St. Martin & Saba, Spring 2008

Madam J and Marc AuMarc visited St. Martin and Saba in the Spring of 2008. Their adventures included E.S.S. at Pinel Island, Baie Rouge and Grand Case as well as scuba diving at various locations off the shore of St. Martin and Saba (The Unspoiled Queen). To see photos and videos from this expedition, visit this flickr collection.

Here is a small showcase of sea life we documented during our E.S.S. missions on St. Martin in May 2008.  All photographs were taken in extremely shallow conditions.

E.S.S. on Pinel Island

Spotted Goatfish (Pseudupeneus maculatus)

We found this goatfish rummaging about in the sand for food, using the Fu-Manchu-style barbels on its chin to stir things up.  If it had been resting, it would have completely transformed its color to its inactive phase, a blotchy red-brown.  The Spotted Goatfish is usually found in the 5-60 foot depth range, but this one was foraging in extremely shallow water: just above knee-deep.


Golfball Coral (Favia fragnum)

The Golfball Coral is also known as “star coral”, but it can be differentiated from the Elliptical Star Coral (Dichoenia stokesi) because its corallites don’t protrude as much, and it forms smaller size colonies – perhaps about the size of a golf ball.  This type of stony coral is found in shallow reefs and rock foundations. We spotted this one in an extremely shallow reef area off the coast of Pinel Island.


Mermaid’s Fans (Udotea sp.)

We were able to identify this tiny sprig of green algae from the fan-shaped blades growing from one stem.  Mermaid’s Fans typically inhabit sheltered sandy spots on, around, and between coral rubble and reefs.  We believe what’s surrounding it is a kind of Cnidarian, a White Encrusting Zoanthid (Palythoa caribaeorum).  We did not observe any mermaids in the vicinity; we postulate that the location of these particular Fans may have been too extremely shallow for their convenience.


Mystery Zoanthids

These tiny beauties look a lot like Mat Zoanthids (Zoanthus pulchellus), but they don’t seem to be growing close enough together, and Mat Zoanthids are usually encountered at 20-60 foot deep reef tops, not extremely shallow coral rubble areas like this one.  If you can ID this type of Zoanthid, contact us – we’d love to know what they are.


E.S.S. in Baie Rouge

In May, the water was calm enough in Baie Rouge to swim through the cave and access some spectacular E.S.S.


Brain Coral

We believe this to be Symmetrical Brain Coral (Diploria strigosa). 


Rock-boring Urchin (Echinometra lucunter lucunter) with Chitons

We observed these creatures in about 2-3 inches of water.  They were occupying a nook in a round rock mostly exposed by the tide in an extremely shallow pool.  The deep, rich purple-red color of the urchin was quite striking in the sunlight.  True to their name, Rock-boring Urchins do in fact bore holes in rock, which they inhabit during the day.  At nighttime, they emerge to prowl the nearby area for algae. 


E.S.S. in Grand Case

Cushion Sea Star (Oreaster reticulatus)

We spotted this amazing orange Echinoderm in the sandy extreme shallows of Grand Case, virtually right outside the door of Les Fruits de Mer base.  The Cushion Sea Star favors sand flats and areas of sea grass, and is found at depths ranging from 3 feet – where we observed it – to 120 feet.


Spotted Cleaner Shrimp (Periclimenes yucatanicus)

Cleaner shrimp frequently set up shop in an anemone, climbing out on a likely tentacle and waggling their antennae to alert passing fish that they’re open for business: their business being devouring algae, parasites, and dead tissue off of their clients. It’s true symbiosis – the fish have their parasites removed, and the shrimp get a tasty snack.  This particular Spotted Cleaner Shrimp is about an inch long, and it’s operating from a gorgeous Giant Anemone (Condylactis gigantea).


Photos from Saba:

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Photos from St. Martin:

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