Treasures of the White Sea


Acanthonotosoma inflatum, an amphipod crustacean sporting a striking color after a fresh molt, walking on a sponge

I’ve just discovered this fabulous gallery of exquisite images by Russian underwater photographer Alexander Semenov. Alexander works in a place that most of us have never heard of, and few would dream of as hosting some of the beautiful animals that he’s virtually captured — the White Sea, an embayment of the Arctic Ocean in northwestern Russia:

“Most people think that pretty, colorful animals can’t live in the dark and cold water in the northern seas beyond the Polar Circle. It’s almost true: there are no coral reefs, no clownfishes and no other gay fishes. But the White Sea will show you another world with its own aliens, and some of them are really amazing creatures. Colors and life forms of some animals can surprise anyone from a housewife to an experienced specialist. The Arctic fauna totally differs from all I’ve ever seen. It’s unique, inspiring and fantastically interesting to study.”

Kudos to Alexander for introducing us to this wonderful corner of the ocean, and for reminding us what treasures can be found in the countless hidden places off the well-trodden path. He seems to have a special affinity for amphipod crustaceans, which immediately makes us kindred spirits. Following are a few of the beauties, focusing on the small, otherwise inconspicuous invertebrates that, like Alexander, I’ve also come to love over the years. There’s more to Planet Ocean than whales and sharks!

Acanthonotosoma cristatum, a keel-backed amphipod


Gammarellus homarii, yet another amphipod, up close and personal



Clione limacina, a planktonic pteropod mollusk (pteropod is from the Greek meaning "winged foot"). Pteropods are important food for many northern fishes but their internal shells makes them highly vulnerable to ocean acdification.


Dulichia bispina, a bizarre amphipod with huge gnathopods (claws) perched, with a family member (probably), on a hydroid stem


So as not to seem too prejudiced toward amphipods, here is a delicate polychaete worm by the name of Pterosyllis finmarchica

Alexander works at the White Sea Biological Station:

“The White Sea Biological Station is located on the coast of Kandalaksha Bay of the White Sea, near the Polar Circle. The WSBS location makes it an ideal place not only to study the northern marine environment for scientists and students from around the globe, but to enjoy the amazing nature, seascapes and sky panoramas. A 500 m strait separates the station from Veliky Island, the largest island of the Kandalaksha State Nature Reserve. Our station is s wonderful place with its unique atmosphere of science mixed with wild nature.”

This is what reminds me why I became a marine biologist. Oh my God, do I want to visit this place!

Hat tip to @JaymiHeimbuch for the link to Alexander’s site.







One response to “Treasures of the White Sea”

  1. I’m with you on that one Emmett – it looks wonderful! Such beautiful pictures. (And I’m ashamed to admit I’d never heard of the White Sea.)

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