Flatworms and Ice Spikes – Yikes!

Posted in Under the Sea on January 14th, 2011 by MadDog
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I can remember seeing ice spikes before, but I never had an opportunity to capture a photograph of one. A few days ago I opened the freezer door to get some ice and I got a surprise also. One of the cubes was topped by a perfect little ice spike. Here it is:

I’ve read that the purity of the water is a key factor in the formation of ice spikes. My water here at home is all rainwater which is stored in a big cement tank under my front porch. I suppose it is relatively pure, as there would be no dissolved minerals as are found in ground water. The spikes form when the water is freezing. If conditions are just right, they grow in the final stage of cube formation. Since water is one of those rare and peculiar substances which actually expand when freezing instead of contracting, the little bit of water that is finally freezing keeps expanding and the only place it has to go is up.

I’ll show you a few shots from our dive up on the wall at Blue Blood last Sunday. It was Flatworm Day, but I’ll get to them later. While we’re on the subject of strange looking things, here is a Bubble Coral (Plerogyra sinosa):

These look like balloons, but they feel like . . . nothing! They are so incredibly delicate that I don’t see how they survive. If you fiddle with the polyps they contract and leave a razor-like skeleton exposed.

Here is one of the many flatworms which we saw. I have never seen so many individuals and so many different species in one place. It’s a little hopeless for me to look up the species name, so I won’t bother:

I’ll be showing images of the other species which we found over the next few days.

This coral shot has a wealth of detail in it. It’s worth a click to see the delicate structure:

I’ve uploaded it at a larger than usual resolution so that it can make a good desktop background.

This is one of the largest colonies of this reddish coral that I have seen:

Finally, I’ll throw in a Flabelina  genus nudibranch. This is one of the better shots that I have of these. They are only about 30 mm long, so it’s difficult to get a really good close up:I don’t know where this depression is going. There seems to be no bottom. At least I’m still mostly functional. I get up and go to work except on days when I’ve notified the office staff that I have something else going on or I have urgent personal things to which I must attend. I socialise, I write. In short, to outward appearances I seem to be relatively normal. Inside smoulders a train wreck. In this heap of rubble the fire is spreading. I’m still rejecting drugs, because I still believe I can manage without and I don’t want to trade what I think is a manageable situation for one which lasts for an indeterminate length of time and may or may not help me. Furthermore, at the end of any treatment, I’d be left with the problem of getting off the drug. This can sometimes cause its own problems.

Even as bad as I feel now, as I look back over the last four months I have to acknowledge that I can mark progress month by month. Some of it is very significant progress. I’m sleeping much more easily and the nightmares have relented. The panics have receded into the dark corners. I sometimes feel those cold fingers reaching out, but they no longer pull me to the floor. Social gatherings have become easier to tolerate and I can sometimes feel good for an entire evening. Suicide no longer seems like an option. That’s a lot of improvement.

My friend Alison Raynor just suggested to me that I should start concentrating on how much I’m going to enjoy my trip to Australia. I think that’s good advice.

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Bubbles and a Beautiful Lady

Posted in Under the Sea on September 30th, 2010 by MadDog
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Regular readers of this journal will already know that I’m in a pretty bad space and have been for a few months. Nevertheless, I have to hang onto a few “normal” things to help stabilise my life and restore some semblance of order. Writing here is one of those normal activities. Today, I will show you a couple of images of one of the more amusing varieties of coral from my dive last Saturday at The Eel Garden near Pig Island.  I’m also going to add a couple of images of Eunie just because I like looking at them and I feel better when I do.

This is Bubble Coral  (Plerogyra sinosa), which has appeared here many times before. If you put “bubble” in the search box, you will find many images. Why one would waste valuable time doing so, I can’t imagine, but there are all kinds of people. The derivation of the common name is obvious. It is a kind of coral, and the puffy bits of the polyps look like, well, bubbles. It is also known as Pearl Coral, which works for me. It grows only in the Indo-Pacific area.

Bubble Coral can project long, stinging tentacles which allow it to defend its turf. Other corals are stung by these if they grow too close, so they automatically keep their distance. Good fences make good neighbours.

In this shot you can see some juvenile anthea in the water behind the Bubble Coral. You can also see, if you click to enlarge, how much particular matter was in the water on Saturday. When the water is full of specks, you have to get up very close to the subject or the images are useless.

The shot also suffers from two kinds of motion blur because I was using a shutter speed of abou1 1/8 of a second. I allowed the camera to move very slightly during the exposure, blurring everything a little and the fish, as they are wont to do, were moving.

