More Salty Goodness from Leper Island

Posted in Under the Sea on January 10th, 2011 by MadDog
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I’m now one dive behind. Our last Leper Island  dive was some time ago. Yesterday, which was Sunday, we did a dive on the wall up at Blue Blood in a spot where I had not been before. I’ll be showing some images of the incredible variety of flatworms we found there. That’s for later. Today, I’ll show some more shots from the Leper Island  dive.

With the help of friends beginning on Friday evening, I managed to keep myself distracted over the weekend – Friday at the Country Club for a very difficult quiz, Saturday on Sanguma,  with Rich Jones and Jenn Miller and Sunday up at Blueblood with a group of friends. Distraction was particularly important to me, as Saturday marked four months since Eunie’s death and I desperately needed to avoid deepening my depression by brooding on it over the weekend.

I imagine that distraction is important to anyone suffering from severe reactive depression. I’ve been depressed for longer periods of time – this episode is in its sixth month and is pushing me closer to the edge than I have ever been. I’ve never before suffered depression so profoundly disabling. It is very scary. There is no aspect of life left untouched by it. It drags down every joy and leaves its ugly traces in every dark corner of the mind.

Strange as it may be, I’ve experienced some significant comfort from a friendship with someone who is equally depressed for other reasons. Comparing notes and discussing symptoms and coping strategies has been very helpful to both of us. The most valuable thing for us, however, has been to have someone to talk to who understands exactly the feelings which are so troubling, someone who is experiencing them at the same time. There is great value in speaking the with the same vocabulary and sharing the same emotions.

Again, a blessing.

On to the pictures.

You’ve seen the Sailor’s Eyeball (Valonia ventricosa)  many times here:

This is a particularly nice one. Repeating myself as usual, I’ll mention that this is the largest single celled organism on the planet. It’s an algae. The skin is like tough plastic and transparent. It’s full of green fluid.

Here is an image of a plate coral that is clearly dying. You are looking straight down on the colony:

Everything below the white line is dead. The white line shows where the symbiotic protozoans have either died or been expelled from the polyps. Above the white line, the coral appears more or less healthy.

Here is a starfish which has lost part of a leg to a predator. It has begun to grow back, but it appears comically small:

It will continue to lengthen and thicken until it matches up with the rest of the previously stubby leg.

Here is a coral garden shot with a big colony which brings to mind a mountain covered by rice paddies:

I enjoy trying to make these little reef scenes appear to you as close as I can get to what I saw with my own ancient eyes. It is a pleasant distraction with some minor purpose. It is infinitely better than watching the television set, an addiction to which I have not been able to put aside. Distractions . . . Blessing or curse? I suppose it depends on the nature of the distraction, eh?

Here’s another reef scene with a spiky coral:

I saved the best for last, hoping to end up with something a little more flashy. Here are a couple of Nemo wannabes for your amusement. Specifically, they are Clown Anemonefish (Amphiprion percula)  hovering in the protection of their beautiful Magnificent Anemone (Heteractis magnifica):

The colours are not natural due to my use of flash, which puts artificial sunlight where it never shines. Still, it does make a pretty picture.

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Time Warp

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on November 8th, 2010 by MadDog
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I had no intention of being absent from this place for an extra day. I have no shortage of ideas for posts and writing seems to be more than usually good for me these days. However, the power situation in Madang for the last few days has been absolutely miserable. On Thursday my UPS died a hideous death. I went to get a new one, hating to spend the money, but unwilling to risk my computer. On getting it home I was disheartened to discover that it did not appear to work. So, I spent the entire weekend without the web. I felt as if I’d had a lobotomy.

As it turned out, the new UPS worked fine. I took it back to the dealer today. It was pointed out to me that I had the connections wrong. Sigh . . . Yet another stupid mistake. How many does it take?

None of that has anything at all to do with what I want to write about today.

I can remember at times near the end of the year, such as now, when I would think to myself – for example – “Where did 1992 go? Time is whizzing by so fast! I’ll soon be dead.” This is what happens when you’re having fun. When life is sweet it flashes past so quickly that it seems unfair. You feel cheated. The inevitable close of the show seems to be approaching in too much of a hurry.

And then something happens. Suddenly life is not such a joy ride. Nobody escapes these seasons. Winters come to us all. Winters seem to last forever, eh?

