A Bearded Fish and Some New Features

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on October 15th, 2009 by MadDog
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I’ll start with the geeky, boring stuff. I’ve added two new features and made one other change to Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.  The new features are not obvious until you look for them.

First, I’ve added what’s called Related Posts.  You won’t see them when you come in the “front door” by using our main address, for instance, if you have us bookmarked. However, if you come in on a “single post” link, such as you might do from a search engine result or from a Facebook link or a dozen other ways, you will see HOME at the top of the sidebar and, if you go down to the bottom of the post, you will see a selection of posts that directly relate to the content of the post you are currently reading. This is handy for me and for you. I don’t have to constantly think of posts related to the current subject that might also interest you and you can easily find other posts that have similar content.

If you arrived from a bookmark to Madang – Ples Bilong Mi,  you are on the “front door” (all recent posts) page. You will see no HOME in yellow at the top of the sidebar. If  you want to see posts related to the one you are reading, all you have to do is click on the title of the post  and you will be taken to the “single page” version of that post. At the bottom, you’ll find the related posts. I did it this way because the “front door” page would become impossibly long if each post also included related posts.

The other thing that I’ve added is a gizmo that allows you to be notified by email whenever a comment is left on a post on which you have commented. This is a great way to keep discussions going. You don’t have to go back to a post to see if anyone has replied to your comment.

When you leave a comment by clicking on the “Comments” link at the bottom of a post (and I encourage you whole-heartedly to do so), you will see a new little checkbox just below the “Submit Comment” click target. It says, “Notify me of follow-up comments via e-mail.” That’s exactly what will happen, supposing that you have given your real email address. (It’s surprising how many nasty comments that I get which have bogus email addresses. I don’t approve them for display. I just delete them.) You will know when I or someone else replies to your comment and if anybody else chimes in. Thanks, Robert of Trupela Tok  for suggesting this feature.

Finally, in response to regular readers with slow connections, I’ve reduced the number of posts shown on the “front door” page to seven down from fifteen. This should make the loading time less irksome. If you think that you’ve missed something (tragic, I know), you can always use the “Previous Entries” link at the bottom of the page.

Okay, let’s get to some images.

Here is a rather poor shot that I got at Planet Rock  last Saturday. As long as you keep it small, it doesn’t look too bad. There was a lot of particulate matter in the water, so the blue is lumpy and speckled. It would have taken hours to clean it up and it still wouldn’t have been publishable. Still, here in the journal, it’s pretty and interesting:

Swarming Anthea with a diver in the distance

The diver is Dr. Pascal Michon of Divine Word University. The fish are some species of Anthea. 

Here is a fish that I have been trying to capture for a long time. It is a kind of Grouper and has the unusual name of the Spotted Soapfish (Pogonoperca punctata).  Aside from it’s unusual name, note that it has a beard:

Spotted Soapfish (Pogonoperca punctata) at Planet Rock

No, I don’t know what the beard is for. They are quite shy and usually hide under coral ledges where it is hard to see them. My dive buddy Albert Serra Pou spotted this one.

I was curious about the common name – soapfish ??  I found this on SaltCorner.com:  “As with all soapfish, if stressed, it may release a toxic substance (grammistin) from the skin that could kill itself and all tankmates. Prevent any stressful conditions in the tank!” I gues that explains it.

Here is a dramatic image of the incridible flourescent Bulb Anemone (Entacmaea quadricolor)  at about 23 metres on the east side of Planet Rock:

Incredibly red Bulb Anemone at Planet Rock

You have seen it before here. I admit to dramaticising the colours . . . mmmm, slightly. For art’s sake, you understand.

This prickly looking thingie is a Feather Star or, more properly a Crinoid. I think that it’s a Comantheria briareus,  but it’s pretty hard to tell. The colours of Feather Stars are somewhat variable and sometimes you have to count the “arms” and look at the “feet” to tell which species you are looking at. Since touching them causes a lot of damage (the arms stick to you and pull away from the animal), it’s not worth hurting them to determine which species it is:

Feather Star (Comantheria briareus)

Last, but my trophy kill of the day, is a Checkerboard Wrasse (Halichoeres hortulanus):

Checkerboard Wrasse [intermediate phase] (Halichoeres hortulanus)

As with many fish, many Wrasses go through two or more phases of life during which they display dramatically different colours and body details. This individual in in the Intermediate Phase, between baby and adult. Like most teenagers, this fish believes that being seen in fashionable clothes is the key issue.

By the way, this is one of the best specimin shots that I’ve ever been lucky enough to snap. What you see is what you get.

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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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Ah, Sweet Saturday

Posted in Under the Sea on February 22nd, 2009 by MadDog
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The weather the last few weeks has been miserable, at least by Madang Standards. I don’t think that there has been a single day without rain. It has also been very cold. You have to remember, of course, that is tropical cold, not regular cold. When the mercury drops below 24°C (75°F), we call it cold.

However, this Saturday was sunny as reasonably warm. We went to Magic Passage. The surface conditions looked good – little current and clear water. Down at the bottom at about 3o metres, though, it was milky. The current was running sluggishly outward, carrying the foggy-looking water from the anchorage out to sea.

I did manage some interesting shots which I’ll give to you in a gallery without a lot of comment for a change:


The Bigeye Trevally shot is interesting. It was so murky at the bottom that there was virtually no colour. I decided to take advantage of this instead of moaning about it. So, I made the shot monochrome.

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