More Freaky Underwater Stuff

Posted in Under the Sea on February 2nd, 2010 by MadDog
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I have a few more shots from our recent dive at Magic Passage to show to you this morning. I’m not feeling very chatty today, so you’ll be spared the usual verbal assault that comes along with the pictures. The more images that I process from the Canon G11 the more impressed I am. Now, if I can just find a student, I can get started on something that I’ve wanted to do for years – teaching underwater photography!

This is a cute litte baby Giant Clam (Tridacna maxima) only about as wide as your hand:Awwww, cootchie, cootchie, coo. If you click to enlarge, you will see its “eyes”, which are the turquoise spots around the edges. I had a hard time taking this shot, since I had to get the camera close, but every time I did, the clam would sense the shadow – they can’t really “see”, but simply sense light and dark – and withdraw into its shell.

Here is a nice shot of some Feather Stars (Comantheria briareus):These things are all over the place. There are many different colours. They have little “feet” to hold onto the rocks and they move very slowly about, looking for the best supply of food drifting past. The arms are very sticky and break off easily, so you have to be careful when moving around them not to cause them harm.

This is a beautiful Blue Encrusting Sponge (Haliclona sp):I have noticed that these are spreading like weeds in the area of Magic Passage. I don’t know what that means, but I’m a little worried about it. It is ridiculous that there are no facilities for marine research in Madang, something which I am hoping to do something about soon. More about that later – stay tuned. Anybody out there wanting to do marine research in the area should contact me.

I have a couple of new Sea Squirts for you today. This is a Sea Squirt of the Botryllus genus:The species name was not given in my resource book. It may not even have a name yet. There is so much here that is unidentified. Geeks may notice that the colony is growing on a different kind of Sea Squirt, possibly a species of Polycarpa. You can clearly see the spiracle at the upper left – it’s the big black hole.

This is a Sea Squirt of the Didemnum genus and a real beauty it is:The colour is amazing. You can also see that one Feather Star has chosen this spot to perch for a while. It is interesting that the colours are similar. I can’t imagine that this is anything less than chance, since there are absolutely no brains involved here. It’s blind luck that the hue of the Feather Star and the Sea Squirt colony end up being the same.

Finally, here is another shot of the Papuan Scorpionfish (Scorpaenopsis papuensis) which I showed to you recently. It is a bit easier to see the fish in this shot:Most of the scorpionfish are well camouflaged. The Papuan is a master. I’m the serious photographer in our little mob of divers, but there are several who are better at spotting things. I let them swim around looking for stuff and I wait to hear someone banging on a SCUBA tank. Then I go over an shoot the critter.

It’s good to have friends.

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A Few Lower Invertebrates

Posted in Under the Sea on January 25th, 2010 by MadDog
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Ah, the pictures are here, but the words, they don’t flow today. If you suffer from writer’s block, it’s handy to have a camera and a wet suit. Let’s jump right in and see if I can loosen my tongue a bit. I have a few recent amusing photos of lowly invertebrates to get us going, including a couple of puzzles. I’ll begin with something that’s not supposed to be here, assuming that I have correctly identified it.

This is what appears to me to be the Red Encrusting Sponge (Monanchora barbadensis):There is no denying that is simultaneously beautiful and spectacular, a combination of attributes not achieved since the days of the likes of Sophia Loren and Elke Sommer. The problem with it being:  it’s not supposed to be here. I can only assume that either I have misidentified it (most likely) or  it has begun to wander dramatically from its home waters in the Caribbean. It is even more stunning in person, as I am certain were Sophia and Elke, though I missed my chance to verify this.

Switching colours and approaching certainty we have here the Blue Encrusting Sponge (Haliclona sp):It’s equally spectacular in colour, but a little more messy in form.

Moving back to a warmer colour, if not improving the shape, we have this rather lumpy orange sponge which I can’t identify at all:I can find plenty of orange sponges on the web, but none of them fit the profile of this blob. It is incredibly bright. You can see it from a great distance. Apparently the colour is particularly good at penetrating sea water. Why anything that can’t move quickly would want to be so flashy, I can’t imagine. It’s like wearing a sign that says, “Eat me!”

This is a particularly neat, round Acropora hyacinthus  coral:This colony was particularly green, which caught my eye.