Remembering that I once thought where did the year go, it seems so awfully opposite now to look at the calendar and note, as it has been creeping up on me day-by-day, that it has been only two months today since Eunie died. Amazing! It feels like a year. It feels like forever. I’ve been thinking about this for a while. I’ve had plenty of time to think about it – centuries. I found it an odd coincidence (is there really such a thing?) that I met Nancy Sullivan today, who is an old friend I seldom see, and practically the first thing that she said to me upon reflecting that it had been only two months was, “It seems like forever, eh?” My case rests.

I pondered mightily concerning what images I might use for this post. Dali’s The Persistence of Memory kept wafting around the corners of my mind. Finally I decided that I needed timepieces. No worries. Eunie and I both had a small collection of what we called our “Seven Dollar Watches.” We collected them from Wal*Mart:

I looked for the better part of an hour for Eunie’s watches. I’m not ashamed to say that I cried for a while when I couldn’t find them. It’s that kind of day. I put mine on a sly grinning cat which Eunie applied to a bedspread, along with frisky puppies, well over two or three decades ago. It’s a very durable bedspread. It will outlive me. I hope some child enjoys it.

I can hear the watches ticking. Too fast? Too slow? I can’t tell.

Then, unbidden today, but always on my mind otherwise, came the thought of solitary creatures as I looked through the images of my dive on The Green Dragon B-25 bomber on Saturday. Solitary creatures . . . I don’t intend to stay that way forever, not if I have anything to say about it. Eunie will be my cheerleader.

Here is a solitary Clown Anemonefish (Amphiprion percula):

That’s right. It’s Nemo come to cheer us up. Good luck, buddy.

I wonder if time will speed up again in a year or so. Of course then, when I’m having some fun again, I’ll moan that it’s going too fast. I’m never satisfied.

Here’s a critter that seems to prefer solitude, a Ribbon Eel (Rhinomuraena quaesita):

Weird, eh? But pretty.

Now with my brain churning so furiously that it has set my hair on fire I run across this image which I took at the end of the dive. It seems to fit here:

It’s good old Faded Glory. She’s a lot like me. She’s beat up and corroded, but she’s still afloat. She’s still a bit pretty in a sort of efficient, functional way. She’s still got a lot of love and good times to give. Just like me. I’m certain that someday this will be my favourite image of her.

I’ll wrap this up with a magic trick. See . . . nothing up my sleeves.

Stuck in the sand near the rapidly deteriorating corpse of the war machine in which good men died I found this bit of the Perspex windscreen, which was smashed to smithereens when the bomber ditched near Wongat Island. Geneviève hovers like a pixy ghost in the near distance:

This shard of plastic has been resting alone in the warm sea since about the time I was born. It had never been disturbed before. I came along on Saturday and dug it out of the sand. I resurrected it.

I carried it back to the wreckage and dropped it into the pilot’s seat.

Home at last.

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Scorpionfish – Fail!

Posted in Under the Sea on June 10th, 2010 by MadDog
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We had a lovely dinner at our house last night with thirteen of us there consuming Eunie’s delicious Midwestern American farm meal. A special guest was there, but I’m not going to keep blasting her name out over the web, because I think that it’s time for her to have a chance to enjoy a bit of privacy. It was a typical Madang dinner party. There was a pile of “happy shoes” at the door, good food, good friends, and good Australian wine. Everybody came to our house by boat, so even the departing was fun. Everybody walks out to the dock, gets into their boats and we all wave bye-bye as if we’ll always see each other tomorrow. And, we usually do.

When I saw the sunrise this morning, the word industrial  popped into my mind:

It seems that I am a compulsive titler – is that a word, someone who titles things? I don’t know. If it isn’t, it should be. Every image has to have a title floating around in my head.

Oh, I can see that I’m boring you. Let’s get to the miserable failure that is the subject of today’s post. This could have been a perfectly good image of a Scorpionfish:

We had just gotten into the water at Planet Rock and I was fussing around making certain that our anchor was not doing any damage and watching divers and counting noses when Richard Jones pointed out this Scorpionfish. It was such a peculiar shape and so well camouflaged that I really wanted to get a good image of it. Sadly, I had time only for a quick snap. Unfortunately,as so often happens, the camera did not focus where I wanted it to. The focus on the rear half of the fish is tolerable, but the head is blurry. Still, it is so odd that it’s worth a look.

I have a lot of trouble figuring out what is a sponge and what is a sea squirt. I was all set to identify this as some kind of sea squirt. Fortunately, I sent the image to my Facebook friend Ana Karinna Carbonini of the Laboratorio de Biología Marina at the Universidad Simón Bolívar. She said that she thinks it is a Sponge, possibly a species of Leuconoide  or Asconoide:

You can take a sip of coffee now while you absorb that. Have a quick glance over your shoulder to see if the boss is lurking about.

