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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A Good Spotter Makes All the Difference

Posted in Under the Sea on February 9th, 2010 by MadDog
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Since my good dive buddy Richard Jones got bent a while back he has not been able to dive, until recently. He finally got an insurance company to cover him down to 18 metres. So, when we go diving, we stay shallow and enjoy the best that the reefs have to offer. This is good news all around. Rich is back in the water, we are more or less confined to the best part of the reef for photography and Rich has eyes like an eagle.

Rich and I have had some great diving adventures together and I’m so glad to have him back on Faded Glory.  He also has just purchased a Canon G11 and housing, so I’m expecting that a competition will soon begin. He is a nudibranch freak. Get ready for a steady diet of rare nudis. Yum, yum.

Here’s a shot of Rich on our first cooperative, “I spot, you shoot.” dive:

Notice him giving me the “come hither” signal.

The first thing that we saw when we got off of the boat in pretty miserable conditions, with dirty fresh water from the Gol Gol River  over us was this lumbering Sea Cucumber (Thelenota ananas):Pretty is not a word that I would use to describe these alien critters.

I think that this must be some kind of algae, although the colour looks highly improbable:It really is as purple as it looks. It waves around in the current like silky hair. I thought that there was a slim possibility that it was a clutch of nudibranch eggs, but nothing that I can find matches it. After Googling for a few minutes, I gave up. Anybody have a better idea? I also tried “purple marine algae”, but no luck.

We see giant Barrel Sponges all the time. However, we seldom see small ones. It’s the old, “Where are the baby pigeons?” question. Here is a shot of a very young Barrel Sponge (Xestospongia testudinaria):It is only about the size of your fist. The big ones can be the size and weight of a Volkswagen. There is a Squirrelfish or Soldierfish of some kind peeking at me from below the ledge. I can’t see enough of the body to identify it.

This poor crab was somebody’s dinner. All that’s left of him is one claw:It’s amazing that we see so little evidence of the nightly carnage on the reef.

I snapped this quick shot as a school of Narrow-Stripe Fusiliers (Pterocaesio tessellata)  with one Blue and Yellow Fusilier (Caesio teres)  flashed past me. It’s a credit to the G11, not to me, that the image came out looking as good as it does:Not a wall hanger, but you can identify the fish.

Finally, here is a nasty-tempered Moray Eel (Gymnothorax javanicus):This grumpy customer kept sticking his toothy face right out at me. If he looked as if he were going to bite, I’d just bump his nose with my camera, not hard, just enough to make his teensy-weensy brain reboot. He’d pull back in his hole and sulk for a few seconds and then peek out again. No harm – no foul.

I know that I’m going to get bit some day. Ah, well, a few more scars. It just adds to the legend (in my head).

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Spiders, a Hazardous Crab and a Pesky Butterfly

Posted in Mixed Nuts on September 28th, 2009 by MadDog
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Before we start with the creepy-crawlies, I’ll show you sunrise at our house this morning. It was hardly worth the effort. I’m accumulating a ridiculously huge collection of sunrise panoramas captured in our front yard. I don’t have a clue what I’m going to do with them. That is, aside from tossing them at you practically every day. It does give me something to do in the morning when I wake up at 05:00 other that think about how our savings have disappeared. More on that another day. There are enough of us in that boat already.

Sunrise this morning

Now that we’ve dispensed today’s sunrise, we can proceed to the juicy bits. This seems to me to be an unreasonably scary spider. It was about half the size of my hand. It was in the middle of a web the size of one of those big, silly exercise balls that you roll around on. I don’t know what it intended to catch in that massive trap, but I was careful that it did not end up being me.

Scary spider

Those black dots are not its eyes, but they do a very spooky imitation. Its legs are improbably long and it appears as if it could club you to death with its hind end. Forget about the fangy bits in the front. I don’t want to think about it.

