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  • José H. Leal

Blackwater Moments

Beginning today, December 10, 2021, the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum will be offering a new exhibition titled Blackwater Moments: Nocturnal Photography of Open-Ocean Mollusks. The exhibition will be on view through May 30, 2022 on the second floor of the Museum during regular Museum hours.

Gastropod veliger larva, probably in the family Olividae, the olive snails. By Linda Ianiello.

“In the open ocean at night, many animals move up from deeper water to feed,” said José H. Leal, Ph.D., Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum Science Director and Curator, who organized the exhibition. “Divers and underwater photographers Linda Ianniello and Susan Mears take remarkable images of marine life swimming at night by practicing the adventuresome, emerging art form of blackwater photography.”

Sea butterfly, Corolla spectabilis. Sea butterflies are open-water marine gastropods. By Susan Mears.

The unusual, elegant, nocturnal images featured in this exhibition were taken by Linda and Susan in the Gulf Stream of the Atlantic Ocean, approximately five miles off the East Coast of Florida and at depths of between fifty and one hundred feet. These excursions, known as blackwater dives, carry divers along the Gulf Stream for a distance of up to seven miles during a 90-minute dive, providing opportunities to photograph animals as they emerge from the depths and move through the Gulf Stream.

Sharpear Enope Squid, Ancistrocheirus lesueurii. By Susan Mears.

Blackwater Moments features some 30 photographs by Linda and Susan, with a focus on pictures they have made of open-ocean mollusks. Species represented include the Blanket Octopus, Argonauts, Sea Butterflies, and others. The exhibition also includes a section about blackwater diving and the daring methods that produce these beautiful images.

Open-water gastropod Cavolinia tridentata with green mantle appendages. By Linda Ianniello.

Linda and Susan have co-authored the book Blackwater Creatures – A Guide to Southeast Florida Blackwater Diving, which chronicles highlights of over 500 blackwater expeditions. On March 15, 2022, Linda will give an Artist Talk at the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum to discuss the exhibition and their work. Visit for more information and to register.

A blackwater dive about to happen. By Linda Ianniello.


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