I Invent a K20,000 Ray Gun

Posted in Humor, Under the Sea on May 17th, 2010 by MadDog
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Monday morning dawned peacefully enough. Why does it always start that way? The days which turn out to be the ones during which you should have taken a Valium and gone back to sleep always seem to begin with the birdies twittering and the sun popping up like a big smiley face. Anyway, it was a pretty sunrise and I was there to take its picture. Little did I know that horrible events were brewing. My first warning was when I suddenly began mixing metaphors:

As it turns out, mixed metaphors were not the day’s most terrifying gifts. *

Unfolding events soon proved it fortunate that only the night before I had finished my labours on my soon-to-be-patented MadDog’s Death-Ray Alien Exterminator. Here is a secret picture of it. Please don’t tell anybody about this:

As you can see, it’s a rather Disneyesque design, just the ticket for the teen super-hero set. I made it in my laundry room out in back of the house. It’s mostly old lawn mower parts and bits and pieces of computers and defunct VHS and 8-Track tape players. The charging unit can be carried in a back pack. It provides enough charge to kill approximately all of the aliens in the known universe. If there are any left after exterminating the bulk of them, you can use the ray gun itself as a club. It’s very sturdy.

It was, indeed, fortuitous that I had completed my construction project, as early in the day we were invaded by a troop of four metre long aliens disguised as Mantis Shrimp (Odontodactylus scyallarus):

The one in the image above is busily smashing our sidewalk into tiny little bits. Curiously, these “Barbie Crushers”, as we nicknamed them, seem to be enraged by sidewalks. The one above also ate several large dogs and three mops. When it headed for our remaining supply of mops and our single mop bucket, I decided to take decisive action.

Having previously charged my MadDog’s Death-Ray Alien Exterminator, I donned my Cowstria Super Hero costume and did battle, protecting our mop supply and the mop bucket which was accidentally overturned in the fracas:

For those of you who may not be familiar with Cowstria, its other name is Austria. Here I am, taking careful aim to dispatch one of the horrid aliens.

Having homogenised them all, I decided to cool off with a nice, refreshing dive. Near The Green Dragon  B-25 Mitchell bomber I found this plump Cushion Star (Clucita novaeguineae):

I always think of these as the Mermaids’ footballs. Hey, wait. Mermaids have no feet. Never mind.

Now, you might think that this is a mistake:

And you would be wrong. I seldom make mistakes and when I do I bury them under disingenuous excuses. This is a Divericate Tree Coral (Dendronephthya roxasia)  growing upside-down under the wing of The Green Dragon.

And that is about as much as I can cough up today.

* Of course, it’s not really a ray-gun, nor was there an alien invasion. Sorry to disappoint. The gizmo is the business end of an Internet satellite dish. On Monday, we replaced the one which we’ve been using for about two years with a different one from another vendor. It’s much cheaper and faster. Unfortunately, the K20,000 we spent for the gear is probably now a write-off. Anybody want to buy a ray-gun?

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Growing New Legs

Posted in Under the Sea on May 8th, 2010 by MadDog
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Today we went up to Wongat Island to do The Green Dragon B-25 Mitchell bomber and The Henry Leith. The bomber went fine. I got some nice shots which I’ll be showing soon. However, when we went to do The Henry Leith, I brilliantly decided to anchor the boat at the beach so that the ladies could snorkel while Hendrick and I did the wreck. Than meant that I we had to dive off of the beach and I had to remember where the wreck was. I’ve done it many times before, but years ago.

Of course, I couldn’t find it. It’s only twenty metres down, but the water was too dirty so see more than about ten. The bottom where the wreck lies is at twenty metres, so we followed that contour in the area where I thought it was. After fifteen minutes, we gave up and came up to the shallow reef to shoot some pictures. This was my second dive on a big 80 tank. I ended up with 110 minutes. I was using my gills most of the time.

This is a cute little starfish missing only one leg. That’s pretty good by small starfish standards. This one is about five or six centimetres across. I’d say that about half of the starfish that I see are missing at least one leg:I think that it’s a Linckia multifora, but I’m not sure. It doesn’t look quite right.

However, what happens to the leg, if the fish which bit it off doesn’t like the taste? Well, we simply grow a whole new starfish from the leg. Some people call them arms, I call them legs, since we don’t walk on our arms, do we? Here on this severed Linckia multifora leg, you can see four tiny new legs growing out of the severed end:This is a pretty cute trick. Many organisms can do this. Medical researchers are busting their guts trying to find a way to mimic this behaviour in humans. The reason is obvious. Whoever solves the problem first will become the richest person on the planet.

