Guests diving in Gorontalo on Christmas Eve day enjoyed quite a show. On the first dive we watched asquadron of eight pygmy mantas, probably Shortfin devil rays (Mobula kuhlii), which are common here. On the same dive a Black-tip reef shark and large Nap.olean wrasse made appearances. Two other Napo.lean wrasse came up from the deep to check out divers on the second dive. But the main attraction was the cuttlefish. A large and very pregnant female was inserting eggs into coral while a large male waited. However, he had to keep chasing off a small male that seemed determined to get in on the action.
Several days ago another sunfish showed up in the river mouth where Miguel’s Diving ties the dive boat. About this time last year a similar one appeared. Both fish were caught by hook at night during the dark moon. We sent a cutting of the first one to an international Mola mola researcher. DNA testing identified it as Masturus lanceolatus, the Sharp-tailed Sunfish, which is less common that the usual Oceanic Sunfish or Mola mola. As its name implies, the one found in Gorontalo has a small sharp tail, whereas the regular Mola mola has none at all.
Winning photo is a great souvenir from a dive trip to Gorontalo.
Miguel’s Diving Guest with Winning Photo
Congratulations to Suzannah Browning! This tall blonde member of Singapore’s Free Flow Divers entered its first underwater photography competition. We just learned that a photo she took while diving here with friends over last Chinese New Year holidays won Overall Winner. The photo shows two pregnant Sarasvati shrimps, one of the new species available in Gorontalo. If you have a copy of FiNS magazine‘s September/October 2005 issue, turn to page 59.
Sarasvati – a New Shrimp Species
The Sarasvati shrimp is actually one of the new species found in Gorontalo. Dr. Okuno published the original research on this shrimp in 2002. He named it Periclimenes sarasvati. Specimens came from the Ryukyu Islands of Japan. Miguel’s Diving had just opened diving two years previously. At that time, we had no winning photo to share with the researcher.
Hosts for the Sarasvati shrimp
Like other Periclimenes shrimp species, the Sarasvati shrimp lives in association with certain corals and sea anemones. They are called hosts. Japanese divers, who assisted in the original research, found this shrimp on Anchor coral (Euphyllia ancora) and Spotted bubble coral (Euphyllia divisa). Although Miguel’s Diving staff can verify these two hosts, both of those corals are very rare in Gorontalo. Additionally, we have discovered the shrimp on colonies of an orange Euphyllia coral.
Research also indicates that Tenacled mushroom coral (Heliofungia actiniformis) is another host. We can verify that this is another place to look for this shrimp. However, the most common host in Gorontalo for the Sarasvati shrimp is the Magnificent sea anemone (Heteractis magnifica). This was the host for Suzannah’s winning photo.
Colorful and Friendly
Since Periclimenes sarasvati is a cleaner shrimp, it must be friendly! It has a symbiotic relationship with fish. That means the relationship between fish and shrimp is mutually beneficial. Sarasvati shrimp will wait patiently on their host. When a passing fish pauses over the cleaning station, the shrimp goes to work. It will inspect the fish’s body for parasites. Once its pincers pull a parasite off the fish, the shrimp will eat it. A hungry Sarasvati shrimp will rock its body side to side in an attempt to attract a candidate for its cleaning services. Sometimes, it will clap its pincers together.
When divers in Gorontalo see a fish hovering over an anemone or Tenacled mushroom coral, that is a good sign that Sarasvati shrimp are at work.This is the time to get your camera ready for a winning photo.
Divers can easily see the distinctive marking of Periclimenes sarasvati. This shrimp has white and blue/purple markings on its translucent body. Its abdominal hump features a white saddle marking that is edged in blue/purple. Its eyes are red and white. In the winning photo, the shrimp is clearly carrying pink eggs under her abdomen.
That is marine researcher Leyla Knittwise’s reaction after only a single dive in Olele Bay, Gorontalo. Leyla along with the rest of the Wallacea Expedition Indonesia II team recorded 136 coral species and 160 species of fish during a single dive in mid-August. She said that Olele has notably higher marine biodiversity when compared to other locations surveyed during this expedition, including areas in western Gorontalo.
