One could claim that Fangtooth Moray (scientific name: “Enchelycore anatina”) is among the most terrifying looking marine animals in the Mediterranean . That is probably due to its elongated jaws and especially the teeth, which have a crystal, glasslike appearance and are visible through the curved jaws even when the mouth is closed. The black and yellow stripes and dots on its body add to the impression and is also known as Tiger Moray – although its basic color pattern mostly resembles a leopard!

Morays are infamous for having strong jaws and powerful bite. However, this fella attacks only when feeling threatened, so unless divers put hands in cavities in or between the rocks while exploring the bottom, they are safe. Generally, it does not behave aggressive at all (and definitely not to u/w photographers!).

Fangtooth Moray is a migrant species into the Mediterranean from the Atlantic Ocean , and here found a supplementary role to the more common Moray Eel in the ecosystem. Most people cannot even distinguish it is a different species. It is a solitary creature and usually spends the day between the rocks of the bottom while hunting mostly at night. It feeds on small fish, crustaceans, cephalopods (especially favors octopus!), and dead animals.

As not a significant commercial species, Fangtooth Moray is not targeted or threatened by overfishing. However, it is a usual by-catch to long fishing lines, nets and trawlers. It also suffers to the loss of habitant, the decrease in populations of species that is preying on and also to general deterioration of u/w environment. Fangtooth Moray is not abundant and is not studied enough but as predator is playing a key role in the fragile marine ecosystem. Not many, not even most divers are aware of its presence in the Mediterranean. Raising awareness for this colorful creature may grant it an opportunity to stay safe in Mediterranean Sea for the future.

 

Triton’s Trumpet, also know as Giant Triton or “Bourou” in Greek, (scientific name: “Charonia tritonis”), is a mollusk gastropod, a sea shell, practically a snail of impressive size. It is the biggest and most known sea snail of the Mediterranean. Different species of this genus are found in temperate and tropical climatic zones all over the world, while the size of larger ones can reach or even exceed half a meter in length. It is usually in the shade of the rocks or in holes where it passes the day waiting for the arrival of darkness, when it is time for most fish to go for rest and for night predators to prey.
The seemingly harmless Triton is a carnivorous animal, a predator of the bottom, who feeds on other mollusks and starfish. Something that one wouldn’t expect from such a creature is that when Triton detects the smell of the prey, starts chasing it. Although the pursuit is far from a cinematic version of dizzying speed, it is just enough to be quicker than your prey, and Triton does!
Triton apparently has a particular preference on starfish and after catching them, opens a hole in their hard skin with a radula tooth (imagine a can opener), and then injects its nerve paralysing saliva. Despite eating poisonous thorns or other unwanted parts of the prey, Triton manages to spit these out. Triton is a very important predator for marine ecosystems as regulates the population of starfish and echinoderms that otherwise would devastate corals and u/w flora.

Someone somewhere once tried to blow through a small hole that could have been created when the edge of the Triton’s shell broke, (and could that led to the invention or inspiration for the construction of a trumpet music instrument?). The Triton has been used since antiquity to create this distinct sound,  especially by sailors, giving the shell its Greek name. The god Poseidon, but especially its son Triton – the messenger of the sea in Greek mythology, are often depicted holding such a shell and ruled the waves with it. This obviously inspired the English common name “Triton’s trumpet”.

Nowadays, Tritons are at risk due to lost of habitat, depletion of then ecosystem and quite often becoming a by-catch or picked for their shell, although is endangered and protected.

“The shadow of the seas”

This is  “Sikios” or “Pantelis” in Greek, the Brown Meagre (or Corb- scientific name: “Sciaena umbra”). This species spreads in the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea and the East Atlantic. It is usually found in rocky and sandy sea bottoms with seagrass  meadows (in fact, the iconic”Posidonia oceanica” seagrass which is not an algae but a plant) in depths from 5 to 200 meters and is preying on small fish and crustaceans (crabs, shrimp etc.). A good-looking phantom!

Sikios is an amazingly beautiful fish of the Mediterranean, with golden and silver flashes in its body and impressively bright dorsal and caudal fins – yellow with black edges and white details, while its movement is full of grace. It is mainly nocturnal fish that can be seen during the day although it prefers to remain in the holes of the rocks.

The second composer of its Latin name  “umbra” means “shadow,” and is inspired by his ability to remain invisible- partly due to the colors of his body, and partly to the perfect buoyancy he can achieve by staying motionless in shadows in the depth of the cavities where is hiding.  The fish of this species (croakers) have two bone “hammers” in their head (called “otolithi”) with which they create sounds to communicate, especially as they are very sociable and live in small groups.  If keep quite silent and can approach such a “shadow”, a diver can distinguish the special sounds, as long as he is not to late for the show!

