Swimming with Giant Cuttlefish - Whyalla (Sth Aust)
Worldwide phenomenon in my own backyard, 'Say Whaaaatt' and yet I still haven't taken the plunge to dive Whyalla, to experience this marvel of nature. So this year in June 2019 after 7 years of scuba diving I take the cold (shivering) giant stride to admire, witness, photograph & video this migration and mating behaviour. (Narrated video below)
So, during the months from May to August, this natural wonder attracts international divers, researchers and journalists to dive and snorkel the annual migration of the Australian Giant Cuttlefish 'Sepia Apama', making it one of the worlds most spectacular natural events.
'Sir' David Attenborough has even included this event as part of his Documentaries, in 'Our Blue Planet' https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/4tfgmTgfJHlJpvvMnRlq9pG/filming-the-giant-cuttlefish-aggregation
This phenomenon and natural wonder attracts international divers, researchers and journalists to dive and snorkel to experience the aggregation from May to August which is unique in the world to Whyalla, with the divers entry at Stony Point (Pt Lowly).
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Swimming towards this glitter, it’s not long before you realise you are surrounded by huge yet incredibly graceful giant Australian cuttlefish – the larger males the size of a medium sized dog, the body measuring over 60 centimetres long and weighing 5 kilograms. Despite their huge size, these creatures hover around effortlessly much like a spacecraft in orbit. Yet if threatened they can shoot water through their siphon and move through the water backwards at lightning speed.
In an area the size of the average dining room, you will see 20 to 30 individuals. You will witness large males putting on incredible colour shows pulsating through all the colours of the rainbow at the blink of an eye. At first the sheer size and rapid colour-changes of these creatures is intimidating, yet after a few minutes you realise that they are oblivious to your presence. There is one thing on their mind – procreation.
Small males will come in close, pull in their tentacles and change colour to mimic a female – when the large male isn’t watching the small cross-dressing male will swoop in and mate with the female.
Cuttlefish are intelligent creatures able to change their colour, shape and texture as they move along the seabed to imitate rocks, sand or seaweed. As males are vastly outnumbered (a gender imbalance unique to Whyalla), there is fierce and frenzied competition between males for mating privileges, leading to displays of unusual and spectacular behaviour.
Mating takes place with the cuttlefish linking their eight arms and two tentacles for head-to-head contact, with the males slipping their sperm packages into the female’s mouth and fertilising her eggs. The female lays tear-shaped eggs and attaches them to the underside of the rocky ledges and in rock cavities where they hatch three to five months later. It is believed they congregate here in such large numbers as it is the only area in the vicinity with rocky ledges suitable to lay eggs.
They are active day and night, but the best time to swim with them is normally in the morning before the winds pick up in the afternoon.
The breeding areas off Stony Point and Black Point have an average depth of 4 metres, so as long as the visibility is at least 4 metres you will easily see giant Australian cuttlefish while snorkelling in the shallows close to coast. If you're careful to move slowly, you can get up close without disturbing the cuttlefish. In fact, they seem oblivious to people as they go about their activities of outsmarting other cuttlefish to find a mate.
In the winter months, the water is very cold so a well-fitting full 5-millimetre or 7-millimetre wetsuit with hood, gloves and boots is the way to go. Snorkelling is safe along this bit of coast but you do need to be careful when entering water over rocks and boulders, as they can be unstable and slippery. Stony Point has a boardwalk down to the water and a waist-height chain to hold onto for support, making it the safest point to enter or exit.
To witness something so awe-inspiring and special in my own backyard, which people travel from all over the world to experience, keeps me coming back. I’m always after ‘that’ special image that shows one of the many colours, textures and behaviours of these magnificent creatures.
Credit & Acknowledgment for reference:
DID YOU KNOW?
Cuttlefish are colour blind and have ‘w’ shaped pupils which are thought to allow them to see both behind and in front at the same time.
Cuttlefish are also not actually a fish. They are a cephalopod (Greek for ‘head-foot’), and their feet, or tentacles actually connect to their head rather than their body.
Cuttlefish have green blood, 3 hearts, 8 arms and 2 feeding tentacles.
Another 'Rivetting Moment', to inspire & ignite the traveller in you, to broaden life challenges & experiences !!!!!