Ordinary Saturday

Posted in Under the Sea on July 24th, 2010 by MadDog
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No Saturday is genuinely ordinary. One never knows what to expect. This one started out with a cheery red sunrise. When I see colour coming in through our front windows I run for my camera. The one thing that I know, regardless of the quality of the colour, is that I’m looking at a brand-new sunrise which nobody else has ever seen before. That’s a pretty cool way to start out the day. Here is a zoomed in shot of the sun rising over Madang town across the harbour from our house:

The close-up view is almost too intense.

Here is a shot of eleven frames stitched together. I covers about 180°:

From about 06:00 to 09:00 I usually work on my post for Saturday. So, after I did these sunrises, I went to work looking for some images. I ran out of time before I could put anything together which wasn’t so discombobulated that it would make you nauseous. Therefore, between the image above and the next one, a half day of diving will have passed.

It is now much later, about 16:00. I’m tired, but before I take a nap, I’ll show you some of our enjoyments of the day.

On the beach at Wongat Island  there were a bunch of young boys collecting green coconuts and stripping off the husks. Since we were thirsty for the delicious, sweet fluid inside them, we offered to buy a few from them. While the rest of the boys were scampering up coconut trees to kick a few more down, one boy built a high-jump rig, which you can see at the water’s edge. He repeatedly ran screaming down the beach and jumped over the pole into the water:

In the shot above, he has tired of this entertainment and three of the boys are bringing our kulau  (green coconuts) to us.

Here you can see one of the boys handing up a kulau  to George. We scrounged together seven Kina to give to the boys. They were extremely happy about that:

We did our dive on The Henry Leith,  a 34 metre coastal freighter which started life as a steamer and ended up as a dive attraction. We have all enjoyed many wonderful dives there. You can find dozens of images by clicking on “henry leith” or “The Henry Leith” in the Tags section of the sidebar.

The visibility is never great at this site. Here is a shot which I have not cleaned up at all. I’ve corrected the colour, but have made no effort to remove all of the speckles which obscure visibility. It gives you a very realistic vision of exactly what you would see if you came down with us:

Anything made of iron attracts a lot of life, since the ocean is relatively iron poor. The presence of iron in the water stimulates life.

Speaking of life, this Divericate Tree Coral (Gendronephthya roxasia)  is indeed alive, but it look more like an astonishingly beautiful glass artwork:

If you click to enlarge, you’ll see what I mean. A glass artisan who could create something this delicate and beautiful would be world famous. I’d guess it would take years to to it.

Diving with me on Saturday were Geneviève Tremblay and Ushtana Antia. Here you can see Geneviève looking at me with Ush hovering in the background like a guardian angel bestowing a blessing:

We enjoyed many more interesting sights today on The Henry Leith,  but now it’s time for a nap.

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Weird Sea Creatures and Vapid Poetry

Posted in Humor, Under the Sea on July 16th, 2010 by MadDog
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Today, I am using the “Underwater Pictures Ruse” to inflict upon you the earthly equivalent of Vogon Poetry.  This literary genre has an amusing history. First revealed to us Terrans in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,  it is said to be the third worst poetry in the Universe. The description from the Guide  goes thus:

“Vogon poetry is the third worst in the Universe. The second worst is that of the Azgoths of Kria. During a recitation by their Poet Master Grunthos the Flatulent, of his poem,  Ode to a Small Lump of Green Putty I Found in My Armpit One Midsummer Morning,  four of his audience members died of internal hemorrhaging, and the president of the Mid-Galactic Arts Nobbling Council survived by gnawing one of his own legs off… The very worst poetry in the universe died along with its creator, Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings of Sussex… in the destruction of the planet Earth.”

A brief example is also given:

“Oh freddled gruntbuggly/thy micturations are to me/As plurdled gabbleblotchits on a lurgid bee.
Groop I implore thee, my foonting turlingdromes. And hooptiously drangle me with crinkly bindlewurdles,
Or I will rend thee in the gobberwarts with my blurglecruncheon, see if I don’t!”

