Wayne Davis with another beauty of a photo he shot from his plane 100 miles off Nantucket. He took the photo yesterday, September 13th. He was flying over Oceanographers Canyon, and found this Atlantic manta ray, Manta birostris, with a devil ray, Mobula hypostoma, outside the mouth of the canyon in 1000 fathoms of water. The manta is the lead fish, the mobula trails it. The blue water is stunning. But I find the animals even more incredible. Their shape and color; their huge size, often hitting 15 feet from wing to wing. I love how their pectoral fins in the photograph are just breaking the surface of the water, causing a tiny wake in a huge ocean.
Many people have no idea that we see these oceanic giants anywhere near our shores. But they’re out there, well out in the deep blue, often in or near the edge of the Gulf Stream, which has, the past few weeks, been very close to the southern edge of Georges Bank. Wayne on this trip also saw sperm whales, humpbacks and finbacks; along with sport fishing boats targeting swordfish, bigeye and yellowfin tuna.
“I’ve seen mobula rays of up two dozen swimming on the surface,” Davis says, “from Atlantis Canyon all the way east to Corsair Canyon (in Canadian water). But I’ve never seen the true manta schooled up. More often I see them swimming individually. This photo is a rarity for me because I’ve never seen the two species together, obviously interacting in some way.”
Manta’s wander the oceans, and their wanderings to us appear random, but probably to the manta it’s anything but random. A trip over to the Azores is a trip over to the Azores and not a blind guess that a volcanic island with incredible upwellings, dense with plankton, will be there.
I’ve seen a few mantas before, here in New England. I was working on a swordfish boat and a baby manta had come up in the net. Manta’s give birth to one baby and that one baby is reared internally in an egg sack–then born alive and free swimming. The one we caught on the sword boat was only about 4-feet long, a little youngster. But that little fish had a body as hard and dense as a hockey puck. I couldn’t make an indent in its skin no matter how hard I tried. It seems to me that many oceanic fish have incredibly hard bodies, no beer gut, no cellulite. They swim and swim. I stood there on deck and held this fish. I looked into its mouth and saw its fine gill rakers for straining plankton. I felt the cephalic fins on either side of its mouth, and bent them inward as if the ray were about to funnel in a bloom of plankton. Then I let it go. To see more of Wayne’s work go to his website: http://oceanaerials.com/