Massive Coral Bleaching at Planet Rock

Posted in Under the Sea on March 7th, 2011 by MadDog
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On Saturday I had my last dive in Madang for several months. We went out to Planet Rock  in Astrolabe Bay.  I had not been there since October of last year. Fortunately I’m feeling much better than I was then. I distinctly remember feeling suicidal on that dive. Things are greatly improved since then. Life could get interesting, so I’m happy to stick around for a while. I still have important work which provides me with a living and I have many other good things in my life. I’m coming around. I’m on my way to adventure for several months starting in two more days. All this is good news.

What is definitely not good news is the massive coral bleaching that is happening all up and down the coast near Madang. I’m not an expert on anything, but I think that I can safely say that the episode is caused by the rise of local water temperature.

I can remember when the average water temperature on a dive to twenty metres was about 27 or 28 ° C. Now it is more like 30 or 31. This is certainly enough to trigger coral bleaching on a long-term basis. If bleaching episodes last long enough, the coral dies completely and the reef becomes broken rubble in short order. New coral growths have a hard time establishing themselves on rubble, because it is not a solid foundation. As soon as a new colony begins to grow, the bit of rubble is disturbed by wave action caused by storms and the colony is dislodged.

Here is a large plate coral which looks to me as if it will soon be rubble.

Nearly this entire colony is affected to some extent.

Here is a close up of another type of coral which will most likely not recover. It’s difficult to tell without specialised knowledge whether or not the coral polyps will survive. To me, it appears that these are empty shells.

It looks bad enough up close.

It looks even worse from a distance.

This patch of dead or dying coral is about a hundred metres long.

Here is another badly bleached area about fifty metres wide.

All around the top of the rock we saw hundreds of patches of bleached coral during a forty-five minute dive. I would say that this is an increase of about fifty times as much dying coral over any cases which I have seen before. It is very worrisome.

We did not spend the entire dive surveying dead coral. Rich Jones found this little octopus in a hole.

It is devilishly difficult to photograph something back in a hole. You simply cannot jam in enough light for a decent exposure back in the hole without overexposing the coral which is surrounding it. In the shot above you can see one of the legs and the eye.

The octopus had captured a shell occupied by a hermit crab and it was busy trying to extract it for lunch when we came along. I pulled the shell from its tentacles so get the picture above.

Then I was faced with an ethical dilemma. Do I turn the hermit crab back over to the tender mercies of the octopus to suffer its natural fate and allow the octopus to enjoy its rightful meal or do I carry the shell a few metres away and drop it, giving the hermit crab a new lease on life, but leaving the octopus hungry?

I decided to put things back the way we found them and let nature take its course.

But I did feel bad for the hermit crab.

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Miscellanea

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on October 28th, 2010 by MadDog
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I’m still wrapping my mind around the idea of getting back to the roots of Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.  We are up to nearly one thousand posts. That seems impossible to me. If the average post runs 1,000 words* then, if that guess is close to reality, that works out to be about 1,000,000 words of pure drivel which I have produced in a little over three years. The average length of a novel is 60,000 – 100,000 words. In sheer volume, I’ve produced roughly 12.5 novels during that period of time. Just think what I could have accomplished if I had put my mind to it.

I would have joined the sweaty masses who have written “The Next Great Novel” which absolutely nobody wants read, much less publish. In fact, I would have produced a dozen of them. How fortunate it is that I did not waste my time pursuing such a ridiculous dream. I would love to write fiction. The problem with writing is that a great many people do it rather well.

It is the same with acting. All of my life I have had dreams of being an actor. I’ve been in many amateur productions. A few scatterbrains even said that I might posses a smidgeon of talent. And therein lies the rub. A gozillion people can act or write reasonably well, well enough that one can stand to watch them play roles or read with some amusement what they write. However, even those with prodigious talents find success elusive. It requires intricate and complicated connections, fortuitous circumstances, and great magnificent piles of good luck to get a break.

Faithful reader ZydecoDoug commented yesterday that my Green Coral Imperfection shot “belongs on a magazine cover”. Well, I wholeheartedly agree. The problem is how to attract the attention of those holding the purse strings.

Hey, I’m beginning to bore myself. Let’s get on with Miscellanea.