Coral researcher Dr. Jamaluddin Jompa from Makassar, Sulawesi’s Hasanuddin University said, “Try to imagine the relative narrow coral reef here having such an abundant variety of coral and marine life!” Expedition coordinator Syafyuddin Yusuf said that Olele stands out from other diving locations in Indonesia. He particularly noted the unique ocean topography of Olele, including caves and huge crevasses, a certain draw for world class divers seeking to enjoy natural beauty below the sea. (Since all Miguel’s Diving staff was out of the area at the time, the Wallacea team missed the towering coral pinnacles that make Olele famous to those who have been diving with us.)
The Wallacea team was impressed with how easily large Napol.ean wrasse were to find. They credit efforts by Olele villagers in protecting this fish and their narrow reef. Butterflyfishes are considered a key indicator of reef health. The number of butterfly species found and their abundance puts the health of Olele above coral reefs found in other parts of Sulawesi, including Bunaken Island, Takabonerate Atoll, Togian Islands, and Spermonde Archipelago.
This web post came from an article in Gorontalo Post 16 August 2005.
Sperm whale carcass is a rare site worldwide. Imagine the surprise when one drifted onto a remote reef in Gorontalo!
New but Temporary Attraction
In early May, Miguel’s Diving staff received word that a mysterious whale had died in west Gorontalo. As a result, we made a whirlwind trip to its remote location. We were not the only curious people wanting to get a close look. The dead whale had washed onto a shallow reef about twenty minutes from shore. Enterprising boatmen were already providing transport for a fee to curiosity seekers. That included us!
At first glance, Miguel’s Diving staff knew immediately that the attraction was a sperm whale carcass. It was in about one meter of water. It was laying on its side, barely floating on top of the shallow reef. We estimated its length to be 12 meters. The sperm whale carcass was in an advanced state of decay. This gave real meaning to the phrase “bloated whale.” The smell was horrific! Evidently, ocean currents had brought the dead whale into shallow waters where it got stuck.
Sperm Whale Carcass Confirms Presence in Tomini Bay
Miguel’s Diving already has close relationships with marine scientists. This include Indonesian Cetacean Watch. We knew that a specimen from the sperm whale carcass would be of great interest scientifically. However, retrieving a sample was easier said than done.
Only sperm whales have the distinctive, large head that contains a special organ. It is called spermaceti. This is a massive organ composed of web-like pipes filled with a yellow wax. Centuries ago, this wax was harvested for fuel, mostly used in lamps.
Very small waves were washing onto the Gorontalo reef and the dead whale. Underneath the skin of the whale’s head, the liquid inside was also washing back and forth. Any perforation of that skin would result in tons of putrefied spermaceti wax to gush out from the opening.
To complicate matters, the boatmen only had a small knife on board. We expected a machete. The water surrounding the sperm whale carcass was clearly contaminated with rotting fluids secreted by the corpse. Fortunately, the water near the head was clearest. With knife in hand and wearing only a dive mask, Miguel Diving’s intrepid dive master jumped in. He literally swam between the jaws of the sperm whale. Taking a small chip of jawbone, he was out again in no time. Back at the village, a long wash with lots of soap and shampoo successfully prevented infection.
NOTE: Researchers received the specimen in good order. Tests confirmed that the sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) had been female. More significantly, this was the first confirmation of this whale’s presence in Tomini Bay, Sulawesi. We were also told that sperm whales most often die in combat with deep-sea squid, their favorite meal.
A Most Unique Whale
Although local fishermen had never seen a sperm whale, Miguel’s Diving boatman Sahir had seen one swim under his small fishing boat in the Togian Islands where he was raised.
Sperm whales have a very distinctive head and jaw. The lower jaw has a row of conical teeth that can weigh up to a kilo each. When our intrepid dive master swam down to inspect the jaw, he discovered that local Bajo fishermen had already removed the teeth.
Miguel’s Diving staff can practically guarantee that guests will not see a sperm whale carcass. To enjoy diving the beautiful waters of Gorontalo, please book your dive trip with us.