Rob Small (A. K. A. The Butterfly Man) took this shot a year or two ago up at Blueblood.

Having been away from our blood families for nearly three decades, we have found a wonderful surrogate family among our friends in Madang. Putting a baby on Eunie’s lap was always a sure way to make her smile.

This shot was taken by Geneviève Tremblay at the last party we threw at our house before leaving for Australia. Not to put too fine a point on it, it was Eunie’s last party.

The expression on Eunie’s face is priceless. “Ooooo, strawberries!” Eunie loved parties.

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It’s More Than Purple

Posted in Under the Sea on July 21st, 2010 by MadDog
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Today is a mixed bag. What else is new. Consistency is for those with the patience to organise things. You should see my office. Fortunately, I sleep with the boss (Don’t panic. My wife, Eunie, is my boss at the office . . . okay, forget the office thing . . . she’s my boss.) so I don’t get called on the carpet for having a messy office. Nobody ever comes into the IT Dungeon anyway unless they want something.  Therefore, by common sense reasoning, requests that begin with “Whoah, what a mess . . .” are not likely to produce satisfactory results.

I say today’s offering is a mixed bag because it includes a couple of “trophy” shots and some others which could appeal only to fish geeks. By the way I am not a fish geek. I am a fish connoisseur.

The Black Saddled Toby (Canthigaster valentini)  has got to be one of cutest little fishies on the planet:

This is one of the trophy shots. I have few images of this fish which come even close to this one. I’d call it a specimen shot. Just about everything you need to know, short of dissecting this fish, is in the image. This makes me giggle like a schoolgirl.

Some might think of me as an amateur scientist. While this is oh, so true, (at least the amateur  part) my feelings about what I present to you here in my images of the magic of Mother Ocean are more akin to art. Sure, I give you the taxonomic names, when I’m reasonably sure of them. The truth is, aside from the fact that I love the way that Latin rolls off the tongue, I don’t care much about that. What I really care about is combining my life-long love of photography with the adventure of discovery of new (to me) visions of nature and new ways of visualising them.

For instance. This beautiful colony of Bubble Coral (Plerogyra sinosa)  seems to me ethereal. I can’t judge how it comes to be. I can’t fathom the mystery of how something that looks like this has a reasoned place in the scheme of things. To me it seems magical:Of course, this is not very scientific thought. As empiricists, we’re supposed to ignore such mystical ruminations. Yet, I can’t escape the idea that when a scientist loses a sense of wonder and ceases to be weighed down by the ponderous yoke of how much we don’t know, any true discoveries will be happenstance. When deliberate seeking beyond the “facts” is abandoned, nothing new will learned. We don’t even know how much we don’t know. Facts lead to more facts. But only seekers find new truths.

UPDATE: I’m taking the unusual step of bringing a comment from my excellent Facebook friend Steven Goodheart into the post as an update, because it is so apropos:

Your thoughts reminded me of these words of the great naturalist, Loren Eiseley,

“In the end, science as we know it has two basic types of practitioners. One is the educated man who still has a controlled sense of wonder before the universal mystery, whether it hides in a snail’s eye or within the light that impinges on that delicate organ. The second kind of observer is the extreme reductionist who is so busy stripping things apart that the tremendous mystery has been reduced to a trifle, to intangibles not worth troubling one’s head about.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

But, there is a place for the fervent geek. Witness this very ordinary and wildly uninteresting image of three Sevenstripe Cardinalfish (Apogon novemfasciatus):

I guarantee that it will win no prizes. The fish are just a little blurry. Indeed, I had a couple of choices, based on the image, of what to call them. However, I did see them with my eyes and I have seen them hundreds of times. They are just difficult to photograph, because they are tiny and restless. I take a geek’s pleasure knowing that I finally have an image of them. One more fish to check off the endless list. One more tiny model car. One more baseball card. One more comic book. One more Star Trek doll. (Actually, I don’t think that the collectors like it when you call them dolls.)

You get the idea.

Ah, but on to the trophy shots. This is the magnificent (not to be used lightly) Purple Anthea (Pseudanthias tuka):

As any fool can see, it’s not just purple. It’s got a lot of different colours. In natural light (these were taken by flash) it looks more blue. Nevertheless, you can’t miss them. They glow like neon lights. They also have a funny beak-like nose which makes me think of Jimmy Durante.