A rather strange definition might be in order. I ripped this from some site at Princeton University:

  • S: (adj) assorted, miscellaneous, mixed, motley, sundry (consisting of a haphazard assortment of different kinds) “an arrangement of assorted spring flowers”; “assorted sizes”; “miscellaneous accessories”; “a mixed program of baroque and contemporary music”; “a motley crew”; “sundry sciences commonly known as social”- I.A.Richards
  • S: (adj) many-sided, multifaceted, miscellaneous, multifarious (having many aspects) “a many-sided subject”; “a multifaceted undertaking”; “multifarious interests”; “the multifarious noise of a great city”; “a miscellaneous crowd”

So, now that we know what it means . . .

I have gotten more and more interested in shooting faces recently. I’m found here and there attempting to get candid shots. It’s very annoying. I caught George up at Blueblood a couple of weeks ago:

I was really going for the lighting here. George has a rather dramatic face. The light here seemed about right to me. When you can’t control anything, you take what you can get and make the best of it. I’d like to do more shooting under controlled conditions, but then you lose the spontaneity and you’re into poses. The little bit of carved post at the far right is a nice touch. I now wish that I’d left more of it in the shot. After a few days you can always pick out the things which you did wrong with an image. It never fails.

Here is a cute little Calcinus minutus,  more commonly known as the  Hermit Crab:

I tried flash in this shot and it ruined it. The light was very dim, but kind to me, nevertheless. The image has a soft, pleasant appeal. Though I wasn’t intentionally composing (that’s difficult when dealing with nature), I ended up with a couple of very important rules being satisfied. One is The Rule of Thirds and the other is Angled Lines. Also, the regularity of the radiating lines in the coral contrasts nicely with the more or less randomness of the patterns in the Hermit Crab.

Here is a shot that I like because it looks as if it is an expensive aquarium in a high-class hotel lobby:

There’s not much to say about it otherwise. It’s just a pretty picture of a swarm of Anthea and a couple of Feather Stars.

Here’s something a little more to the point. It’s a fairly large sponge, about a half-metre across. I am far to lazy to look up the species:

Sponges generally take in water at the bottom, from which they extract food and oxygen, and “exhale” it through the top from an opening called an osculum. Here you can see two of those openings.

They are much more interesting when you get a close look:

Here you can see the intricate, uh, . . . sponginess of the inside of the beastie. Well, it is  a sponge. What else might we expect.

I’ll finish up with another face. This mug belongs to my good friend Trevor Hattersley. It’s a familiar expression for Trev. I call it, Who, me?

Trev looks a lot different these days, compared to a couple of years ago. He let his hair and beard grow. I’ve known him for a long time. I gotta say that this is the first time since I met him that I think that his appearance matches his demeanour.

He’s a natural-born pirate.

* I note now that this post runs 883 words, so my guess may be a little high.

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Bartender, There’s a Crab in My Beer

Posted in Humor on July 12th, 2010 by MadDog
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Despite torrential rain this morning rousing me from sleep by thundering down on our metal roof, by the time I got up and stepped outside about 06:15 things were looking better. It was still a bit gloomy, but the air was nice and clear. Why talk about it? I’ll just show you:

I went back inside to start the day’s work. It didn’ t look as if the sky was going to improve.

Then Eunie called into the bedroom that I’d better check the sky again. She was right. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss this one:

But, hey, gorgeous sunrises are a dime a dozen here. I have to come up with something better if I am to succeed at getting you to waste some of your valuable time wading through today’s screen filler.

Have you ever considered that hermit crabs might find homes in places other than seashells whose former occupants have deceased? As it tuns out, this is not an uncommon thing. Witness this rather large specimen living in a broken beer bottle:

Trevor Hattersley gave me these shots. He didn’ t mention who took them or where they were taken. I suspect that the shots come from Blueblood. Trev is on holiday somewhere, so I can’t check with him. He seems to be perpetually on holiday. I wonder how he works that.

Here’s a nice close-up shot of the crab in its beery home:

Hermit crabs will use anything which fits them and is not too heavy for a home until they can find something more suitable. In front of my house I saw one dragging around a short length of discarded white plastic plumbing pipe.

I decided to have a poke around on Google Images to see what other shots I could find. This one is cheating. The crab is actually living in a shell and just using the bottle as his veranda:

Birds will often pick up hermit crabs in their shells and fly off with them. Presumably they pull them out and eat them when they find a spot to land. This guy is taking no chances.

This one is The Real Deal, no faking here:

The shot came from Treehugger.com. However, it appears that the photographer was an eleven-year-old Finnish boy.

Monday morning – Ugh! Gotta get to work.

