E.T. The Porcupine Puffer in Bermuda

Now that Franklin the Moray Eel is no longer with us, E.T. has to be our most weird and unusual friend. I have looked very hard and if somone else had trained a porcupine puffer, it would be on YouTube. My father Bronson Hartley tamed one years ago and named it Margaret. Our fellow has been around at least four years and has improved with age. At first I was feeding out of my hand. Now E.T. ,though he has a big head, there is not much brain in there. In fact the stomach is much bigger. This led E.T. to bite things because he was not sure where his food came from. E.T. must have died because he no longer shows up.
Helmet divers with Bermudian puffer

When I say things I mean watches, cameras, message sticks, food bottles, ends of the grab-bar, belly buttons, toes and of course his most favourite, fingers. I then had to devise an E.T. feeder which consisted of a flat piece of plexiglass with a four inch long PVC pipe in the middle. Then I simply put the food in the pipe and he rushes at the flat face of the feeder and sucks the food out of the pipe. It has taken a while , but he has now figured out his food comes from there and not hands, toes etc.
Porcupine puffer in Bermuda

When folks feel leery about him I have to explain that he can't bite you if you are touching and fondling him, so take advantage. He does not take offense easily and has good reason to not be afraid of anything. They are not hunted for their meat, as it is toxic. It has to be prepared just so, and then you get an intoxicating buzz rather than death. Death is what you get if it is not prepared correctly. In fact, the Emperor of Japan is forbidden, by traditional law, from enjoying the intoxicating pleasures of eating puffer. For the rest of us it is OK to eat puffer and die, the world will continue, but we must keep the Emperor safe.
Attraction in Bermuda

As a youngster, my father inadvertently caught a puffer. It then puffed up as it lay in the bottom of the punt underneath the seat, breaking the wooden seat. With all those spines and that toxicity not much will eat them so they have good reason to be unafraid. Their natural diet is clams, oysters, scallops, crabs, snails, mussels and other things that do not move very fast.
Puffer in Bermuda's Undersea wallk
E.T. has a weird coating on him that seems to come off when you touch him. It is fantastic to hold such an amazing fish, yet one feel the impulse to rub ones hands together to remove it after touching him. It is not unpleasant (like dog stink after petting fido that lingers) because you can't smell it, but you still want to rub it off.
Star attraction on Bermuda Shore excursion
Occasionally, divers will get photos with E.T. in them. In fact, if he shows up I make a point of taking some. However, it is supposed to be all about food for E.T. and not about posing for photos. he usually turns at the last minute when I push him in the photo and we just get a shot of his back. It is rare to get a shot of his face that includes eyes and mouth so you can see what is in the photo.
Bermuda chub
It is almost good that E.T. does not come every day. We will see him for two or three days in a row and then nothing of two or three weeks. With all the other fish to deal with ( They get on my case for food...Go figure), it is a bit stressful for me to have to keep an eye on E.T. to make sure he behaves himself. He flooded a watch by biting it, as well as crimping my wedding band oval-flat on my finger. When he shows up I do get a feeling of satisfaction that our divers have truly experienced the best and most unusual helmet dive in the world.
Porcupine puffer in Bermuda
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