Fan Mussel and its hidden Guardian!

Commonly known as Fan Mussel or “Pinna” in Greek (scientific name: “Pinna nobilis”), this is a large shellfish that looks like a big mussel but it has a more impressive and fragile shell that can reach 1 meter in length. This species is endemic to the Mediterranean Sea, and is usually located on sandy seabed in seagrass meadows (in fact “Posidonia oceanica” is rather a plant rather than an alga), down to maximum depth of 60 meters below the surface. It feeds on plankton by filtering the water around it.

Unexpected Surprise

If one is careful enough and approaches the open shell without being perceived, can sometimes spot a small shrimp (3-7 cm) (“Pontonia pinnophylax”) living inside the Pinna. This is a mutually beneficial cohabitation: as long as Pinna offers shelter, the small tenant warns her of possible dangers by stinging and the shell closes hermetically! The role of the small shrimp is also evident in its scientific name “pinnophylax”, which is interpreted as the “Guardian of Pinna”. Sometimes the tenant is not welcome, but a parasitic organism, called the Pea Crab due to his size, and its scientific name is interpreted as “Pinna hunter” (“Pinnotheres pisum”)!

Silk from the Sea

Pinna was a valuable raw material for the textile industry. Traditionally, some coastal populations, mainly in Sicily and Southern Italy, produced a cloth off the muscle fibers that this shell uses to anchor to the bottom substrate. The fabric is known as “marine silk”.

Threats and Protection Status

This humble but special species of our seas is threatened by overfishing, bottom trawling and anchoring that disturb and deplete the benthic habitat, as well as from chemical and biological contamination. Pinna is protected by the “Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC”, which includes this species of EU interest among those that require strict protection. Removing or fishing Pinna is strictly forbidden!

The images come from dives in the waters of the Ionian Sea and more specifically around Kefalonia and Ithaca Islands. They depict species that inhabit and enrich our seas, the very same that host inhabitants and visitors of our islands alike, in the winter or summertime. The hidden wealth of the sea is its own amazing biodiversity. And it is hidden not because it has not been discovered but because it remains unknown to most, so that in general it is considered a vast area empty of any interest, as well as the place for rejecting our waste. The sea is a cradle for life, a nursery for man and a lung for the planet. And in order to protect it we have to know it first.

Tilemachos Beriatos

CMAS 3* diver

 

 

 

Perhaps the top WW II wreck dive in Mediterranean, British Overseas Patrol submarine HMS/M Perseus, (N36) lies virtually intact on the sandy bottom, at 52 meters depth, about a mile off the south coast of Kefalonia.

Perseus submarine is not only among the most impressive wreck dives a diver can experience, but has an amazing history as well. The vessel was on combat patrol in December 1941, and while cruising at the surface at night hit an Italian naval mine and sunk. From the crew of 59 only one, the Royal Navy leading stoker John Capes managed a daredevil escape from a depth no one has attempted before, swam his way to Katelios and with the aid of locals escaped capture from Italian and German occupation forces and finally transferred in Turkey. While legendary in Royal Navy, almost nobody believed his adventure until in 1997 a team of Greek divers located the submarine and verified details of his described escape.

The divers approaching the submarine encounter a magnificent vessel 88 meters long, with a large conning tower, the ship’s gun and the rear hutch still open indicating the escape route of John Capes, while a look in the interior is possible. Among other things, the torpedo tubes and the ship’s propellers and rudder are visible.

The submarine is practically an artificial reef and colorful sponges, small fish and aquatic creatures take shelter here, while predators like amberjacks and snappers are frequent visitors.

The average depth or the dive is 40 m, while the max is 50, reserving the submarine for experienced and technical divers. The visibility is usually greater than 25m while temperature ranges between 18-24 C in summer months, depending on depth. Occasionally there may be strong currents close to the surface. Boat ride duration 15′.

 

 

“Kakava” is an extended ancient wrecks site, once believed to be a submerged village. There is an abundance of amphorae, primarily from Roman era wrecks with at least one from 2nd century BC. Around the reef more evidence of ancient to modern day wrecks are present, such as steel ship parts and huge coal pieces, marking the resting place of an unknown steamboat. Schools of damselfish hover against the current attracting predators such as snappers, Mediterranean barracudas and amberjacks. Parrotfish, brown meagres, groupers, scorpionfish and octopuses occupy every recess and crevice along the reef. The dive site is situated between the two main nesting beaches for Loggerhead sea turtles around Kefalonia “Kaminia” and “Skala”, so chances to catch sight of one looking for her next meal, are quite high.

