Time Warp

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on November 8th, 2010 by MadDog
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I had no intention of being absent from this place for an extra day. I have no shortage of ideas for posts and writing seems to be more than usually good for me these days. However, the power situation in Madang for the last few days has been absolutely miserable. On Thursday my UPS died a hideous death. I went to get a new one, hating to spend the money, but unwilling to risk my computer. On getting it home I was disheartened to discover that it did not appear to work. So, I spent the entire weekend without the web. I felt as if I’d had a lobotomy.

As it turned out, the new UPS worked fine. I took it back to the dealer today. It was pointed out to me that I had the connections wrong. Sigh . . . Yet another stupid mistake. How many does it take?

None of that has anything at all to do with what I want to write about today.

I can remember at times near the end of the year, such as now, when I would think to myself – for example – “Where did 1992 go? Time is whizzing by so fast! I’ll soon be dead.” This is what happens when you’re having fun. When life is sweet it flashes past so quickly that it seems unfair. You feel cheated. The inevitable close of the show seems to be approaching in too much of a hurry.

And then something happens. Suddenly life is not such a joy ride. Nobody escapes these seasons. Winters come to us all. Winters seem to last forever, eh?

Remembering that I once thought where did the year go, it seems so awfully opposite now to look at the calendar and note, as it has been creeping up on me day-by-day, that it has been only two months today since Eunie died. Amazing! It feels like a year. It feels like forever. I’ve been thinking about this for a while. I’ve had plenty of time to think about it – centuries. I found it an odd coincidence (is there really such a thing?) that I met Nancy Sullivan today, who is an old friend I seldom see, and practically the first thing that she said to me upon reflecting that it had been only two months was, “It seems like forever, eh?” My case rests.

I pondered mightily concerning what images I might use for this post. Dali’s The Persistence of Memory kept wafting around the corners of my mind. Finally I decided that I needed timepieces. No worries. Eunie and I both had a small collection of what we called our “Seven Dollar Watches.” We collected them from Wal*Mart:

I looked for the better part of an hour for Eunie’s watches. I’m not ashamed to say that I cried for a while when I couldn’t find them. It’s that kind of day. I put mine on a sly grinning cat which Eunie applied to a bedspread, along with frisky puppies, well over two or three decades ago. It’s a very durable bedspread. It will outlive me. I hope some child enjoys it.

I can hear the watches ticking. Too fast? Too slow? I can’t tell.

Then, unbidden today, but always on my mind otherwise, came the thought of solitary creatures as I looked through the images of my dive on The Green Dragon B-25 bomber on Saturday. Solitary creatures . . . I don’t intend to stay that way forever, not if I have anything to say about it. Eunie will be my cheerleader.

Here is a solitary Clown Anemonefish (Amphiprion percula):

That’s right. It’s Nemo come to cheer us up. Good luck, buddy.

I wonder if time will speed up again in a year or so. Of course then, when I’m having some fun again, I’ll moan that it’s going too fast. I’m never satisfied.

Here’s a critter that seems to prefer solitude, a Ribbon Eel (Rhinomuraena quaesita):

Weird, eh? But pretty.

Now with my brain churning so furiously that it has set my hair on fire I run across this image which I took at the end of the dive. It seems to fit here:

It’s good old Faded Glory. She’s a lot like me. She’s beat up and corroded, but she’s still afloat. She’s still a bit pretty in a sort of efficient, functional way. She’s still got a lot of love and good times to give. Just like me. I’m certain that someday this will be my favourite image of her.

I’ll wrap this up with a magic trick. See . . . nothing up my sleeves.

Stuck in the sand near the rapidly deteriorating corpse of the war machine in which good men died I found this bit of the Perspex windscreen, which was smashed to smithereens when the bomber ditched near Wongat Island. Geneviève hovers like a pixy ghost in the near distance:

This shard of plastic has been resting alone in the warm sea since about the time I was born. It had never been disturbed before. I came along on Saturday and dug it out of the sand. I resurrected it.

I carried it back to the wreckage and dropped it into the pilot’s seat.

Home at last.

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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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Out With the Girls

Posted in Under the Sea on July 31st, 2010 by MadDog
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The ladies predominated the numbers on the boat today by three to one. We had five divers in the water today at The Eel Garden near Pig Island.   I got some pretty pictures of marine critters and a couple of nice shots of two of my favourite models. This morning it looked like a rain-out. The sky was dismal and the sea was up. By 10:00 the sun was out, but it was still a bumpy ride. I’m all worn out from the day’s fun, so I’ll spare you a lot of my usual senseless chatter.

We went Triggerfish hunting, which can be a risky sport, but there were none around. I had thought to give the ladies a thrill, but the fish were not cooperating. Down at the bottom of the sandy bowl, I found one of my favourite anemones with a pair of Red and Black Anemonefish (Amphiprion melanopus)  staying close to their Bulb Anemone host Entacmaea quadricolor:


I’ve been photographing this same anemone for years. Every picture is different. How could I get bored with it? These are very likely females.

