Cuttlefish Hunger

Posted in Under the Sea on June 9th, 2010 by MadDog
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I have a fantastic shot for you today. A couple of days ago I put up a post showing an image of a Cuttlefish. I had looked over the frames which I had taken and chosen the one that I thought was the prettiest. Yesterday, as I was going back over the images from that dive on Planet Rock last Saturday, I discovered something which I had not noticed in my earlier examinations – something which blew my itsy-bitsy mind.

The is the same Broadclub Cuttlefish (Sepia latimanus)  which you saw in the post linked to above. Do you notice anything odd about it? Go on, have a good look before I tell you. Click on it to make it larger:

It quite clearly has a fish sticking out of its mouth. Richard Jones told me that he thought that it was actively hunting when we ran across it. I never thought more about it. It must have snatched this fish with its long feeding tentacles only moments before I snapped this shot. I Googled some “cuttlefish feeding” images this morning and found plenty of examples of the act of feeding, but no others showing a fish sticking out a a cuttlefish’s mouth. I get lucky so often that it is beginning to frighten me.

Today, we’ll alternate back and forth between beauty and weirdness. Some might say that the Cuttlefish is beautiful, but it’s also weird.

Here’s your beauty. It’s lovely Geneviève Tremblay waving “Hello” to you:

Geneviève is a volunteer worker here in Madang. She is a physiotherapist, a much needed skill here in our hazardous country.

I used the “Hello in All Languages” WordPress plugin for the greeting from Geneviève. If you get something other that your local language equivalent of “Hello” please let me know. I’m still testing it.

Snapping back to weird, here is an elegant Longsnout Flathead (Thysanophrys chiltonae):

These are very common on our reefs. They are ambush hunters. Their camouflage abilities are amazing as you can see in this post.

Let’s flip back to beauty for a moment:

Here is a sweet shot of Roz Savage with some lovely orange Antheas and a Feather Star in the foreground. I was so pleased with this shot. It’s definitely going in MadDog’s Little Book of Memories.

Now, this one is not ugly, but it is weird looking. It’s a common Scorpion Shell (Lambis scorpius):

It doesn’t look like much when you first see it laying in the sand.

But, gently turn it over and:

Zowie! That’s a whole different thing there.

Mother Ocean is full of surprises.

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A Curious Collection

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on June 8th, 2010 by MadDog
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Okay, today I’m just winging it. I have no coherent plan, no petty rage to vent, no earth-shattering news, no malicious gossip (no, wait . . . I hate that stuff), and no gonzo wisdom to dispense. I’m reasonably calm, considering the mountainous pile of work which I fear will soon avalanche down upon me and out of which no St. Bernard will come bearing a little keg of Monk-crafted brandy will come to dig me.* I partook of my placebo this morning, consisting of a tiny nibble off of the edge of a 5mg Valium tablet. I know that it’s not enough to affect my body chemistry, it simply lets me feel as if I have some control. I feel like a mouse nibbling on a teeny-weeny chunk of cheese which must last him for a month. The things you do when the mind starts to go . . .

So, I’ll spare you the chatter and show you some images which have lifted me out of the muck a couple of times already this week. We’ll start with a sunrise for which I can credit only God. Sorry folks. Simple physical processes are not up to the task:

Thanks, God. I needed that one.

This is a picture I got a few weeks ago up at Guntabag with my old buddy Tag Tap. He took me to a tiny little house to see this wonderful old man who they say is eighty-three years old:

It is hard for me to keep tears from my eyes when I look at this image of a man who has lived almost literally from the stone age to the space age. How much the world has changed during his lifetime. He would have been born at a time when nearly the entire population of Papua New Guinea lived in areas which had never been mapped and were presumed to be uninhabited. I do not know his name, and If I did, I would not tell you. Names of venerated persons, especially those who are in the twilight zone are often not spoken aloud. A glance or pointing of the chin in his direction is sufficient to indicate the subject of the conversation. He was alert and could speak, offering to shake my hand. However, he was clearly confused concerning why a foriegner would want to come to meet him and take his photograph. I’m going to get a good framed print made of this one and send it up to him.

I can’t get enough of the Finisterre Mountains.  Despite being surrounded by mountains to the west, the Finisterres,  across Astrolabe Bay,  are the only ones which we can see clearly:

I’ll call that one Too Blue.

