Fresh from the bay – probably nothing to excite a real collector, but fun anyway.
Above are bottles from my first bottle collecting trip ever (October 2012). I know I picked up a thousand Amstel and Heineken bottles for every “keeper” so while this collection wouldn’t excite more seasoned experts, I was stoked. Since then, I’ve spent many hours in old bookstores and on the net where one place, the Antique Bottles Forum, has been especially helpful. Two months later, equipped with a more discerning eye plus the help of local experts, I fared a little better:
Having learned to stop picking up Amstel and Heineken bottles, I fared a little better the second trip.
Three ages of Benedictine?
This is what one area looked like underwater – mostly new beer bottles
October 2012 ~ Here are a few more observations from our most recent trip to Raja Ampat, Indonesia. Batanta, one of four main islands, is located just a few cruising hours from the port of Sorong and is usually the first and last stops on our itineraries. That has never been enough for me so for this most recent trip aboard the Dewi Nusantara, we planned an all-Batanta itinerary. The heavily forested island has been my favorite for beachcombing, birdwatching and some of the best diving in the area. On the first day, I found a tiny Rumengani Pipehorse, a fish described a few years ago from North Sulawesi. Two years ago, our guide Yann found one in Halmahera and now we logged it in Batanta.
Bats, a.k.a., Flying Foxes roost in trees on Wai Island, Indonesia
We made a stop at Wai Island, known for its nearby manta and WWII airplane dives and…bats! Back in 2005, we went ashore for an evening cookout on Wai just as thousands of flying foxes (bats) were leaving their tree roosts to fly to nearby Batanta to feed for the night. Ned and I skipped a dive the next morning to return to the island. We found the bats hanging too high up in the Casuarina trees to get good close-up photos but the sound was just amazing. When we returned in 2006, I convinced my friend Darcy to accompany me to shore. Armed with my new camera we pressed through the center of the island and spent hours watching the bats. It was a muddy, guano-laced experience but totally worth all the mess because we even found a nursery tree where we could see baby bats clinging to their mothers. Now, six years later, I talked the bats up so much that there were 20 of us making the trek. The island was different – the patriarch of the small, resident family had died and there was a new dock and a few more buildings, but the bats were still there. I’ve loaded a short bat video at the end of this post.
I added a blenny to my life list: Meiacanthus crinitus, the Schooling Harptail Blenny, a.k.a. Hairytail Fangblenny. This was an exciting find for me – I noticed them because they were moving across the slope in a group of eleven. They were beautiful fish with lovely trailing filaments on their tails. I stayed with them as long as I could, hoping Ned would come along to take a photograph but he never did so the above image is a frame capture from my video. This little group, just off tiny Yum Island, was the only one I saw the two weeks.
Coconut crab on Batanta, Indonesia
We went ashore one afternoon to look at coconut crabs, terrestrial hermit crabs that are the largest land-living arthropods in the world. Juveniles use gastropod shells for protection but adults develop tough exoskeletons eliminating the need to carry shells. These are really big crabs!
Sea Beans from Dokor Island, Indonesia
My favorite beachcombing spot was Dokor Island, a place we visited several years ago. One end of the small island has a beach that comes to a point, apparently shaped by the water moving in and out of the channel between Birie and Wruwarez islands. The last time we were here, I remember finding many sea beans (the catchall name for assorted tropical drift seeds) and we weren’t disappointed this time.
Here’s my bat video. In one scene, you can see a mother bat folding her wing over her baby:
January, 2013 ~ We are rock turners. Ned figures it takes about a 1,000 rocks to score a hit by uncovering some rare or unusual animal. Just offshore small villages or under piers, where we often dive, the hunt involves more trash than rocks but whatever we are turning over, it is exciting to uncover some cool crab or worm or my current favorite, a stomatellid. Our dive guide Denny discovered the 2-inch Papery Stomatella, pictured above, when he picked up an algae covered nylon rice sack that was partially buried in the mucky bottom of Lembeh Strait, Indonesia. The shallow, barren shelf made it easy to have a good look at the scurrying animal before we herded it back to the protection of its bag.
Our "racing snail" - Stomatella cf. varia
Stomatellids are marine mollusks, in the family Trochidae (top snails). Though they are snails, they do not move at a snail’s pace; we cal them racing snails as you can see in my video at the end of this post. I always thought they moved quickly because we disturbed them from their cozy hiding places, but two months ago, during a night dive off Waigeo, Indonesia, my dive buddy Wendy and I spent a fleeting minute with one already out making turns around the reef.
