Life on Mars

[Photo gallery at the bottom of this post]

Night diving in Hong Kong is generally a safe bet. It works because while a day dive in Hong Kong can sometimes be spoiled by poor visibility, on a night dive, your sphere of vision is restricted to your torch beam, so it’s fine in all but the absolute soupiest of conditions. And then there’s all the quirky critters that only come out at night …


So on Saturday I joined Scuba Monster for a dusk and night dive outing. We started off with a late afternoon dive at the site known as Whiskey Beach, on Kau Sai Chau, hoping to see frogfish. However, visibility below six metres was near zero — no chance of seeing anything much there. Therefore John decided to move the boat for the second dive. We sailed south round the coast of Kau Sai Chau to a seemingly unremarkable bay on Jin Island (Tiu Chung Chau 吊鐘洲).

After dropping anchor, John came over to me and said: ‘we call this place ‘Mars’.’ The reason for this name is apparently the barren landscape of the site — like a desert on an alien planet. And like an alien planet, it is populated with strange life forms. ‘This is where we saw the stargazer’, John added.


My buddy and I dropped in and descended to a silty bottom at about 13m where there was a thick fog. Visibility was once again measurable in centimetres, but we stayed together thanks to our lights. I spotted the back of a thin, scaly creature in the silt, but as I tried to waft the silt away to reveal it, it just burrowed further in. I also spotted a little flying gurnard which I managed to get a picture of, remarkably, despite being semi-blind in the fog.

Staying very close to the bottom, we followed the compass heading towards the land and surely enough the bottom got shallower and the silt changed to gravel, visibility improved somewhat and we hit the bottom of the rocky reef at about 8 metres. We turned right and made our way towards the bay until the area opened out to a shallow expanse of sand as John had described. It looked like a desert but the more we looked, the more critters we found. Here and there, little eyes poked up out of the sand, and the sand-trails, hollows and outlines revealed by our torch light hinted at semi-buried beasties. The place was full of martians.

Below are some of the sand-dwellers that we and other divers spotted during this dive. The photo of the butterfly ray is kindly provided by Catheryn Chu.

Photo gallery: click on the pictures for more information about each animal.

We weren’t lucky enough to spot the elusive stargazer on our journey to Mars, but we did discover another curious creature: the scaly thing I had seen at the start of the dive turned out to be the slightly creepy snakefish, a bottom-dwelling cousin of the more commonly-seen lizardfish. In fact, we spotted several more of them of different sizes. At local dive sites, divers often shun the sandy areas, thinking that there’s nothing there, but on a night dive, this is precisely where the wild things are!

Dive: max depth 13.5m for 60 minutes.

For another great dive aboard Scuba Monster, take a look at this post.

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Categories: HK divesTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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