Here is an absolutely lovely young Electric Swallowtail nudibranch (Chelidonura electra): Older specimens develop a lemon yellow edge around the edges.

This particularly nice Divericate Tree Coral (Dendronephthya roxasia) caught my eye:It’t quite lovely and I certainly appreciated the pleasure of seeing it.

However, this is my choice of the day for the shot which pleases me most:The little Glass Shrimp (Periclimenes holthuisi) is about as big as your thumbnail. He has several buddies swimming around him.

They are a nightmare to photograph. They are very small and don’t like the camera up close. They never stop moving, hoping around from place to place and waving their little pincers. Flash photography is useless; you have to use available light. Finally, they are nearly invisible in the first place! You can not see their bodies, only the spots.

It’s like playing “connect the dots”.

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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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The Coral Corral

Posted in Under the Sea on March 16th, 2010 by MadDog
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Sometimes I get tired of chasing fish around. As a rule, I don’t do that, but we all know that rules are made to be broken. It happens most often at the end of a dive, when I should be moving in an orderly fashion toward the surface and I see that fish,  of which I have no image. Oh, yeah. It’s decision time. Check my air – okay; I always have plenty left at the end of a dive. I breathe mostly with my gills. That fish  is inevitably going down.  You are not supposed to end up your dive deeper than your last few minutes. That’s called a reverse-profile dive. It can build up too much nitrogen in your body and make your blood fizz like a freshly pulled Guinness.

So, what I usually do is say adios  to that fish  and slide up to five metres for my safety stop. Coral, however, requires no chasing at all, since it does not move. It may wave around, if it’s limber, but it stays firmly fixed to the reef and poses very nicely.

Therefore, today I’ll show you a pretty selection of corals that I corralled on our dive at Magic Passage last Saturday. I believe that you’ve seen all of these species here before, but these are much prettier pictures. The Canon G11 is making it so easy to get great shots that I’ll soon have to find new challenges. Hmmm. . . underwater fashion photography . . .

This young Divericate Tree Coral (Dendronephthya roxasia)  stands out nicely against the dark background:If you look carefully, you can see a diver in the distance.

I really like photographing D. roxasia  because there are so many beautiful colours available and they look completely different when the lighting changes. Sometimes they seem to glow as if lit from inside: The shot above accentuates the crispness of the coral image because the foreground and background are out of focus. It is a nice technique for “framing” your subject.

I am heavily into patterns. Something about them calms me. Corals make great subjects. This Diploastrea heliopora  is a good example:The individual polyps are about 1 cm in diameter.

Here is a shot of another specimen differing in colour and with a little more acute angle of the light:All of these images are more interesting if you click to enlarge. These regular patterns make mesmerising desktop backgrounds. Maybe a little too much so.

Here is one of the many wildly differing Leather Corals. This one is a species of Lobophytum:There are so many different leather corals that it’s difficult to identify a specimen from a single reference. I have only one book. It takes far too much time to dig into the web for a species name. That’s why many shots here give only the genus. I could not identify the species.

Here’s another one that is a mystery. It’s a coral of the Sea Whip mob, some species of the genus Ctenocella:They are very pretty and add a little action to the scene, waving around like wheat in a summer breeze. These are about as tall as full-grown wheat.

This outlandishly red coral is of the genus Lobophyllia:They are easy to spot, since they are about the reddest items on the reef.

Here is an interesting shot of the coral Goniopora djiboutiensis:I’m not sure what’s going on here. The white polyps appear to be the same species as the brownish ones in the background – the normal colour. I do not understand why this particular bunch of polyps on these old reef knobs are snow white. Maybe someone can explain. UPDATE: My Facebook friend Roshan Abeywickrama suggests that this may be G. lobata,  which I agree is a good possibility. I’m certainly no expert.

Finally, I give you one that I have been trying to photograph properly for years. It is very difficult to get the green to look natural. If you use flash, you have no chance. The colour is a combination of the pigments in the slimy coating of the very hard, brittle tree and the spectrum of light at that depth. The Tubastraea micrantha  has caused me much aggravation:I think that I’ve just about got it figured out. This is as close as I’ve come to reproducing the exquisite deep green colour that I see in this coral with my eyes at about twenty-five metres.

I’m almost there.

