The stormy weather still has us sheltering inside, but before the weather turned we found our favourite dive site of the expedition so far – Catton’s Cave, on the south side of Rosemary Rock in the Princes Islands group - and we thought we’d take you on a virtual tour.
Oculina virgosa is a hard coral that is only known from Three Kings, the northern tip of North Island and the Poor Knights Islands. In other places they have seen it Richie and Skip say it lives quite deep, at about 50-60 metres, but here it is living in about 15 metres of water.
Now I know this photo looks upside-down – but it’s not! I love the way that fish under an overhang are perfectly happy swimming upside-down, as they keep their bellies to the wall and their backs to the light. This half-banded perch is almost on top of some fragile white bryozoan thickets. The apricot-yellow hard coral Oculina virgosa is on both sides of the fish, and there is a blue gorgonian fan to its left.
This organ pipe sponge Callyspongia latitubais is growing on the floor of the cave, but it also grows on the walls.
Kareen and the invertebrate team aren’t sure what this is but they suspect it might be an ascidian.
The beautiful white feather-like creatures are crinoids or sea-lilies living amongst the apricot-yellow hard coral Oculina virgosa.
This yellow brittle star Asteroceras elegans has knotted its long legs around its preferred host, a gorgonian fan (Primnoa sp.). Most of the gorgonian fans are undescribed.
The peachy Callogorgia gorgonian fan in the foreground looks as if it is made of beads. And the yellow structure in the background is intriguing the invertebrate team and the photographers who haven’t ever seen anything quite like it before – they suspect it is a white hydrozoan (the feathery tips) that has been overgrown by a yellow sponge. Whatever it is it’s quite common around the Three Kings.
This photo is taken at the edge of the cave. The fish at the right-hand side is a scarlet wrasse, next to a gorgonian fan, while the big crowd of fish outside are butterfly perch.
We couldn’t finish without a bit of video – I’m not sure it does the rainbow-hued cave justice but hopefully you get a sense of the magic of this underwater world. The colours and textures in Malcolm’s photos are more representative of what we saw but the video gives a sense of how lush and abundant the walls of the cave are. What you’re seeing in the video is one of the slightly overhanging walls of the cave, which is covered in a huge variety of colourful gorgonian fans, sponges, hydroids, crinoids and ascidians.