National Geographic : 1990 Oct
MEMORY beneath the sea has a short life span. We drifted upward, and our wire coral fantasies vanished in the green mist beneath our fins. The numbing effect of nitrogen narcosis also disappeared. Sud denly I was clearheaded, as if awakened from a dream. Yet some nitrogen remained in our bloodstreams. To avoid the bends, we would have to decompress, lingering on our way to the surface. On the gentle sand slopes near our stash of extra air tanks and cameras, Niki found the most jewel-like, exquisite fish I'd ever seen-a juvenile lionfish, Pteroisvolitans, the size of a silver dollar (right), fluttering in midwater like a butterfly. I approached it with care because for all its delicacy its venomous spines appeared to be in perfect working order. Lionfish may look fragile, but they most definitely are not. They use their wings to herd prey-small invertebrates and other fish-into position to de vour them. Later our colleague Tadahiko Matsui found an even smaller Pterois. It settled in his glove and opened and closed its wings like a geisha's fan.