Down on the catamaran, the underwater fashion shoot was all set up. The water was clear and the light was right. Geneviève Tremblay took her turn first:

I don’t think that I have to tell you that Geneviève is female.

About that time a huge school of Purple Anthea females (Pseudanthias tuka)  came rushing past:

What’s going on here?

The next thing I see is Ush doing a “Tiger Ambush” pose:

Need I mention that it is a female tiger?

I have no idea if this pretty little Starfish (Fromia nodosa)  is female or not. In fact, my science fact bin is empty. I can’t remember if there are  male and female starfish and I’m far too tired to care:

It certainly looks feminine.

That’s it. I’m finished.

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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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Light and Shadow – Two Views of Beauty

Posted in Under the Sea on July 18th, 2010 by MadDog
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We had bright prospects on Saturday morning. The sun was shining in a partly cloudy sky and there seemed little chance of rain. However, when we got out into Tab Anchorage  it was clear that the sea was restless. The rolling waves promised an uncomfortable hour for any friends who were not safely under the surface of the water in the blissful calmness of Mother Ocean.

I never saw the ocean until I was twenty-five years old when Eunie and I took our infant son to Panama City, Florida while I was in Advanced Helicopter Training at Ft. Rucker Alabama. I was stunned. It was the first time I had seen a body of water wide enough that I could not see the other side. It had the aspect of infinity. Since then I have learned a curious fact. Practically anybody can get sea sick if conditions are bad enough. It takes a lot to get me sea sick, but I have been truly miserable for hours at a time during very rough passages. Therefore, I am very sensitive to the condition of my passengers. We found ourselves driven by the waves to our favourite calm cove at The Eel Garden near Pig Island  for the third week in a row.

There are a few places where we can dive even though the sea state might drive other boats back to the Madang Club for an early beer. Fortunately, The Eel Garden is a dive which never grows dull. Here Faded Glory’s  anchor and chain rests safely on the sandy bottom while the mottled lighting of the sand indicates the chaotic waves on the surface:

I decided that there were plenty of opportunities for high depth of field shots in these conditions. Here comes “Deep Focus” again.

Within moments of settling to the bottom I was presented with this little tableau. On the bottom is a Latticed Sandperch (Parapercis clathrata)  and hovering above is a Bicolor Angelfish (Centropyge bicolor):

Old-time PNG residents who enjoyed diving or snorkeling always called this “The Steamship’s Fish”, because its colours are those of the Steamships Trading Company which was one of the major suppliers of the bits and pieces of our daily lives.

Turning around the other direction, I found one of God’s Little Jokes, a bright, toy-like Blue Starfish (Linckia laevigata):

Every single time I see one of these I feel a smile coming to my face. It’s something that simply can’t be stopped. In my head, I’m thinking simultaneously, “Why?” and “Why not?”

Still within the first minutes I came across this pair of Six-Spot Gobies (Valenciennea sexguttata).  This made me particularly happy, since this is only the second time I have photographed this species. The first image was less than I usually hope for. This time I got much better lighting conditions and two  of them:

Double the fun! Please don’t ask me why they are called Six-Spot Gobies when there are clearly seven spots. (We’re counting the blue spots, in case you’re wondering.)

Now we come to the images which really make me smile. Genevieve Tremblay just got some shiny new gear. She was diving with a borrowed set which had some serious deficiencies. There was nothing dangerous about it. It was simply not up to the standards which are comfortable for a new diver. Here she is teasing a Clark’s Anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii)  and grinning at me:

How cute is that, eh? The lighting was very nice for this shot. I didn’t need to use flash and the depth was shallow enough that It was easy to get natural skin tones.

This shot taken at about twenty metres on the old catamaran shows an effect that I’m trying to learn. It’s Genevieve again with a Feather Star (Comanthina schlegeli)  in the foreground:

I could have Photoshopped out Genevieve’s hair standing on end, but decided not to. We sometimes look a little odd underwater. It adds to the charm of the image. I have a bunch more of these shots from Saturday which I will show soon.

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Cuttlefish Hunger

Posted in Under the Sea on June 9th, 2010 by MadDog
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I have a fantastic shot for you today. A couple of days ago I put up a post showing an image of a Cuttlefish. I had looked over the frames which I had taken and chosen the one that I thought was the prettiest. Yesterday, as I was going back over the images from that dive on Planet Rock last Saturday, I discovered something which I had not noticed in my earlier examinations – something which blew my itsy-bitsy mind.

The is the same Broadclub Cuttlefish (Sepia latimanus)  which you saw in the post linked to above. Do you notice anything odd about it? Go on, have a good look before I tell you. Click on it to make it larger:

It quite clearly has a fish sticking out of its mouth. Richard Jones told me that he thought that it was actively hunting when we ran across it. I never thought more about it. It must have snatched this fish with its long feeding tentacles only moments before I snapped this shot. I Googled some “cuttlefish feeding” images this morning and found plenty of examples of the act of feeding, but no others showing a fish sticking out a a cuttlefish’s mouth. I get lucky so often that it is beginning to frighten me.

Today, we’ll alternate back and forth between beauty and weirdness. Some might say that the Cuttlefish is beautiful, but it’s also weird.

