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Wednesday, 05 March 2014 10:15

An unexpected encounter (English subtitles)

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Roberto Palozzi/EREBUS Productions
The huge colony of planktonic tunicates The huge colony of planktonic tunicates

This really was a surprising encounter.

And I confess that when I saw him to appear out of the blue, I was scared, at the beginning.
I never bumped into something like that, not even on television.
I was making a documentary for RAI (the Italian National Television ) on the last voyage of the "Rainbow Warrior" (the famous " Greenpeace " ship, sunk by the French secret service in the harbour of Auckland - New Zealand - in 1985) and with my assistant we were diving on the seabed of the Poor Knights Islands for a few days.

Rainbow Warrior Deck WM

These islands are a paradise for divers and hundreds of giant stingrays probably are the main attraction. At least until the meeting with this huge "underwater snake"...

Sting ray swimming WM-1

Actually, I realized pretty quickly that this sea monster would not have devoured us because it was a huge colony of harmless, planktonic tunicates, belonging to the genus Pyrosoma: thousands of small, gelatinous organisms that gather together to form a translucent and hollow tube, open at one end only.

Pyrosoma2 WM

The extraordinary nature and fortune of my encounter stem primarily by the size and the "health" of this colony: it was at the height of its splendor, at the apex of its biological cycle.
One of the best moments I have ever experienced underwater.

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