Damsel . . .
The word seems innocuous, if antiquated. It comes from the Latin dominus, or in the case of a female, domina. It means, more or less, head of the household.
We talk of a “damsel in distress” and we think “poor defenceless woman.” The roots of the word imply the opposite. We’ll get to that later.
But first, let me show you some delicious fish soup. Everybody, well almost everybody, likes a fine, beautifully crafted fish chowder.
Divers use this term – fish soup – when the aggregation of fish expected is exceeded beyond rational explanation. In other words, there are a great many more fish hanging about than could be reasonably expected.
Just above the stern of the ship there were so many fish congregated that I could not get them all into the view of the camera. If I backed away farther, the cloudiness of the water made the scene too indistinct and speckled. So, what I show you here is only a part of the spectacle.
On quick inspection, I count nine different species here. I’m sure that I’m missing a few:
If you think about this, it’s bizarre. We think of fish as being all cousins under the skin. However, different fish, obviously, are as different from each other as a sheep and a wolf. In the photo above, I see a wolf at the bottom of the round notch in the centre. There you can easily make out in the distance a Blue Fin Trevally – a wolf of the reefs. There are plenty of sheeplike fish in the photo.
What are they doing in one big mob? Think of shotgun wielding Lifetime Members of the National Rifle Association* (Like the Governor of Alaska now in the running for the Vice-presidency of the U. S. of A.) trying to blend in at a Sunday afternoon picnic of Quakers.
Under the stern railing, I found two rather uncommon Spotfin Lionfish cuddled up together – an unusual sight:
You can just make out the spiky fins of a third one in the upper left corner.
The star of this post, however, is cruising ominously past my fingertips in this shot:
This is the Golden Damsel (Amblyglyphidodon aureus). She’s no lady. (Actually, it may be a male – it’s hard to tell.)
There are about 320 species of damselfish worldwide and over 100 of them are found in the waters of the island of New Guinea.
One characteristic common among damselfish is pugnaciousness. If you want to pick a fight with a damselfish, go ahead. You’ll probably escape unscathed, but it will be only because you are far too big for it to rip you to tiny quivering shreds in a reasonable period. Given adequate time to nip and snip, it would certainly have a go.
They also make a peculiar grunting sound when perturbed. I sounds like “Unh, unh, unh, unh, unh, unh, unh!” spoken very quickly. Try it. You’ll sound just like an irritated damselfish. You can hear it for quite a distance. When I hear it, I start looking around to see who’s going to be nipping at my finger shortly.
What I didn’t, and can’t show you is the several times that the little demon successfully attacked my hand. I was flinching so much that I never got a clean shot.
This is a warning nip.
The damselfish is implying, “Doesn’t hurt, eh? Wait ‘til I do this to your hand!“:
Its warning unheeded, the little Kamikaze zooms in for the kill. I tensed my arm and focused my superpowers on avoiding the flinch. I sincerely wanted to get a shot of it biting my hand. I was hoping for some green blood:
Foiled again! The little schemer went straight for my wedding ring.
A ring-kissing damsel?
I felt like the Pope of fishes.
Later in the day, I brought two other divers to The Henry Leith. They too reported sustained vicious attacks, yet escaped unharmed.
Oh, by the way, Nemo is a damselfish. Have a look at the dentition on this little fellow.
*DISCLAIMER: I was, for some few years, a member of the NRA. I discontinued my membership when I could no longer support the legislative agenda of the organization.
I never used a semiautomatic weapon when hunting – on principle. In my opinion, semiautomatic and fully automatic weapons have only one purpose – killing human beings. They have no place in the hands of a sportsman.
A bolt action rifle with a telescopic sight is still the most accurate and dependable firearm available for hunting. That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it.
All that said, it was a bolt action rifle that killed John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Let’s face it. All guns are for killing. I got rid of all my guns when I decided I no longer needed to kill anything – ever.