Here’s your beauty. It’s lovely Geneviève Tremblay waving “Hello” to you:

Geneviève is a volunteer worker here in Madang. She is a physiotherapist, a much needed skill here in our hazardous country.

I used the “Hello in All Languages” WordPress plugin for the greeting from Geneviève. If you get something other that your local language equivalent of “Hello” please let me know. I’m still testing it.

Snapping back to weird, here is an elegant Longsnout Flathead (Thysanophrys chiltonae):

These are very common on our reefs. They are ambush hunters. Their camouflage abilities are amazing as you can see in this post.

Let’s flip back to beauty for a moment:

Here is a sweet shot of Roz Savage with some lovely orange Antheas and a Feather Star in the foreground. I was so pleased with this shot. It’s definitely going in MadDog’s Little Book of Memories.

Now, this one is not ugly, but it is weird looking. It’s a common Scorpion Shell (Lambis scorpius):

It doesn’t look like much when you first see it laying in the sand.

But, gently turn it over and:

Zowie! That’s a whole different thing there.

Mother Ocean is full of surprises.

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A Curious Collection

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on June 8th, 2010 by MadDog
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Okay, today I’m just winging it. I have no coherent plan, no petty rage to vent, no earth-shattering news, no malicious gossip (no, wait . . . I hate that stuff), and no gonzo wisdom to dispense. I’m reasonably calm, considering the mountainous pile of work which I fear will soon avalanche down upon me and out of which no St. Bernard will come bearing a little keg of Monk-crafted brandy will come to dig me.* I partook of my placebo this morning, consisting of a tiny nibble off of the edge of a 5mg Valium tablet. I know that it’s not enough to affect my body chemistry, it simply lets me feel as if I have some control. I feel like a mouse nibbling on a teeny-weeny chunk of cheese which must last him for a month. The things you do when the mind starts to go . . .

So, I’ll spare you the chatter and show you some images which have lifted me out of the muck a couple of times already this week. We’ll start with a sunrise for which I can credit only God. Sorry folks. Simple physical processes are not up to the task:

Thanks, God. I needed that one.

This is a picture I got a few weeks ago up at Guntabag with my old buddy Tag Tap. He took me to a tiny little house to see this wonderful old man who they say is eighty-three years old:

It is hard for me to keep tears from my eyes when I look at this image of a man who has lived almost literally from the stone age to the space age. How much the world has changed during his lifetime. He would have been born at a time when nearly the entire population of Papua New Guinea lived in areas which had never been mapped and were presumed to be uninhabited. I do not know his name, and If I did, I would not tell you. Names of venerated persons, especially those who are in the twilight zone are often not spoken aloud. A glance or pointing of the chin in his direction is sufficient to indicate the subject of the conversation. He was alert and could speak, offering to shake my hand. However, he was clearly confused concerning why a foriegner would want to come to meet him and take his photograph. I’m going to get a good framed print made of this one and send it up to him.

I can’t get enough of the Finisterre Mountains.  Despite being surrounded by mountains to the west, the Finisterres,  across Astrolabe Bay,  are the only ones which we can see clearly:

I’ll call that one Too Blue.

I’m calling this one Boards Over Water at Blueblood:

The sand from out feet on the deck and the ripples of sand under the water below the deck connected furiously in my medula oblongata. I stared curiously at my hands as they, of their own accord, set the controls on my trusty Canon G11 and framed the shot. I heard a subtle “click” inside my head when the shutter released. It was surreal.

Here is a happy, happy picture:

It is (Rozlings take note) Roz Savage, Genevieve Tremblay, me and Jo Noble in Faded Glory  on our way out to Planet Rock on Saturday. Thanks to pal Meri Armstrong for the snap. Meri was intensely concerned with getting the iconic Madang Coastwatchers Monument in the background. I enlarged my bicep only slightly – honest! And, by the way, I am not “making a donkey” out of Genevieve. I’m giving the Peace Sign.

Which reminds me. I haven’t shown the Faded Glory  Diving Crew t-shirt logo for a long time:

I’m putting it up here because I’m looking for a t-shirt company who can make some up for me. If anybody out there has any ideas, please leave me a comment or send me an email.

Just a couple of more and then you can get back to work before the boss comes around. I love spirals. When you are in the sea you are surrounded by them. Here is one of my favourite spiral shots:

What I like about them is that none of them are perfect. They are only suggestions of what spirals might be if they tried harder, if they cared more about being true to their good nature. They remind me of humans.

So, now that I’ve gone completely silly, I may as well carry on. I saw this bottle on the otherwise pristine reef at Planet Rock:

As you can see, the reef is desperately trying to incorporate it into itself. It is a hopeless task, because the bottle is of a different nature from the reef. The reef lives. The bottle is dead and always has been. The bottle does not belong to the reef and the reef does not want it there. So, the reef hides its shame and restores its beauty by absorbing the foreign bottle into itself.

I’m calling it Message in a Bottle.

* Please note the incredibly clumsy sentence which I crafted to avoid ending it with the prepostiion “out”.

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