Hold Your Nose – We’re Going Under!

Posted in Under the Sea on September 26th, 2009 by MadDog
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We’re going diving, but first I have to get this out of my brain:  How smart can Google be?

I Googled this (without the quotes) “how many people are killed by falling coconuts each year?” Out of the ten hits at the top, nearly all claimed that 150 are killed in an average year by falling coconuts. This is, you understand, of no little importance to me. I spend a lot of time out in my garden, which is lined with 25 metre coconut trees. I’m quite certain that a konk on the head with a coconut from that height would spoil my entire day.

Interestingly there was one hit from THE ISLOMANIAC ™ (islomaniac: īl-o-mā’nē-āk’ [noun] One with a passion or craze for islands) which claims that the number is purely mythological. And, as you’d expect, there was a rebutting comment exposing an obscure journal article as evidence supporting the quantity.

So, never mind that Google pointed me to pertinent information on the first hit, I’m nevertheless no more informed than I was before.

Still unsatisfied that Google is trusworthy to point me to useful information, I tried the classic: “how many angels can dance on the point of a pin?” Again, Google pointed me to some interesting pages, but failed to answer the fundamental question for me. It seems that nobody knows for certain where the question originated (though it is a very obvious  query and of huge significance), but Wikipedia has an interesting, if brief, history of it.

The most informative hit was number nine from the Journal of Improbable Research.  It’s titled Quantum Gravity Treatment of the Angel Density Problem  and, though it still fails to quantify the exact number of angels, it does set some handy upper and lower bounds. I was especially amused to be brought to the realisiation that, if angels are small enough, and are not massless, an angel sock-hop of sufficient popularity could produce a black hole!

Okay, enough philosphy. Let’s get wet.

Here’s how the fan coral looked without the flash:

Sea fan - natural light

Here’s how it looks with the flash:

Sea Fan - flash exposureFakey, fakey, fakey. Okay, that is the end of my nearly daily protestations of using artificial light for UW photographs. You must  be getting bored with that.

This is an interesting coral that we see on nearly every dive. It’s Lobophyllia hemprichii.  We call it, “That bright red stuff.” It is, indeed, red. You can see it glowing from a great distance:

Coral (Lobophyllia hemprichii)

Here is a thick branch of Staghorn Coral with an encrusting sponge (Echinochalina sp.)  eating it from the bottom up:

Encrusting sponge (Echinochalina sp. ?) growing on Staghorn Coral

You wouldn’t think sponges could be that viscious.

This critter is a Leopard Sea Cucumber, a kind of bech-de-mere (Bohadschia argus).  You can see some little bits of seaweed and coral sticking to it. They sometimes cover themselves completely with camouflage material. They are rather beautiful, if squishy, creatures with an astounding defensive weapon. The stickiest, nastiest substance on the planet.

Sea Cucumber ( Bohadschia argus)

I don’t have an image of my own to show you, so I’m filching (with attribution) this from OceanwideImages.com. The image is by Gary Bell:

Leopard Sea Cucumber by Gary Bell / OceanwideImages.com

If you poke (a no, no) or otherwise bother the Leopard Sea Cucumber, it will emit these seemingly innocuous white filaments. You could not be more wrong if you think that they are no bother. Pity any critter who gets stuck on these. They don’t sting, but they are nearly impossible to get off. You have to let the dry (and STINK) until they flake off.

Winding down now, I have one more shot for you. This is a perfectly ordinary coral (Goniopora djiboutiensis)  on the left. That’s not the interesting item in the image:

Coral (Goniopora djiboutiensis) on the left with a crayfish hiding on the right under the ledge

What is amusing it the lobster hiding under the ledge on the right. Sometimes it is easy to fixate on a particular specemine and miss something 30 cm away. I could have had a good chance for an image of a critter not yet in my collection, if I’d only noticed it.

Maybe next time.

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Rainy Day – Barracuda Point

Posted in Under the Sea on February 9th, 2009 by MadDog
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When I got up on Saturday morning and heard the rain on the metal roof of our house, I knew all was not well. We seem to be curiously blessed with an abundance of sunny Saturdays – even during the rainy season, of which we are in the middle.

I left my gear at home and went over to the dock to see if anybody would show up for a dive. A couple of hardy friends did show up, so we were off to Barracuda Point at Pig Island to check the conditions.

A current was raging. Since there were only two of us diving, we decided to swim for it.

At first, there didn’t seem to be much to see. All the fish were elsewhere. I fiddled with some bubbles and a Semperina fan coral:
Bubbles rising through a fan coralGetting into the coral now, I shot this image of an Acabaria fan coral. If you click to enlarge, you can see the individual polyps:

Fan Coral

This Ctenocella coral is a beautiful red colour and sways grasslike in the current:

Ctenocella Coral

I don’t know the identity of this sponge, but it is an example of how we often see one sponge growing on another. The tan coloured sponge appears to have a red encrusting sponge growing on parts of its surface:

Sponge with another sponge encrusting it?

Finally, some fish life! This baby Blue-Spotted Stingray (Dasyatis kuhlii) was hiding under a ledge. He is only about the size of a dinner plate:

Blue-Spotted Stingray - Dasyatis kuhlii

I caught these Reticulated Dascyllus (Dascyllus reticulatus) hiding in their favourite coral (Seriatopora hystrix):

Reticulated dascylusHere is a YouTube shot of the Dascyllus reticulatus swimming around a Acropora hyacinthus (I think!) coral:
The video quality is not as good as the original. I’m still trying to figure out how to get the best quality on YouTube. You can get the idea, anyway.

Finally, here is another shot of a White Bonnet Anemonefish (Amphiprion_leucokranos):

White Bonnet Anemonefish (Amphiprion leucokranos)In approximately 2,000 dives in the area, this is only the second time that I have seen this species.  Given that all Anemonefish have a free-floating larval stage that must find an anemone in order to survive, it isn’t surprising that they may suddenly appear in places where they were not previously found.

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