I’m calling this one Boards Over Water at Blueblood:

The sand from out feet on the deck and the ripples of sand under the water below the deck connected furiously in my medula oblongata. I stared curiously at my hands as they, of their own accord, set the controls on my trusty Canon G11 and framed the shot. I heard a subtle “click” inside my head when the shutter released. It was surreal.

Here is a happy, happy picture:

It is (Rozlings take note) Roz Savage, Genevieve Tremblay, me and Jo Noble in Faded Glory  on our way out to Planet Rock on Saturday. Thanks to pal Meri Armstrong for the snap. Meri was intensely concerned with getting the iconic Madang Coastwatchers Monument in the background. I enlarged my bicep only slightly – honest! And, by the way, I am not “making a donkey” out of Genevieve. I’m giving the Peace Sign.

Which reminds me. I haven’t shown the Faded Glory  Diving Crew t-shirt logo for a long time:

I’m putting it up here because I’m looking for a t-shirt company who can make some up for me. If anybody out there has any ideas, please leave me a comment or send me an email.

Just a couple of more and then you can get back to work before the boss comes around. I love spirals. When you are in the sea you are surrounded by them. Here is one of my favourite spiral shots:

What I like about them is that none of them are perfect. They are only suggestions of what spirals might be if they tried harder, if they cared more about being true to their good nature. They remind me of humans.

So, now that I’ve gone completely silly, I may as well carry on. I saw this bottle on the otherwise pristine reef at Planet Rock:

As you can see, the reef is desperately trying to incorporate it into itself. It is a hopeless task, because the bottle is of a different nature from the reef. The reef lives. The bottle is dead and always has been. The bottle does not belong to the reef and the reef does not want it there. So, the reef hides its shame and restores its beauty by absorbing the foreign bottle into itself.

I’m calling it Message in a Bottle.

* Please note the incredibly clumsy sentence which I crafted to avoid ending it with the prepostiion “out”.

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Leapin’ Lizards!

Posted in At Sea, Mixed Nuts on June 7th, 2010 by MadDog
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I’m glad you asked. I’ll tell you when I love life the most. It’s actually two times. I’ll let you guess when it’s not. No, I’ll tell you. It’s not when I’m making money or doing something “important” or “supporting a cause” or “being responsible”. All those things are good to some extent or another.

One of the times during which life settles over me as a fine, cool mist of euphoria is when I’m sitting quietly with my woman, enjoying the sweetness of nearly a half-century of friendship, affection. and passion. The other time when I feel very close to heaven is when I am with beloved mates who share my lust for life and welcome both the benefits and burdens of true friendship. I am blessed beyond comprehension with an abundance these moments.

My supply of words is running short today. I planned to make this my “Sunday” post so that I would not have a hole in my calendar. So much for dedication and self-discipline. So there’s a hole. I’ll flagellate myself later.

Right now I want to show you lovely Marleen and her dolphins:

Of course, they are not really Marleen’s dolphins. Nobody should own dolphins. However, Marleen had the best seat in the house as we travelled up to Blueblood on Mike and Di Cassell’s Felmara  on Sunday.

Now for a simple question:  What do you get when you take a bunch of clowns out to a floatie thing and give them a tennis ball? Well, you get Leapin’ Lizards:Here is Eddie “The Dancin’ Fool” with a picture-perfect catch. Richard Jones seems to be saying “What the . . .  How dare  you!”

Did you realise that if you Google “Leapin’ Lizards” (with the quotes) you will be about 368,000 hits. There’s a message in that somewhere.

Not to be outdone, Rich came on with a beautiful grab which ended in a spectacular splash:

Rich is one of the most physically competitive friends I have ever known. He has bicycled insanely, triathloned, climbed Mt. Wilhelm  and dived every chance he gets all despite having a great leaky hole in his heart. No, I mean his actual heart. No wonder he is so skinny. You do not want to get into a game of Twister with him. He will beat your socks off.

And, if you need incontrovertible evidence that man descended from the apes, you need look no further:I rest my case:

The next act was our scary local Frenchman, Pascal Michon, A.K.A. “The Prince of Pursuit”:Here Pascal is throwing down the gauntlet. “Bring it on!”, he challenges.