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The Angry Little Fish

Posted in Under the Sea on February 14th, 2010 by MadDog
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I still have a stinking cold and I’m still trying to catch up on my posts. I’m now only two days behind. Fortunately, I got a small treasure trove of shots from last Saturday at Barracuda Point and the Eel Garden, both at Pig Island.  I’ll show you a few today and more tomorrow. Then I need to think about something else to write about, because I can only eat so much fish each week.

I’m just listening to some songs by a group called Gare Du Nord  which, presumably means “north station”. I think it refers to a railroad station in Paris. It’s got a nice eclectic jazz/rock/electronica thing going for it. I found in on my network drive for shared music.  I don’t know who put it there, but it’s got a solid groove and nice thumpy base. My sub-woofer is under my desk. I can feel the base hits tickling the hair on my legs. Funky!

Well, you’ve seen these here before, so there’s nothing new here, folks. Might as well move on. It’s a Divericate Tree Coral (Dendronephthya roxasia): 
I hit the flash on this one, since they light up nicely. The inside is like jelly and it conducts light very well.

We had a fresh diver with us on Saturday, name of Scott. I grabbed this shot of him chasing around after a mob of Bigeye Trevally:Barracuda point was crawling with big Pickhandle Barracuda and Trevally. I’ll have some barracuda shots tomorrow, if this cold doesn’t kill me.

You’ve seen this here before also, a Coral (Lobophyllia hemprichii)  [young stage] which is improbably bright:They’re like the traffic lights of the reef. Too bad that I’m a little late for Valentine’s Day. This one has a nice little heart shape in the middle.

I found some nice Palm Coral (Clavularia sp)  which is a different colour than most of what I’ve seen before. This has much more yellow in the polyps:I love to watch the stuff waving around in the current.

Here’s another familiar client of mine, the Papuan Scorpionfish (Scorpaenopsis papuensis):This character was all dolled up for a party, I think. Don’t ask my why the first name that popped into my head when I was working on this image was Rodney Dangerfield. If you don’t get it, then there’s no use explaining. I have a Harley Davidson t-shirt which is a bit obnoxious. It brazenly states, “If I have to explain it, you wouldn’t understand.” If you asked this fish, that’s probably what it would say.

There goes that bass tickling my legs again. It’s “Boogie All Night Long”. Reminds me of my Flickr nickname, BoogiesWithFish.

Here’s another familiar sight for regular readers. Lizardfish Love:Again, if I have to explain it . . .

I’ll finish up with the star of the show, this very perturbed little Spotted Shrimpgoby (Amblyeleotris guttata):As I mention in my excerpt, I’ve had fish hide from me, chase me, harass me, bite me, defecate on me, pose for me, run from me, well, the list goes on and on. After 2,000 dives, you begin to think that nothing is going to surprise you.

However, this is the first time that I’ve seen a fish simply glare at me with naked hatred.

Hey, what did I do?

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More Underwater Critters

Posted in Under the Sea on January 27th, 2010 by MadDog
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Well, the charter to Bag Bag Island  is off. There have been several small craft lost at sea in Astrolabe Bay  over the last few days. There’s a fierce nor’easter blowing and the chop is reported to be up to three metres. I’m poor and wild, but I’m not completely insane. The money was good, but the risk too great. As soon as I told my good friend Trevor Hattersley about the charter he called me back several times to talk me out of it. That is what good mates do. Thanks, Trev.

So, I find myself presently incomeless, but safe and dry.

Therefore, let me attempt to entertain you for a few minutes with some miscellaneous pretty pictures and some verbal rambling. This Coral (Lobophyllia hemprichii)  is not the stuff of of raw excitement, but it’s interesting to speculate how something that looks like this is actually alive:I’m reminded of the old Star Trek  episode in which the rocks were sentient, albeit slow movers.

After a few thousand dives and more time underwater than most people spend at church in a lifetime, you get to the point at which you can make educated guesses. Here’s a shot of a motion-blurred Oriental Sweetlips (Plectorhinchus orientalis)  and terror-frozen Many-Spotted Sweetlips (Plectorhinchus chaetodonoides):I knew how this shot would play out. The Many-Spotted Sweetlips will freeze for a while when it spots you. It will try to hide by pretending not to be there. “Look at me. HAH! Can’t see me, can you?” Then, as it slowly sinks in that it’s being observed, it will begin to swim away, usually without too much fuss. The Oriental Sweetlips, however, is easily panicked and makes haste to use the nearest escape route. I could see around a corner that the two fish were slowly finning in the sluggish current side-by-side. As soon as I popped my head up over the top of the coral bomie, the spotted fish froze for a moment and the Oriental Sweetlips headed for the door – thus the blurry fish image.

