The Caribbean threw up a lot of firsts for me – the lion fish menu being one (see previous O’Three blog post), coral spawning (DIVER mag feature to follow) and… THE THING! Which always has to be written in capital letters, with an exclamation mark at the end and said out loud in a throaty, yet gravelly voice.
I first heard about THE THING! whilst half listening to someone talking about some of the critters that come out during the night on the Anse Chastanet house reef off the island of St Lucia. We were gearing up for another night dive to hopefully catch some more of the coral spawning (which is a story in itself) at the time. “Sorry?” I said / laughed, (now listening) – did you say that there’s a creature here called “THE THING!?” “Yes”, confirmed the American, who now had my full attention. Politely snatching the critter ID book for clarification, I fumbled for the right page. And there it was in plain english, among other critters but with very normal, sensible sounding, scientific and / or latin names – a creature labelled simply as “THE THING!”
I quizzed Kenton, one of the dive guides about it who confirmed that yes, these guys have been spotted here, yet were incredibly shy and often buggered off back to their holes once they’d found themselves within the glare of a divers torch light. Kenton was sure that he could find us one but said that we would have to creep up on it. Surely, anything called “THE THING!” should be doing the creeping up on people right? Not scurrying back to their holes at the first sign of trouble. Regardless, I needed to see this creature with my own eyes… at night… in the sea.
My partner Ana is relatively new to night diving and isn’t hugely keen on anything worm like either. So, what a great introduction for her – to dive at night with a two metre creature, as thick as a man’s wrist and one that looks like the main character from the 1990 American monster film “Tremors”.
Wearing a strange mixture of shorts, 0.5mm tech vest and a hood we hit the inky black sea.
HUGE crabs sat nonchalantly on their coral perches while lobsters, sometimes four at a time attempted (badly) to hide from our torch beams. Reef fish propped themselves up in mini caves hoping to not to be discovered by prey (which must become tiring night after night). Lion fish hovered – picking on fish much smaller than their own size and the torch lights from other divers flash about the night’s water column, sci-fi style. I enjoyed seeking out pairs of miniature red eyes, that belonged to banded shrimp (I love those guys). But no THE THING! to speak of yet.
I can safely say that I enjoy night diving in the Caribbean more than anywhere else in the world i’ve been diving at night. It could be because i’m not that great at spotting creatures generally, yet here, they come out in abundance. I wondered where in the water some of the crustaceans managed to hide themselves during the day, owing to their size. These specimens were gigantic! I also wondered how I managed not to spear my legs on one of the many spiky sea urchins that sat on top of the reef at night.
At minute 40, I was about to give up on this THE THING! and started heading for shallower water where I would eventually meet the beach, followed by a beer, followed by a mojito. But then Kenton, the dive guide began furiously flashing for my attention (with his torch)…
…It’s time to meet… THE THING! (which I will never get bored of saying – sorry). As I approached, three others divers were already with Kenton at the point where sand met reef and there is was. One whole metre’s worth of THE THING! laid out on the sea bed foraging for food, with the rest of it (probably another metre), down a hole. Deep red and purple with millions of legs and a face like something from the film THE THING! (weirdly enough). It had presented itself.
As soon as I arrived with my camera though, it shot back into it’s hole quicker than you could say – “yes thanks for spoiling that moment Will, we were enjoying some THE THING! time before you turned up”. I felt bad and gestured so as best I could to the other (probably now) disappointed divers. To my relief, as we hid in the dark for a minute or two more, with our torches pointed away from this timid, lengthy creature, it crept back out just for a moment, snatched some food and disappeared for a second time, never to appear (for us) again.
Excited as I was to see this marine worm, the hunt for it was probably just as, if not more exciting. Sometimes, I think that’s how it works with adventure – it’s not necessarily the end result, but how you got there. Perhaps you didn’t quite achieve the end goal but had fun doing it – which is what it’s all about.
I managed to shoot off one pathetic shot of this fascinating creature before it ran off. Partially because I was taking more time looking at it with my own eyes, rather than through the view finder and partly because it was too quick for me to shoot it. But that’s fine – it’s important to remember to put the camera down sometimes and take back just the memories of the experience (a great excuse too). There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of information or images online about THE THING! However, this link maybe interesting if you want to find out more and to really see what it looks like in all it’s thing like glory!