So, So Blue

Posted in Under the Sea on February 18th, 2010 by MadDog
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Well, now I’m only two days behind. No thanks to TELIKOM. For some reason known only to God and the local manager, I got a call this morning from a guy in the business department. He seemed to want to sell me a PABX system to fix my problem. I asked him if it had any copper lines going to the exchange. He didn’t know. I asked him if he knew anything about the USB wireless adapters that were announced for sale in April and still don’t work. He said he didn’t know. I asked him if he knew anything at all. He said he wasn’t sure. I think the local manager is trying to avoid me. Every time I call, he has “gone to pick up his kids at school” (funny thing for a manager to be doing in the middle of the day) or, “just stepped out”, or “in a team meeting”. Hah! Since his office is only a few steps from mine, that makes it a little easier for me. I can station one of my spies in the parking lot and he can inform me by walkie-talkie when the guy comes to his office. My means are many and nefarious.

I will not let this matter rest.

Never mind. I’m soon going to set up a wireless link between our big radio tower at our office and my house. I’ll have a fast 24/7 connection for absolutely nothing! I’m going to take my two TELIKOM handsets and throw them into the ocean where they will do the fish more good that they have ever done me. I’ll set up some Skype phones in the bedroom, lounge and our new J&E Enterprises Limited office and say “Goodbye and thanks for all the fish!” to TELIKOM forever. How glorious it will be to see the day when none of my communications have to pass through a single piece of TELIKOM’s crummy gear. Digicell will do me nicely for a portable. TELIKOM’s cell service doesn’t work half the time anyway.

I should possibly apologise to my readers who do not live in PNG and therefore do not understand the agony of trying to get simple phone service. My good mate Trevor Hattersley’s phone has not worked for five months. Most people simply give up and buy a cell phone. In fact, I believe that is exactly what TELIKOM wants. They want to abandon huge sections of copper cable that are so old that they can’t support even voice service. This leaves outlying small businesses stranded with no phones. Imagine owning a hotel (Such as Jais Aben) if your phones do not work half of the time. Yet TELIKOM offers no business alternative.

Okay, okay, enough for today. The pictures aren’t that great today either.

Today’s music is Pink Floyd’s Pigs on the Wing  from the ethereal Animals  album of 1977. It’s strangely in tune with my mood today. I also like Dogs  from the same album. Some of the lyrics bring tears to my crusty old eyes for their timeless poignancy. The guitar riffs are stunning.

Do you have to deal with people who think like this?

And after a while, you can work on points for style.
Like the club tie, and the firm handshake,
A certain look in the eye and an easy smile.
You have to be trusted by the people that you lie to,
So that when they turn their backs on you,
You’ll get the chance to put the knife in.

Sure, we all do. Sadly, some aspire  to that philosophy.

Never Mind. My task is only to show pretty pictures.

Here’s a little mob of Striped Catfish (Plotosus lineatus)   who, happily, never have to make a phone call: Lucky little critters, eh? You’ll probably have to click to enlarge them.

This is one of the prettiest Feather Star images that I’ve managed:The lovely Lamprometra  seems to be in a state of grace, all curly and calm.

This is a sort of throw it out and see who likes it shot. It makes me think of looking down into a particularly nice aquarium at some friend’s house. He must be very good at his hobby:It’s a bunch of small Anthea  of some species that I can’t identify.

Some of you will recognise these Bigeye Trevally (Caranx sexfasciatus)  from many other posts here. I shoot them whenever I get the chance:I think “conformists” when I look at this image. I don’t like the feeling. If I stare at it long enough I can see them moving. Must be all the drugs I’ve been taking the last few days.

I usually strive for natural colour. Of course, that’s not what you get from the camera. They usually look more like this:Sometimes blue is what you need.

From Animals,  I leave you with Sheep:

Harmlessly passing your time in the grassland away;
Only dimly aware of a certain unease in the air.
You better watch out,
There may be dogs about
I’ve looked over Jordan, and I have seen
Things are not what they seem.


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Barracuda Point Peculiarities

Posted in Under the Sea on September 12th, 2009 by MadDog
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We had a very nice dive on Barracuda Point on Saturday. It’s near Pig Island  only a few Minutes from Madang. This is the sight at the east end of the point at only about ten metres:

Pickhandle Barracuda (Sphyraena jello)

That is a nearly solid wall of Pickhandle Barracuda (Sphyraena jello)  mixed in with a few Big-eye Trevally and one lonely Red Emperor.  You can see some more barracuda images here and here.

Down deep at about forty metres I got this shot of a strange red coral that I’ve seen before, but can’t identify. I’m assuming that it’s a coral. It is extremely red – about the only red thing that you can see at that depth, since most red light has been scattered by the sea water – and hard as glass:

Strange red coral?

The extreme hardness of the thing is surprising, because it looks as if it is very soft, like flower petals. The first time I touched one (not supposed to do that anyway) I got a little green blood leaking out of my finger – blood looks green underwater if you are deep enough.

I found this favourite of our starfish (Choriaster granulatus)  much deeper than it would normally be. I don’t know what it was doing way down there. They are usually not found below about 25 metres:

Starfish (Choriaster granulatus)

Pascal Michon, our resident Frenchman, is forever finding stuff on the bottom. He once found a Hewlett-Packard calculator on the reef. This time it was an old mask that had been there for quite a while:

Pascal Michon

Barracuda Point is surrounded by beautiful Sea Fan clusters. This one a a species of Melithaea:

Sea Fan (Melithaea sp.)

