No Sunrise

Posted in Mixed Nuts on July 28th, 2010 by MadDog
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Of course, I don’t mean that literally. The sun did  come up this morning. The resulting light show was very subdued, but it had a power of its own, so it seemed worth capturing. Ordinarily, this gloomy display would urge me into a similar mood. I seem strangely unaffected by it today, though I know that Eunie will complain, “It reminds me of winter.”

After yesterday’s Marathon of babel, my word machine is in recovery mode. Today will be Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  Lite. I ran through a few images from the last week and came up with these. 

As I was driving past the location of the Arcade fire some time ago I snapped this shot:

The remains of the building are gradually disappearing. If left long enough there will be no expense for removing it. Gradually, bit by bit, every scrap of it will be carried off.

If you look just to the right of the remains of the Arcade in the image above, you will see a vacant lot. That is the former location of the Chemcare pharmacy. After the fire, over a period of months, the lot was picked clean. Here is a shot of our old friend Greg O’Keefe looking a bit glum as his workplace goes up in smoke:

We’ll see how long it takes to have two vacant lots in a row.

On Sunday morning I went over to the beautiful grounds of The Madang Lodge and Restaurant to shoot some family portraits for our friends Jimm and Heidi. They have been absent from Madang for a while, so I’m including this shot so that their friends can see that the family is well and enjoying a visit to Madang:

Getting Keyen to pose is not unlike herding cats. In principle it should work, but in practice . . .

While at The Lodge, I got this nice shot of the Finisterre Mountains  across Astrolabe Bay  with the swimming pool in the foreground:

The Lodge is one of my favourite spots to get images of friends. The garden is immaculate and a riot of colours.

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Care for a Little Wine With Your Fish?

Posted in Under the Sea on February 20th, 2010 by MadDog
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Four days of drugging myself unmercifully have relieved me of most of the symptoms of what seemed, at first, to be a bad cold. Not so. Feeling much worse each day, I eventually went for the Cipro. One day later, I was nearly human again. On Saturday, I felt well enough for a little dive at Pig Island  on top of the reef. Despite poor lighting, I got some nice pictures.

TELIKOM, having “fixed” my phone for exactly two hours until the dial tone disappeared once again, forced me to drive to the office this morning to access the web. Not a bad thing, since I got this lovely shot of the Finisterre Mountains from the balcony of the Coastwatchers Motel restaurant:So, what’s this about wine? Well, I saw some Sea Grapes (Caulerpa racemosa)  on my dive and hacked them into the title of the post, that’s all:It’s a kind of sea weed, so I wouldn’t expect a fine vintage from them. I’m not even sure of the species name. The info on the web is a little confusing.

The beautiful little Dwarf Hawkfish (Cirrhitichthys falco)  is always fun to shoot, that is, if you can get them to stay still long enough:They tend to flit from perch to perch about every five seconds as long as you are close to them. Fortunately, that is enough time to grab focus and click.

Here’s one that you haven’t seen here before, because they usually hide so well that you can see only their bright blue eyes. They are Split-Banded Cardinalfish (Apogon compressus):The water was nice and clear at Pig Island,  but the light was poor, since there was an overcast. Still, I managed a pretty reef scene in which I can identify about a dozen different species:These Redfin Butterflyfish (Chaetodon lunulatus)  are exasperating. It’s almost impossible to get a side-on shot of one. They always try to keep their tails toward you:I suppose that that is a good escape technique, since it presents the smallest visible area for a predator to lock in on.

You’ve seen the Arc Eye Hawkfish (Paracirrhites arcatus)  here many times, but you’ll have to see another one now, since I never get tired of shooting them:I’m sure that there are prettier fish in the sea.

However, for today, this one will have to take the winner’s place.

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Random Images for Your Amusement

Posted in Mixed Nuts on December 28th, 2009 by MadDog
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Once again, I’m left dead for a theme. Succumbing to writer’s block is not something to be enjoyed. It’s not part of my game to simply throw out a bunch of images with no comment. However, today the words are getting stuck somewhere. Maybe I can shake a few loose. It’s a sure formula for gibberish.

We’ll start with the standard ‘my house’ sunrise:

Hmmmm . . . That wasn’t so bad. Let’s move along.

This is a bit more interesting. On the way to the office a couple of days ago there was a fellow paddling up the coast in his canoe just off of Coronation Drive:At the far right, on the horizon, you can see the tail end of the Huon Peninsula  and the last of the Finisterre Mountains.  The towering cumulus clouds that you can see below the overcast are probably much more than 100 kilometres in the distance.

