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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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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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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Start With Fish!

Posted in Under the Sea on January 1st, 2010 by MadDog
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Man, I can’t believe that it’s 2010 already. I just got used to writing year numbers beginning with “2”. Now I have to retain my hand to leave out the “00” in the middle. What a bummer! I’ll probably jump ahead and start writing 20010. Hey wasn’t that a “thirties-something” TV series? No, wait, it’s the ZIP code for Washington, DC. See, I’m aimlessly rambling already. I hope that that’s not an omen.

Anyway, let’s start with things that are not  fish. This is not a fish:

As any fool can see, it’s a spider, a very familiar spider, on a yellow flower. I cannot stop taking pictures of these amusing little spiders. They are certainly prolific. On many days there will be one of these little fellows on nearly every blossom. I suspect that it also has a very specialised hunting technique targeted to insects that feed on and pollinate these flowers. It is obviously an ambush predator, as are many spiders. It does not depend on its web, which you can see if you click to enlarge. The web wraps around the central parts of the flower and may or may not take part in the capture. These spiders eat tiny striped-wing flies on which I have often seen them feeding.

And, this also is not  a fish, though the name implies otherwise:

It’s a Starfish (Linckia multifora)  on the old catamaran at the Eel Garden near Pig Island.

And, neither is this a fish. I got this shot to illustrate that everywhere you look in the sea you find the spiral. It’s one of natures’ most common themes:It is, of course, coral. Specifically, it’s Acropora clathrata.  Now you know. Isn’t that a relief?

Now, these are  fish. This rather disorganised mob of Striped Catfish (Plotosus lineatus)  are regrouping after being startled out of their tiny wits my me attempting to get close enough for a picture:They will shortly resume their normal feeding habit of marching above the sand in a line like soldiers policing up cigarette butts.

And, this is also a fish, the Pixy Hawkfish (Cirrhitichthys oxycephalus):A very pretty fish it is. These look very much more interesting against a dark, blurred background. You can then better see the delicate structure of its dorsal fin, an exercise in excess detail. You can see what I mean in this post featuring the Dwarf Hawkfish, a closely related species. By the way, this is the red variation of the species. The other variation is less colourful.

So, let’s finish up with everybody’s favourite fish – Nemo:Nemo, a Clown Anemonefish (Amphiprion percula)  is here with friends and me today to wish you a very happy New Year.

Now I have to start thinking seriously about my New Year’s Resolution.

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Colourful Fish and a Weird Sea Monster

Posted in Under the Sea on November 5th, 2009 by MadDog
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If you’ve ever even heard of a salp, I’d be surprised. They are seldom seen by humans who are not intimately involved with the sea, literally submerged in it. While I have seen large specimens on several occasions while diving, I’ve never had my camera with me. So much for luck. To make it worse, Trevor Hattersley recently got a fairly good shot of a salp from his boat:Salp by Trevor HattersleyIt’s worth a look here and here to see the details of these critters (actually a bunch of critters travelling together – a colonial animal). There are many different kinds. As you can see, this one is almost completely transparent. With just a bit of imagination you can see a hint of the segmentation, if you click to enlarge.

So much for the monster.

I showed you an image of a Coral Grouper (Cephalopholis miniata) yesterday the tail of which I had accidentally amputated in my rush to get the shot. I thought that you might like to see the whole fish. I just happen to have a couple of nice specimen shots from a while back:

Coral Grouper (Cephalopholis miniata)

I really like this fish. It’s pretty beyond reason. Click on these to have a look at the shading around the caudal fin (tail):Coral Grouper (Cephalopholis miniata)That’s a fairly serious fish.

I also have comical fish. Clown fish, in fact. This is the real Clown Anemonefish (Amphiprion percula) – no kidding:Clown Anemonefish (Amphiprion percula)Disney did not have to do much to this fish to turn it into Nemo.

For those peculiar folk like me who prefer a specimen shot, here it is:Clown Anemonefish (Amphiprion percula)It’s worth clicking on this one to see the incredible violet shading on the edges of the fins, particularly the pectoral.

An now, since I’m in a nutty mood (actually got a couple of things to work correctly at the office today), let me give you the nut’s nemesis, the Squirrelfish, specifically the Blackfin Squirrelfish (Neoniphon opercularis):

Blackfin Squirrelfish (Neoniphon opercularis)This is one of those fish that is easy to overlook when diving. It’s not too flashy and it plays hide-and-seek with a vengeance. However, if you can get a good look at one, you begin to appreciate it.

I’ve been rummaging through my thousands of shots that you’ve never seen. Some of them are not too shabby. Expect a fairly steady diet of fish for a while.

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