Dive 251+252 Rye Pier Spidercrab Migration!

Dear Critters,

The spectacular spider crab migration at Rye Pier in Australia is without exaggeration one of the highlights of my life every year! You may have seen it featured on a David Attenborough special, or on the incredible Disney ‘Oceans’ film? To see it in real life is – quite simply – breath-taking, mind-boggling and gobsmacking all at once. I was devastated to be in hospital this time last year, fearing that I would miss my third migration. But inexplicably, the crabs did not migrate in 2013 as expected; however, they must have heard that I had my fins back on this year, because when around 10,000 crabs appeared beneath the pier last weekend, they really put on quite a show!

Each year, the first clue that the migration may soon begin is a drop of water temperature by several degrees, just before the beginning of winter. As if on cue, a pre-migration of several hundred crabs arrives at the pier; when the word begins to spread, divers near and far get that amazing sense of excitement some people feel when the Christmas decorations start going up months before the actual event. To widespread disappointment, the crabs seem to vanish as quickly as they appeared, disappearing to the depths of Port Phillip Bay to prepare for the full migration five to six weeks later!

Slowly at first, then in their thousands, crabs start to flood into the waters around Rye Pier to moult, mate, climbing into towers up to five crabs tall until there is no sand in sight. Most of the newly moulted, soft-bodied bright orange crabsΒ manage toΒ escape being eaten by massive stingrays, angel sharks, fiddler rays and their cannibalistic counterparts. They gorge themselves on discarded flesh, and once their soft new shells have hardened, they recede en masse back into the ocean within a week, leaving behind them the shattered rubble of moulted shells amongst other tell-tale signs of their destructive impact on the otherwise tranquil underside of the pier.

I filmed this video on June 8 and 9, as well as my previously posted short film showing the migration from the perspective of a seahorse that cradled itself into my camera for as long as possible for protection. I love experiencing the spider crabs en masse, but I also feel as though each individual crab has its own story to tell, and I hope that I have managed to tell some of their unique stories well for you through this short film. One particular crab I encountered haunted and inspired like no other underwater creature before it. I hope that this short film I made in its honour gives you courage that – no matter what life may throw at you – you must never, ever give up!

Love and bubbles,

PT xxx


16 thoughts on “Dive 251+252 Rye Pier Spidercrab Migration!

  1. Love the video. I dived & filmed them last night 8pm 9/6 but after watching your video alot of them must have already moved on. Your
    video is so clear, what did you use to film them.

    • Tanks so much for your comment, James! I wanted to do night dives with them too this week but it just hasn’t happened …

      Those crabs are funny – they move around a lot with the tide, so you might think they have disappeared, but sometimes they are just repositioning around the pier – they may be in shallower or out to the right from the platform or out past Elsa’s, as far out as 10 mtrs …

      I noticed that footage I saw from Saturday made them look really dense and there didn’t seem to be as many around on Sunday, but then there was a huge increase in numbers again on Monday, so I suspect they are probably still just moving around without having really stopped and settled to stack up properly yet.

      I just have a compact Canon G12. The clarity was thanks to 2 days of brilliant sunlight – it makes such an enormous difference. Please let me know when and how I can watch your videos and any other underwater stuff you do! Love and bubbles, PT πŸ™‚

  2. I like the way that you have captured different habits of the crabs. I like how you build it up from one or two, then gradually end up where they are stacked upon one another. It is truly an amazing sight to see, and I believe that from the surface the average person will never get the full perspective of what it is really like, so hopefully the video does that for them. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

    • Tank you for your kind words, LP. It was great doing these dives with you, and I am so glad you managed to recover all your crabby footage – cannot WAIT to see it edited up (of course, as always, it will totally put mine to shame, but I’m totally ok with that :-P) Stacks of crabs, PT πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  3. Wow. Wouldn’t I love to see this. So far I’ve seen nothing as noteworthy. But there’s still time. I’m on my 110th+ dive that I have kept a log. I’m trying to follow the rescue, master, instructor track till I can sign in at the resort and not have to give the name of a coach. From weekend to weekend I have to find someone who’ll add my name to divers list.

    • Tanks, Victor. It really is a fantastic event to witness – this was my third time seeing it in person – really incredible, but fairly unpredictable about when it will happen. All the best with your further training – I was doing my Dive Master at one stage, but my health got in the way, so Master Diver is as far as I will go. I meant to say, if you like sharks, please watch my Fiji video – the sharks were incredible! Love and bubbles, PT xxx

  4. I feel fascinated by what there is on the depth of the seas! The pictures are really cool! What kind of equipment do you use for those photos?
    Thank you again for visiting my blog!
    xx Blue

    • Tanks so much, Blue Scar – the ocean is just amazing πŸ™‚ I just have a small compact (now obsolete) Canon G12 in a Recsea Housing and a single strobe. I love that my camera can switch between photos and videos easily πŸ™‚ I am on my way to my next dive with the spider crabs now – can’t wait to get back in the water, then share some more pictures and video! Love and bubbles, PT xxx

  5. Truly enjoyed your video, PT. I actually I felt was there in person to watch this. Thanks so very much for sharing it with us. Keep up the GREAT WORK…………..

    • Tank you so much for your lovely words, irishwyes317! I’m so glad you enjoyed my video – it is such a privilege to share this underwater world with you! Your encouragement means so much! Have a great week πŸ™‚ Love and bubbles, PT xxx

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