Thursday, October 30, 2014


People always ask where I get my inspiration and the amazing (ongoing) "Tentacles" exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium certainly qualifies.  The town is decorated in banners of tentacles.  Heaven!  I want them as curtains, or bed spreads, or just to snuggle up with on the couch!  As the name indicates, they feature every kind of cephalopod  (my darling octopuses, squid, cuttlefishes and nautiluses) and some artwork they inspire.  In addition to scientific illustration and robot versions of each cephalopod, they display samples of pottery and glassware and other art forms seduced by the tentacle.

My favorite was the flamboyant cuttlefish, a mini bulldog of a cuttlefish that appears to walk on its tentacles and changes colors as it demonstrates dominance, curiosity, submission, tantrum...  The following evening I spend looking up videos of the little guys and exclaiming with rapture (Nova video:  And then I painted them.
Flamboyant Cuttlefish

    Also present was the angelic reef squid, the first cephalopod I interacted with when learning how do dive in Honduras.  A line of five of them flapped their "wings" and examined us while we adapted to breathing underwater, clearly the only creature actually interested in our bumbling presence.
  Naturally, there were also octopuses of every color and personality, and instructive videos about the differences in eye shape, propulsion, tentacles of the cephalopods and the kind of mischief the octopuses get up to in the aquariums (i.e. sneaking out and stealing fish at night from other tanks then returning undetected except by security cameras).

   And then I got to feed the bat rays.  No tentacles, but as the presenter described them, with "nibbling gums like a horse".  You had to hold a sardine through your fingers, perpendicular to your palm, so the bat rays could come up and gobble the fish out.  You could pet their velvety skin as they passed by!  They were amazingly unbothered by the fondling hands despite the presence of three venomous barbed spines at the base of their long tails (apparently they are as disinclined to use them as honey bees.. for defense only)
Bat Ray in Kelp

 To complete the exploration, we decided to dive the bay, since it is purported to be the best cold water diving (as long as the visibility holds).   I heard that the kelp forests were mesmerizing to swim through.  Well, it was cold.  And clear enough.  We were joined by an otter.  A variety of nudibranchs, which I am desperately in love with (like flamboyant sea slugs), showed off their color through the murk.  As of yet, I haven't quite figured out how to bring out their majesty in clay and black and white. Might have to learn glass blowing to fully capture them.

Nudibranchs.... their variety seems endless.  Usually very small too. Found in every shape all over the world
    But the most amazing sight hovered in the water near us.  When lit from below, it glowed like an old Metal-halide lamp.  Our dive master wasn't sure what it was so I researched it that evening while the image was still fresh.

Gelatinous Zooplankton
Apparently it was some kind of gelatinous zooplankton (a group that includes jellyfish), and possibly was a Thetys vagina, which has asexual solitary form, the oozooid, which buds and develops into a colony of sexual individuals, the blastozooids (  Not only a fascinating creature but a rare functional use of 'z's!

So, life inspires.  Endlessly.  Thankfully.  And my job is to remain inspired.  Love it.

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