Now, this one’s not so bad. It’s just one of your regular, run-of-the-mill nasty eight legged horrors. However, check out the size of the beetle that it’s eating:

Spider eating a huge beetle

You’d think that a bug that size would put up some kind of fight, eh? Well, it was too little too late. Sorry, Mr. Beetle. You’re lunch.

This stupid butterfly is still foiling my attempts to get a good shot of him:

Pesky butterfly that eludes my photographyMy previous efforts were knocked back severely by a shot that Trevor Hattersly got. I’ve not forgotten. I’m determined to best him. What really irks me is that we’re both using Olympus SP-590UZ cameras and I am the one who sold him his. It’s really too much. As you can see from the shot above, I’m still well behind. I’m convinced that this is the same butterfly. It’s taunting me.

Okay, if the spiders are getting to be a bit much, let’s move to something a little less (ah, that’s what you think)  scary. Here’s your basic model coconut crab. Yeah, he’s got pincers, but he doesn’t look as if he could do much damage. Maybe get a blister on your little finger – maybe get a blister on your thumb (whoops, I seem to have slipped off into Dire Straits lyrics again – that’s happening far  too often these days):

A very hazardous crab

Let me lay down a firm warning to you. You do not  want to mess with these characters. If it get hold of any bit of you . . . well, if you want to read an amusing personal anecdote on the subject, have a look here.

We can finish up today with this shot of a cargo ship tied up at the main wharf across from our house:

Ship at night in front of our house

I had to work it over severely because of the noise in the shot in the low light. It’s more art than photography now. A few years ago, such an image would have been worthless – just spotty and unclear. Now we can turn throw-aways into something pretty, even if we don’t know what to call it.

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Terrible Tuesday

Posted in Mixed Nuts on September 22nd, 2009 by MadDog
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The situation in the IT department has not appreciably improved. Another layer of wires and discarded packaging has been added to the floor and my sensitivity to clutter has become numbed to the point where I can walk across it barefoot (my normal office footwear) without noticing.

I did have one minor success yesterday. I needed to test a lot of gizmos to see what works and what doesn’t. Treading back and forth across the shop to access a testing case with minimal guts to make it run seemed excessive. I decided to make an “accessible” computer test rig next to my regular computer so that I can reach it from my chair.

The question was how to do it without creating a fire hazard. My solution:  bolt a computer to the wall:

My "bolted to the wall" computer

I unpacked a new motherboard, CPU and memory. The motherboard has inbuilt video, so that simplified matters. I screwed the motherboard to the wall and hooked up the power supply. I fetched a new SATA hard disk drive and a SATA DVD reader/writer which I stuck to the desk with double sided tape. I made a little frame for the hard disk drive and screwed it to the desk. After plugging everything in it came up to the BIOS level on the first try. I plugged in a netork cable, loaded Widows 7 on it and everything came up like a new garden in the spring.

I like it so well (it’s faster than my regular computer) that I think I’ll give the old one away.

Well, that is about the maximum amount of space that I’m willing to devote to computers today, since I’m up to here  with them.

So, how about a nice juicy bug on a pretty yellow flower?  This little guy was chomping away as if he hadn’t eaten for weeks. I you look carefully, you’ll see another smaller insect sticking his head out from behind one of the petals (at the bottom) to see when his turn is due:

Bug on a yellow flower

The shot above is a nice example of a serendipitous conjunction between lens physics and art. The backgound is, of course, very blurred, since the subject is so close and the lens cannot focus on both near and far objects simultaneously (a depth of field thing). However, in this case, the background has become a circus of psychedelic colours and patterns – a very pleasant side effect.

On the way to the office a couple of days ago, as I was motoring along Coronation Drive, the sunrise lured me out of the car for this shot:

Sunrise with one Flying Fox

If you exaimine the far upper left corner you will see one lonely Flying Fox.

Since I’m switched on full-auto in random mode, I’ll lock and load one diver:

Pascal Michon in the background

That’s my buddy Pascal Michon, our resident Frenchman, drifting obliviously toward the anchor rope of Faded Glory  while I snap his photograph. It’s a nice example of how you can use flash for dramatic effect. My preference is usally for available light. In this case, however, the shot would not have been nearly so interesting.