There followed what I think was a near miss, but there was so much water being displaced that I couldn’t see whether he actually caught it or not:At least it was a valiant effort, worthy of the flag.

The next attempt was evidently successful. Please note that the ball was firmly in his hands before his toes left the platform. The only way he could have surpassed this accomplishment would have been if he had managed to get back on the platform before ditching in the drink. Now that  would have been something:Rich is making his way back to the beach after exhausting his supply of red wine.

We have taken to calling Pascal “The Flying Frenchman” in honour of Clément Ader, Pascal’s countryman who was the first man to construct and pilot a powered aircraft in 1890. It reached a height of 20cm, and flew uncontrolled approximately 50m. Here is a picture of Clément Ader:

Don’t you see the resemblance?

After a flaming postprandial of Black Sambuca, we made our way back to town. I like this nice pensive shot of Brioni sitting on the stern of Felmara:Never a cross word was spoken. What a day!

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Dive Day – A Little Surprise!

Posted in Under the Sea on June 5th, 2010 by MadDog
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Saturday morning weather looked promising. It appears as if the dry season is arriving on time this year. This will be a great relief to the many people who depend on their gardens for their main food supply. I was feeling quite happy as I prepared Faded Glory  for departure.

I arrived at the Madang Resort Hotel wharf where we meet and rent air tanks for our little dive club from Sir Peter Barter’s dive shop, a generosity which allows us to go diving every week. Most of us could not afford to do that otherwise. As friends appeared, I noticed a strange look on some of the faces. They seemed to be looking over my shoulder as I was leaning over tending to some gear. When I turned around I did a double-take of movie quality. Grinning down at me was Roz Savage, who seemingly had not had enough of Mother Ocean. It was very pleasant to have her along and allow her to be simply “one of the mob”.

The lighting was all wrong for this cute shot of Geneviève Tremblay:

It looks as if she is about to be eaten by the big sea slug in the foreground. It was only about a half-metre long.

A week or so ago, Geneviève took this shot of me checking our anchor line. I don’t often get any decent pictures of myself. This miffs me a bit, because I never tire of looking at myself:Geneviève did a nice job of composing the shot, so all I had to do was Photoshop my love handles down to  less grotesque dimensions. One wants to look as good an one might. The emphasis is on might.  The amusement of exercise escapes me. I simply try to eat as little as possible.

I used up a fair bit of air chasing these Bigeye Trevally (Carnax sexfasciatus)  up and down over Planet Rock:

I was very lucky to catch the bubbles of a diver in the background.

Another treat was this Broadclub Cuttlefish (Sepia latimanus)  which allowed me to snap several shots before it tired of the game and rocketed off with a puff of ink:

Any day when you get a cuttlefish shot is a good day.

I like this one of the little fish hiding right next to the gaping jaws of a Moray Eel (Gymnothorax javanicus):

Possibly they know that this is probably the safest place for them. If you stand behind a bully who ignores you, you are unlikely to be bothered by anybody else.

Though we were trying to allow Roz to enjoy not being the centre of attention for a few hours, I could not resist this shot as were were coming up the anchor line to Faded Glory  after our dive:

I can’t imagine a more perfect day.

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What a Day! – The Arrival of Roz Savage

Posted in Madang Happenings on June 4th, 2010 by MadDog
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Today began for me at 04:30 when I loaded up Faded Glory  to go out to try to find Roz Savage. The day before she had told me that she planned to ease off and arrive in Madang the next morning. It was dark, of course, but as the sky lightened I began to scan with my binoculars. At about 06:00 I decided to call home and discovered I had left my cell phone on the charger. I decided to make a quick trip back to town to get it.

As I was coming into the harbour I saw Mike Cassell in Felmara  coming out. We stopped to chat. He told me that Brocade,  Roz’s boat, had been tied up all night next to the Kalibobo Spirit,  Sir Peter Barter’s boat. Much relieved that Roz wasn’t still rowing her heart out to get to Madang, I went back home for a while to wait for the official entrance. As Roz tells about in It’s Been Special,  Sir Peter put her up on Kalibobo Spirit  because it was legal for her to be on a boat at that point, but not dry land, as she had not yet cleared customs and immigration.

