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As someone who has been diagnosed with terminal endometrial cancer, this year is all about ticking things off my Bucket List. I am thrilled to report that, during a 137 minute dive in 12 degree celcius water yesterday at Blairgowrie Pier, I finally crossed ‘film a spider crab moulting’ off my Bucket List (sadly, it didn’t work out so well for the poor crab!)
I have been diving with spider crabs during their annual aggregations in Victoria, Australia for the past five years, and this season I have been filming and photographing them underwater most days for the past few weeks (my oncology team tell me to do ‘whatever makes me feel alive’, and this is definitely what does it for me 😀 ). You can find plenty of other posts on my blog featuring images and videos of my previous adventures with these amazing creatures. You may remember this video I filmed recently of an enormous spider crab pyramid at the same location?
But in all those years of spidey diving, this was the first time I had finally spotted one in the process of moulting its old shell. There is nothing more fascinating than seeing this natural phenomenon occur. From a filming perspective, it wasn’t easy to remain motionless on the cold, sandy bottom for so long during the moulting process (which can take up to 20 mins). I tried to remain calm despite the rising sense of thrill and awe at FINALLY witnessing this miraculous event with my own eyes. And just as I thought I would truly see the crab emerge entirely from its old shell like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis, I felt something large nudge against my right arm with a determined sort of insistence.
Right from the start, three huge smooth rays had circled the ocean floor beneath the pier, waiting for the large orange soft-shelled crabs to emerge from the old, hard shells they had outgrown. Now, towards the end of the crab’s painfully slow moult into its new life, here was the largest predator of them all, pushing its nose against my arm to instruct me to get out of its way – how dare I position myself between a 2.5 mtr wide stingray and its next scrumptious snack?
Horrified for the crab (and mortified by the prospect that I may not get to finish filming the moulting process), I pushed the stingray gently back with my hand. Again it pressed its nose insistently against my arm and I was not foolish enough to argue further. I quickly but reluctantly repositioned myself on the other side of the pylon to record the ravenous ray slurping up the newly soft-shelled crab like spaghetti marinara.
Once again, it has been a fascinating experience to observe the sometimes harrowing life-cycle of the Australian Giant Spider Crab. I look forward to posting more videos and images from the 2015 season over the coming days, so please subscribe to this blog by email and follow Pink Tank Scuba on Facebook for more of my underwater adventures! (You can also join the exciting new Spider Crabs Melbourne Facebook page 🙂 )
In the meantime, here are a few more of my previous spider crab videos for your viewing pleasure 🙂
Love and bubbles,
(photo of PT and crab above courtesy of Ruth Betteridge)
ps While you are here, please check out some more of my ‘scuba vs tumour’ underwater adventures on this blog. Tanks so much for visiting 😀