It seems that every one of Anna’s and my favorite photos comes with a story attached. Our encounter with a night-prowling lobster is one of my favorites. It took place a few years back in Lembeh Strait, Indonesia where we were spending most of our time diving after dark searching for new crabs and other critters to include in Reef Creature Identification—Tropical Pacific.
Our guide, Liberty Tukunang, and I slipped away from Anna and her bug-buzzing video lights to explore the sand that extended from the reef where our boat—a long, low, green and yellow water taxi made of wood—bobbed 20 feet above. We hadn’t gone far before Anna’s beam waved us back. Returning, we found her staring down a lobster the size of Manhattan that happened to be a species we had been hunting for a long time – Panulirus ornatus, the Ornate Spiny Lobster. Our sudden arrival sent the lobster racing off into the night with Liberty and me on its tail.
But the beast was a thoroughbred. As hard as I kicked I couldn’t keep up with six jointed legs, built for the terrain. Just as I thought all was lost, Liberty, with a burst of speed, drew even and plunged his stainless steel stick into the sand. The lobster was stopped in its tracks. My momentum carried me around and, for a few brief seconds, face-to-face with a face epitomizing the unintended artistry of natural selection.