A New Fish

Posted in Under the Sea on July 26th, 2010 by MadDog
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Yesterday I took a long overdue holiday from journaling daily. I let my compulsion go and worked on other things. A family portrait session for friends took up most of the morning. I came back and worked on some editing projects in the afternoon, fully intending to read for a while and maybe take a nap. The nap would follow naturally after about fifteen minutes of reading. Neither the reading or the nap eventuated. I ended up working on images for our friend Ush’s article for Niugini Blue  called A New Fish.  Ush came over to the house and we edited her text and Photoshopped images for the article.

One of the images was from Saturday’s dive on The Henry Leith  near Wongat Island.  Here is Ush half-way down in the cargo hold:

I asked Ush to write a short article about her experiences while completing her PADI Open Water Diver course. This course covers all the training and knowledge required to allow one to dive safely down to eighteen metres.

The dive on The Henry Leith  was Ush’s second dive since finishing the course. I was happy to see that she had been well instructed. She did very well on the dive. I did note that she was fascinated by this Trumpetfish (Aulostomus chinensis):

It and a friend are almost always hanging around the bow area of the Henry. They are very shy. I was lucky to get the shot above when the fish was moving from one bit of cover to another.

They are nearly a half-metre long, so it’s impossible to get fine details in one shot. You have to take a picture of the head:

As you can see, it has a very unusual mouth.

Then you shoot the tail:

The tail is just an unusual as the head.

The Henry Leith  is covered with life. This is a large sponge with colonies of coral on each side:

One could probably complete a Doctoral degree by describing the life on this one wreck. I’ve been photographing it for almost twenty-five years and I still find new thing on every dive.

There are some familiar friends, however. This Golden Damsel (Amblyglyphidodon aureus)  has been haning around just aft of the cargo hold for several years:

Every time I stop to photograph it, it tries to bite me, sometimes successfully. The red stain on my fingers is not blood. Blood appears green underwater. The colour comes from touching bits of corroded iron while I steady myself for taking shots.

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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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Anita and Wouter Dive Madang

Posted in Under the Sea on January 12th, 2010 by MadDog
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Friends from Belgium, Anita and Wouter and Anita’s father, Jos are visiting this week with us here in Madang and I am enjoying half-days off from work to take them diving and sightseeing. Today I’ll show you some images from our dive on The Henry Leith,  which you have seen featured many times here on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.

Here is a nice shot of Anita and Wouter hovering over the wreck in unusually clear water, something that is a rarity in the area where the wreck has rested for decades:

As usual, the hulk was teeming with fascinating life. Here is a lovely young Spotfin Lionfish (Pterois antennata)  lurking in a corner in wait for an unsuspecting fish to pass by:You can use the search box for SPOTFIN and find other images of this beautiful fish.

This is a close-up image of the polyps of a sea fan:I have uploaded this image in a higher resolution that I normally use so that you can see the delicate structure of the individual colonial organisms. It’s worth clicking it to enlarge the image.

This is a Periclimenes  shrimp. I can’t determine the species. Many of them are so similar that it takes a very close examination to figure out which is which:


They are also difficult to photograph, as the tentacles of the anemone are constantly waving about and the shrimp itself is restless and does not like the camera lens hovering a few centimetres above it.

This is a very beautiful nudibranch that Wolter found hiding in a difficult to reach spot. I should be able to find this species in my invertabrates book, but it also eludes me:


I need to invest someday in a dedicated nudibranch book. As helpful as the web is for finding things, I still prefer a real paper book in which to find species photos and descriptions. Wading through the web to find a particular species is simply too time consuming for me to work it into my hectic life.

Along with the critters inhabiting the deck we found three juvenile Circular Spadefish [or Batfish] (Platax orbicularis) wandering around near the bottom at the stern:

It was dark there, so flash was necessary, but this youngster was remarkably cooperative, allowing me to approach within an arm’s reach. Fish rarely pose for the photographer, but this one showed some interest. The only problem was the extreme contrast between the white, highly reflective bars and the darker portions. Still, this is one of the best shots of this species that I’ve managed so far.

