The Banded Sea Krait – Yikes!

Posted in Under the Sea on December 13th, 2009 by MadDog
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Yesterday, for our regular Saturday dive, we had perfect conditions at Magic Passage near Madang. There was a moderate incoming tide and the water coming in through the passage was clear and had very little particulate matter to obscure visibility. The shooting was excellent. I got about thirty usable shots out of 122 exposures. I call that a good day.

The highlight of the dive was an up-close and personal encounter with a Banded Sea Krait (Laticauda colubrina), one of the most poisonous creatures on the planet. Say hello to the yellow-nosed terror:Banded Sea Krait - Laticauda colubrinaI’m sad to lessen my apparent bravery for getting this close by telling you that these snakes offer no danger to a careful diver. Though very poisonous, they are not in any way aggressive, as long as you don’t try to play with them. I have been this close on many occasions. Most of the time, the snake pays no notice at all. If it does seem to notice me, it will invariably simply move farther away from me.

Here is Carol Dover pointing the way to the mouth of the passage.Dive buddies at Magic PassageIt is often said that the mouth of the Banded Sea Krait is too small to bite a human. This is not true. Many fishermen are bitten each year when they try to clear sea snakes from their nets. Here is one swimming through the clear water looking for a hole to investigate for a meal.Banded Sea Krait - Laticauda colubrinaThey feed by moving around through the coral and poking into every crevice. I saw this snake disappear completely twice while I was photographing it. This one was about 1.5 metres long, a fairly large specimen. If you click to enlarge, you will see the flat paddle-shaped tail which helps it to move swiftly through the water.

Hers is why old divers (like me) always tell those not familiar with the Sea Krait to always observe it from the side, never overhead:Banded Sea Krait - Laticauda colubrinaIt is a true snake and therefore must breath air. When it needs to breath, you don’t want to be hovering over the top of it. It might get a little testy if you are cutting it off from its air supply. This one surfaced for about a minute and then came back to exactly the same spot to resume feeding. It did not appear to notice my presence at all.

Aside from air to breathe, the snake also must find fresh water to drink. When the female lays eggs, she must find a safe place on land to do so. I have seen several sea snakes killed by vehicles along Coronation Drive next to the coast of Astrolabe Bay.

Here is another shot of the snake moving through the water. The head is a little motion-blurred in this shot:Banded Sea Krait - Laticauda colubrinaIt’s hard to explain what a kick it is to get so close to exotic creatures such as this and capture their images.

Last week we dived The Henry Leith, The Eel Garden and The Green Dragon B-25 Bomber. You’re going to be served fish for the next few days.

I hope that you’re hungry.

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