So, early in the morning Kalibobo Spirit  towed Brocade  out a short distance from the mouth of Dallmann Passage  and set her adrift with Roz turning herself toward Madang once again, repeating the hundreds of strokes which brought her to safety the night before. It was a spectacle which I doubt will be surpassed in my lifetime.

And, this is the very shot which I had been thinking of since I first heard about Roz’s visit to Madang:

Circumstances conspired to deliver to me a perfect image. Those of you do not live in Madang won’t know about our strong feelings about our Coastwatchers Monument. I’ve written about it so many times that it has its own tag in the Tags section of my sidebar. To catch Roz passing by and glancing over her shoulder at it is a gift.

Luck was with me again as the little flotilla of highly decorated canoes arranged so thoughtfully by Sir Peter Barter gave me once again the opportunity for an image which will always be among my favourites:

Sometimes everything just comes together.

It was very hectic in Dallmann Padssage.  I tried to simply stay out of the way and shoot as the opportunities arrived.  I did most of the shooting with a mid-telephoto setting:

This image of Roz standing in her frail life-capsule waving joyously at the welcoming crowd will stay with me for the rest of my life. It is uplifting and inspiring.

Over at the wharf, everything was strictly business. Roz spoke to the authorities and handed over her documents:

I should point out that I was surrounded by about thirty little canoes at this point. In order to get close enough to get pictures for Roz’s mother, Rita, a lady I would dearly love to meet, I had to slowly work my way in, asking the canoeists, “Sori, plis mi like kisim piksa. Mama bilong Roz em i bin askim me long kisim piksa.”  (Sorry, I would like to get pictures. Roz’s mother asked me to take pictures.) The people were very polite and guided me in among them for a few minutes so that I could get some shots.

I’ll have more images and stories of Roz’s adventures in The Land of Surprises over the next few weeks. I’ll leave you with this one. It’s a photographer’s shot. Some would say, “Hey, it all blurry.” But to me the motion blur speaks volumes:

After, months of isolation and 2.5 million oar strokes, Roz, with one quick step, concludes this segment of her incredible adventure. She carries a powerful message to us. Let us hope that there are ears here who will listen.

Lest anyone mistake me for a purely sentimental observer, I’ll admit to what everybody already knows. I’m am a glory hound. I have to be. We have to eat and the only thing that I have left to sell is myself. The more people who read what I write, the more doors open to Eunie and I for opportunities to make a living.

My arrangement with Roz’s mother was that I would provide all images to her free of charge, considering that Roz’s adventures are a non-commercial enterprise. My only request was that I receive photo credit. Roz’s Public Relations man Alan Murray has been kindly sending me links to show me where my images have been popping up. I’m frankly blown away by the growing list. You can catch old MadDog’s snapshots at ABC News, Roz Savage – Ocean Rower, ABC News (again!), CNET News. My fifteen minutes of fame may have finally arrived. Zowie!

I didn’t get this post finished on Friday, so I’m now looking out my bedroom window on Saturday morning at bright sunshine on the cocount trees. It’s Dive Day. Time to load up Faded Glory.  Our own little adventures will feel larger while Roz is with us.

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The Soaring Spirit – Roz Savage

Posted in Madang Happenings on June 3rd, 2010 by MadDog
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You know, maybe a few times in one’s life come opportunities to feel a closeness to amazing human accomplishment – to meet, to observe, to appreciate people who magnificently overshadow the puny imaginations of the rest of us. Today I had that privilege. Today I met a woman in an improbable vessel in the placid calm of a mirrored indigo sea with flying fish swarming about. It was magical. I met Roz Savage.

I’f you’ve been living in a cave, you may not know about Roz. First, imagine getting into a rowboat. Now imagine rowing across the Atlantic Ocean.  Now imagine rowing around the world! Got that? Around the World!

You might want to take break from my drivel to visit her web site at Roz Savage, Ocean Rower.  In fact, I insist. I seldom insist.

I’ve been following Roz for some time. I admit to being an adventurer groupie. Roz is The Rock Star of adventurers. I clearly remember being mesmerised by the grainy images of Commander Neil Armstrong hopping off the ladder to land flat-footed on the moon. I never had the privilege of meeting Commander Armstrong. But, today I met Roz Savage. I just can’t stop saying it. I met Roz Savage.

