What is muck diving? When you met an old friend and he tried proselytizing you into his new hobby. At first, he might say “Scuba Diving”, and such utterance may brought you to images of colorful coral reefs in the warm seas down under. But hold on for a second and you find your conversation spelunking into unfamiliar territories. You suddenly realize you’ve been misled! No longer is the image of majestic colorful undersea structure playing in your theatre of mind. Rather out of the blue, you picture sand, silt, mud, and debris, the opposite aesthetic counterpart to the coral reefs you’ve seen in postcards. Welcome to the rabbit hole of muck diving!
What is Muck Diving?
Back to the first question, “what is muck diving?” First of all, it is better to focus on the terminology. Diving is easy to define, but what is “muck”? The best way to explain it would be through a good old analogy. Ever tried making compost from kitchen scraps? Or maybe you have a large deciduous tree around your property and your green thumb led you to make some leaf mold? Of course you don’t use them as they are! Your compost may contain eggshells, you mix them with fine sand, worm castings, and some grit. That’s a terrestrial analogy to “sea muck”.
It is hard to determine the precise composition of this substance we call “muck”. Just like freshly done compost or gardening soil, or the wet soil of forest floor. They consist of many things at once, decomposed leaves and branches, dead insects and small mammals, animal dung, and many more. Just like its terrestrial counterpart, muck is the same in essence, an accretion. Now, it’s easy to imagine how muck diving goes, diving close to the sea floor in the presence of accreted volcanic sand, silt, mud, and calcareous coral debris.
What Lies on Its Surface?
Just like the forest floor or rich loamy organic soil, the muck hosts a variety of life. In the forests, you might find colorful isopods hidden beneath branches and leaves, exotic vertebrates like poison dart frogs or salamanders, or bizzare mushrooms which are worth their epithet “sessile animals”. In the countryside, the mole cricket which burrows underneath the soil is a bane to potato crops everywhere. From this analogy, we might proceed to explore this so called “underwater muck”.
It is not a surprise that crabs and lobsters are renowned as “bugs of the sea”. Also, what is known in the land as “isopod” has its giant counterpart in the sea. The joy of muck diving is not that much different from flipping branches and stones and finding colorful lives beneath it. The joy of underwater macrophotography is not much different from doing close up photography of a ladybug or a grasshopper. Only difference is one being terrestrial, the other being aquatic.
There are myriad of critters that you can find in a muck diving session, such as harlequin shrimp, mandarin fish, nudibranches, seahorses, and decorator crabs. While the examples I’ve listed above are colorful, “larger than life” critters, others are much more subtle and surprising. Critters that go by the name Ambon scorpionfish, ghost piperfish, flamboyant cuttlefish, mimic octopus, and waspfish are masters of camouflage! (See also: 5 Jenis Ikan yang Dapat ditemukan Saat Diving – YOSDiveLembeh)
Don’t forget to bring your camera!
Muck diving might invoke joys of exploration, a relic of a long gone childhood. That’s why it’s best to capture its moment as much as possible to not let them buried beneath accretion of day-to-day problems. Be it reef diving or muck diving, a camera is almost always mandatory. While the former warrants a full panoramic view of accumulated marine polyps in all its glory, the latter requires state-of-the-art camera capturing the “individual” in all its glory. With further development of high resolution technology, no doubt places in Southeast Asia like Lembeh, Milne, and Ambon will gain steady increase in visits!
If the thought about experiencing muck diving first-hand crosses your mind, be sure to visit The Diving Resort: Yos Dive Lembeh!