The average depth or the dive is 8 m, while the max is 12 m, appropriate for divers of all levels.

The usual visibility is 25 m and temperature ranges between 22-27 °C in summer months. Occasionally a weak surface current may be encountered. Boat ride duration 6′.

 

 

Out of the seagrass meadows (“Posidonia oceanica”) a lone reef rises, a death trap to ancient vessels passing through the area. At least 2 of those wooden merchant ships once roaming the Mediterranean, have found their final resting place here, scattering their ballast stones, lead and bronze parts of their hull and rigging and scores of amphorae – their primary cargo, proving the area a puzzle to seamen through the ages.

On the underside of a long shallow rocky ridge, a small yet impressive underwater cave awaits to be explored. The dark chamber in the rock features two side-openings and one on the top acting as a skylight shedding ample light into the interior, rewarding the daring diver with spectacular views. Also a variety of fish and quite often Loggerhead sea turtles are frequent visitors to the site.

The average depth or the dive is 7 m, while the max is 12 m, appropriate for divers of all levels.

The usual visibility is 25 m and temperature ranges between 22-27 °C in summer months. Occasionally a weak surface current may be encountered. Boat ride duration 5′.

There is no better spot for macro photographers to capture all the amazing micro flora and fauna of the Mediterranean. On the under-the-surface portion of the cliff walls, in the crevices and caves and within the same small extent of rock face, pseudo corals and all species of Mediterranean sponges can be found in a distracting variety and abundance.To add to the excitement, an old fishing boat wreck on the seagrass awaits divers to explore it! All together they create an ideal habitat for nudibranchs, moray eels, scorpion fish, blennies, gobies, wrasses, starfish and many more. Divers return again and again to capture colorful images one can hardly believe that belong in the Mediterranean and often witness schools of amberjacks hunting small fish, whilst a Triton’s trumpet or a Slipper lobster are anything but a rare sight.

The average depth of the dive is 9 m, while the max is 19 m, appropriate for divers of all levels.

The usual visibility is 25 m and temperature ranges between 24-26 °C in summer months. Usually no surface currents are present. Boat ride duration 5′.

Cape Kapros marks the northern tip of Skala’s coastline, and just around it one is at the doorstep of Kefalonia-Ithaca channel. The water movement and the occasional currents around the cape is as intriguing, and create a habitat for huge noble pen shells (fan mussels), nudibranch species on the bottom, whilst schools of bogues, picarels and damselfish feed against the current, just above the noticeable thermocline and attract predators like red snappers and amberjacks. The cape has probably a turbulent past, as ancient merchant vessel anchors and broken clay jars (“amphoras”) lie scattered around.

The average depth of the dive is 12 m, while the max is 26 m, appropriate for divers of all levels.

The usual visibility is 25 m and temperature ranges between 19-25 °C in summer months. Occasionally a moderate surface current may be encountered. Boat ride duration 7′.

 

 

“At 13:30 in the afternoon, five English planes and one American, flying low, almost at sea level, made their appearance. A caique had left Zakynthos. Strafed from above, the caique caught fire. The Italians immediately came on board our caique and asked us to head for the wreck in order to collect the shipwreck survivors”.

This is what Captain Houmas, an agent of the Greek branch of MI9 that helped the sole survivor or HMS Perseus John Capes in his escape from Kefalonia, logged on May 23, 1943, referring to the commandeered by Germans vessel that lies at -39 m just off Cape Kapros in Skala, south-east Kefalonia.

Divers approaching the wreck encounter a pile of war supplies in the shape of a vessel that its wooden parts have long rotted away, in a dive into history for WWII enthusiasts. The main cargo of artillery shells (apart from the ammunition and medical equipment) was most probably destined for the coastal defense batteries of cape Mounda. Among the 150mm cells, the cordite propellant, bullets and fuses boxes, barrels and metal parts of the boat, numerous small crustaceans, fish and other creatures, such as hermit crabs, shrimps, morays, saddled seabreams, gobbies, tube worms and more, making the wreck a heaven for macro u/w photographers. A large white grouper usually dominates the wreck whilst red snappers often are preying in the cloud of damselfish inhabiting this artificial reef.

The average depth or the dive is 38 m, while the max is 42 m, for experienced and deep divers. The usual visibility is 20 m and temperature ranges between 19-25 C in summer months. Occasionally there might be medium currents. Boat ride duration 6’.