Thar’d be a dragon in them thar hills! … by Casey Carlisle

Not something in a fantasy novel, but it’s hovering in front of me.

Image  One on my great loves (apart from a great themed cocktail party), and something I wish I had more time to do is dive. Or even roll up my sleeves and get involved in some marine research projects again – as long as it doesn’t involve fish guts – I have an unfortunate story about that too! Maybe once I’ve gotten a few novels under my belt I’ll dip my toe again. But for now, trips down memory lane will have to suffice. Well that, and the occasional Clive Cussler novel.

Scrolling through my photo collection I happened across one of the most unusual creatures I’ve crossed paths with during my dives – The Leafy Seadragon. Our dive was actually about monitoring Dugong populations (which was amazing in itself – so stay tuned, I’ll blog about that later), but when seemingly underwater foliage drifted past my goggles, moving in a very uncharacteristic way, I became transfixed. A tiny undersea dragon eye-balled my swirling read hair and took pause. Guess I was just as fascinating to it?

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Endemic and unique to Australia, Seadragons (Phycodurus eques) grow to around 350mm and feed on small

crustaceans that populate kelp beds. These unconventional animals can live in excess of ten years and often remain undetected as they blend so easily into their habitat, which lies along the southern coastlines of this big Island.

 I love the fact that Australia holds so many exclusive species, and feel truly blessed to witness much of it firsthand!

With five of us on the dive, spending a few days to visit four sites around the Western Australian shoreline, I snapped a small photo collection of this unusual critter. The only thing that could have made it more awesome is if it did, in fact, breathe fire – how cool would that be?

ImageLucky enough to have high visibility in shallow waters and a nearly all-female crew, our research team was more like Sex and the City on a Trawler. Every evening we’d crank up the radio and drag out the cocktails (Hmm, there’s a party theme in there somewhere.) I also had some of the best calamari on this expedition, fresh from the ocean, and prepared under the sunny cloudless skies.  Unlike the reef dives, teeming with life, this one felt serene; like standing in a large paddock atop a hill undulating in an afternoon breeze – except it all existed underwater.

So medieval times have not washed away with the tides, it just hid it’s mythical creatures under the meniscus, quietly snacking in grassy meadows. Though you may not need a sword and shield to fight this dragon, I highly recommend night time beverage and a wiggle under the moonlight.

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© Casey Carlisle 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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