Don’t mistake my comparison for hyperbole. Landing on the moon is a huge accomplishment. It was backed by a huge government with a huge budget and a huge national interest in making it happen. We can’t compare apples to oranges here, but both are sweet fruit.

What interests me here is the motivation. Roz’s tag line, Rowing towards a greener future,  says a lot about what drives her. I’ll say more about that later. First, let me take you with me as I relive this morning’s experience.

Here is the GPS chart from Faded Glory.  Last night, as if in a dream, I had the insane notion that I might be able to go out and find Roz to welcome her to Madang. I do a lot of goofy things, This is by no means the goofiest. I loaded up plenty of fuel and took off with three cameras, binoculars and a small bag containing some munchies and beer:

You can see my path out from Madang as the wobbly line from town to the lower left corner of the image. After nearly two hours I began to consider that she may have made better time that expected and I thought about turning back toward Madang to look for her. I saw a flash in the distance, but, through my binoculars, I could see that it was a sailfish jumping. A banana boat came along, heading to Madang. I waved them down and felt a little silly asking them if they had seen a woman in a big rowboat. They gave me a puzzled look. However, they did say that they had seen something  “over that way” in the distance. I started heading “over that way”.

Shortly thereafter I saw a black dot on the horizon. I thought, “This is crazy. It can’t be her.” I kept going and soon I could make out with my binoculars that it was, indeed. I gave a little more throttle to Faded Glory  and approached within another five minutes.

I introduced myself and we chatted for a few minutes. Roz allowed me to tag along until she was able to calculate whether she could make Madang before nightfall. If I let Faded Glory  drift after taking her out of gear I could get her down to about 2 knots. The numbers weren’t good. It looked to me as if Roz could, at best, arrive in Madang between 19:00 and 21:00. I nearly burst my buttons when she told me that those were also her numbers.

Not wishing to arrive during the night, Roz finalised her decision to ease off and arrive near the entrance to Madang Harbour at Dallmann Passage at about daybreak. This would allow her to enter the harbour passing the iconic Coastwatchers Monument at a time convenient for her welcoming party. This demeanor of consideration simply stuns me. I would be steaming to port as quickly as possible.

Speaking of welcomers, Sir Peter Barter made a splash near Roz yesterday when he dropped a care package with the obligatory beers and victuals from his helicopter. Sir Peter is hosting Roz and taking care of all of her needs for her visit here in Madang. I think that most people don’t realise what a big deal that is. It’s not just handing over the key to a hotel room. It is an enormous job and Sir Peter has the wherewithal to get it done. Roz is blessed to have such a trustworthy supporter here in Paradise.

As I made final arrangements for photography in the morning and passed over to Roz the little offering of goodies, I did not want to leave. I can’t explain that. Finally, I waved off and forced myself to shove the throttle forward and not look back. Suddenly, I felt that “old man thing” when unexpected tears blurred my vision. In my mind was the whisper, “May the wind be at your back, Roz.”

Roz had the composure, good humour and grace of a young woman out for a row on a glassy pond on a Sunday afternoon. I suppose that one must possess those qualities to do what she does. The heart of a lion and the soaring spirit of an eagle are also necessary attributes.

Earlier I said that I would mention more about what drives Roz. She says it best. I take the liberty of quoting directly from the page on her web site Roz and the Environment:

A lot of people don’t believe they can do anything to make a difference.

We can’t make other people do what’s right. But we can ensure that each of us as an individual does what’s right. Do your bit and encourage your friends, relatives and colleagues to do theirs.

You might think that your effort is just a drop in the ocean. But a drop spreads ripples.

I believe that our every word, every action, has consequences and effects far beyond what we will ever know. So I try to be mindful of the consequences of my actions, knowing that somewhere, somehow, they will have an effect.

If I throw this plastic bag into the river, might it end up in the sea, in the stomach of an albatross, inflicting a slow and painful death?

If I don’t recycle this glass bottle, then maybe not the next one, nor the one after that, over the course of my lifetime how many of my bottles will end up in landfill instead of being reused? Is that pile of bottles something I would want in MY backyard?

