As Ready As I’ll Get

Posted in Mixed Nuts on March 8th, 2011 by MadDog
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Tomorrow morning at 07:20 I’ll board a flight for one of the most important journeys of my life. That is, I’ll board the flight if Air Niugini is feeling like letting me do so. One never plans  a flight on Air Niugini. It is more like a gamble. You bet that the aeroplane will be there and it will leave reasonably close to the time you need to leave for your connection and nothing else mysterious will happen to prevent your arrival. It’s wise to have a backup plan or, more accurately, a backup hope. Anyway, I’ll be there at 06:00 to see if I’ll be arriving in Brisbane tomorrow afternoon or not.

In the meantime, while you are waiting anxiously for my next report, I’ll soothe you with some random images from recent forays into the heart of Paradise. Here is what I usually refer to as Purple Snow. It is, of course, not snow at all but the shed flowers of a lau lau  or Malay Apple tree:

Friend Anne-Marie told me at first that the genus is Eugenia.  Then she started Googling and came up with the genus name Sygygium,  which, by the way, I find impossible to pronounce.  For most plants, she pulls the fancy names out of some deep recess in her fertile mind. If she is unsure, she will not let it go until she has exhausted Google. Apparently, Sygygium  is the favoured name now. Taxonomist are an unruly lot. They are forever changing their minds and arguing, presumably in Latin. You can see more Purple Snow here.

This is some kind of bug. It’s pretty, but you have to watch out for these. Some of them stink so bad they will make your head spin. I stopped sniffing them a long time ago. Believe me, you don’t want to know:

I think this is a non-smelly variety, but I did not check it.

Here are some little yellow flowers at the Tourist Centre. The sun was shining through a picket fence, making an interesting pattern of light across the frame.

Enough said. Let it speak for itself.

A rather boring hibiscus:

The images will get better when I begin my journey.

At least this one is not something you see every day. These are ferocious ants on a Heliconia  flower.

Even if the ants aren’t very interesting, the flower is. It’s one of the stranger ones. The common name is Lobster Claw. I don’t have to explain why, eh?

This is a little baby goat up at Nob Nob. It was so cute that I wanted to take it home. I doubt that my dog, Sheba, would get along with it.

Anyway, it would eat all of my flowers.

It’s about time to wrap this up. I probably won’t be posting for a few days. It will take time to get set up in Gympie. I had to pack four times. I packed everything three days ago and then decided that I needed a bit more stuff. I removed everything from a smaller black bag and put it into the big red bag you see here.

Then the red bag wasn’t full. So, I decided to fit everything into the black bag (not the one you see here – that’s my backpack). Well, it was a tight fit, so I jumped up and down on it until it seemed ok. Then I broke the zipper while trying to get it closed. Scratch that bag; it is now junk. Okay, now I had to put everything back into the red bag, which was still not full. I rummaged through my clothing to see what else I might need. I found some more warm clothes and stuffed them in. It came up to 19.48 kilograms, just short of my 20 kilo limit.

I guess that I’m as ready as I’m going to get. I have probably forgotten a dozen important things, but I can’t imagine that there are fatal flaws in my planning and execution. If all goes well I will be motoring with Val from Brisbane to her home in Gympie by this time tomorrow.

I’ve done everything I can. From now on it’s up to the mercy of God and Air Niugini. I know that I can count on God. I’m not so sure about Air Niugini.

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Massive Coral Bleaching at Planet Rock

Posted in Under the Sea on March 7th, 2011 by MadDog
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On Saturday I had my last dive in Madang for several months. We went out to Planet Rock  in Astrolabe Bay.  I had not been there since October of last year. Fortunately I’m feeling much better than I was then. I distinctly remember feeling suicidal on that dive. Things are greatly improved since then. Life could get interesting, so I’m happy to stick around for a while. I still have important work which provides me with a living and I have many other good things in my life. I’m coming around. I’m on my way to adventure for several months starting in two more days. All this is good news.

What is definitely not good news is the massive coral bleaching that is happening all up and down the coast near Madang. I’m not an expert on anything, but I think that I can safely say that the episode is caused by the rise of local water temperature.

I can remember when the average water temperature on a dive to twenty metres was about 27 or 28 ° C. Now it is more like 30 or 31. This is certainly enough to trigger coral bleaching on a long-term basis. If bleaching episodes last long enough, the coral dies completely and the reef becomes broken rubble in short order. New coral growths have a hard time establishing themselves on rubble, because it is not a solid foundation. As soon as a new colony begins to grow, the bit of rubble is disturbed by wave action caused by storms and the colony is dislodged.

Here is a large plate coral which looks to me as if it will soon be rubble.

Nearly this entire colony is affected to some extent.

Here is a close up of another type of coral which will most likely not recover. It’s difficult to tell without specialised knowledge whether or not the coral polyps will survive. To me, it appears that these are empty shells.

It looks bad enough up close.

It looks even worse from a distance.

This patch of dead or dying coral is about a hundred metres long.

Here is another badly bleached area about fifty metres wide.

All around the top of the rock we saw hundreds of patches of bleached coral during a forty-five minute dive. I would say that this is an increase of about fifty times as much dying coral over any cases which I have seen before. It is very worrisome.

We did not spend the entire dive surveying dead coral. Rich Jones found this little octopus in a hole.

It is devilishly difficult to photograph something back in a hole. You simply cannot jam in enough light for a decent exposure back in the hole without overexposing the coral which is surrounding it. In the shot above you can see one of the legs and the eye.

The octopus had captured a shell occupied by a hermit crab and it was busy trying to extract it for lunch when we came along. I pulled the shell from its tentacles so get the picture above.

Then I was faced with an ethical dilemma. Do I turn the hermit crab back over to the tender mercies of the octopus to suffer its natural fate and allow the octopus to enjoy its rightful meal or do I carry the shell a few metres away and drop it, giving the hermit crab a new lease on life, but leaving the octopus hungry?

I decided to put things back the way we found them and let nature take its course.

But I did feel bad for the hermit crab.

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Sunrise – Starfish – Insects

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on March 4th, 2011 by MadDog
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I’m going a little crazy getting ready for my trip. Regine, a long-time friend from Austria, is back visiting again in Madang. She brought three friends with her. I’ve been entertaining them for the last few days. Along with my feeble attempts to think of everything I need to do to get ready to travel, I feel rather more busy than I care for.

It’s been months since I have been in the mood to get out before light and catch sunrises. A few days ago, I could no longer resist. The sky across the harbour seemed to be on fire:

The colour, coming through a narrow slot between the horizon and low-hanging clouds, covered nearly a quarter of the sky. Here you can see nearly the entire eastern quadrant ablaze:

That was worth getting up for.

I got a couple of interesting starfish shots on my last dive. This is a nice image of a Cushion Star (Culcita novaeguineae) :

These are quite common in the waters around Madang. They are about the size of a football.

Here is another very common sight. This is the leg (arm?? which is it?) of a starfish. It was probably bitten off by a fish. You can clearly see that a whole new starfish is growing from the severed end of the limb. Given time, it will look like any other starfish:

I found this moth wearing a fancy coat out on my veranda one morning:

And this is a rather large grasshopper which I spotted only a metre away:

This got me thinking about large grasshoppers. I feel strangely calmed when I let my mind wander. Google is a fantasy land. I wish I could get a job Googling all day. Ask me anything. I’m the answer man. So, you want the world’s largest grasshopper. I deliver:

Of course, I make no claims of accuracy for the information which I supply.

Still not had enough of grasshoppers? What about this one (the grasshopper is the one on the right):

If you recognise that one you are probably a mature adult who watched a great deal of  TV in your youth.

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