Now home for the winter and cataloging video, I’m looking for information about these animals. I consulted the old invert zoology textbook, did some digging around the Internet and sent a few emails to see if any info was readily available. It turns out they are quite well known to aquarium keepers because they turn up in live rock. They are considered good because they eat algae and don’t harm other animals. They also spawn readily in captivity, evident by a number of YouTube aquarium videos from which I learned that they are broadcast spawners, releasing sperm and eggs into the water.
Stomatella varia - Yikes! they can shed that lovely tail when disturbed
They don’t have an operculum, that little calcareous lid used as a protective trapdoor in some other species of snails like the turbans (Click here for a photo of some opercula that I picked up while diving) – I suppose it has no need for one since the long muscular foot cannot be retracted into the shell. I also learned that they practice autotomy; they can drop off the rear end of the foot, leaving it wriggling, supposedly to distract a predator while the animal escapes.
Stomatella sp. - Note the neck lobes
With their frilly mantles, long tentacles and curvy, folding neck lobes these are really pretty animals. The neck lobes are intriguing – I noticed in most of Ned’s photos, the right lobe is rolled up. Not knowing that much about their anatomy I figured this was an inhalant siphon, similar to those of some other snails but then I noticed in Wendy’s photo the left lobe is rolled. Curious. Turns out the left and right neck lobes can be rolled for use as incurrent or excurrent troughs, respectively. Top and turban snails only possess left gills with the ventilating current entering on the left side and exiting on the right (where the anus is also located) so I suppose if I had the opportunity to follow one long enough I might see it roll up one lobe and unfurl the other. Not that exciting for most divers, I’m sure.
So this is our experience so far with stomatellids. If you are a stomatellid aficionado and have other observations to share, I’d love to hear from you. Many thanks to Dr. Richard Willan for answering my questions and steering me to references for additional reading (oh yes, and for the bit about autotomy). ~ Anna DeLoach
Fresh from the bay - probably nothing to excite a real collector, but fun anyway.
Bermuda, October 2012 ~ During a dive at Nonsuch Island three years ago, I found an intact marble bottle. I wasn’t hunting for bottles; I was supposed to be counting fish, but the tiniest hint of aqua glass caught my eye and I started digging. It took about five minutes to free the sediment-filled bottle from the soft sand bottom but I was hooked at the last tug.
Before I continue, I need to do some record straightening. A few months ago, I posted photos of some of my beachcombing treasures, including a handful of what I thought were parrotfish beaks that I found on a previous trip to Bermuda. See the photos here. Well I was wrong, wrong, wrong! An alert reader, Audrey, commented that she thought they were chiton shells. We were in Bonaire at the time her message came through and I had just seen some intact chiton shells during my morning walk along the waterfront, so I went back for one. Now that we are home I shot a photo of it along side the parts from Bermuda – and look at that – they match! And last week, at the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo (BAMZ) I saw a real parrotfish beak on display! So thank you, Audrey – I hope you are still reading this blog.
A real parrotfish beak on display at BAMZ
Not parrotfish beaks!
So back to the bottles. Before Bermuda, I was an opportunistic collector. In Banda Harbor (think Dutch clay gin bottles) or the Solomons (WWII era Coke bottles) if I happened upon something interesting, I looked but rarely picked one up. Ever since my marble bottle find, I’ve been scheming to get back to Bermuda. It didn’t take much to talk Tammy and Ken Marks into going with us and we spent two days mucking around, literally, in 8 – 20 feet of water.
Bottle graveyard - Just in case you thought this was glamorous treasure hunting
Sometimes we swam for ten minutes, seeing nothing and sometimes we’d find a bottle graveyard. This didn’t mean that we found really old, really good bottles. We managed to examine about 10,000 Heineken and Amstel bottles of fairly recent vintage. My favorite find was an old water bottle with an embossed message so long that it wrapped twice around the base of the bottle. The stern message: “This bottle is our exclusive property – anyone using, destroying, or retaining it will be prosecuted” In other words, as Tammy said “Don’t even look at this bottle!”
The marble bottle that started it all
Don't even look at this bottle!
We met a a really nice bottle collector, Brion Estis, who pulled up alongside us for an impromptu evaluation and bottle lesson. The more we consulted Brion, the more bottles we pitched over the side. It was great fun. In fact, so much fun that we’ve talked Ned into returning in a few months. I made it home with a few that are all cleaned up and sitting in their new home on our curio shelf with my other bottles: