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Blue-Eyed Squid Ilot Ua New Caledonia
New Caledonia

I like squid. A bit of a double meaning there as I not only appreciate watching these intelligent and strange social creatures in the lagoon, I also enjoy eating them. But this sphere image is about the live ones.

I have, ever since I started doing sphere images, always wanted to take a sphere image of a school of squid. Freddy and I have seen them, from time to time, while snorkeling but they have always somehow known that Freddy and I are predators that munch on their tender flesh. So they are exceedingly difficult to get close to and are capable of swimming (jetting really) much faster than me. Anyway, you can't do a sphere image when swimming after something; you need to be stay in one spot and turn around.

We were snorkeling along the face of the fringing reef at Ua when I spotted a shark sleeping in a coral cave. It was a nice bit of reef, very colorful, so I stopped and began taking a sphere image with my trusty little Gopro Hero3. The plan was to do a complete sphere of the coral and then maybe get Freddy to go close enough to the sleeping shark to get it to do a swim-by for the sphere photo. Can you see the shark in the sphere image? He's in one of the caves.

But it was one of those days when coordination was not my best feature. I was thrashing around a bit, there was a little current, I couldn't seem to keep my fins or arms out of the camera's field of view. Whatever, I fiddled around, turned around and around, adjusted the camera, did it again.

One of the more fascinating features of squids - and octopus - is their curiosity. We had seen a big school of squid earlier in the day but they would not (as usual) let us get close to them, swimming off into the blue if I even looked in their direction. But apparently they were close enough to see my bizarre spinning dance. And apparently they found this interesting enough to come closer to see what I was doing. 

I was totally absorbed trying to keep the camera in exactly the same spot while turning around and avoiding making splashes so I didn't even notice the squids until I looked up and saw them all around me. Looking at me with those big blue eyes. 

Squid actually communicate by changing colors and they change their colors to make themselves harder to see; like a chameleon only much faster; almost instantaneous. Notice that the squid hovering over the darker area of the reef are dark colored, the ones backlit by the sun are much lighter, and the ones in the deeper water fade to almost the same blue as the lagoon water.

Think about that a minute. Because it means that the squid were changing their color to make themselves harder for me to see them but they had to realize what they would look like to ME. Like some of them were thinking, "I'm on the sunny side of that monster so I need to be light-colored." Others were thinking, "From where that monster is I have a dark reef behind me". Which means they were adjusting their colors to MY point of view. 

That's pretty perceptive of them. It's hard to think of that as "instinctive" behavior, because they need to realize where my eyes are, where I am actually looking (or might look) and what's behind them from my point of view.

So please enjoy these lovely blue-eyed squids in their idyllic coral reef domain and think of them the next time you see Calamari on the menu.

Copyright: Richard Chesher
Type: Spherical
Resolution: 12000x6000
Taken: 18/08/2013
Uploaded: 07/10/2013
Updated: 26/05/2014
Views:

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Tags: squid; underwater; underwater scenic; shark; lagoon; coral reef; gopro; hero3; world heritage site; new caledonia; ua; ilot ua; 5 isles; south lagoon
  • Chris over 1 year ago
    What fabulous colours and variety of corals, your photography is spectacular, you are an artist, thank you for sharing these beautiful images with us.
  • Ieta over 1 year ago
    Breathtaking shots, perfect fusion of all the pictures and a very comprehensive explanation. Richard, you take us to a higher level every time!
  • Geoff H. over 1 year ago
    Awesome image. Your work is truly exceptional. I also really appreciated your commentary, offering perspective on the scene. Amazing that the squid changed color to hide themselves from you. That reflects a remarkable kind of collective awareness.
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    More About New Caledonia

    New Caledonia is the closest South Pacific Island to Australia and New Zealand. It is a French Territory and although the official language is French the culture is a blend of Melanesian, European, Polynesian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Indonesian, and more. There is one large mountainous island called Grande Terre and 6 smaller islands - the three Loyalty Islands, Belep and the Isle of Pines.The islands are remarkably unpopulated and there are vast areas of wilderness. There are hundreds of kilometers of walking treks, camp grounds, more than 42 parks and reserves, and crystal clear rivers with sparkling waterfalls. Almost one third of the population is located in the capital city of Noumea. Nickel mining is the primary industry and is the major contributor to the high standard of living in the country. Grande Terre is surrounded by the second largest barrier reef in the world and the protected lagoon created by this barrier reef is the largest in the world. Listed as a World Heritage Site in 2008, the lagoon is 24,000 square kilometers and supports a diverse and luxuriant fauna of fish and invertebrates.The vibrant, clear and rich colors are one of the first things that visitors notice when they arrive. Noumea has a complete range of hotels, resorts, restaurants, and activities to welcome visitors.