Another Fine Mess

Posted in Under the Sea on June 14th, 2010 by MadDog
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Thanks to the Queen’s Birthday, a public holiday here in Papua New Guinea, I did not have to go to work today, a bright and sunny Monday. That gave me a chance to work on one of my other jobs and write an article for Niugini Blue  about diving with Roz Savage. Well, it was a productive day, but I’m knackered, so I will spare you my usual nonsensical chatter.

My Facebook friend Kevin Lock sent me a link to a very scary site which allows you to put the footprint of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico right over the top of your house, if you are so inclined. My sense of geography is askew because of living in the same place for nearly half of my life, so I wanted to get an idea of the scale of the disaster. I put it right over Madang:

I was dumbfounded. All that I could think of was to be thankful that we have no ecological woes that could, even in the worst possible case, hold a candle to this one. That would be the same as comparing a firecracker to a hydrogen bomb.

I spent years in the U. S. Army National Guard flying helicopters. A large percentage of our missions were in support of disaster relief. I have seen close up and personal the kind of personal tragedy that such disasters cause. This one goes well beyond my imagination.

To get my mind off of those dreadful memories, I’ll show you the wing of The Green Dragon  B-25 bomber near Wongat Island:

What you see is the remaining metal framework of the control surface at the rear edge of the wing.

Inside the fuselage at the corner of one of the ammunition boxes was a spindly shrimp with an eel poking its head out next to it:

I wonder if they are even aware of each other.

Down on the bottom, behind the wing is a Heliofungia actiniformis  coral full of Periclimenes  shrimp:

The shot above is about as good as I can get with the Canon G11 in the low light conditions. I had to shoot at ISO 400. If you know what that means, you’ll have respect for this little camera a bit bigger than a pack of cigarettes, if anybody remembers what that looks like.

Here is another shot that gives an idea of how many of these little nearly transparent shrimp you might find in one coral:

They were hopping around like tiny bunnies.

This is very young coral colony which Monty Armstrong found out near the nose of the bomber. It was as delicate as any flower I’ve ever seen:

Its current size is about five or six centimetres. It will be interesting to see how fast it grows.

I’m tired and I still have captions to write. There will be more useless mumblings tomorrow.

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From the Strange to the Beautiful

Posted in Under the Sea on March 22nd, 2010 by MadDog
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I have a couple of days left to irritate you with my babbling on about my solo dive off the beach at Wongat Island  last Saturday. I worked on a few more images yesterday evening. They run from the very strange to the very beautiful. Get ready for a trip.

I can sit back and close my eyes and imagine plunging through an alien atmosphere in a space capsule. When I land and walk around in my space suit (stay with me here) I’m stunned by the strange and wonderful creatures which abide in this hostile world. I see things like this:Every time that I dive I am acutely aware that I am entering another world. The image above is of a couple of higher invertebrates, namely Sea Squirts. This species is Phallusia julinea.  Never mind the racy name (see φαλλός ). They are strange by any standard.

I had a lot of trouble getting this shot of a Blackbarred Razorfish (Iniistius tetrazona):They are very skittish and stay just far enough away that you can’t get a good shot. I had to get this one from about three or four metres away, which is much more distant than my normal shots of small subjects. My average camera to subject distance for little critters is 3 – 30 cm. This fish is in the family of Wrasses. This is a teenager in what is called the Initial Phase. This is the middle phase of development. The Juvenile Phase comes first and the Terminal Phase represents the adults. Very often the first two stages appear remarkably different from the adults.

This freakishly beautiful monstrosity is a juvenile Papuan Scorpionfish (Scorpaenopsis papuensis):They are ridiculously easy to photograph, since all they do is hang in the water waiting an unsuspecting fish to mistake them for a bit of rubbish and move a bit too close to the toothy end. Then, with a clicking noise and a movement too quick for the human eye to see, the fish disappears into the mouth of the Lionfish, which is the common local name for these wonderful, poison-spined fish.

Here is a group of Periclimenes  shrimp enjoying themselves at the local disco located in a coral. The name of the joint is Heliofungia actiniformis.  You can pop in there for drink and shake your booty any day except Sunday from 8 PM until the early hours of the morning:Lady shrimp are admitted with no cover charge and receive a gratuitous cocktail of their choice to enhance their mood.

I accidentally got my camera stuck in the JPG mode for about half of the shots that I got on the dive. I usually shoot RAW:That statement has nothing to do with my attire. It’s a technical thing that you either know about or don’t. I’m not going to bore you with the explanation. The problem with not  going RAW is that you lose a lot of control over the colours, especially when shooting underwater. The shot above may look nice to you, but I can see a lot of problems with the hues. Never mind. The Chromis  are pretty anyway. I couldn’t figure out which species they are.

Speaking of pretty, I’ll show you pretty.

I found a nice little crab shell on the bottom and brought it up on Faded Glory.  We never take anything living from the reef, but an empty shell (with no resident hermit crab) or a crab shell is fair game. Our friend Ush started fooling around with it and I grabbed my camera. One doesn’t want to miss opportunities for the Kodak Moments:

So, I say once again. Beauty is where you find it.

