Monday, March 19, 2012

Fiji: Dive back in time

For the past several years, the New England Aquarium has participated in a joint expedition to Fiji, along with the Monterey Bay Aquarium and other conservation-minded groups and individuals. The last expedition took place in October and November 2010. Stay tuned to this blog to follow the team as they dive to collect data on the health of the coral reefs, pick up trash where they find it, check in with the villagers to see how some conservation initiatives are faring and further develop connections with the people that live on these beautiful Pacific islands. 

Today's post comes to us from Bailey.

Today’s dusk dive on the UndeNAI’Aable site really took me back. Maneuvering at the edge of a series of small caves at 60 feet, Erwin Filius (Kiwi Dive Master and animal spotter extraordinaire) shone his light in on a magnificent fish that took me back nearly 30 years. It was none other than a Comet, Calloplesiops altivelis, one of my favorite fish from the entirety of my career.

Comet seen in Fiji

As a rookie aquarist back in the early 80s, I was often assigned the duty of running errands to Boston Pet in Cambridge, a fish hobbyist store (long since gone) that supplied the Aquarium with a number of essentials, like: air line, exhibit coral substrate and some types of fish foods. In the rear of the store were rows and rows of fish tanks on shelves with what seemed like every species of reef fish known to man. While doing one of those errands I strolled through the tank rows and saw a fish that made me stop in my tracks—it was a Comet. I knew immediately that it was my mission, my duty, to put that animal on display in the Coloration Exhibit (1975 – 1988). 

It is a shy secretive fish that doesn’t like bright light, is somewhat inclined to solitude, wants a chunk of real estate resembling a cave to call its own and is finicky about foods. The animal somehow did settle in (go figure, because I didn’t offer much in the way of talent in those days), and eventually became quite bold—gliding around the exhibit, readily accepted what was offered for food and was a real favorite with visitors. I felt quite pleased, and funneled that outcome into tackling more difficult species. 

When Erwin had the animal in the torch’s light, all those memories and images flooded my mental cinema. It was a moment of pure bliss.


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