Now, here is a shot that I really enjoy. On our way back from Blueblood on Christmas Day, Kar Kar Island  was looking very splendid and mysterious:I caught Mike Cassell’s boat Felmara flying up the coast toward Madang with the island looming in the background about fifty clicks away. It makes a rather dramatic image.

Here is the standard Coconut Point sunrise, which you have seen here many times before:

I’m puzzled by the dark streak in the sky. It was persistent, pronounced and quite straight. We do not see aircraft condensation trails here in the tropics, or at least we rarely see them. I cannot remember seeing one in all the years that I’ve lived in Madang. My guess is that it’s a combination of factors. First, we are not under any heavily travelled routes. Another thing is that the air above us is generally too warm to form lasting condensation trails except at extreme altitudes. My best guess is that the dark line is a shadow of an invisible trail of condensation between the sun and the high layer of clouds.

Hey, it’s just a guess.

Here is something that I don’t think that you’ve seen before on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  – an image of Bag Bag Island:It is further away from Madang than Kar Kar Island  and considerably less mountainous. I had a lot of trouble with the colour of the island itself. It was far too blue. While trying to get it right, I ran out of time. It looks a little odd – like a pile of dust, not like an island.

Finally, here is an image that gives me a chuckle:It’s not a particularly good image; the Orangefinned Anemonefish is out of focus, as is my hand. However it does bring to mind the friendly, feisty anemonefish of The Eel Garden  near Pig Island.  I have done hundreds of dives in this small area and I know every knob of coral and every fish. I do not understand the behaviour of these anemonefish, but it amuses me greatly. They seem to know me!  Yes, I know that is absurd, but there is something  odd going on. At several specific and consistent anemones, the fish will come up and rub against my fingers and nip at them. The nipping I get. Many anemonefishes do this. They are absolutely fearless, as if nipping at a giant predator would drive it away!

These, however, seem to ‘enjoy’ rubbing gently against my fingertips. It’s positively disconcerting. If they weren’t so cute, it would be a little creepy. In the shot above, I was attempting to get a record of the behaviour. As it turns out, it’s easier contemplated than accomplished. You may be amused to see another of the Damselfish family (as are the Anemonefishes) nipping away at my hand.

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Big Fat Mountains

Posted in Mixed Nuts on December 12th, 2009 by MadDog
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I took a drive up Nob Nob Mountain  yesterday with some visiting friends to show them our magnificent Astrolabe Bay  and the surrounding coastline. A prime feature of this beauty is the Finisterre Mountains  across the bay. Because of the rain all morning, when the sun finally came out, it was quite clear, so we got a terrific view of the mountains.

If I were a painter, I think that one thing that I would enjoy is being able to interpret the same scene or object in many different ways, according to my whim. Alas, I have not a smidgen of artistic talent. However, I do have a yummy selection of cheap cameras and I have acquired a bit of cleverness with Photoshop. For the first time in the history of man (bring up The Ride of the Valkyries  in the background now), an ordinary bloke or blokess can, with the minimum of fuss, create wonderful scenes that would make a landscape artist of a hundred years ago weep.

Here are three interpretations of the same scene from the top of Nob Nob Mountain.  You are looking out across Astrolabe Bay  at the Finisterre Mountains:

Finisterre Mountain Panorama 1An astute (very  astute) observer would note that I have exaggerated the vertical aspect by about 20% to make the mountains appear taller.

Here is a different interpretation of the same scene:Finisterre Mountain Panorama 2Changing the aspect ratio and including the dramatic sky changes the mood of the image completely, but keeping the mountains just about a third of the way up enhances the focus on them. The eyes have to move around a lot more in this image, because there are several focal points.

In an attempt to make a silk purse from a sow’s ear, I took another series with mid telephoto. I didn’t even have to exaggerate the height of the mountains in this one. The telephoto effect did it for me. Using a telephoto lens will always make background objects appear larger with respect to foreground objects:Finisterre Mountain Panorama 3Of course, while I was up at Nob Nob,  I had to have a little nature walk also, just to see what was buzzing.

Guess what I found buzzing in a crevice of an ancient Frangipani tree – hornets!

My camera appears closer that I actually placed it. I used a little telephoto with my macro setting and didn’t get closer than about a third of a metre (or one foot, if you insist). I honestly don’t know if they are hornets or wasps or whatever. I just know that I’m not going to let them sting me if I can help it. I was once trimming a tree in my yard and did not notice a small hornet’s nest. They came at me about a dozen strong and I took about twenty hits before I got to the edge of my yard and dived into the harbour. Man, that smarts!

There are all sorts of weird and wonderful orchids here. Have a look at this one:Strange OrchidWhat’s that supposed to be?