It reminds me of Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky,  except that it is infinitely more painful. You need not worry. My humble offering is unlikely to cause you any permanent harm. A faithful reader, Facebook Friend and fellow web journalist Steven Goodheart (yes, that is his real name) has been nagging and nagging for me to publish some of my poetry (Okay, he asked me about it once, “You write poetry?”), so I have a plausible excuse for my coming out.

First, let me prepare you for the shock by lulling you into a peaceful reverie with calming images of marine life:

That’s a nice little fan coral on the catamaran at The Eel Garden near Pig Island.

Here’s another, fancier bit:

I’ve been fiddling with creating a dark background.  Getting the colour right is a bit fussy.

Here’s a little better job with this Divericate Tree Coral (Gendronephthya roxasia):

There. That’s better.

Feeling all nice and calm now? A little sleepy, eh? That’s good. Blank your mind now and prepare for Star Drifters:

If your mind wasn’t blank before, it certainly is now. This presumes that you discovered that you have to click on it to actually read it. Yes, there is writing there. In fact, it is designed just the right size so that you can print it onto one of those t-shirt thingies which use to transfer an image onto cloth using an iron. Don’t burn yourself. For pity’s sake, don’t make a t-shirt from it. People will think you are nuts. I suggest a cotton tea towel which is ready for the trash. After being embossed by Star Drifters,  you can use it to clean up messes in the bathroom.

Now, for your comfort and safety I need to ease you back into the world of what passes for sanity on this planet. I’ll show you a rare and splendid thing.

During over 2,000 dives I have never before seen a juvenile Trumpetfish (Aulostomus chinensis):

Amazing, eh?

See, you never know when to take me seriously. I love that.

Seriously, when I first saw this little one, only about eight centimetres long, I thought it was some newfangled sort of pipefish. Then I noticed the very distinctive mouth:

There is no doubt that this is a juvenile Trumpetfish. What tickles me most is that I am almost positive  that you have never seen one. Of course, you had never read Star Drifters  either. Two shocks in one post. My, my.

I’ll leave you to recover with this peaceful image of a Magnificent Anemone (Heteractis magnifica)  and some cute little Clown Anemonefish (Amphiprion percula):

Yes, those are Nemo’s cousins.

Peace, baby.

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Ants in the Sugar

Posted in Humor, Under the Sea on June 19th, 2010 by MadDog
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Though I love living in a tropical paradise I’d be less than honest to say that it’s all fun and games. There are minor imperfections. Having had malaria seven times is an example. Horrible things called tropical ulcers and a flesh eating bacteria which attempted to remove my left are other trivial complaints. My recent bout with staph and bacillus bacterial gobbling up my olfactory organs, leaving me odorless (at least as far as I can tell) could have happened anywhere, but upper respiratory infections are very common here. You haven’t had a cold until you’ve had a “tropical cold”.

However, the trivial day to day irritations bug me the most. For instance, ants in the sugar:I slipped that pun in so cleverly that you may have missed it. It is also easy to miss the ants in the shot above, because they are the teensy variety. You can’t miss them when you take the lid off, though. They scurry around in a panic and try to hide by burrowing into the sugar. You can see  them better if you click to enlarge.

You may also note that our sugar is rather odd looking. It smells funny too – not funny ha-ha. No, it’s more like funny they forgot to take some of the goop out when they were making it. Some might call it raw sugar. We call it the best we can get.

Here I have enlarged that culprits for you:I honestly don’t know how they get in the sugar. We take it straight from the bag and put it into an air-tight plastic container. The lid goes “suck” when you pull it off. One must assume that there are ant eggs in the sugar. Why these are considered a suitable ingredient I don’t know either.

Well, enough of that.

Here’s an nice fan coral which I shot yesterday on The Henry Leith:

I managed to grab the wrong battery for my Canon G11 on Saturday morning, so I was out of juice half way through the dive.