As I was working with the image, I noted that I had caught more detail than I imagined. Here is a close-up of the center of the colony showing the individual polyps:Quite a lot going on down deep inside there.

You’ve seen images of this Sea Squirt (Polycarpa aurata)  here before, but I’m showing you this one because it’s the best specimen image that I’ve managed yet. It shows all of the features needed to make a positive identification:Not that that’s critical in this case. There’s simply nothing else that looks anything like it.

Finally, here’s an image that features not one but two  Sea Squirt species in one frame:The green slimy looking stuff is a Sea Squirt (Lissoclinum patellum)  which I only recently came to the realisation of what it is. I’ve been looking at them for years, wondering what the heck they were. They look for all the world like blobs of moldy mint jelly. The tan thingie in the middle I am less sure about. I previously thought that these were some kind of sponge. Now I’ve changed my mind (easy enough). I now think that this also is a Sea Squirt of the genus Botryllus.

Did the earth shake for you?

Never mind. Just do as I do. Look at the pretty pictures. I can’t remember the last time that I actually read  National Geographic.

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Above and Below

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on December 15th, 2009 by MadDog
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A few days ago in front of our house the sky was sombre and troubled. The lighting was terrible, but I gave it a go anyway. It took nine frames from left to right stitched together in Photoshop to make this rather strange panorama:Front Yard PanoramaIt does capture the sweep of the sky nicely, but it gives a completely distorted idea of what is in front of our house. If you can imagine looking back over your left shoulder as you stand facing the opposite side of the harbour (in the middle of the image) you would see the coconut trees on the left side of the image. Then, as you turn your head slowly to the right you will have to look hard over your right shoulder to see the coconut trees on the right. The image covers about 200°.

How hard can it be to take a picture of a cloud? Well, as it turns out, it’s not so easy, if you want to capture all of the airy nuances:Cumulus Congestus cloudThis nice towering cumulus cloud (Cumulus congestus) was shooting up like a rocket when I snapped it. The trick is to expose for the brightest spot on the cloud. If you set your camera’s metering system (built-in light meter) to ‘spot metering’ you can put the brightest place in the cloud in the center of the frame and your camera will set that as ‘white’. Then you will either need to press the shutter button part-way down to lock in the exposure or use an “Automatic Exposure Lock” button, if your camrea has one. I also used a polarising filter in front of the lens to darken the sky. I think that the polariser also helps to bring out some of the shady details in the cloud.

Here is a shot of the beautiful reef colours at the South end of Leper Island:South end of Leper Island looking North to Pig IslandI guess that I’m lucky, because green is my favourite colour. There are about a million shades of green here. Green is everywhere!

We’ve been keeping a close eye on Kar Kar Island  since it was mistakenly reported that it erupted violently. It looks pretty peaceful in this shot:Kar Kar Island from Tab AnchorageEarlier this year we did see steam and brownish smoke coming from two vents which appeared to be on the side of the crater.

So much for above. How about below?

While diving The Green Dragon  B-25 bomber a few days ago, there was a small school of Humpnose Bigeye Bream (Monotaxis grandoculis)  swimming around under the port wing. I usually don’t pay much attention to them as they are rather a plain fish. Suddenly I noticed this individual who, apparently, had recently barely escaped with his life from a predator:

Humpnose Bigeye Bream (Monotaxis grandoculis) with injuryThat’s a fairly nasty wound. It appears to have happened recently, but already it seems to be healing inwards from the edges. This reminds me of the wound that our dog, Sheba, had on her foreleg.

Sometimes I come across something that is so unusual that it leaves me scratching my head. This is called an encrusting sponge. There are many kinds; this one is a species of Haliclona:Encrusting Blue Sponge (Haliclona sp.)There are, strangely enough, very few invertebrates in the ocean which are truly blue. Aside from the beautiful blue starfish, this is the brightest blue invertebrate that I can think of.

Finally, here is another head-scratcher. When I looked at this image I was stopped for a moment figuring out what I was looking at:Tail of Banded Sea Krait (Laticauda colubrina)Glancing at the frames on either side of it, I suddenly realised that it is the tail of the Banded Sea Krait (Laticauda colubrina)  which I showed to you a couple of days ago. Given that this snake is at least 1.5 metres long, this gives you an idea of how deeply they go hunting in the crevices of the reef. You can clearly see the flattened paddle-like tail from which the genus takes its name.

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