On the other hand, if I do the right thing – for example, if I ask for a paper bag in the store instead of a plastic one or, better still, take my own re-useable bag – might someone else notice my choice and decide to do the same?

If I take my reusable mug to the coffee shop instead of using a paper, plastic or styrofoam cup, how many disposable cups will I save in a year, in five years, in my life?

If I walk or cycle instead of driving to work – or even just park a mile short and walk the rest of the way – might I inspire my colleagues to do the same? How much gas money will I save in a year?

I found that when I started living in a more environmentally conscious way, it felt good. It made me feel like a better person. Give it a try and see if it works for you.

Words to live by. Seriously – if we don’t live by such principles, we may not live at all.

Oh, by the way. Roz is a DIVER!  Whoopee!

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Little Fishies

Posted in Under the Sea on June 2nd, 2010 by MadDog
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It looked pretty scary outside this morning at about 06:00. I thought the world had caught fire for a moment. Never mind. It was just a big black cloud. It’s Wednesday here – middle of the week day. Ho-hum day. It’s too early in the week to be tired. It’s too late in the week to start any big projects. It’s not close enough to the weekend to begin to slack off. It’s just a work day. I had it in mind to be very productive today. I had nothing on my schedule to take me away from my office and I was determined to see how many of the little nagging projects that I’ve put off I could pummeled into submission before the day ended. I suppose you can imagine how that is going.

However, I did just finish my lunch while I was working on something else (I must vacuum my keyboard crumbs soon) and I’m going to celebrate the successful commencement of digestion by showing you The Big Black Cloud:

There. Isn’t that scary?

The title of this post is Little Fishies.  Here they are:

You know when I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job of creating an underwater image? Well, I’ll tell you when. It’s when you look at one of my images and think to yourself, “He faked that! He took that shot through the glass of somebody’s perfectly maintained aquarium.” Yeah, when you get suspicious, I get all puffed up and start bragging about what a great photographer I am. I’m such a glory hound.

Yeah, well, anyway, here’s a very uneven Linckia multifora  starfish. It’s been leg bitten several times:

You know why I keep taking pictures of these and showing them to you until you want to scream, “Stop, STOP! Enough with the starfish amputees!” Well, I’ll tell you why. It is because they make me think of the amazing powers of regeneration which humans possess. No, we can’t regrow limbs – yet. But we can regenerate our emotional, spiritual and intellectual aspects by simple acts of will accompanied by hard work and behavioural changes. I have regenerated so many parts of me that I hardly recognise myself. Most of these chopping offs and regrowings have been prompted by the “What a jerk!” response of people with whom I interact. It’s like getting a smart slap in the face and then saying, “Oh, thanks. I needed that.”

Well that’s enough of whatever that was. I love shapes. I think that I must be a very visual person. I know that I’m no longer an olfactory person. I still can’t smell anything, but at least the phatosmia is getting less obnoxious since I started snorting Nasonex. Eunie uses it and I thought, “What the . . . ” I’ll give it a shot – really – two up each nose-hole each day. The smell of smoke is fading.

Hmmm . . . I drifted off-point there – back to shapes:

The Sea Squirt (Didemnum molle)  on the left makes me think of a buffalo (American Bison, to be exact) which has rater gruesomely had it head chopped off. The one on the right evokes vaguely uneasy gurglings in my cerebellum, but doesn’t provide any words to go with them. All I’m getting is visual blub-a-lug-a-blug. There may be something obscene there, but it’s not registering.

Come to think of it, It could  be Carl Malden’s nose, but I can’t be sure.

Mystery Stuff – Possibly a Protopalythoa  species anemone? I think so:

There is are so many things down there to see that it makes me wish that I could live to be a hundred. I think of the line of Shakespeare when Hamlet says to Horatio “There are many things in heaven and earth, Horatio, that are not dreamt of in your philosophy”. Hamlet  (Act I Sc V)*

Both of our beautiful Fishtail Palms (Caryota gigas)  are fruiting again:

This concerns me a bit, because these trees usually die when they have given their all to reproduce.

That seems like such a shame to me. I’d have been dead since 1969.

* Quoting Shakespeare is like using semicolons. All it proves is that you’ve been to college. Pffffft! College is the new high-school. I’m left for dead in the dust again!

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