The Beauty and the Beast

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Saturday dawned bright and sunny, but I was too late for a sunrise. I slept in until nearly 07:00. By the time I got up, there was no time to do a post, so I’m catching up today. It’s worth the wait, because I got some splendid shots during the day. We had a few adventures.

Jo Noble has mentioned to me a couple of times how she loves to free dive down and swim through the divers’ bubbles. It’s fun, it tickles and it’s a visual treat. The bubbles sometimes form mushroom shapes as big as your hand. If you stick your finger in the “bell” shape at the top, it explodes into a hundred tiny bubbles in a circle.

So, we decided that I’d go down after Monty and Kate got into the water  and shoot Jo swimming through the bubbles. It was a very good idea. Look at this beautiful shot:It might not be the most elegant pose in the history of underwater figure photography, but I like the animal power of it. Jo is going for the bubbles, pure and simple. She’s chasing them with all her might.

This one is a bit more dreamy. It reminds me a a reverse rainstorm:Jo is an aquatic beauty caught in an up-pour of air drops. I struggled to get some good skin tones out of this one, but the data was simply not there.

The next pose is much more sleek and lovely, but still portrays the power of the dive. If you’ve never free dived, you might not realise how much effort and skill it takes to get turned over and kick your way down, especially into salt water. It’s not as easy as it looks. Those of you who free dive will probably remember, as I do, the difficulty of learning to do it gracefully. If it’s done right, you see the swimmers bottom for a moment as she flips heels over head, the legs shoot straight up out of the water to gain weight above the water line and that weight propels the diver downwards and she reaches for a big double armful of water to pull herself downward.

Here Jo shows the technique perfectly:Isn’t that beautiful? How lucky to be there with a camera!

Since I’m now doing two dives on Saturdays we decided to have a little fun on the second one. I’m such a cheapskate that I rent only one tank. If I get an 80 (that’s a big one) I can get nearly two hours of dive time from it. Monty says I have gills. He may be right.

Anyway, on the second dive we decided to play the tropical divers’ equivalent of Russian Roulette, “Tease the Triggerfish”. Regular readers have seen triggerfish here before. Triggerfish are about the size of a football. In fact the Latin name is derived from the word for “ball shape”.

Here are two Yellowmargin Triggerfish (Pseudobalistes flavimarginatus)  guarding a nesting cone, the big, funnel shaped area in the sand with the rubbish in the centre:Though they are not currently mating, they come back regularly to these areas to check things out. On Saturday there were about ten of them patrolling the area.

The plan was that Monty would take pictures of me trying to get close-ups without getting bitten. The have teeth. Oh, my do they have teeth, teeth like a Pit Bull and a temperament to match. I had the thickest wet suit and the most experience with a camera, so it was my duty to get up-close and personal with the little devils. Did I mention that they bite? I’ve seen chunks taken out of divers’ fins by these critters.

As it turned out, Monty and Kate were distracted by some anemonefish and weren’t of much use to me:

The did get into the fray pretty quickly, as the triggerfish were getting very agitated and were darting about everywhere. They like to get about five or six metres away from you, square off, lower their head and make a charge, waggling like crazy and visibly accelerating directly at you. At that point you begin to ponder in earnest if they are going to break off the attack or not.

The attack profile is particulary terrifying for a male diver. The demons seem to favour a mid body target which makes it appear as if they are going directly for the, ah . . . how to put this delicately . . . the groin area.

Some of you have seen this before:I got so tired of describing the two most dangerous triggerfish to divers on my boat so that I could tell them to get behind me that I had them tattooed on my back.

Now, I can hear the mumbling out there, so don’t act like you’re not sceptical. Non-divers are naturally suspicious of the tall tales, since hardly ever comes back with so much as a scratch.

I did get one very lucky shot just before I nearly soiled my wetsuit:

Did I mention the headlong charges? Did I mention the teeth? This beast was travelling about thirty KPH when I snapped this shot, just before he flicked aside with an audible SNAP.

We call this fun.

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7 Responses to “The Beauty and the Beast”

  1. Mike Says:

    Great shot of the triggerfish. I nearly soiled myself once on account of a triggerfish. Which ought to have stopped me from going back to taunt him a little bit to get him to charge me. But alas, No.

  2. MadDog Says:

    Mike, I know what you mean. It’s like teasing a cat. You know it can’t kill you, but it can inflict painful, but not serious injuries. So, it’s fun to see how far you can go with it without actually getting hurt.

  3. Saturday at Last! | Madang - Ples Bilong Mi Says:

    […] outrageously coloured faux watercolour rendition of the Yellowmargin Triggerfish which we teased a few days ago:Pseudobalistes flavimarginatus  if you […]

  4. Steve Goodheart Says:

    Wow, you *do* like to play with fire, my man! After your past chilling descriptions of these undersea pitbulls, I am amazed at what you did on this expedition….but, I can definitely see the fun…and yes, they are like “kitties”, that crush concrete hard shells and coral with their teeth! LOL!

    Do you get Titan Triggerfish on your reefs? I hear are really big and can really be nasty. (I’ve only seen a Titan at Sea World.)

  5. MadDog Says:

    Steve, I may exploit the minor danger of playing with the large triggerfishes a little to make me seem more adventuresome. I’ve personally known only one person who has been bitten. That, however, left a nasty scar the size of a silver dollar on the thigh of a pretty young lady. It’s what I’d call a low-risk high-adrenaline game.

    We do have the Titan and it’s every bit as nasty as the Yellowmargin. They are hardly ever encountered here in large groups. It’s the single enraged territory defender which sneaks up from behind that is the danger. You can find quite a few scary images of the Titan by putting “viridescens” in the search box.

  6. Steve Goodheart Says:

    I’m sure that once I got to know this denizen, I’d want to push the envelope too! Amazing creatures.

    I’ll check out those other images later….



  7. Harry Says:

    nice 🙂