Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Seeing Eye Dog Underwater

I came to a sad realization this past weekend, and this little nudibranch is a big part of reason. Sometime after you hit 40, your eyes stop serving you the way they have up to that point. All the sudden one day you find you can't read the newspaper anymore, and since when did they use such small print in the menu's at restaurants? You can claim it's not happening, you can fight it, try to deny it, squint, or whatever you think may work for you. But the truth of the matter is you've arrived at that point in life where you need to start using reading glasses to see anything clearly that's within 2 feet of your face. So even if you've gone to contacts so that you don't have to wear glasses anymore, now you find yourself right back in them again anytime you want to read, or see anything up close, in focus anyway. Even reading the time on your watch can be a real challenge.

My wife needed reading glasses before I did, and I was merciless about teasing her about being old. She is 4 days older than me after all, but she needed reading glasses about 2 years before I did. Or she just started wearing glasses instead of contacts, and then she could just not wear them whenever she was reading or working on the computer. But about a year ago, my near vision started getting so fuzzy that I could only guess at what was in the menu or the newspaper. Sure, if I hold them far enough away it helps somewhat, but if the print is small, I can't see it that far away, so it's not really that much of a help. So I finally broke down and bought a couple pairs of reading glasses, one for the office and one for home. So if you pop in on me in my office, you'll most likely see me sitting there with these old man half glasses on my face, and a frown no doubt.

My dive buddy Doug is also a member of the group that needs reading glasses to see small things up close. So a couple years ago he realized he was having a hard time seeing the tiny shells in the sand because he couldn't focus on them. He could have gotten a prescription bi-focal mask, but those are really expensive. So being the industrious guy that he is, he took the lenses out of a pair of reading glasses and glued them into his mask, a do-it-yourself bi-focal mask. And it seems to work great for him, all the sudden he's finding tiny little things again.

Up until this past weekend, I thought I could get away without reading glasses underwater. But then that darn little nudibranch showed me otherwise. Greg & Bev were looking at something on a rock that was covered with some sort of vegetation. Greg was taking pictures and Bev was shining the light down there. I went over to see what they were looking at, and didn't see anything. Well, that's not entirely true, I saw some little white smudge on the rock, but had no clue what it was, I couldn't focus on it. I figured it must be a nudibranch, so I waited my turn to take a few pictures, hoping they would turn out even though I couldn't really see what I was photographing. Thanks Bill Rudman at Sea Slug Forum I now know that the nudibranch pictured above is a Glossodoris tibboeli.

After taking a few pictures of that nudibranch, I looked around the rock to see what else might be hiding in the little weed growth, but I didn't see a thing so I took off in search of bigger nudibranchs that I can actually see. Then I saw Greg flashing his light at me to come back to that same rock again. And sure enough, right where I had been looking was another nudibranch, at least I was assuming that's what that tiny little blur was. These guys are less than a half inch long, so they really are tiny. So I took a few pictures, hoping again they would turn out. I was quite happy when I got home and uploaded the pictures on my computer to see that they were indeed nudibranchs. Bob Abela to the rescue once again with the name of this nudibranch, it's a Chromodoris elisabethina, a fairly common nudibranch - if your eyes are good enough to spot them that is.

I've come to the conclusion that I need a seeing eye dog on my dives to search for the tiny nudibranchs for me to photograph. I might be able to train my dog Emma to do the job, but the problem is she has a very long nose, and I'd probably have to get a mask custom made. And if I have to go to all the trouble of getting a custom made mask, I might as well get it for myself with built in magnifying glasses. Either that or I need to find a seeing eye dive buddy that is willing to search for the little critters and then call me over when they find them. I'd be willing to pay for your air fills!