At the request of a friend, here are a couple of Anemonefish shots from our dives on Saturday. This is a Red and Black Anemonefish (Amphiprion melanopus)  peeking out from the safety of its host anemone:

I particularly like this shot, because it shows a very typical behavior. Anemonefish will often alternate between dashing about frantically around the anemone, coming up close to you to investigate or even take a nip of your finger and then plunging down within the tentacles to peer out and observe the result of the attack. I get more fun from watching anemonefish than anything else under the water, with the possible exception of some of my dive buddies.

For the Disney fans, here are some genuine Nemo wannabes. The Clown Anemonefish (Amphiprion percula)  never fails to live up to its name:

One seems to be shouting at me. By the way, I would call this a failed shot also. Careful examination will reveal that it was a snap shot and I did not take the time to check the focus carefully. Of course, if I had, I would have missed the shout.

Finally, I’ll show you this artsy shot of the beautiful clear view of the reef near Alexishafen late on Sunday afternoon:

We were all peering over the side of Felmara  as we stopped for a swim. The water was crystal clear and the pinkish sunset was alternating with the deep green of the two metres of water under the boat. A little bit of magic.

A little bit of magic is all it takes.

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Fish Bites Lady

Posted in Under the Sea on May 10th, 2010 by MadDog
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Saturday was  a beautiful day on Astrolabe Bay  north of Madang at Wongat Island.  The sun was shining fiercely, the sea was flat and mirrored and the fish were jumpin’ and the cotton was high. Whoops, that’s a little of George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess  slipping in there. I must have listened to that operetta a thousand times as a child. The line is from Summertime  sung by Porgy. I can still sing it from memory.

Here are the first couple of verses:

Summertime,
And the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’
And the cotton is high

Your daddy’s rich
And your mamma’s good lookin’
So hush little baby
Don’t you cry

I always loved Gershwin. Rhapsody in Blue  is my very favourite.

Well, I’m rambling already, but it’s Monday morning, so I may as well get an early start on the week.

How about this very cute French Canadian, Genevieve, sitting in the cockpit of the B-25 bomber The Green Dragon:Now, that is a very fetching sight. However, it’s not funny. I’m in the mood for funny.

And funny I give you:Just forward of the starboard wing is an anemone inhabited by a very feisty little group of Clark’s Anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii).  That’s not the funny part. Here you can see Genevieve’s darling hand stretched out to play with the cute little fishies. They dart about and brush against your fingertips as if they are enjoying it. Do not believe it. It is a ploy to lure you within range of their teensy-weensy little teeth. A couple of seconds after I took this shot I heard a piercing scream. I looked at Genevieve. She had a startled look on her face and was shaking and rubbing her hand. I knew, of course, what had happened and I began to laugh into my regulator, an experience which itself is comical.

After doing the Bomber, we attempted The Henry Leith  from the beach. It was a mistake. I couldn’t find a 34 metre wreck only about 100 metres off the beach. I will excuse my poor navigation by mentioning that the visibility was less than ten metres. Back up on top of the reef, we spent the rest of a seventy minute dive snapping whatever looked promising, such as this ridiculously orange sponge:

What’s that  all about?

I did manage a nice one of a couple of Clown Anemonefish (Amphiprion percula)  in an absurdly green anemone:Yes, those are Nemo’s cousins.

Here is a typical coral bomie in the range of depth between one an about seven metres. They are covered with Christmas Tree Worms (Spirobranchus giganteus):Last Christmas I gave my faithful readers Christmas Tree Worms for Christmas, complete with Christmas presents.

I’m such a cheapskate.

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Crab Bites Man

Posted in Under the Sea on March 21st, 2010 by MadDog
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When crusty middle-aged reporters sat around in the smoke-filled newspaper office and sent out cub reporters like Jimmy Olsen in the days of Superman to cover stories that were not worth scraping shoe leather on the pavement, there was a phrase that comically described the frustration of a slow-news day. The headline would read: Man Bites Dog.

This feels like a slow-news day to me. Being Sunday, I was preparing myself for a day of relative rest. I counted on my new wireless Internet connection to allow me to sit in the comfort of my office/bedroom and annoy you. Sometime I feel like The Cheap Detective. If I had a proper desk, there would be a bottle of rot-gut whiskey in bottom drawer. A black fedora would sit rakishly on my head and I’d have a Smith & Wesson .38 Police Special tucked under my arm in a well-worn shoulder holster. The door would open and a gorgeous dame would saunter in on four inch stilettos wearing a fire-engine red dress. She’d give the the once-over and purr, “I need a man with steel in his backbone.” I’d say, “Have a seat, beautiful.” . . .