And this, my gentle readers, is a passionfruit flower:Passionfruit Flower and fruitPointing out the obvious here, note the passionfruit at the lower left. I can’t say that I like them much. They taste too perfumy and sour to me. The flowers are certainly beautiful. We have another fruit similar to this that we call a sugar fruit. It has the same hard shell with the gooey stuff inside around the seeds, but it is much sweeter.

When I got home from the mountain, this copra boat was heading out to sea, probably to Kar Kar Island:Copra BoatWhen the winelight falls on our beautiful harbour in the afternoon, I don’t want to be anywhere else.

With my camera, of course.

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The Secrets of Leper Island

Posted in Under the Sea on December 7th, 2009 by MadDog
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There are, so far as I know, no secrets of Leper Island.  I’m just reaching for a title. There’s little mystery concerning it, other than the fact that there were no lepers on Leper Island  (they were actually on nearby Pig Island  or Tab Island  as it is more properly called) . Yes, the lepers were on Pig Island  and Leper Island  was the place where they raised pigs to feed the lepers. Confused? Join the club. I got that information from Tamlong Tab, a man who should know.

What has all that got to do with today’s malarkey? Absolutely nothing. I’m just filling space here. Anyway, here are the lovely Finisterre Mountains  in the background with Leper Island  on the right and Little Pig Island  (which also has another name, but I can’t remember it now) on the left:

Finisterre Mountain Panorama
The big strip of land in the mid distance is Kranket Island.

We had an excellent dive in a spot on the North end of Leper Island  on Saturday. I hadn’t dived this spot for some time, so I had forgotten how rich it is in coral species. Here is a Porites  coral with a couple of very nice Christmas Tree Worms (Spirobranchus giganteus):

Christmas Tree Worms (Spirobranchus giganteus)

That’s probably my best Christmas Tree Worm shot yet. I’m very happy with it. To give you an idea of the scale, the two worms together would be about as wide as the width of your eye.

This flaccid looking spiky thing is a Divaricate Tree Coral, (a species of Dendronephthya (Roxasia)):

Divaricate Tree Coral (Dendronephthya [Roxasia] sp.)

These things are fantastic at night. I think that the structure must be similar to optical fibre. If you shine a strong light into the base, the whole thing lights up like some kind of crazy lava lamp.

I’ll throw this bone to the coral freaks out there and hope that I’ve identified correctly. I’m not positive about the Acropora cerealis  in the foreground, but I am pretty certain about the Seriatopora hystrix  in the background:

Coral - Acropora cerealis (foreground), Seriatopora hystrix (background)

I need to find myself a better invertebrates resource. My book is pretty thin.

This is the Common Lionfish (Pterois volitans):

Common Lionfish (Pterois volitans)
They are usually fairly imperturbable. It won’t move much unless you poke your camera (not  your hand) right in its face and waggle it around. You’d be imperturbable too, if you had thirteen very poisonous spines sticking out of your back. This one, however, got into some kind a weird panic that I haven’t seen before. It started running away from me. When it swims fast, the delicate feather-like fins wave like pennants in a most beautiful display of the flight response. In the shot above, it is just about to swim under a ledge of coral.

In the morning we had all been complaining how hot it was. While we were down on the dive, I noticed that the light was getting dimmer. When we approached the surface we could see that rain was pouring down:

Raindrops from belowIf you click to enlarge, you’ll see some tiny little splash rings where individual drops are hitting the surface of the water.

When we got back on the boat, the temperature had dropped about ten degrees C. Now we were all complaining about being cold.

Spome people are never satisfied.

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The Day That Kar Kar Volcano Did Not Erupt

Posted in Mixed Nuts on December 4th, 2009 by MadDog
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A little over a week ago, we were surprised to learn that our highly respected (feared!) Kar Kar Island  volcano had erupted most significantly. I say that we were surprised because I could stand on my veranda and see it floating calmly on the warm sea. In case anybody wonders about the potential ferocity of this volcano, have a look at this satellite image:

Satellite image of Kar Kar Island

That’s a fairly large hole there. A lot of misery could come out of that.

I first learned of the alleged eruption when my good mate and fellow amateur scientist Richard Jones called me from Port Moresby to tell me that there was a 13,000 metre ash cloud over Kar Kar Island.  I carried my cell phone out to the veranda and told him that I was staring right at the volcano and could see nothing. It was slightly obscured by clouds, but I was certain that if anything that large were happening, I could see it.