We have many more dives to report and a nice collection of images coming up later this week.

Stay tuned.

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The Henry Leith – A Ghost Ship

Posted in Under the Sea on November 1st, 2009 by MadDog
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On Saturday, we motored up to Wongat Island  in our dive boat, Faded Glory.  There are two world-class dives there within a couple of hundred metres of each other. One is the B-25 Mitchell bomber, The Green Dragon.  The other is a scuttled cargo vessel, The Henry Leith.  Bob Halstead bought the wreck for K1.00 and sank it as a diving attraction. It’s beautifully preserved. I believe that a clever student could probably work up a Doctoral thesis in Marine Biology without ever leaving the thirty-four metre length of this beautiful ghost ship.

I have been stalking a critter for a good specimen shot for about ten years. It is very elusive and quite rare. Near Madang, The Henry Leith  is the only place that I can guarantee  that you might  see one. For now, I’ll call it the “Mystery Fish.” That’s because I want to see if anybody is paying attention. The first person to leave a comment with the correct common and taxonomic name of this fish, based only on this partial view, wins a prize. The prize is that you get to be first:

Mystery Fish - Leave a comment if you know what it is.Yes, I’m cheap. What did you expect, a Rolex?

In the next couple of days, I’ll be showing you the shots that I’ve been trying to get for over ten years.

Here’s another difficult fish to photograph. It’s commonly known as a Trumpet Fish, but you can call it Aulostomus chinensis  if you like:Trumpetfish (Aulostomus chinensis)They constantly try to hide from you in very curious ways. They assume odd positions. I was upside down with salt water gushing into my sinus cavities, nearly dying to sneeze, when I got this shot. UW photographers have to take risks for their prizes. You can see the railing of The Henry Leith  upside down at an odd angle. Possibly predators have difficulty matching memory-stored food images up with objects in the water if they are in unexpected configurations. That’s my utterly unscientific guess.

This is a lovely, snowflaky, starry coral which I am pretty sure is the Pipe Organ Coral (Tubipora musica). For once the taxonomic name makes sense, if you remember your High School Latin (yes, I am  that old):Pipe Organ Coral (Tubipora musica) [uncertain]I said that I’m pretty sure about the identification. There are quite a few corals that have a similar appearance. I forgot to look at the base of this one, so I’m thinking it may possibly be some Anthelia  species, which are very variable.

And now, would you care to venture a guess as to what this is? I bet that most people would be able to identify this as the eyes of a stingray which is hiding just beneath the sand.  This is why they are troublesome to divers. You often cannot see it easily until you have already frightened it and it escapes. That’s when the stinger is most likely to get you.Blue-Spotted Stingray (Dasyatis kuhlii)As I approached this one he began to rise up slowly in preparation for flight:Blue-Spotted Stingray (Dasyatis kuhlii)A second after this shot, there was nothing left in the camera frame but swirling sand.

SITE NOTES: I’m hoping that you will find that Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  is loading much faster. I’ve reduced the eqo-stroking clutter in the side bar – the locations of our visitors and a visitor live feed. I’ve also dumped a few plugins that made calls to third-party sites and slowed things down. There are now seven pages on HOME instead of fifteen. I hope that this improves the experience for everyone. I’m also not bothering to link to every phrase or word on which I have posted before. I know that I’m supposed to do that to keep people from drifting off to some other site. However, for dedicated readers wanting to see what else I’ve written before on a given subject, use the Search box, or click on the title of the post that you want to read and you will get a “single” page with that post and up to seven related posts listed beneath. Remember also that you can “Click a Tag” in the sidebar to see all posts to which I have added that tag.

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More Wongat Island Miscellanea

Posted in Under the Sea on February 27th, 2009 by MadDog
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I’m almost finished reminiscing about Wednesday afternoon’s dive. The torture will soon be over.

