he's like 6 inches taller than me. - Paul Elias
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MIPTC's South Seas Journal: Underwater In The Great Barrier Reef Day Eight

The Lizard Island pickup of divers new to the boat is complete and the tsunami is a distant memory.  We're off to Cod Hole.  I know the fish as a GrouperCod, as far as I'm concerned, is what comes from the Atlantic's Grand Banks and goes into Mrs. Paul's fish sticks.

But we're in Australia south of the equator and west of the International Date Line, and most everything is different.  And yes, in case you're interested, water going down the drain swirls counterclockwise.  I know.  I saw it.

Most of the fish I've seen here I've never seen before.  It's been an amazing experience.  Imagine floating just a foot of so away from a venomous Lionfish, with its myriad poisonous fin spines fully extended, watching as it waits for prey, oblivious that I'm behind it, off and to the left.  I'm nowhere in its way, and I know better than to get in its way.  Aside from the danger, it's a stunningly beautiful fish.  Its multiple, elongated fins extend nearly ten inches from its body, erect and flapping in the current like a flag rippling in the wind.

Nature.  You just can't duplicate it.

Anything big enough like that, you stay away.  Another clue is a bright color, like Fire Coral, which very aptly makes the point that you shouldn't touch the reefs.  Not only will it likely hurt, you're damaging the basic building blocks of the ocean, which eventually provides food to you and me.

If you like fish, that is.

Personally, I prefer shellfish, but my point is the same.  Perhaps someone should put up big signs underwater that say, "Look, but don't touch."  "If you break it, you buy it."  The breakage cost is like the MasterCard commercial:  priceless.

But you can't stop the fish from touching you.  Especially the big ones, like the Potato Cod.  Let me give you a little bit of setup here.  The dive boat has an underwater videographer as part of its crew.  She dives with us and takes video of our dives so we can remember what we saw, for those of us with short memories. 

We've both been diving for awhile, so we understand underwater hand signals.  While we're diving together, she motions me over closer to a rather large and (I learn later) friendly Potato Cod.  She get the obligatory 15 - 20 seconds of video of me somewhat close to it with my knees on the sand, and I move away from the Cod, who apparently thinks I'm there to feed it.  As I move up and away, it moves closer to me, going after my hand, which holds a black snorkel I found in the sand, lost by another diver. 

About 50 feet deep, I swim away up to about 35 or 40 feet, and the Cod disappears.  Or so I think.

My first clue should have been that the videographer is still filming me.  At the time, I don't quite understand why she's still zoomed in on me and the little red light is on, but when I watch the video later, it's for the comedic effect.

Unbeknownst to me, the Cod is not to be dissuaded.  It thinks I have food, and it wants to be fed.  As I swim away, the Cod follows underneath and behind me.  Are you catching the irony here?   I don't see the Cod, but the videographer is in front of me, finning backward.  She see the Cod, and she knows what's going to happen next, but purposefully doesn't signal to me.

I move along slowly toward the videographer, as does the Cod, but it instead approaches in stealth mode, just a bit faster than me, and rises up underneath me.  I'm at 35 feet, it's at about 36 or 37 feet, but I still don't see it.  I'm looking ahead, smiling at the camera, parallel to the sand floor, head looking up and straight ahead. 

I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.

I continue to swim toward the camera, and still unknown to me, the Cod does, too, but still out of my sight.  Apparently now understanding that I have no food and don't intend to feed it, the Cod gets frustrated with me and decides to let me know. 

The camera is still rolling.

Still underneath me but only by about a foot now, the Cod gives one big push with its fins and body, turns its large body sideways and reaches up to give me what I can only describe as a fish kiss, and plops its big lips right under my chin, giving me a head butt.

I react quite as the videographer expects:  a very surprised jolt back and up, and the Cod, quite satisfied now that I understand it's presence, slowly swims away.  I'm the one who looks foolish now.

Video to follow, once my dive gear arrives.  Check back periodically in the next few weeks, and I'll post the video, too. 

Film at 11. 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Tuesday, April 03, 2007 at 23:31 Comments Closed (0) |
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