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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A Long, Hot Ride on a Harley

Posted in Humor on June 20th, 2010 by MadDog
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Today’s post will be a brief one as far as the chatter is concerned. Eunie has gone off to Fiji to represent the Papua New Guinea Chamber of Commerce and Industry at some big Pacific Island international conference. I find this intensely amusing as, I am quite certain, this is the first time in history which someone who’s primary work is being a missionary has ever been chosen to do this. This makes me proud of my wife, of course, but it is also satisfying that our constant guidance within our organisation that we should fully engage with all segments of society have paid off. The salt isn’t much good for anything as long as it’s in the shaker.

While moping around at the office last week moaning that I had to stay once again at home while Eunie went off to exotic places our receptionist, Elizabeth, said to me, with what seemed like a mocking tone, “Well, why don’t you just GO!” So, in my Mars way, I began to tick off all of the reasons why I couldn’t go. First on the list was:  I can’t afford it. The second was: The IT operations will fall apart.

Eunie put me “on the carpet” in her corner office – the one with windows – and gave me my instructions. “You can write enough magazine articles about your trip to more than cover your expenses.” That took care of reason number one. “You already have Mark coming in at least once a week to help out with the technical stuff. Just put him on notice that you’ll be gone.” Reason number two shot down like a rabid dog. Within an hour she had all the bookings done and had gotten me an Australian visa for my night in Cairns. Oh, how I love powerful women!

So, on Wednesday morning I’ll be off to Fiji. I’ll try to post daily while I’m travelling. I would have gone on Friday with Eunie, but, of course, Air Niugini was by then booked up for days with long waiting lists. For a country which depends on air travel exclusively for internal commerce, we have a pretty sorry example of a national airline. Anybody want to argue that point? And don’t use “they are doing the best that they can” as an argument.

Well, I said that I wasn’t going to chatter. So much for promises. The cat being away, the mouse played yesterday. I took a long, fairly fruitless ride up the North Coast Road with Ush to a place which we heard about from the Marshalls at a party at Lockland’s house on Saturday night. It was Marleen’s last party before departure and Ush’s birthday. I severely abused a bottle of Chardonnay and danced and kakaoked until 01:30 when Monty and Meri Armstrong finally herded me to their car and deposited me back at our house. Chattering again . . .

Anyway, 108 kliks up a road which is the Swiss cheese of highways you will find a place with a promising name: The Tapira Surf Club:

That’s the Harley sitting there in front of a little bar shack just to prove that we actually went up there.

It looks considerably better with Ush decorating it:

It was an exhausting ride up there. On three separate occasions I had both wheels locked up with Ush slammed up against my back to get the beast slowed down quickly enough to avoid Harley-eating potholes which stretched across the road.

I had decided already that I would have one beer only and smoke a nice Cohiba which Pascal Michon gave me on Saturday. It turned out to be a bit of a wasted trip. There was no surf, nobody home and only a toasty warm beer:Nevertheless, Ush and I had a nice time chatting in the club house or whatever they call it. We asked when the surf was up. The answer was “October”. Go figure.

I’ll finish up with a rather remarkable image which I shot on The Henry Leith on Saturday.

On the left side of a fan coral which you are seeing side-on is the rather rare Longnose Hawkfish (Oxycirrhites typus). On the right is a Black-Saddled Toby (Canthigaster valentini). They are both nibbling bits off of the fan coral. In the background is the extremely rare Rozas savagica bearing the common name of Roz Savage.

I feel quite smug about this shot.

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Odd Fish Pics

Posted in Under the Sea on November 22nd, 2009 by MadDog
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Again, I’m covered up by work and have little time to write. However, there is always time for images. Today I’ll show you some of my more unusual friends.

This wiggly little thing about the size of a baby’s finger is the Urchin Clingfish (Diademichthys lineatus):

Urchin Clingfish (Diademichthys lineatus)

They are quite tiny and constantly moving, so it’s not easy to get a shot. They are also pretty rare. This is the only one that I’ve ever seen.

Okay, this is not a fish. I bet some out there will guess that these are squid eggs:

Squid Eggs

I have no idea why they are attached to a submerged tree branch which was only about two metres below the surface. It looks like a good lunch for a predator. They are more often seen attached to the underside of rocks.

This is a ferocious Titan Triggerfish (Balistoides viridescens)  which appears to be quite dead. Why is the Monty Python  “Dead Parrot” skit playing now in my brain?Titan Triggerfish (Balistoides viridescens)

You don’t need to weep. This is simply a common habit of the species. They often wiggle-waggle sideways on the bottom in this manner. I suspect that it helps to dislodge parasites.

This cute little guy is a Black-Saddled Toby (Canthigaster valentini):

Black Saddled Toby (Canthigaster valentini)

I see these on almost every dive, but it’s rare to get such a decent image of one. They are very wary and skillful at staying just out of camera range. I surprised this one.

This oddball is a Bignose Unicornfish (Naso vlamingii):

Bignose Unicornfish (Naso vlamingii)

There is another species that has a horn-like protrusion on the nose that looks more unicornish. This one just has a big schnoz. This fish goes through a remarkable colour change when it is at a cleaning station where the little cleaner fish pick off the parasites – like a car wash for fish. Normally the fish appears jet black. However, while it is at a cleaning station, it changes colours until it is nearly a pale baby blue. I imaging that this is to ‘tell’ the cleaner fish that it’s safe to start work and they are not going to be eaten.

That’s all of the strangeness that I can manage for today.

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A Real Pilot Flies the Bomber

Posted in Under the Sea on February 2nd, 2009 by MadDog
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A couple of weeks ago we had some new Spanish visitors. One young lady, Nuria DeFrancisco, was a keen diver. We did a dive on Saturday and she seemed to enjoy it. Then she started talking about the B-25 Bomber – The Green Dragon – at Wongat Island. She seemed to be very interested – not a usual thing for chicks!

They were flying out on Monday, so I said if she really wanted to do the bomber, we could go out at nine on Sunday morning. That would give her sufficient time to lose the nitrogen built up in her blood before she flew out on Monday.

Here’s a photo of Nuria sitting in the cockpit of The Green Dragon:

Nuria in the cockpit of The Green Dragon

Here she poses in front of the vertical stabilizer:

Nuria in front of the vertical stabilizer of The Green Dragon

The visibility, never the best at this location, was dismal. Fortunately, everything you need to see is up-close. This is a very cute shot of Nuria riding the dorsal twin 50 calibre Browning M2 machineguns:

Nuria riding the dorsal twin 50 gun turret on The Green Dragon

What is amusing about all this is that on the way back I learned why she has such an interest in aircraft. She is a pilot for a Spanish airline! She flies an Airbus A320. I didn’t have a clue. This is a first for me, and a first for Faded Glory.

I did get a couple of other nice shots on the dive. Here’s a photo of a tiny Black Saddled Toby (Canthigaster valentini)  with Nuria in the background:

Black Saddled Toby (Canthigaster valentini)

There are always Ribbon Eels (Rhinomuraena quaesita)  under the wing of the The Green Dragon. This time it was a juvemile:

Ribbon Eel (Rhinomuraena quaesita) under the wing of The Green Dragon

I have shown an image of an adult Ribbon Eel here.

We’re always happy to have visitors in Madang. It’s an out-of-the-way place and it’s expensive to get here. So, we always get a kick from new faces.

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