Expedition SXM 2009 – Our First Day

Images coming soon!

Today was our first full day on expedition, and we started with two dives in the morning, Creole Rock and Turtle Reef (which was formerly called Sec de Grand Case). In the afternoon we headed to Pinel Island for lunch and some Extreme Shallow Snorkeling. While the weather was overcast with rain showers, the day was a great success.

Creole Rock is a relatively shallow site just off Grand Case. Due to swells, the visibility was lower than usual, but this seemed to allow us to catch creatures by surprise. One of the first creatures we encountered was a gigantic hermit crab, which was spotted by our divemaster, J.P. (the lion of the sea). We also saw several bright yellow Trumpetfish, along with several others featuring the more common reddish brown color variation.


We also saw a couple Whitespotted Filefish, a flat, oddly-shaped fish with white spots on its brown and orange body. We also saw a poor French Grunt who had taken on a passenger – a Cymothoid Isopod. Not a true parasite, these crustaceans attach themselves near the mouth of a fish and feed by scavenging food scraps from whatever the fish is eating.

Perhaps because of the weather, we saw two octopi, one of which was out foraging, which is very unusual during the day. Both sightings were accompanied by one or more Nassau Groupers, which could be merely coincidence. We also saw a Smooth Trunkfish, a Sand Diver and a Greater Soapfish. The Greater Soapfish, which I had never seen before, was hiding near the base of an undersea boulder. All in all, it was a terrific selection of marine life to see on a single dive.


During our surface interval between dives, there was a beautiful rainbow, right at the horizon in front of Anguilla. We also saw two turtles floating on the surface and many fish jumping out of the water, presumably trying to escape some unseen predator below.

Soon after our descent at Turtle Reef, a shallow, but vibrant and colorful site, we saw a Porcupine Fish…fully inflated! As we approached, it attempted to swim away from us, but was quite unwieldy in its spherical shape. As we swam up beside it, it gradually deflated and regained its normal appearance. Shortly after this, we happened upon a large Hawksbill Turtle, who was feeding on the sea floor. We were able to approach quite closely and it seemed curious, looking up from the grasses it was eating to inspect us.



As we cruised the reef, we saw a pair of French Angelfish that were about half-way between their juvenile and adult phases. They were large and had much of the adult coloring, but retained their yellow vertical strips and the last vestige of the yellow ring around their tail. We also found a Highhat sheltering under a coral outcrop. Its shape is similar to that of an adult Spotted Drum, but can be identified by a distinctive hat-like dorsal fin and black and white stripes.

The reef was a veritable fish farm, we also saw Hogfish and Goatfish. As we prepared to head back to the boat, we had an unusual Southern Stingray sighting. Rather than resting on or under a sandy bottom, it was resting on rocks and coral at the edge of the reef. It sat still for photos and film, eyeing us curiously. My last sighting on the way to the boat was what I believe to be a Jawfish. These fish live in holes and have a froglike face. It was difficult to get close enough to photograph this wary creature.


Back at our mooring, J.P. tended to an artificial reef that Octopus Diving is starting to build. The structure looks something like a concrete dome with plenty of holes to allow water to pass through, and live coral has been affixed to it. Properly tended, the coral will encase the concrete, forming a new reef area.

After our dives, we took Mr. Brown Sugar’s ferry to Pinel Island, and headed to Yellow Beach restaurant for lunch – caramelised BBQ ribs and the exotic crab salad, which were both excellent. After lunch, we traversed overland to the far side of the island. Unfortunately, the waves were too rough for E.S.S. We returned to the western side of the island and did E.S.S. from the beach. Our best sighting was a Sea Hare, a mollusk that looks like a frilly slug. This species is one we have only seen in extremely shallow conditions, and is the largest we have seen at approximately five inches in length.


Shortly after this, we returned to Grand Case to review the day’s discoveries and prepare for tomorrow’s adventures.

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