I’ve got time for a couple of images that I got recently up at Bludblood. This one shows a land crab hole and the balls of sand that they pile up next to the opening:

Land crab hole at Blueblood

The balls of sand are sometimes amazingly round and stacked much more neatly than you see here. I don’t get it. It seems like a terrific waste of energy to me. Why should a crab squander energy making these neat balls of mud and stacking them all in the same place?

This last shot is nothing special, but I do like the colours. I was sitting close to the barbie at Blueblood a couple of weeks ago and started aimlessly catching images of the fire. This one came out pretty nice.

Fire in the barbie at Blueblood

And with that, I’ll leave you. I’m getting out of this mess at the office for the evening. I’m going to drink an SP Export Lager, smoke an Antonio y Cleopatra dark wrap cigar (the cheapest that I can find), read a little and pet my dog Sheba.

And forget about computers for a while.

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Cute Little Crabs

Posted in Mixed Nuts on July 20th, 2009 by MadDog
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Monday morning I was entirely too lazy to get up in time to ride to work with Eunie. I slept in. About nine o’clock I went out in front of my house to catch a water taxi. It’s a hit or miss thing. It may take five minutes or an hour.

Fortunately the crabs were putting on a show:

Yellow clawed crabs

Everybody, of course, has seen images of fiddler crabs waving at each other. I don’t know whether the signalling in this case was amorous or pugnacious. It was interesting to note that all the time that they were waving they were also cramming food into their horrid little mouths. Waving must be hungry work.

Adding to the entertainment were a few bright red crabs which I’ve never seen before. The boat was just arriving when I began to shoot them, so this is not the best possible image:

Little red crab

It will have to do for now. Another day I’ll go out at low tide and try to get some better ones. Hopefully, I can get some video footage also.

Wandering around my garden this morning looking for prey, I spotted this red eyed fly which I promptly shot:

Red eyed fly

An interesting thing about these particular flies is that they will allow the camera to come extremely close before fleeing. The lens was only about 3cm from this handsome little guy when I snapped the shot.

I went searching for something interesting on the signalling crabs and got more than I bargained for. This video clip of “Lefty, the Fiddler Crab” is strangely mesmerising:

I don’t know if you can call it dancing and I doubt if the crab actually hears the music. Nevertheless, I watched it three times. Then I had to shake it off and get to work.

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Mystery Object of the Month

Posted in At Sea, Humor, Mixed Nuts, Photography Tricks on March 29th, 2009 by MadDog
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Oh, the sky was looking mighty fine when I got up this morning. Made me feel nearly human:

Sunrise Panorama

But, let’s get down to business. I told you before that I was invited on an Australian warship after taking a couple of sailors out fishing. I took only one photo while on board. In one of the main control rooms where the ship’s technicians hang out, there were two little stainless steel objects attached to a railing on the ceiling of the compartment. I asked about the curious devices and was told that they are little floats with magnets on the end. They float in a fluid filled chamber close to a sensor and the position of the magnet indicates the level of the fluid. Clever, eh?

Mystery objects found aboard an Australian warship

But, that’s not the interesting part. When not busy doing their normal work, they are put to another very important task involving the morale of the entire crew. When two spares are hung side-by-side as you see here, the configuration takes on a  special title. I wonder if you can guess what they are called. Sorry, there is no prize for the correct answer. It’s too easy to just examine the file name when you look at the bottom of your browser while your mouse is hovering over the photo. Personally, I think it is very funny. Your mileage may differ.

We have plenty of these flowers in my garden. I think they are some kind of daisy. I do particularly like the colour. Only yesterday, I showed you a white blossom that was just beginning to open.

Magenta daisy

By the way, these are the “Harmonious Daisies” that we planted in anticipation of the visitation of Swami Monty.