You’ve seen these fat slugs before. It may not sound politically correct to call them that, but that’s exactly what they are, so it’s okay:It’s a Sea Cucumber (Thelenota ananas),  a particularly pink one. They are usually more brownish. Possibly it has a fever.

Sometimes I need to show you a really bad image just so that you can see that underwater photography is a crap shoot. This is a Blacktip Shrimpgoby (Cryptocentrus polyophthalmus),  a fish which I seldom see:I knew the shot would be awful, because the fish was back in a hole and I couldn’t get close. Nevertheless, it’s the only image that I have of this species. I’m not bursting with pride.

This, however, is a nice little reef scene with a couple of male Purple Anthea (Pseudanthias tuka):When I saw these two, they were engaged in a little ritualised sparring. I snapped the shot as they were returning to their corners for a time-out. That’s why they are swimming away from each other.

Here is a perfectly beautiful image of a nudibranch that I still  can’t identify:I’m going to have to invest some money in a better nudi book.

You’ve seen these Divaricate Tree Coral (Dendronephthya roxasia)  here several times. I’ve mistakenly called them Diverticulate Tree Corals elsewhere. Gonna have to fix that:The one above is particularly nice. Good, symmetrical shape, rich colour; I like it.

Enough of the fishy stuff. Let me show you two UFOs that I caught on camera the other day. Actually there may be three, a big green one with an orange one riding on its back and a purple one up higher:

I yelled at them, but nobody came down to visit. If there were aliens aboard, they must be a snooty lot.

Of course, all that is wishful thinking. The coloured blobs are obviously lens flares caused by internal reflections within the optics of the bright orb of the sun.

Someday I’ll show you my real  UFO shots. They’ll blow you away!

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Merry Christmas Tree Worm

Posted in Under the Sea on December 23rd, 2009 by MadDog
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Let me begin today’s mashup of disorganised visual and verbal clutter by wishing myself a happy birthday. This has, indeed, been an interesting year. Having lived through my 66th year, I now embark on my 67th. In the past year, as a result of a New Year’s Resolution,  I have banished foul language from my daily speech (almost  completely), made an unexpected trip to North America without busting the bank and begun to reverse the devastating financial situation at Casa MadDog.

So many blessings . . .  And now, it’s almost Christmas, a time of year that inevitably depresses me. So many reasons . . . No snow or cold weather (which would probably kill me anyway) Don’t get to see my son and his family, my beautiful, smart granddaughters. Never mind. I’m not going to whine on my birthday. Eunie will bake me a pineapple upside-down cake tomorrow, a family tradition. I’ll eat the whole thing. It will take me about two or three weeks, according to how rapidly my spare tire inflates.

And now for your daily Christmas Tree. Here is a cute little mob of them:

If you move your hand over these they will disappear down their hidy-holes in an instant. No, I’m not guaranteeing that it will happen on your computer screen. Hey, I could do that with a mouse-over. I wish I had time to try it. First I’d have to have the exact same shot with the worms retracted. Never mind. I didn’t think of that while I was under the water.

Here is the star Christmas Tree Worm (Spirobranchus giganteus)  for today:I like the little magenta stars on top.

Here is another “what I actually saw” shot. The murky water at Barracuda Point  last Saturday lends a spooky effect to this shot of Divaricate Tree Coral (Dendronephthya roxasia)  with Carol Dover in the background checking out some Pickhandle Barracuda (Sphyraena jello):It’s not pretty, but it’s what I saw.

Here is something that has puzzled me for some time. We often see these Solitary Corals, sometimes called Mushroom Corals, with damaged edges and colourful stains. This one is a deep form, that is it grows in deeper water, of Fungia fungites:If anybody out there knows anything about this, please enlighten me.

The contortionist of starfish is Choriaster granulatus  or, as we sometimes call it, the Dirty Starfish. I’ll let you wonder why:Another common name for this one is the Granulated Starfish. I don’t know how they manage to squeeze themselves into such awkward positions. This one looks as if it is trapped under a coral ledge.

Sticking with water, but on the surface now, here is yet another water drop image:

My fascination with water drops is boundless.

I wonder what that means?

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