Corals and Friends

Posted in Under the Sea on October 5th, 2010 by MadDog
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Today’s lecture will provide you with utterly useless information about coral. I’m certain that you will find this to be an illuminating and valuable experience. There will be no quiz at the end.

We’ll start with this ordinary image of a fan coral. This is the way we usually show them – flat side facing the camera, so that one can see that they are fan-shaped. Fascinating, eh?

What does make this picture mildly interesting is that you can see a very young Feather Star taking advantage of the food-rich water flowing through the fan. Both critters are filter-feeders. When I got these images at The Eel Garden near Pig Island,  the water was full of yummy plankton and other edible bits and pieces. Everybody was getting a good feed, but we were getting stung by some of the more vicious floating creatures.

Here is a small cluster of Fan Coral seen edge-on:

I seldom think to photograph fan coral from this angle. It is a fresh perspective.

Here is a Feather Star (Comanthina schlegeli)  resting between two different coral species:

Some corals are able to coexist very close to each other.

Other corals need their space. This shot is really quite interesting (yawn):

Here we can see a hard coral completely surrounded by a leather coral. I suspect that what is going on here is that the hard, staghorn-like coral in the centre is producing some chemical that tells the leather coral, “Back off, Jack!” This phenomena is quite common in nature. It was the keystone observation in the discovery of antibiotics. In 1928, Professor Alexander Fleming noticed that some glass plates which he had coated with a film of Staphyloccus  bacteria had some spots of mold growing on them. Around each mold colony was a clear ring free of the bacteria. The mold was Penicillium notatum.

Okay, enough of that.

Here is a cute shot of Geneviève Tremblay learning to steer Mike Cassell’s Felmara:

We had a gathering of the usual suspects up at Blueblood last Sunday. I rode up on Felmara,  because I did not want to drive up the coast alone.

I think often about how fortunate and blessed I am to have such a fine group of friends. Here is the mob gathered around the table after a good meal:

I decided to have a little rest in the hammock.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I had a long conversation last night with the lady who is handling my claims at the health insurance company. My friend Trevor Hattersley is helping me to sort out this very complicated mess. The lady gave me some information about a different way that I can submit claims. It will allow me to submit all of the as yet unpaid invoices and request that the providers be paid directly by the insurance company. I was not aware of this. I am close to breaking the backs of my two credit cards. This new way of submitting claims will probably save months of time getting all of the claims settled. It will also save me a lot of interest on the amounts on the credit cards.

That conversation removed part of the heavy, very stressful load of concern which I’ve been carrying. Last night I got nearly five hours of sleep. I have been averaging three. I call that a big improvement. I have plenty of serious challenges ahead, but now this one seems much more manageable.

I’m feeling very grateful.

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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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Fooling Fish on the Henry Leith

Posted in Under the Sea on December 30th, 2008 by MadDog
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On Saturday morning, we waddled out with a full load of fun-seekers on Faded Glory to Wongat Island to dive the Henry Leith for the millionth time. Okay, maybe the 500th time. It never gets tiresome. In fact it has been fascinating to do the same dive several times a year for a period of nearly twenty years. Wrecks in tropical waters change dramatically over time. I reckon that the Henry Leith will be virtually unrecognizable in another 25 years. It is deteriorating rapidly.

The visibility was miserable – about the worst I’ve ever seen it in that location. All the photography had to be up close because of the poor light and the pesky particulate matter in the water.

I did manage a few interesting shots. Here’s one of a fan coral that shows some of the individual polyps extended:

Weird Flower Garden

I’ll call that one “Weird Flower Garden.” The image looked pitiful until I had the idea to turn the entire background to monochrome black and white. That got rid of the nasty green background and allowed the natural colours of the fan coral to be seen against a neutral canvas.

Here’s a Spotfin Lionfish on a big leather coral:

Spotfin Lionfish on the Henry Leith at Wongat Island near Madang, PNG

The Spotfin is uncommon in other locations, but for some reason seems to be attracted to the Henry Leith.

Angelfish are notoriously difficult to photograph because they are so skittish. You simply cannot get close to them. I caught this one down in the passageway to the cargo hold. He was confused enough for a few seconds while deciding how to escape that I got one good image of him:

Angelfish - trapped!

Then Pascal had a brilliant idea. He pried open a small clam on the deck with his knife and we just watch the fish feeding on it. Great for photography – too bad for the clam.

I wouldn’t want to do this regularly, but these are easily the best angelfish images that I’ve gotten so far:

Angelfish feeding on clam

There was a lot of mixed-species feeding going on. It was interesting to see how each fish took its turn. There was very little pushing or shoving going on.

Sometimes, two or three fish were feeding side-by-side:

There's room for all at this diner

This is similar to the “turning the rocks over” trick that we do at Planet Rock.

Everything gets eaten by something eventually.

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