This is a Barrel Sponge growing under a ledge. I’ve seen this several times before. They are always very pale instead of rich brown, the normal colour. At first I thought that it was just the lack of light that causes the paleness, but now I think that this may be a species that is not (according to my references) supposed to be in PNG waters. It should be around the Philippine Islands.  I think that it is Xestospongia testudinaria,  as if anybody cares:

Barrel Sponge (Xestospongia testudinaria)

At the bottom of the image, you can see a small Cleaner Wrasse swimming past. It’s a little blurred because of the long exposure time.

Back up in the shallows again there was a mob of Big-eye Trevally (Caranx sexfasciatus)  there to greet us:

Big-eye Trevally (Caranx sexfasciatus)

You can see more Big-eyes here and here.

I’ll have a few more shots of the dive in a day or two. I’m still getting caught up from our drive up to the highlands. My hands are nearly back to normal now. After ten hours of gripping a wildly vibrating steering wheel, it takes me a couple of days to get over the numbness.

My brain feels a little numb too. Must have been the altitude.

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Ah, Sweet Saturday

Posted in Under the Sea on February 22nd, 2009 by MadDog
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The weather the last few weeks has been miserable, at least by Madang Standards. I don’t think that there has been a single day without rain. It has also been very cold. You have to remember, of course, that is tropical cold, not regular cold. When the mercury drops below 24°C (75°F), we call it cold.

However, this Saturday was sunny as reasonably warm. We went to Magic Passage. The surface conditions looked good – little current and clear water. Down at the bottom at about 3o metres, though, it was milky. The current was running sluggishly outward, carrying the foggy-looking water from the anchorage out to sea.

I did manage some interesting shots which I’ll give to you in a gallery without a lot of comment for a change:

The Bigeye Trevally shot is interesting. It was so murky at the bottom that there was virtually no colour. I decided to take advantage of this instead of moaning about it. So, I made the shot monochrome.

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Ocean Patterns

Posted in Under the Sea on January 2nd, 2009 by MadDog
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I’ve always been fascinated by the infinite variety and complexity of natural pattens. I reckon that nowhere else on the planet are these patterns more striking and varied than in the ocean.

Sometimes the more mobile of the inhabitants can form patterns. These patterns are less rigidly organized and regular. They change from moment to moment. Here Reticulated Dascyllus (Dascyllus reticulatus) hover in a cloud over plate coral:

A cloud of Reticulated Dascyllus (Dascyllus reticulatus) hangs over plate coral

Bigeye Trevally (Caranx sexfasciatus) form a solid mass of fish. This creates a mesmerizing pattern that looks artificial:

A solid mass of Bigeye Trevally (Caranx sexfasciatus)

The spots on a giant clam mimic a leopard:

Giant Clam pretends it's a leopard

Extended coral polyps feed on passing yummy bits. The flower-like polyps extend starlike, gather food, and then clench like a fist to “swallow” the meal every two or three seconds:

Coral polyps feeding in the ocean current

Being less mobile, the stone-like skeletons of coral serve up more visual feasts. Here you can see that the plates under the growing edge of this coral are so thin that sunlight passes through and casts a golden glow:

Sunlight glows through thin coral walls

The familiar Brain Coral presents a treacherous maze:

Brain Coral - not as yukky as it sounds

Algae growing upon and within the coral can look like tree-lined streets between twisty rows of apartment blocks:

Twisty, tree-lined avenues on coral

A bumpy coral head doesn’t disrupt the persistent labyrinth:

The maze goes right over the hills on this coral

Evenly spaced alien vehicles travel along canyons on a strange planet:

Alien vehicles navigating twisty roads on coral

Holding with the alien theme, I wonder how many UFOlogists would swear that this photograph must show the skin of a visitor from another world:

Close-up of the skin of a reptilian alien discovered in my garden in Madang, Papua New Guinea

Some patterns are so strange that no appropriate title comes to mind:

Weird coral pattern that defies description

I snapped all of the coral pattern images above in a single thirty-minute dive. There were many more patterns, but I selected only a few, since there’s a time limit for staring at these things.

If you want to get trippy at work, download the larger versions of these images and use them for screensavers or desktop backgrounds.

It can make your head go funny.

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Trevally Fever

Posted in Items for Purchase, Under the Sea on December 21st, 2008 by MadDog
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At Planet Rock on Saturday, the Trevally were mobbing all around. The one that we often see in large groups is the Bigeye Trevally (Caranx sexfasciatus).

Here is a small group of Bigeyes:

Bigeye Trevally (Caranx sexfasciatus) in a mob

One thing that I enjoy about the Bigeyes is that you can get very close to them with no worry that they will scatter. They seem not to mind:

Up close and personal - Bigeye Trevally (Caranx sexfasciatus)

Another kind of Trevally, the Bluefin Trevally (Caranx melampygus), is quite another fish entirely for the photographer. They love to dart around divers. They seem curious, but are probably simply hoping that these odd creatures will somehow produce a feed. They are nearly impossible to capture through the lens. This was a snap-shot:

Bluefin Trevally (Caranx melampygus)

The composition is not what I’d normally like, but it does convey the sense that they are constantly on the move.

Here’s another shot of the Bigeye Trevally: 

"Bigeyes" a fine art numbered series print available from me.

The image above is one of a series that I have produced of 40 x 80 cm (16 x 32 inch) numbered prints using Epson archival paper and inks.* There are only four prints of each image. Each is numbered and signed by me. I’m selling them for K300 each. As with all original numbered series art, there will be no more of these produced in the same format once the series is sold out:

Next week, I’ll post a gallery of the entire series. Anyone interested in purchasing one of these prints can contact me by email.

*The thumbnail links to an image that is purposefully degraded so that it can’t be printed large without looking terrible. I do this to protect those who have purchase prints from me. The originals are full of rich detail.

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