Eye to Eye with a Sunfish

Well the other day I was laid on the beach and yesterday I was wading in the sea. It is December isn’t it?

Having received a telephone call from Ben – for which I am eternally grateful – I made my way down to the beach. Ben had seen an Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola) in the surf but was afraid the rising tide would put it beyond investigation. There was no time to be lost.

Ocean Sunfish are the world’s heaviest fish and are denizens of southern oceans where they eat mainly jellyfish. They don’t often occur around the uk and are rare in the North Sea. These guys are really big fish and it didn’t take me long to find it, perhaps a little further east than where Ben had left it – the wind and tide having played a part in moving it. I’ve seen these creatures of the deep before in the Bay of Biscay and more recently from the aircraft as we were landing on St Marys during our tour to the isles of Scilly in October. I have never seen one quite this close though! Sadly it was freshly dead. Its eyes were still wonderfully deep and blue; an ocean all of their own. I could have dived into them. The whole fish rocked gently in deepening surf and the thought that it wouldn’t be long before the sea reclaimed her daughter brought me back to reality.

It’s always difficult to give an impression of size without something as comparison. Paul had arrived; how convenient! We took off our shoes and socks and waded on in. Moving the fish was like lifting concrete. The texture was that of shark skin, rough and sand like. It was bony and heavy and after what seemed like hours in near freezing water (in fact it was only a few minutes) I was losing the feeling in my feet!

I was reluctant to leave the Sunfish but pain got the better part of valour and I left nature to do with it as she wished. How sad it died.

Ocean Sunfish 1

Ocean Sunfish (with Paul Lee)

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Dec 2012


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