Mesmerizing: Pelagic Red Crabs at San Miguel | NBC Southern California

Mesmerizing: Pelagic Red Crabs at San Miguel

Hypnotic video of the crustaceans, taken near the Channel Islands, has ties to the upcoming winter.

Getty Images
405066 12: Thousands of pelagic red crabs pile up on the beach as they wash ashore May 7, 2002 in San Diego, CA, a phenomenon that provides more evidence that another El Nino event may be building. The crabs, also known as tuna crabs, normally live off Baja California, Mexico but appear to be riding the ocean currents as warm waters from the tropical Pacific migrate farther north than usual in a growing El Nino event. El Nino draws tropical marine life, creates powerful winter storms on the West Coast, and leads to drought conditions in some other areas. An El Nino event next winter could break southern California's record drought with higher than normal rainfall. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Many a Californian regularly heads out to Channel Islands National Park to enjoy some fine weather, savor a quiet beach, watch the sea birds, and admire a nearly unchanged landscape of soft hills and chaparral and sand and oak.

Sometimes, though, the visitors to the Ventura-close islands are a bit more unexpected than a backpacker out for a day-long hike. Take, for example, the many pelagic red crabs spied near San Miguel, the most westerly of the five islands in the national park.

Jeff Harris, a researcher for the National Marine Mammal Laboratory in Washington State, captured, via camera, a whole profusion of the exquisite crustaceans just beneath the waves.

In a word? It's mesmerizing.

Though wait: Is "profusion" a big enough word for what we see in the video? A group of crabs is called "a cast," if you want to use official terms, though "a caboodle" or "a boatload" or "a beachful" could easily apply here.

Mr. Harris revealed that he filmed the crabs "two weeks ago" and that they've been in the area "all summer."

Pause your marveling, though, to marvel at this: The cast of crabs wasn't merely on a holiday to San Miguel Island, the sort of vacation many outdoors enthusiasts try and fit in every year. No less than El Niño-type conditions may have been their ticket up to the Channel Islands.

The U.S. National Weather Service Los Angeles/Oxnard posted that the pelagic red crabs "have ventured north to our waters due to warmer ocean water," a major El Niño sign. The Channel Islands Facebook page also made mention of the El Niño and both organization noted that the crabs typically call the waters off Mexico home.

Want to make like a crab and visit San Miguel? There aren't daily boats out to the far island, like there are with Anacapa and Santa Cruz Islands, but Island Packers, a Ventura-based company, does plan occasional boat trips to the rarely visited burg.

Pelagic Red Crabs

Researcher Jeff Harris from the National Marine Mammal Laboratory shot this video of pelagic red crabs (Pleuroncodes planipes) off San Miguel Island. These crabs are usually found in Mexico. However, during warmer water periods like El Nino they venture up to the Channel Islands. Learn more at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pleuroncodes_planipes

Posted by Channel Islands National Park on Wednesday, 26 August 2015

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