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I Bet That You Have Never Eaten One of These

Posted in Under the Sea on December 17th, 2009 by MadDog
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Not much is happening here in Madang. That’s just as well, since the mood here this year is distinctly sour. Town is crowded with people moving from place to place and the tension in the air is electric. There is a liquor ban in place until at least after New Year, some say until March. It won’t do a lot of good, since there is plenty of bootleg beer and weed available. Like the Chinese say, the next month or so will be “interesting times”.

Anyway, to prepare your palate for the holidays, I’ll show you some items that I am nearly certain will not be showing up on your menu.

This is a familiar character on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi,  Mr. Lizardfish. Its given name is Reef – that’s Reef Lizardfish. Does that sound like a good name for a Hollywood actor? It’s a stage name, anyway. Who would buy tickets to see someone named Synodus variegatus  in a movie?Reef Lizardfish (Synodus variegatus)

Never mind. I took an extra silly pill this morning.

This adorable little thing has the equally adorable common name of the Papuan Toby (Canthigaster papua):Papuan Toby (Canthigaster papua)It’s a flash-lit shot that I got at the B-25 bomber The Green Dragon.  The colours are slightly oversaturated by the flash, but it’s so pretty that I’m not going to complain. Sometimes I prefer to forget my fussiness about getting things accurate and go for the gorgeous. This little sweetie persuaded me to let it shine.

Here is a tasty little Nudibranch. It’s a shame that they don’t make candy that looks this pretty. It’s a Phyllidia coelestis:Nudibranch (Phyllidia coelestis)

Nudibranchs are becoming strangely scarce around Madang. I am very suspicious about the pollution level in Astrolabe Bay.  First the sharks disappear and now the Nudibranchs. What’s going on?

This little beauty is a Latticed Sandperch (Parapercis clathrata):Latticed Sandperch (Parapercis clathrata)

I shot it on the top of the reef at Magic Passage  last Saturday. The light was very good. In this shot I deliberately oversaturaded the colours of the fish. It’s a trick that I use to remind myself of the colours that I saw. Fortunately I have an excellent visual memory. Unfortunately, I can barely remember my name, or anybody else’s. I can remember a face for a decade. Five minutes after coming aboard Faded Glory  and introducing themselves, I have to ask new divers to remind me of their names.

I had the brilliant idea of showing you a different coloured Christmas Tree Worm (Spirobranchus giganteus)  every day until Christmas:Christmas Tree Worm (Spirobranchus giganteus)

I don’t know how that is going to play out. I’m running out good images in my accumulation. I’ll have to get a lot of shots on Saturday.

Finally, the least likely to show up on your plate are these miniscule, but undoubtedly yummy shrimp:Shrimp in fungiform (Heliofungia actiniformis) coral (species unknown, possibly Periclimenes holthuisi)
These are tiny, nearly transparent commensal shrimp that live in a fungiform coral (Heliofungia actiniformis).  The species here is the problem – identifying it. It could be Periclimenes holthuisi  or possibly P. venustus,  though there are specific markings on each of those species that are missing or distorted in these specimens.

The interesting thing here is that it is possible  that you are looking at an undescribed species. It happens all the time here. Every year species formerly undescribed are discovered near Madang. This could  be one.

Anybody out there want to check this one out?

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Underwater Miscellanea – Yet Again

Posted in Under the Sea on November 28th, 2009 by MadDog
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I’m working like a dog today, the day after American Thanksgiving to get a new calendar put together, hopefully to make a few bucks selling it. Before I go back to the Publishing Department to use their equipment, let me show you a few of the less ordinary images from my library. I don’t have a theme today. My mind is more or less blank. That seems to be happening a lot lately.

This is a spooky image of the interior of The Henry Leith,  a 34 metre cargo ship that was scuttled off Wongat Island  for an artificial reef and dive attraction:Interior of The Henry Leigh near Wongat Island

Creepy, eh? The image seemed to be more interesting in monochrome. Simon and Garfunkel were wrong. Not everything  looks worse in black and white.

This lump-of-coal thingie is an Egg Cowrie (Ovula ovum).  It’s quite rare to see them. They always seem to favour this Leather Coral (Sarcophyton sp.)  as a resting place:Egg Cowrie - Ovula ovum

They make horrible photographic subjects. The mantle is as black as the inside of a witch’s psyche. I’ve often wondered if it looks different to fish. Maybe it reflects some portion of the light spectrum that our eyes can’t see. You can barely see some of the snow white shell peeking through the seam where the two halves of the mantle meet.

This, I think, is a very juvenile specimen of the coral Heliofungia actiniformis:Coral - Heliofungia actiniformis ?I put it in here because, to us divers, it is a cute little baby thing. We bubble stupid stuff to each other like, “Awwww, look at the sweet little baby Heliofungia actiniformis.  Coochie coochie coo.”

It’s true.

Speaking of babies, these will grow up to have very big teeth, indeed:

Barracuda [juvenile] species unknownThey are juvenile barracuda. I don’t know what species. It’s interesting that the juvenile form here looks like a perfectly miniaturised copy of the adult.

Okay, back to work on the calendar.

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