The Blue Fleet Has Landed at Otaipango

The blue fleet is a term coined by Sir Alistair Hardy to describe a community of creatures that float around in the oceans including the bluebottles, sea swallows, violet snails, blue buttons and by the wind sailors. Most people who frequent a beach would have come across at least some of them, probably the bluebottles or the by the wind sailors.

All of these creatures float around on the oceans with the sea swallows feeding on most of them. The venom of the blue bottles do not affect the sea swallows as they eat the tentacles and use the toxins as their own defense, making them more dangerous than the blue bottles!

On the 11 February 2016 the whole fleet landed at Otaipango which is the Maori for Henderson Bay, in the real far north of New Zealand. From what I have gathered it is very rare to have the whole fleet land at once!

Not only did the fleet land I am sure that they all spawned here as the next day there were 100's of junvnile bluebottles, sea swallows, blue buttons and by the wind sailors!

Below are photos taken on the 11 Feb 2016 of the different creatures of the blue fleet, with the exception of the Recluzia rollandiana (last photo) which has a better photo taken the next day.

I have also added another by the wind sailor with the seaweed (first photo) that was taken on 24 January 2016 so that you could see how it would look at sea, as well as the one taken on 11 Feb when it was found washed up (second photo) and how most people would see them.

Posted by tangatawhenua tangatawhenua, February 14, 2016 06:48

Observations

Photos / Sounds

What

By-the-wind Sailor (Velella velella)

Observer

tangatawhenua

Date

January 24, 2016

Description

Quite a few of these floating around in the tidal gut. It was an outgoing tide but they were coming in.

I did observe one in a rock pool moving along and turning around while all of the others in the pool were stationary - and that rock pool had no water movement whatsoever.

I do not have a clue what they are or where to start so I thought I would be creative and start with a bluebottle sea anemone :D

The first photo is taken looking straight down and the second photo is from the side.

Tags

Photos / Sounds

What

By-the-wind Sailor (Velella velella)

Observer

tangatawhenua

Date

February 11, 2016

Description

This is how people usually see them - washed up on the beach.

To see what they look like before they get to this state, http://naturewatch.org.nz/observations/2612311

Photos / Sounds

What

Sea Swallow (Glaucus atlanticus)

Observer

tangatawhenua

Date

February 11, 2016

Description

Is it a fish? Is it a slug? Is it a fishy anemone? I do not have a clue what this is!

It is about 30mm long and there were a few of them in the sand - outgoing tide nearly on the turn. Most were buried and only the "fan fin" was showing.

Resting on the wet sand, when the sand collapsed it arched it's face upwards (2nd and third photos) and seem to spawn capsule from somewhere - there are 2 floating in the 4th pic.

Totally hypnotic, by the time my sister-in-law and I carried on the brother had walked 2kms away from us!

Photos / Sounds

What

Violet Sea Snail (Janthina janthina)

Observer

tangatawhenua

Date

February 11, 2016

Description

Violet snail and the first photo shows the bubble raft. The seond photo I had turned it over (with a stick)

Many of these on the beach.

Photos / Sounds

What

Bluebottle (Physalia physalis)

Observer

tangatawhenua

Date

February 11, 2016

Description

Bluebottle washed up on the beach without a bluebottle fly - will keep looking for a photo of a bluebottle on a bluebottle!

Photos / Sounds

What

Blue Button (Porpita porpita)

Observer

tangatawhenua

Date

February 12, 2016

Description

Yesterday I found these as blobs on the beach but they were identified. Today I found them floating being stalked by sea swallows http://naturewatch.org.nz/observations/2670813

Photos / Sounds

Observer

tangatawhenua

Date

February 12, 2016

Description

Showing the bubble raft of this amazing little creature :)

Comments

Interesting! Now I know what a blue fleet is.

Posted by jon_sullivan over 6 years ago (Flag)

I learnt that term from the sea swallow obs then on one of the other blue fleet obs the comment was made that I had seen the whole lot on one day which was rare, hence why I did this post to record a rare event and also so people can see the lot gathered in one place :)

Posted by tangatawhenua over 6 years ago (Flag)

Great. I'd never heard of the blue button or the violet sea snail before either. They're all such elegant things.

Posted by jon_sullivan over 6 years ago (Flag)

Great journal entry, and luckily a NatureWatch NZ observer was there to record this fascinating occurrence with some wonderful images. Thanks @tangatawhenua

Posted by jacqui-nz over 6 years ago (Flag)

The blue buttons are really amazing @jon_sullivan and something that @pjd1 hasn't seen either! https://inaturalist.nz/observations/2671031 is an obs for what they usually look like washed up on the beach and not floating as in the photo on this page.

The bubbles in the photo of the violet sea snail is called a bubble raft and that is what causes them to float along with the fleet. The bubble raft of the Recluzia rollandiana is that brown that is spilling out of the shell.

You are most welcome @jacqui-nz and I hope you find the sea swallow :)

Posted by tangatawhenua over 6 years ago (Flag)

Really nice post about a very special event. As I mentioned in a comment on the original observation I had an encounter with the blue fleet in January 1998 (or may have been 1999) at Cook's Beach. On that occasion there were sea swallows (in their hundreds), blue buttons, by-the-wind-sailors, men o' war, three species of violet snails, juvenile flying fish (about 60mm long), an oceanic crab (Planes sp.), a blue isopod, and another pelagic aeolid nudibranch called Fiona pinnata (small and pale with two rows of gills down the back, lives on flotsam rather than floating free).

Didn't get any Recluzia though. I understand these are really rare in NZ; the only one I ever saw (empty shell, no animal or bubble raft) was at Cape Maria van Diemen in about 1981.

I read Sir Alistair Hardy's book The Open Sea when I was 14 and it pretty much kicked off a life-long fascination with open ocean marine life. Must be just about unobtainable by now but well worth a read if you can track down a copy.

Posted by number8dave over 6 years ago (Flag)

Seeing all of those would ahve been amazing - a pity cameras and Nature Watch wasn't around then to record it!

Posted by tangatawhenua over 6 years ago (Flag)

This is really great! I am so glad you put this together, @tangatawhenua. :)

Posted by susanhewitt about 6 years ago (Flag)

Thank you @invertzoo for that! You were my inspiration as you did the ID for most of the fleet, then you made a comment "wow! you have the whole blue fleet here" and that inspired me to find out what that was and because of the interest in the sea swallow I did this post so people could see the lot - so once again thank you! LOL

Posted by tangatawhenua about 6 years ago (Flag)

I wanted to say again how lovely this journal post is, and how great the observations. :)

Susan

Posted by susanhewitt almost 5 years ago (Flag)

Thank you for that @susanhewitt :)

Posted by tangatawhenua almost 5 years ago (Flag)

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