A week ago, I went out on a catamaran to explore the coral reefs. I went snorkeling from the boat, and also did snuba diving. Snuba is a sort of cross between snorkeling and scuba, whereby the oxygen tank stays on a floating raft, while your respirator is connected to it via a long hose, as follows:
There were many fabulously colored fish to be seen on the reef. But the big attraction was a reptile - the sea turtles for which this part of the world is famous:
Sea turtles are amazing to watch underwater. These huge animals are incredibly graceful as they swim slowly along. While snorkeling, I was able to swim with each of them for several minutes at a time. They displayed no fear, and once one swam close enough for me to touch; I was sorely tempted to do so, but it is illegal.
Unfortunately, not all the turtles were as attractive as the one in the picture above. One of them had a bizarre cauliflower-like growth emerging from its neck. This strange mutation was actually a disease specific to marine turtles called fibropapillomatosis. It is rarely found in adult turtles, since by the time the turtle reaches adulthood the tumor has either regressed or killed it, which means that this mutant turtle was probably a teenager.
The cause of the disease is unclear. But in recent years it has risen such that in now affects a staggering 92% of the turtles in some areas. As such, it would appear to relate to human factors. It is speculated that it is the result of turtles feeding on yet another invasive species that has been introduced (unwittingly) by man - certain types of algae.
Let's finish this post on a a lighter note. A few days after my underwater turtle encounter, I was on a beach, and I saw a (healthy) turtle swimming right up to the sand. The water was so amazingly clear that I was able to take the following photo:
As the turtle approached the sand, I stepped into the shallows, taking care to observe the law prohibiting contact between humans and turtles.
But the turtle didn't care about the law.
With a flap of its flippers and a surge of the surf, the turtle suddenly shot forwards. Exhibiting the martial skills of a ninja warrior, it catapulted into me and gave me a mighty whack on my shins. YEEOUCH!
Well, at least it was nice to see that this ninja turtle wasn't a teenage mutant.
So, that's the end of my "field reports" for this summer, which began with a leopard bite and ended with a turtle slam. If you'd like to join me for next year's African adventure, scheduled for the beginning of June, please be in touch. Meanwhile, I'll be returning to the usual topics for this blog, and I'm pleased to announce that the Rationalist Medical Halacha blog is also back in action.