Well, see, that’s what happens when your best plans run awry. Of course,  PNG Power cut the power. Of course,  the generator at the office failed to start automatically. Of course,  that meant that I couldn’t get on line and, of course,  that meant that I had to drive into town to start the generator and fire up the network again. That’s half of the day shot. There will be no nap. Having eliminated TELIKOM from my life, PNG Power is my new enemy. They are now collecting their money up-front with the new Isi Pe  (That’s Easy-Pay” in English) meters and they still can’t get it in mind that one of the functions of a power supplier is to supply more-or-less continuous  power. They should call those meters Easy-Rip-Off.

No wonder my mind is wandering.

On Saturday I had a boat load of friends, but I was the only diver. Never mind. I like solo dives. I can spend as long as I want fiddling with my camera to get The Perfect Shot without worrying that somebody else is urgently wanting to move on.

Okay, let’s get to the crab. There’s got to be a crab in here somewhere. I was diving off the beach at Wongat Island  trying to get shots in the surging, sand-filled water. That means getting close to the subject. I was going for a shot of a scorpionfish and I had my hand loosely draped over a little knob of coral. Something tickled my thumb. Then something bit my thumb. Hard!Look at the evil grin on the face of this little crab. “Nyyaaaa, think you’re a big tough guy, eh?  I’ll make you cry like a little girl!” You wouldn’t think that that tiny little pincer could sting so much.

Here is the little bommie where the gritty little guy lives. You can see Faded Glory’s  anchor in the distance on the sloping sandy bottom:Stay clear if you value your skin.

At the south end of the beach there is a field strewn with Mushroom Coral, sometimes called Solitary Coral (Fungia fungites):This was in only about eight metres of water.

At about the same depth I ran across this charming family scene:

The big one is probably a male. I can guarantee that he was once a female. That’s just the way it is with these anemonefish.

I also found Nemo hiding out in an anemone. (Amphiprion percula):Okay, I can feel the nap coming on now. I gotta get through this.

So, I’ll dazzle you with this Divericate Tree Coral (Dendronephthya roxasia):It’s a cheap shot, I know.

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Fishy Art as Therapy

Posted in Humor, Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on March 4th, 2010 by MadDog
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Still toppling over occasionally because my inner ears have been stuffed with fast-setting concrete, and wheezing like a steam-powered thresher, I went today with my partner, Eunie, for my first job interview since the ’60s. I’d say that my new boss was already predisposed to give me a go, so it was all very cordial and agreeable. I’m now, probationally at least, the (some kind of) Editor of Niugini Blue  and Our Way  magazines. Those outside PNG won’t recognise these titles, but here “in country” they are top-drawer reading material.

I’ve got until the end of the year to prove myself a wunderkind  who will be indispensable and therefore worthy of further consideration. It’s a great opportunity and it helps to replace some of the money that we’ve lost from churches who, for one reason or another, have decided that we’re no longer suitable candidates for financial support. My new employer understands that I will keep my position (mostly hiding in the IT dungeon) at PBT as well as taking on the editorship of the two magazines. I’m going to be a very busy boy, indeed. Stay tuned.

When I got home, I collapsed in a deep stupor for a few hours. I then awoke at about 15:30 and was horrified that I’d not yet written anything to satisfy my compulsion to glorify myself on your computer screen daily. Having no other ideas, I fell back on my favourite disguise – MadDog the Artist.

My three great (okay, only ) ambitions in life were to be (1) an actor, (2) a musician and/or (3) an artist. I’ve failed miserably at all of them, not that it bothers me much. As for the acting, I simply never got a break. I know I could be a movie star, if I could just manage to get discovered. As for two and three, I’m simply too bone lazy to practice enough to gain the skills. I peck at the guitar and keyboard and I sketch stuff which is immediately fed to the office shredder. In short, I’m a dilettante.

So, I ran through my Big Pile of Images looking for pixels to massage. Being temporarily more brain damaged than usual, I hope your expectations of me will not be too high.

This one I call Falling Angels:

You’ve seen it here before is a less jazzy form.

Here’s a couple of different treatments of everybody’s favourite fish, Nemo the Clown Anemonefish, or as he is known to his intimate friends, Amphiprion percula:

The one above has simply been brutally massaged by Noise Ninja Pro, which if nudged in the right direction, can produce some nice artsy effects.

