Flabellina falklandica

Images courtesy of Kevin Lee
East Shore, Godthul, South Georgia Island, South Atlantic Ocean
Taken with Nikon D-300

Flabellina falklandica (Eliot, 1907)

South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands are British Overseas Territory. These islands are a small, remote, inhospitable archipelago and lie far south in the Atlantic Ocean. South Georgia, the largest island, is approximately 167km long and 37km wide. It is still claimed by Argentina and friction over it contributed to the Falklands War in 1982. The British Antarctic Survey runs a biological station on the island and conducts scientific research. Otherwise, it is uninhabited. Grytviken, the major base, is staffed by personnel, who rotate positions every two or so years. South Georgia, at latitude 54 South, lies within the Antarctic Convergence Zone, so it is considered to be a part of Antarctica, ecologically. We were fortunate to enjoy a few warm, clear, sunny days and the average ambient temperature was 3-8 degrees Celsius. Many days were rather grey and misty.

Kevin with dive buddy Jeff Bozanic.

Out of approximately 100 passengers, only four of us, including our dive master, engaged in exploratory diving, at some sites that have never been dived by humans. We completed nine dives, one of them at night, during seven days.

Water visibility ranged from 1.5 to 10 meters. The average water temperature was 2C. My longest dive was 68 minutes; the shortest 38 minutes, as we had to hustle to finish that night dive and re-board the ship before it pulled anchor and headed for the next day's destination. Although the water temperature was "warmer" than the dives I experienced in the Arctic (-1.5C) and the Antarctic (-2C), somehow my hands felt much colder on this South Georgia trip. Perhaps I'm aging?! I use the Dive Concept's snap-on/off dry glove system (with DUI Signature drysuit), which has performed flawlessly for the past three years. Under the gloves, my drysuit sleeves end with the traditional latex wrist seals so in case the external dry glove springs a leak there is a "back-up" barrier to prevent water from entering the drysuit.

WEBMASTER'S NOTES For those of you who are interested in the taxonomy of this guy which most of us will never see in our life time, you are invited to view three messages which appeared on Bill Rudman's Sea Slug Forum.

Flabellina flaklandica? from South Georgia by David Cothran
Flabellina falklandica and Notaeolidia by Michael Schroedl
Flabellina falklandica by Bill Rudman

Several times I forgot to place the equalizing tube (actually misplaced them) under each wrist seal so there was no exchange of air from my drysuit to my hands. Although my hands remained dry, the water pressure probably contributed to my hands getting squeezed and thus extremely cold, to painful degrees. In fact on one dive, after 40 minutes, I signaled to my trusted buddy Jeff Bozanic that I had to surface due to cold digits where the water was 2 degrees according to my Galileo Luna. We exchanged the "OK" sign and waved goodbye to each other. I ascended to 5 meters to execute my safety stop and my hands thawed out. Looking at my computer, the temperature had risen and registered 3 degrees. My, what a difference one degree makes! I ended up spending another 20 minutes in the water, busying myself with the pelagic scenery. On subsequent dives I used bicycle inner tube rings (which I use to organize and bundle otherwise unwieldy wires) under my wrist seals and that was enough to equalize pressure and keep my hands warmer (they were never really warm underwater!). As usual in polar diving we had two primary tank valves connected to two primary regulators in case of uncontrollable free flows. I experienced some minor free flows and was glad to switch to my other regulator. We intentionally kept our maximum dive depth to less than 25 meters since we were so far away from any medical support, in case of a dive-related emergency. Thus, we made sure to avoid deco diving.

Fortunately there were no heart-pounding incidents to report, though two dives produced some adrenalin. At Cooper's Bay there were many curious fur seals swimming around and some of them aggressively investigated us. No doubt they had never seen such strange mammals like us in their waters. One seal decided to sample the top of my hood and gave a pretty good tug. Presumably my 12mm thick hood didn't taste anything like dinner, so the seal let go. Such antics and constant distractions by these pesky fur seals made it very difficult to photograph anything, especially a beautiful diaphanous pelagic polychaete (yes, segmented worm) swimming the water column.

Kevin Lee
Fullerton, Calif
July, 2012

Kevin at Ernest Henry Shackelton's final resting place.
Born Feb. 15, 1874; Entered Life Eternal Jan.5, 1922. May he rest in peace.
Grytviken Cemetery, South Georgia Island. Photo by Jeff Bozanic.

Kevin Lee is a valued contributor of the Underwater Photography Guide, to whom The Slug Site is deeply indebted to Underwater Photography Guide for allowing us to use excerpts from the article that appeared in their publication. He resides in Fullerton, California and is an enthusiastic traveler, diver and nudiphile. Kevin's images have been featured in magazines, newspapers, academic literature and numerous dive related publications. For more of his excellent photography and dive travel stories visit his website at http://www.diverkevin.com/

Send Kevin email at diverkevin@gmail.com

WEBMASTER'S NOTES : Kevin really needs no introduction for those in the Southern California divining and branching community! Kevin is quite active in world wide scientific endeavors so probably doesn't need an introduction in that regard also! I was fortunate to be in attendance with Kevin at the 4th International Workshop on Opisthobranchs held at UC Santa Cruz June 24 to the 27th, where Kevin gave a presentation entitled: "Slugging from pole to pole." The audience was enthralled at the visual imagery of branchs throughout the world! Kevin was careful to fill in scientific details where ever possible, so it was both an enjoyable and educational experience par excellance! I was actually shivering in my seat looking at Kevin in a dry suit in the Georgia Island segment of the presentation! One reoccuring theme with Kevin is his desire to help and assist in scientifc discovery and is always glad to share his experience in circumventing the world in search of new wonders! Our hats are off to you Kevin!

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