As I sat on the steps leading up to my veranda this morning, looking around for tasty fodder for my camera, I spotted this grumpy crab sitting on a Pandanus leaf. It’s usually difficult to get close to them. They are quite skittish. This one held fast while I captured him for you:

Grumpy looking crab on a Pandanus leaf

The detail on the crab is pretty nice, if you care to click to enlarge.

This shot is actually my favourite of the day. I like ants – as long as they stay out of the house. They are so inspiring. Busy, busy, busy.

Nevertheless, they always have time for romance. I’ve written about ants falling in love before:

When ants fall in love

I’ve also warned the world about the hideous plot by the Ant Body Snatchers to steal all of our precious ants. As if that’s not enough (you can never do enough for ants – nag, nag, nag), I’ve told you about Muli Ants and the effects of Weird Gravity.

After all, who would you rather have cleaning up after you, ants, or cockroaches?

For my parting shot, let me inform you that there is someone (Jungle John) who actually holds the Guiness World Record for lying with live cockroaches.

Yes, kiddies, it is sadly true. He is also one the few human beings to be eaten by a balloon and survive.

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The Sailor’s Eyeball and Other Salty Amusements

Posted in Under the Sea on March 6th, 2009 by MadDog
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A few days ago at the Eel Garden, near Wongat Island we had very warm, clear water. The temperature at 25 metres was 29°C (more than 84°F). I felt a bit over-warm in my wetsuit.

Down at the catamaran these Vanikoro Sweepers (Pempheris vanicolensis) were swimming behind a beautiful white Sea fan. You can see the tilted deck of the catamaran in the background:

Vanikoro Sweeper (Pempheris vanicolensis) behind Sea Fan

On the hull, I found an unusual Feather Star. I can’t identify the species. I think it’s probably a juvenile from the very few arms that it has. But, hey, I’m no expert. My invertebrates book is pretty slim. It’s an interesting image anyway. You get an idea of the range of colours that you can see within a small area. The image would just cover my hand:

Feather Star (unidentified crinoid)
I’ve always admired the Palm Corals for their beautiful delicacy and subtle colours. This one is a Clavularia species. I have no idea which one:

Palm Coral (Clavularia sp.)

The individual polyps are about 30mm in diameter. They sway gracefully in the current like miniature palm trees – thus the name.

This little beauty is a Pink Anemonefish (Amphiprion perideraion). There was a pair of them on the anemone, but I could never get the two of them in the frame long enough to snap a shot:

Pink Anemonefish (Amphiprion perideraion)

There is another similar fish called the Skunk Anemonefish. It looks exactly like the Pink Anemonefish except it doesn’t have the white bar down the cheeks, leaving only the white stripe down the back. Thus the name “Skunk Anemonefish”.

I caught this little crab, which I can’t find in my books, in a coral head. I tried as I might to coax him out, but he outsmarted me. It was embarrassing. He is quite a handsome little crab with his blue eye glimmering in the shadows:

Unidentified Crab

I know you are wondering if I’m going to get around to the subject of the post. Patience, patience.

The Sailor’s Eyeball (Valonia ventricosa) has to be one of the strangest non-animal items that you’ll run across on the average dive. It is the world’s largest single-cell organism. This one is about the size of a golf ball.

Sailor's Eyeball algae (Valonia ventricosa)

And, no, I’m not making it up. It is ONE CELL! As you may have guessed, it is an algae. The cell wall is tough like the plastic that we curse whenever we buy practically anything these days. It is quite durable and completely transparent. The inside is filled with a greenish (surprise) fluid. If you take one for inspection (one per lifetime, please – we don’t want to over-exploit them) and hold it up so that you can see the sunlight coming through it, it looks very much like a dirty green marble. A little rubbing will remove all the surface incrustation.

Another thing that I’ve noticed is that the surface shows a refraction pattern exactly like a star sapphire. The star appears to be inside the ball. I’m going to try to get a photo of that sometime.

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