Amidst the abundant life there is a small anemone that has been near the bow of the Henry Leith   for many years. It is the true home of Nemo and his extended family. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. Nemo lives in Madang and always has. All you kiddies out there, watch Nemo now. In case you are wondering, Nemo is the big one that keeps coming into the middle of the shot:Back over at the Green Dragon B-25 bomber I took this shot of the yoke (the “steering wheel”) with the usual bunch of tiny fish swimming around:

Yoke of the Green Dragon B-25 bomber in Madang, Papua New Guinea
Up on the tip of the port wing, where the giant barrel sponge is, I captured this Pixy Hawkfish [red variation] (Cirrhitichthys oxycephalus):
Pixy Hawkfish (red variation) (Cirrhitichthys oxycephalus)
Much, much too much work at work is driving me crazy. It’s cutting deeply into my playtime. Eunie will be travelling to the USA and Canada during April, May, and half of June. I will be a temporary bachelor – not one my favourite things.

Never mind. I’m planning a trip to the highlands to climb Mt. Wilhelm.  I’ll be writing an article f or Our Way  magazine about an insane Englishman who is planning to jump off of the top (with a parachute, one would assume). I’ll also be going on a research trip to Rabaul to get as close to the volcano as I possibly can. I promise you some interesting shots. I’ll also be doing some diving there and grab more images.

At 65 life is beginning to get interesting.

About time!

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Birds, Trees, Airplanes, Frisky Fish

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on February 26th, 2009 by MadDog
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I’ve got it all for you today.

This morning, my garden was sizzling with warm morning sunshine. I felt like I was 60 again. Whoopee! I was standing on Faded Glory  looking back at the house. I quickly brought my camera up to my eye by instinct and caught this crow flying past. The blue sky, warm orange sunlight on the trunks of the coconut tree, and the ominous black bird make an interesting juxtaposition:

Sky, coconuts, bird
Then I heard an Air Niugini jet about to take off. The runway is close to our house. I snap-shot again, just barely having time to zoom. There is even a small school of fish jumping at the bottom of the frame on the right:
Air Niugini departing Madang
A click on the image to enlarge will give you a view of the logo on the tail.

Lastly, here is an unfortunately green movie clip that I got on our Wednesday dive on the Henry Leith.  It is two Three-spot Dascyllus (Dascyllus trimaculatus)  getting it on (Excuse the minor vulgarity. If I use the word – I’ll spell it out – “esss – eee – exxx” in a post, I’ll be knocked off of millions of computers.):They take turns circling, cleaning, depositing, fertilising, and chasing away potential egg stealers (including myself – they BITE!).

I just noticed while I was checking this post that, if you turn the sound up, you can hear over my breathing the sound that many of these small fishes make (Damselfishes of all kinds, including the Anemonefishes). It is a small, quick grunting sound. Turn your sound up and see if you can pick it up. They most commonly make this sound when they are perturbed. You can hear the sound most clearly starting at about 1:13 into the clip running to about 1:45. It comes back again at about 1:45 and you can hear it on and off until near the end of the clip.

Sorry for the horrible green cast. The water was very green and I haven’t yet figured out how to change the tint of my video clips. If there’s anybody out there with a suggestion how to do that, please leave a comment.

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Weirdness at Wongat Island

Posted in Humor, Under the Sea on February 25th, 2009 by MadDog
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We treated ourselves to a mid-week dive yesterday afternoon. In fact, we did two separate dives on one tank each. We went to the Green Dragon  B-25 bomber first and then to the wreck of the Henry Leith,  both near Wongat Island.

The water was very murky around the bomber, so macro shots were the only option. I found this nudibranch on one of the ammunition boxes in the dorsal gun mount:
Nudibranch on the Green Dragon B-25 bomber at Wongat IslandI can’t find it in my invertebrates book, but it’s pretty common. It always makes me think of a fancy bit of candy that you might find in an expensive sweets shop in Vienna. UPDATE: It is a Pipek’s phyllidiopsis (Phyllidiopsis pipeki),   as if you care.

Anyone who knows Carol Dover understands that she is a natural actress. Point a camera at her and she will start hamming. It’s in her blood. Case in point:

The gang was hanging on the anchor rope above the Henry Leith. As soon as Carol caught sight of the camera, the show was on.

I got a couple of other nice videos that I will post tomorrow. YouTube seems to be slow today processing them.

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