Ambon, Indonesia, April 2013 ~ I don’t know what made me touch the little piece of tufted algae – At that moment, I should have been concerned with surfacing and getting myself back to the tender waiting off the beach in the raging rainstorm that had started up while we were diving. But touch it I did and with a jerk, it bolted up off the bottom and started writhing through the water. It was a Melibe nudibranch and one that I had wanted to see ever since I had seen it in the book, Indo Pacific Nudibranchs and Sea Slugs. We were near the end of our 70-minute dive, drifting over a shallow, rocky shelf and most of our group had already begun to surface. I motioned, “take a picture” to Claire Davies, who mistook my pantomime for “go find Ned to take a picture” and bolted off, forcing me to swim after her, grab her fin and push her back to the Melibe so she could take the picture. I get excited when I see something I’ve never seen before and if I know we don’t have a photo, anyone with a camera within grabbing distance is fair game. Claire and I struggled in the storm-induced surge trying to take photos and video of the nudibranch and surfaced to a boatload of drenched dive buddies who forgave us after we invoked the 70-minute-max-dive-time-unless-you-are-onto-something-and-then-it-had-better-be-good rule.
Two days later, we transferred from the Dewi Nusantara over to land-based Maluku Divers. Disappointed over not seeing the Melibe, Ned asked if I could try to find it again so I asked our guide, Semuel, to position us to finish our dive in the same area. This time, with calmer water, I found three, plus a number of egg ribbons attached to the rocks and our guides found three more individuals. Going by the distinctive paddle shaped “wing” on the rhinophore sheath and the almost translucent body, I believe these were Melibe engeli, which meant we could add another melibe to our life lists. To see them in action, click on my video below or visit our BlennyWatcher YouTube channel.