Here’s Richard Jones poking around the stern of the wreck. Rich forgot to load a battery into his camera. Therefore, Rich was the chief dunce of the day:

It’s Sunday evening here. I’m pretty wasted from riding three hours on the Harley up the north coast road and back, dodging Harley-eating potholes all the way. I’ll have more to say about that tomorrow.

So, I’ll cut it short and get some down time. First let me show you the collapsed roof of the pilot house of The Henry Leith:

It’s too bad that it finally fell down. I was cool to get into the pilot house and look out at all of the fish swimming around.

Here’s one of the better shots that I’ve ever gotten of a Blackspotted Puffer (Arothron nigropunctatus):

They are very shy, so it’s difficult to catch them out in the open.

This Divericate Tree Coral (Gendronephthya roxasia)  doesn’t move at all, so it’s no fuss to get a nice close-up:

Nice detail in that one. It’s worth a click to see the full-sized version.

I’ll have a Harley story tomorrow and some shots of the Tapira Surfing Club.

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Great Barracuda!

Posted in Under the Sea on May 28th, 2010 by MadDog
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Today begins a new pursuit for our J & E Enterprises Limited company. I’m going out to install the first VSAT dish which we have sold. I’m familiar with the technology, so the job should be simple and take only a couple of hours. On Monday, after the unit is switched on at the Orion terminal in Australia, our customer will enjoy Internet communications and VOIP (voice over Internet – think Skype) the likes of which have never before been seen in Papua New Guinea at the relatively low cost of these units. It really is an exciting event for us. It’s fun to be involved with what, in this country, is the cutting edge of technology. Never mind that it has been available in most of the rest of the world for at least a decade.

Here is your morning sunrise:

Provided I arise early enough, I should be able to show you a new one nearly every morning now that the dry season is arriving.

The subject of this post is the large, toothy critter in this sadly poor photograph:It is a Great Barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda). It’s not called “great” because it’s particularly famous or gifted or nice, but simply because it is big. I reckon that this one was about a metre and a half long. I tried my best to sneak up on it while it was getting the fishy equivalent of a car wash here at a “cleaning station” where tiny cleaner wrasse swim around and pick off tasty parasites from the barracuda’s skin – even inside its mouth! However, the instant it sensed me as a possible threat (pretty unlikely, I’d say), it shot of so quickly that it was just a blur in my eyes. Its departure was accompanied by a sound like a whip snap and a general panicky scattering of all of the fish in the general area as they hurried to get out of its way. It was quite a spectacle.

The water at Barracuda Point was murky, so the photo is very poor, despite my being only about three metres distant from the fangy bullet. This is only the third or fourth Great Barracuda which I have seen here in over 2,000 dives.

I have selected the rest of my images today not for their excitement, but rather for their calm, restful beauty. Here is one of my favourite creatures, the Mushroom Coral (Fungia fugites or possibly F. scutaria):

This one is resting next to the large colony of beautiful green and white Sea Squirts, Lissoclinum patellum.

This is a very lovely Divericate Tree Coral (Gendronephthya roxasia) which is growing between the hulls of the old wrecked catamaran on the ocean side of the barrier reef at The Eel Garden near Pig Island:

The Tree Corals are some of the few things which I like to use flash to capture. The way that they light up seemingly from the inside out is quite amazing. This one has a wonderful blue and pink colour scheme which I have not seen before. As soon as I began to work with this image my mind drifted to the recent movie Avatar. That film is packed with creatures which any diver would immediately recognise.

Here is another colonial animal which is best seen with flash. It is some species of Semperina, I think:

In ambient light it is a dull brown. When the full spectrum of sunlight hits them, as a camera flash is designed to replicate, it light up bright red.

We may as well finish up with a couple of Disneyesque Nemo impersonators. The Clown Anemonefish (Amphiprion percula) has certainly become the most universally recognised reef inhabitant on the planet:

That’s it for today. Tomorrow is Dive Day. I’ll be back to waste more of your valuable time.

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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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