We all need help from time to time and it is not always easy to ask for help. And sometimes as a dive guide I get a completely unexpected request for help, I mean it’s my job to help everyone above and below the water but I just don’t expect it from everyone and ask myself if I heard that correctly or, as in this case, saw. No, it’s not a misunderstand of hand signals, but more of a body posture and huge, help-seeking eyes. Now the funny thing is is that the question does not come from one of our divers, but from a fish. A fish yes, you read that right. I thought a fish was asking for my help and that amazes me the most, just a fish coming at me and insisting, really so weird and as that idea comes to mind it also makes me think if maybe I’m not diving a bit too much, but oh well.
We are doing a wonderful night dive in Marsa Shouna, a beauty of a bay that is known for the dugongs that are regularly found there. We are already on our way back and dive towards our boat when a small porcipinefish comes towards me and surprises me. Porcupine fish are very shy and avoid us more than anything else, but this one is just cheeky and swims right up to me and hangs in front of my mask. We watch and enjoy this beautiful animal that is by the way not alone, because there is a huge sucker fish hanging from her belly, a remora, that is almost twice as large as she is. Now porcupine fishes don’t swim very elegantly, actually more like drunken drivers, but this one really had a lot of trouble moving because of the remora hitching a ride, that was clear. After a few minutes we continued, but that fish does not agree! She struggles to stay with me and gets closer and closer which is strange. And then every time she turns her belly towards me exactly where that sucking fish hangs. Well I understand that is not pleasant, but it took me a whilees before I realize that the porcupine fish wants my help. She looks at me with her huge eyes, turns around again and shows her belly with the remora that keeps changing position as she turns. And as I watch it, I hear in my mind the tune of the twilight zone: tanananah… tanananah. spooky!
Well that’s a tricky one, how do you get a remora off the belly of that fish without hurting someone? I want to help her, but we don’t intend to grab marine life just like that, we try to keep the underwater nature as undamaged and untouched as possible and that initially prevents me from helping the porcupine. But she insists and she doesn’t do it to the other divers, only to me. And thanks to that persistence I reach out my hand, not to grab right away, but to see if the fish swims away from it. I turn the palm of my hand up and have my fingers half open and the porcupine fish swims directly towards it. I actually don’t grab anything but the animal maneuvers clumsily towards my fingers and she swims past them while the remora is against my hand and I am a bit startled. I immediately withdraw my hand and that was all it took for the remora to let go. I don’t fully understand what just happened, but it’s over and we quickly dive on. The funny thing is that that porcupinedoesn’t leave my side and continues to swim right up to the boat next to me, amazing! And the thought of her asking me for help just won’t let go. Was it a coincidence? Was it just a smart fish? Was it something I shouldn’t have done? And did I actually do something? I just held out my hand and that fish makes good use of it. Or is it a kind of nitrogen narcoses and am I seeing things that aren’t really there?
Whatever it is, it is in any case a special experience and it keeps me very busy. At the end of the dive I climb up the stairs of our boat, I am full in my thoughts as hear people from my group talking about the porcupine. So I’m not the only one who saw it and that’s nice as then it won’t be nitrogen narcoses. But whether that animal asked me for help and whether I understood or whether it made very clever use of the hand I held out, well I will never know. But it is clear that I will not forget this moment.
Love life… Blow bubbles…