Here is the report that came from the Australian Government’s Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre:

Received FVAU0295 at 23:32 UTC, 25/11/09 from ADRM
DTG: 20091125/2332Z
VAAC: Darwin

VOLCANO: Karkar 0501-03
PSN: S0439 E14558
AREA: New_Guinea NE_of


OBS VA DTG: 25/2315Z
SFC/FL300 S0435 E14600 – S0435 E14510 – S0520 E14540 –
S0435 E14600 MOV W 15KT
SFC/FL450 S0435 E13745 – S0525 E13225 – S1030 E13235 –
S0950 E13820 – S0435 E13745 MOV W 25KT

FCST VA CLD +6HR: 26/0515Z
SFC/FL300 S0440 E14600 – S0425 E14445 – S0530 E14525 – S0440 E14600

FCST VA CLD +12HR: 26/1115Z
SFC/FL300 S0435 E14600 – S0425 E14415 – S0540 E14500 – S0435 E14600

FCST VA CLD +18HR: 26/1715Z
SFC/FL300 S0435 E14600 – S0420 E14345 – S0605 E14435 – S0435 E14600


I put it in tiny type because I doubt if anybody will actually read it. It’s pretty opaque unless you’re an expert, which I am clearly not.  The interesting bit is in bold type. It mentions an ash plume that was observed at FL 300 (that’s Flight Level 300 or 30,000 feet in aviator-speak). Funny, nobody here saw anything like that.

Here is an image of Kar Kar Island  from the inlet near the Memorial Lutheran Church. Madang Resort Hotel is on the right. This is a strong telephoto shot, so it makes the island appear much closer than it is in reality:

Kar Kar Island as seen from Madang (telephoto shot makes it look closer)

I should mention at this point that we got some help from two sources to figure out what happened (or rather what didn’t  happen). One is the Volcanism Blog where you can see the original report and my comments below it. The other is Eruptions where you can again see the results of my meddling in the comments.

How does such a peculiar mistake happen? Heaven knows, I’d rather have a false positive report of a volcano erupting in my front yard than no report at all, However, having lived here a long time (nearly half my life now), I shudder to think of what might have happened if this report had become fuel for the usual bonfire of terror that sweeps through the population when the rumours start flying like lava bombs.

Okay, having dealt with that potential disaster that wasn’t, let’s calm ourselves by contemplating the lovely purple Finnisterre Mountains  in this morning’s early sun:Finisterre Mountains in the early morning sun

Hmm . . . I’m feeling a little bliss creeping in around the edges.

It just got better as I drove into the office this morning. Here’s the pretty scene at Coconut Point:

Coconut Point SunriseNever mind about the volcano that didn’t erupt.

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Additional Miscellaneous Visual Rambling

Posted in Mixed Nuts on July 8th, 2009 by MadDog
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Yesterday afternoon the Finisterre Mountains seemed moody and hulking under a very busy sky as seen from Tab Anchorage:
Panorama of the Finisterre Mountain Range from Tab Anchorage

We surely spend more time in this calm body of water inside the barrier reef than anywhere else.

Today seems a good as any day to catch up with some escaped images. As I go back through shots that I’ve taken recently, I often find ones that seem to deserve a second look. I listen more carefully. I try to find a message, or at least an interesting mumbling.

This shot reminded me of the absurd number of defunct sailboards that are floating around Madang. Countless expatriates have brought them in at great expense and then left them stranded. Hardly anyone here actually sails them, so they eventually loose their sails and become giant floatie toys:

Old sailboards never die

I have a very nice Mares sailboard under my house. I bought it for practically nothing, went out on it a few times, and finally decided that I wasn’t going to get good enough at it to make it worthwhile. I lent it to a friend who kept it until he left. I then went searching for it and found it abandoned near a warehouse with the sail thoroughly rotted. So, now it rests under my house waiting for someone to play with it.

At Blueblood last Sunday, Trevor Hattersley came to me with some interesting ‘flowers’ that the kids had found on a vine. Me being me, I instantly took a picture. Then I began to examine them:

Strange flowers?

Hey, these are not flowers. I’d like to see the flowers, but we were obviously too late. These are little seed pods:
Seed pods
I broke one open. There is a seed at each point of the ‘flower’ petal. I should have taken a shot of the seeds. Ah, well . . .

Here is another shot that I got on Saturday of the same bulb anemone that youv’e seen before:

Bulb anemone at the Eel Garden

I’m experimenting still with the new Canon G10 and it’s interesting to see how lighting changes from dive to dive affect the finished shots.

Here is another shot from last Saturday. These are a kind of sea squirt called Didemnum molle:Sea squirt - Didemnum molle
They are very squishy and delicate. The size ranges from your pinky fingernail to the size of your fist. They feed by pumping water through the pores in the mantle out through the opening on top. I always imagine that they look like a little village on an alien planet.

Like any village anywhere there are always a couple of weirdos who paint their houses the wrong colours. Fortunately, in this village, it doesn’t hurt the neighbours’ property values.

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