By the way, here is Jimmy Durante:

See what I mean?

Okay, it’s a stretch, I admit. Anyway here is another trophy shot of P. tuka:

And with that, I am running on empty.


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Birth of a Salesman

Posted in Humor, Mixed Nuts on May 18th, 2010 by MadDog
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Well, I once again find myself a day behind posting my nonsense to you, so brevity will be the soul of my witlessness today. The big hoo-hah last night was a Road Show put on by Remington Communications to introduce their new beaut VSAT technology to the North Coast of Papua New Guinea. That pretty much means Madang. What is even more anusing (stop yawning – I CAN HEAR YOU) is that they have appointed me be the Sales Representative for the whole shebang. Me. A salesman again. I came to PNG so that I would never have to sell anything again, with the possible exception of my soul.

So, it seems that I am to be the Willie Loman of Madang. Here are two of my many bosses in one shot. That’s Eunie, my wife, who is the Managing Director of J & E Enterprises Limited, not to mention being my boss at my other  job at Pioneer Bible Translators, as she is the Director there. Next to her is Adam Dwyer, the General Manager of Remington Communications who is my newest boss. My other  other boss, David Doig of Pacific Islands Publishing was not present, thank heavens. In the background you can see Pita Evans who is probably also my boss too, but being an übergeek, he doesn’t seem  bossy, just very informative:

What with all that fuss last night, I’m a little tired this afternoon.

And, what do I do when I need to relax (all together now) – I create fake art:

Using my super-power skill of ProseMaster I titled the one above Watercolour Sunrise.  Try to contain your laughter, please. You’ll wake up the cat.

This “piece” is called Rough Pastel Sunrise:

(yawn) I’m slipping away fast here, folks.

As if me being a salesman again isn’t fishy enough I’ll give you a gift from the sea that could be taken for a clutch of goose eggs, which strikes me as entirely appropriate at the moment:Yes, that is a Bubble Coral, as you have undoubtedly surmised. You can call it Plerogyra sinosa,  if you are so inclined.

And that’s it from here. Over to you.

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Warm Fish Soup

Posted in Under the Sea on April 6th, 2010 by MadDog
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Divers have an amusing expression to describe the scene when there are far too many fish to count. Indeed, you can’t even count the number of species. We call it fish soup.

I had some warm fish soup in the tepid water of The Eel Garden  near Pig Island  on Saturday. Most of the fish that you see here are some species of Anthea:There are many varieties of Anthea.  Most are very colourful. They gather in small schools around a fixed location.

I snapped this shot as I was passing over these two Soldierfish. The one on the left is a Scarlet Soldierfish (Myripistis pralinia)  and the one on the right is a Brick Soldierfish (Myripistis amaena):A you can tell, if you click to enlarge, they were both looking up at me as I passed overhead.

I nearly missed this Slender Grouper (Anyperodon leucogrammicus)  as it tried to sneak past me:One trick that I’ve learned is that fish will almost always flee to deeper water. Therefore one needs to have a head’s up stance to catch the ones which have spotted you and will soon be trying to take the shortest route to a deeper hiding place. This usually means that when they pass directly to your right or left, they will be a close as they are going to get to your camera.

This is a very young Bubble Coral (Plerogyra sinosa)  only about 4cm in diameter. At this stage they look more like a strange, puffy flower:To the right and below is a colony of very small Sea Squirts which look to me to be Eusynstyela latericius.

This sneaky little Blackspotted Puffer (Arothron nigropunctatus)  thought that he was hidden behind a bit of coral about a metre away from me. I popped up and caught him with his mouth open:I’m an old stalker. I can usually get a shot if I don’t have to give chase. I’m not as fast on the long pursuit as I used to be. Ah, but crafty I am.

How foolish it is to attempt to hide from me. This is a fairly rare orange variation of Clark’s Anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii):I tried to get a shot in the clear, but finally gave up and accepted this one instead. I can pretend that I intended it that way.

PRESENTER: See how the timid anemonefish attempts to hide behind the tentacles of the anemone? It seldom exposes itself to danger by leaving the poisonous, protective arms of its host. This symbiotic relationship is reinforced by the protection that the anemonefish receives from the anemone. Blah. Blah. Blah.

Works for me.

Nudibranchs are a pushover. This Phyllidia varicosa  moves so slowly that the whole idea of evasion is silly:

I love to photgraph nudis. I can just float in the water with my camera about 5cm from the little devil and relax while I snap away.

The nidibranch is none the wiser.

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