Billy, a giant blue dragon sea slug, will join Nelly the Nudi as sculptures as the second, annual Nudifest event in Port Stephens this weekend which celebrates the tiny but colourful nudibranch molluscs which make the blue waters of Port Stephens their home.
On display at the d’Albora Marina Nelson Bay this Sunday, December 13, will be a new, 2.3 metre long sculpture – Billy the Blue Dragon – which is 300 times the size of a normal, 20-cent-sized blue dragon nudibranch, or ‘nudi’ as the striking sea slugs are affectionately known. Billy will be joined by the three-metre-long Nelly the Nudi sculpture which was revealed at the inaugural Nudifest in Port Stephens last year. Both sculptures have been by local art-conservationist-focused business, Atlantis Port Stephens, which is a Nudifest sponsor.
Also at the marina this Sunday will be a touch tank with a collection of real nudis for visitors to see, with nudibranch colouring pages for children and scientists from Southern Cross University on hand to answer questions about the unusual creatures. Using divers, the university will coordinate a census of Port Stephens’ nudi population on Saturday, December 12.
Nudibranchs are shell-less, soft-bodied sea molluscs which live on seabeds and are particularly abundant in shallow waters. The creatures’ Latin, scientific name, nudibranchia, means naked gills, referring to the feathery gills found on their back. More than 200 species have been spotted in Port Stephens’ waters and the creatures’ vibrant hues and intricate patterns regularly draw divers from throughout the country and overseas to the area, which is renowned for having some of the best shore dive sites in Australia.
Blue dragon nudis have been described as real-life Pokemons, according to Matt Johnstone from Atlantis Port Stephens. The feed on bluebottles, steal their stinging cells and use them as weapons. They spend most of their life floating upside down on the surface of the water, drifting around the ocean.
For more information on Nudifest, visit the ‘what’s on’ page of Destination Port Stephens’ website – www.portstephens.org.au.