Jakarta-born Cather­ine “Dimpy” Ja­cobs trav­elled to icy Nor­way, be­com­ing the first In­done­sian ma­rine bi­ol­o­gist to ex­plore th­ese in­trigu­ing wa­ters

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I’ve come a long way from sell­ing phone “pulsa” in Manado, In­done­sia, to pay for my univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion. A chance meet­ing 11 years ago with Danny Charl­ton, the owner of Lem­beh Re­sort in Su­lawesi, In­done­sia, changed my life. I went on to com­plete my de­gree at UNSRAT Univer­sity (Univer­sity Sam Rat­u­langi) in Manado and work my way up through the ranks of div­ing cer­ti­fi­ca­tions. I’m now a PADI Div­ing In­struc­tor as well as an avid un­der­wa­ter pho­tog­ra­pher. I work full-time as a ma­rine bi­ol­o­gist, head of ma­rine con­ser­va­tion projects at the re­sort, and train up a lot of the dive guides work­ing in Lem­beh.

In May 2016, as part of the in­au­gu­ral In­ter­na­tional Crit­ter Shootout, an un­der­wa­ter pho­tog­ra­phy event in which a team of pho­tog­ra­phers in Lem­beh went head-to-head with a team from Gulen, Nor­way, I was given the op­por­tu­nity to travel to this lit­tle cor­ner of Scan­di­navia. De­spite never hav­ing left In­done­sia and never hav­ing dived in cold wa­ter be­fore, I de­cided to “dive in” and make the epic jour­ney.

Upon ar­rival, I was amazed by the scenery, and de­spite the cold I was ex­cited to ar­rive in Ber­gen. For those of you who don’t know so much about div­ing in cold wa­ter, it’s not the same as slip­ping on a short wet­suit and jump­ing in. I had to start by un­der­go­ing train­ing in how to dive in a dry­suit, and get used to the large amount of weights I needed. Af­ter a train­ing ses­sion in the pool though, I was ready for the ocean.

Once I got un­der­wa­ter, my ma­rine bi­ol­ogy in­stincts took over and I be­came fas­ci­nated by this strange yet fa­mil­iar un­der­wa­ter world. I be­gan com­par­ing the ma­rine species in Nor­way to those I’m used to study­ing back home, and it wasn’t long be­fore I for­got that the wa­ter was just six de­grees Cel­sius.

There were so many star­tling dif­fer­ences! One of the most pro­found was the size of the species that can be found in both hemi­spheres. The am­phipods in Nor­way are huge com­pared to the ones in Lem­beh; even though I’m so used to see­ing them back home, it was like en­coun­ter­ing alien life forms!

The nudi­branchs are also very sim­i­lar, but far larger in Nor­way. I think the pres­ence of th­ese com­mon species in both cold and trop­i­cal wa­ters must be linked to the avail­abil­ity of food. Th­ese crea­tures feed on hy­droids, which are also com­mon in both ar­eas. The num­ber of in­di­vid­ual nudi­branchs in Nor­way far ex­ceeded those in Lem­beh, but the va­ri­ety of species was less. While we have fewer in­di­vid­u­als in Lem­beh we have a much wider diver­sity of species, which is why Lem­beh is so fa­mous.

I felt both ex­cited and hugely priv­i­leged to be div­ing where no other In­done­sian had yet ex­plored. The high­light of the trip had to be the mo­ment I found a baby lump­sucker, a species we don’t get in trop­i­cal wa­ters and one that is a rare find even in Nor­way.

I was told that Nor­way is not only rarely, if ever, vis­ited by In­done­sians, but it’s also a place that doesn’t at­tract that many fe­male divers. Ap­par­ently, the ex­treme tem­per­a­tures are to blame. I am so happy that I had this in­cred­i­ble op­por­tu­nity and en­joyed ev­ery minute, but it’s also very nice to be back home at Lem­beh Re­sort, div­ing in warm wa­ter in my wet­suit amongst all the unique crit­ters that we have here in north Su­lawesi. But should an­other ex­treme ad­ven­ture beckon, I’m ready to go!

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