Here I gave the same image a severe beating with the Photoshop Watercolour filter. The effects probably won’t be too noticeable at the thumbnail resolution, so indulge me by clicking to enlarge:

This has always been one of my favourite images. I snapped it many years ago with my first underwater camera, a giant film rig which nearly drowned me on several occasions.

Warming to my work at hand, I found another of my favourites, a very pretty Spincheek Anemonefish known as Premnas biaculeatus  to fellow fish freaks:

I gave it a thorough thrashing with the Photoshop Poster Edges filter.

Here’s another Spinecheek which I smoothed and polished with Noise Ninja Pro:

And here is the same image treated with the Poster Edges filter:
I like the “cartoon” effect of the Poster Edges filter.

Here’s another one Poster Edged – three pretty yellow Anthea of some kind. I think that this was my best effort of the couple of hours I spent waiting to fall unconscious once again:

The more I look at that one, the better I like it. I remember being affected the same way by Elke Sommer.

Well, I think I have a couple of minutes to go before I fall out of my chair. Incidentally, I’m posting this from my house, so my war on TELIKOM must be going well while I convalesce. It’s another happy little Clown Anemonefish, Nemo’s brother-in-law, Fredrick:

Freddy also got the Photoshop Watercolour treatment. It seems to agree with him.

And now, forgive me while I pass out.

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Hermit Crab Lovefest

Posted in Under the Sea on January 24th, 2010 by MadDog
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From Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary (along with the astonishingly stupid “1 Tip of Flat Belly” ad which is one reason why I will try as long as possible to aviod Google Ads on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.

her·mit \ˈhər-mət\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English heremite, eremite,  from Anglo-French, from Late Latin eremita,  from Late Greek erēmitēs,  from Greek, adjective, living in the desert, from erēmia  desert, from erēmos  desolate
Date: 12th century

1 a : one that retires from society and lives in solitude especially for religious reasons : recluse b obsolete  : beadsman
2 : a spiced molasses cookie

her·mit·ism \ˈhər-mə-ˌti-zəm\ noun

There’s nothing there that would lead one to believe that Hermit Crabs might be party animals. Nevertheless, have a look at this:

Now, I don’t know what that looks like to you, but to me is seems that three Hermit Crabs (Calcinus minutus)  are getting down to business. However, we mustn’t overlook the possibility that they are “just friends”.

I’m not even going to mention the molasses cookies. I try to keep this a family-friendly site.

This is another Hermit Crab (Dardanus sp.)  who seems to be minding his own business, though he is clearly attempting to appear as ferocious as possible:This little hermit has a pronounced sense of style. Its taste in architecture is impeccable. Its house looks as if it could have been inspired by Frank Loyd Wright. I would not be surprised to find it as the subject of an Ukiyo-e  woodblock print. This ties in nicely to Wright, since he was, aside from being my favourite architect of all time, a dealer in Japanese art.

That’s right, I’m lost in my own head again. Wait until I get my Zippo fired up so I can find my way out of here.

Okay, I’m back now. It’s odd that I don’t remember seeing these beautiful Orange Starfish (Echinaster luzonicus)  before a few days ago:

On Saturday, at the Eel Garden, I saw four of them, including this more rare six-legged individual who seems to have misplaced, or offered up for dinner, two of its legs.

This commoner five legged star person has managed to hold on to all but one leg:Never mind, They will grow back. In fact, if the leg is spat out by the hungry fish which decides it doesn’t like the taste, a whole new starfish will grow from the severed leg.

Well, let us leave the invertebrates to their own devices.

Many anemonefish display the disconcerting habit of staring you right in the eyes. Isn’t this supposed to me the universal sign of challenge or aggression. Here this Orange Finned Anemonefish (Amphiprion chrysopterus) seems to be asking the age-old questions, “Hey! Who you lookin’ at? You lookin’ at me? You want trouble, mate? I got yer trouble!” I like the little nondescript damselfish in the background who is hurrying to flee the scene of impending carnage:As some prefer to be outwardly agressive, other, wiser critters such as this Clown Anemonefish (Amphiprion percula)  spurn the macho tactics and find cover from which to taunt:Above, Nemo, the fish every little kid wants to grow up to be, sasses me from the relative safety of his anemone. “Nyaa na na na na naaaa . . . this is deadly poison . . . you can’t touch me.” Little does Nemo know that this species of anemone will simply feel ilke silk on my fingers and I’ll feel nothing but a slightly creepy chill up my spine.

Never mind. I wouldn’t think of hurting Nemo.

I’d rather take on Chuck Norris with one hand tied behind my back. HUUURRRAAAAA!

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