By Katy Gill
These two divers found themselves dwarfed by a deep-sea worm measuring more than eight meters long and made up of hundreds of thousands of organisms.
Longtime friends Steve Hathaway, 48, and Andrew Buttle, 56, were diving off the coast of Whakaari, the stratovolcano on White Island, New Zealand, on October 25, when they discovered the gelatinous worm.
Initially diving to record footage for the island that Andrew inherited from his grandfather, their focus was stolen by the hollow, wind-sock-like creature.
The worm can be seen moving delicately through the water, occasionally shuddering and pulsating whilst the divers swim gently around it so not to disturb it.
At a depth of around 10 meters, the organism slowly travelled around 200 meters, taking on many different shapes and sizes.
Andrew, who is a pilot by day, said: “Having never seen one in person or even footage or photos of one before, I was quite incredulous and elated that such a creature existed.
“It was very puzzling but also fantastic to be able to view it right up close and spend so much time with it.
“The island is 48 kilometers from the mainland, and there is a vast amount of fish life and nutrients in the water that may have had the right circumstances to become so large.
“I believe it is possibly a Pyrosome – occasionally they are caught in nets but not many intact large specimens have been caught to my knowledge.
“At times there can be blooms of thousands of small versions of these creatures in many parts of the world, but not something I had ever seen before.”
Steve, who founded Young Ocean Explorers, an educational entertainment platform encouraging children to explore the world’s oceans, said: “Without a doubt the highlight of the trip was to find the pyrosome – I’ve wanted to see one for many years now.
“The ocean is such a fascinating place and much more fascinating to explore when you actually understand some of what you see, such as the different behaviors.”
Andrew inherited the active volcanic island from his late grandfather, who only managed to visit his purchase from the government for half an hour.
To find out more about daily tours to White island by sea or helicopter visit: www.whiteislandnz.com
To support Steve in educating the next generation of Ocean Explorers visit: www.youngoceanexplorers.com