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Sunday, July 01, 2012

Raroia, Tuamotu - Giant clams

July 1, 2012
Raroia, Tuamotu
Anchorage position: 16°13.8546 S 142°27.4837 W

With twenty Blacktip reef sharks circling the boat yesterday morning, we weren't going swimming even to the nearby reef. So we loaded the dinghy with all of our gear and set out to explore a more distant location to the southeast. The snorkeling was really nice. The standout creature on the reef had to be the giant clams in the genus Tridacna. These colorful clams are usually found embedded or burrowed into the coral and are extremely abundant. Exhibiting brightly colored lips in electric blue, cannery yellow, taupe browns, ruby reds and psychedelic purples, they add a dimension not commonly found. These slow growing creatures have been heavily exploited worldwide as the abductor muscle garners considerable sums in Asia as an aphrodisiac. Snorkeling in an unexploited area you gain a real appreciation of the beauty of these amazing creatures which might number half a dozen in just one small coral head the size of a coffee table.

On virgin reefs big groupers and other large tasty fish, unaccustomed to spear fishing, curiously followed us around. One big fat black grouper was tempting me a bit when he swam directly under the dinghy with me in chase with the video camera. I almost stopped filming and speared him as it would have been so easy and with very little risk of sharks getting too interested. I could have quickly transfered the bleeding fish to the dingy without a long swim with a struggling fish and bloody scent trail. As the thought was crossing my mind and as if sensing my intention to let the spear find it's mark, several sharks showed up on the scene and started circling. With the hunter now becoming the hunted, my interest in the kill was subdued and I was happy to keep my eyes on the sleek silent circling hunters. I kept filming and when a most curious shark closed within six feet I waved my spear in his face of which he took no notice. A few minutes later I gave Kathy the shark sign, you know when you put your hand on top of your head like a shark fin, and we met up to discuss our comfort level with the steadily increasing number of sharks. About this time an individual darted by at high speed prompting us to make a quick decision to exit the water for a new location with less sharks.

After our snorkel we explored a nearby motu and when pushing the dinghy back in the water, the bottom grated on the beach and sharks came out of nowhere darting close to the dinghy. We did a few experiments to see what attracted the sharks. Splashing a foot in the water at a very fast cadence attracted attention, something to keep in mind next time you go swimming with out fins and are kicking hard! The sharks seemed most interested in the grating sound made by the aluminum dinghy bottom, so now we'll take more care in watching our feet when launching the dinghy in shallow water. These sharks can shoot in at an alarming speed.

The weather has been delightfully cool with overnight temperatures dipping into the high seventies which is super comfortable compared to the sweaty mid eighties found in the Marquess. We even broke out a light fleece blanket, but that ends up being too much and ends up kicked to the bottom of the bed before long.

Today we'll move about twelve nautical miles to the Northwest toward the lagoon pass for some snorkeling on the outside of the reef.

That's it for now.

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