LILLEY: Meet the Long-Handed Spiny Lobster

  • Terry Lilley/contributed Long-Handed Spiny Lobster

I was diving down a steep underwater 400 foot cliff near the island of Ni‘ihau and at about 100 feet deep my dive buddy pointed into a hole in the cliff to show me something interesting to take a video of. When I turned on my bright video lights I was looking at a creature that I was quite sure that very few people on earth have ever seen! I have over 3,000 underwater hours shooting video and I did not know what I was looking at.

The 8 inch creature looking back at me was bright red with yellow bands and had a single giant front arm and black eyes. I shot some beautiful video of this little gem of the sea but I still did not know what I was looking at until we got back to the dive boat and I asked the dive master. He told me that it was a super rare native Hawaiian Long-Handed Spiny Lobster and he found this amazing creature over a year ago. He said that every time he dives this site this same critter is in the same little cave and that I was the first one to have ever taken a good picture of it.

Later on I did some research and found out that there is no Hawaiian name for this Hawaiian local because no one in the past had probably ever seen one! They only live on deep water cliffs so even when they die they would sink to the seafloor and never even wash up onto the beach. Little to nothing is known about this rare lobster because it lives so deep that just trying to find one while scuba diving may take years and then you can only spend a few minutes studying the creature because hanging out at 100 feet deep while diving is very dangerous for more than a few minutes.

The sea is just packed full of strange creatures humans have yet to even lay eyes on as 70 % of Earth is underwater and yet to be fully explored. The Long-Handed Spiny Lobster has had its picture taken fewer times than the mountains on Mars and I am sure this is the first time one has ever been in the newspaper!

You can see the video of the Ni’ihau Long-Handed Spiny Lobster up on my web at in my new upcoming educational movie called The Worlds Guide to Hawaiian Reef Creatures.


Terry Lilley is a marine biologist living in Hanalei Kauai and co-founder of Reef Guardians Hawaii, a nonprofit on a mission to provide education and resources to protect the coral reef. To donate to Reef Guardians Hawaii go to

  1. Tom Campbell June 7, 2021 6:44 am Reply

    At my age dives that deep are pretty risky so getting to view this creature in this way is as close as I will ever come. Great stuff, keep ’em coming!

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