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First Drenching of the Canon G11

Posted in Under the Sea on January 30th, 2010 by MadDog
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I won’t waste your precious time today with a lot of blabber. My own semi-precious “time for myself” is withering as my workload increases while my pay simultaneously shrinks. However, I did have a bit of fun today. I did my first dive with my new Canon G11 in its cozy factory housing.I still have a lot to learn about squeezing this new lemon, but first results have me feeling dreamy and wishing I had time for a mid-week dive.

The current at Magic Passage was raging and I had two divers with me with whom I had no experience, so I didn’t get much chance to shoot. I did get enough frames to tell me that I like what I’m seeing from the G11.

Here is a pretty ordinary shot of a Silver Sweetlips subadult (Diagramma pictum).  You’ve seen these many times here before, and much better images. However, this was a snap shot which I did not even expect to save. With a few minutes work, the G11 image came out acceptable:Here is a mob of what I think are Lunartail Snappers (Lutjanus lunulatus)  finning vigorously against the current. Again, as a snap shot, I’m very happy. The G11 seems to save more images from doom because of its increased dynamic range (the range of colours and shades that it can record accurately under varying conditions) and its lower noise level:Again, I didn’t expect for this image to be usable.

Here’s a sweet shot of a Circular Spadefish  or Batfish (Platax orbicularis)  that really illustrates how the two extra stops of dynamic range allow me to save a nearly impossible image:Where I would have had muddy dark areas and blown out highlights (such as the top of the frame), now I have decent detail in the very dark areas and smooth gradations with colour detail left in the very bright areas – just what I was hoping for.

I never pass up a chance to photograph the ridiculous Blue Starfish (Linckia laevigata): When God was a little kid, he left some of his toys scattered around the planet. This is one of them.

Here is a close up shot of this very special toy:The detail is amazing. I’ve lost no ability to capture fine details by dropping from 15 to 10 megapixels. I think a lot of the extra megapixels were wasted because they were too small to gather enough light to put together a decent image. The pixel race is over.

Here is a reader favourite and mine also, the lowly Hermit Crab (Dardanus sp.):This little fellow will soon be receiving a notice from the Neighborhood Association for painting his house such an outrageous colour.

Back tomorrow with more wholesome G11 goodness.

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Hermit Crab Lovefest

Posted in Under the Sea on January 24th, 2010 by MadDog
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From Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary (along with the astonishingly stupid “1 Tip of Flat Belly” ad which is one reason why I will try as long as possible to aviod Google Ads on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.

her·mit \ˈhər-mət\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English heremite, eremite,  from Anglo-French, from Late Latin eremita,  from Late Greek erēmitēs,  from Greek, adjective, living in the desert, from erēmia  desert, from erēmos  desolate
Date: 12th century

1 a : one that retires from society and lives in solitude especially for religious reasons : recluse b obsolete  : beadsman
2 : a spiced molasses cookie

her·mit·ism \ˈhər-mə-ˌti-zəm\ noun

There’s nothing there that would lead one to believe that Hermit Crabs might be party animals. Nevertheless, have a look at this:

Now, I don’t know what that looks like to you, but to me is seems that three Hermit Crabs (Calcinus minutus)  are getting down to business. However, we mustn’t overlook the possibility that they are “just friends”.

I’m not even going to mention the molasses cookies. I try to keep this a family-friendly site.

This is another Hermit Crab (Dardanus sp.)  who seems to be minding his own business, though he is clearly attempting to appear as ferocious as possible:This little hermit has a pronounced sense of style. Its taste in architecture is impeccable. Its house looks as if it could have been inspired by Frank Loyd Wright. I would not be surprised to find it as the subject of an Ukiyo-e  woodblock print. This ties in nicely to Wright, since he was, aside from being my favourite architect of all time, a dealer in Japanese art.

That’s right, I’m lost in my own head again. Wait until I get my Zippo fired up so I can find my way out of here.

Okay, I’m back now. It’s odd that I don’t remember seeing these beautiful Orange Starfish (Echinaster luzonicus)  before a few days ago:

On Saturday, at the Eel Garden, I saw four of them, including this more rare six-legged individual who seems to have misplaced, or offered up for dinner, two of its legs.

This commoner five legged star person has managed to hold on to all but one leg:Never mind, They will grow back. In fact, if the leg is spat out by the hungry fish which decides it doesn’t like the taste, a whole new starfish will grow from the severed leg.

Well, let us leave the invertebrates to their own devices.

Many anemonefish display the disconcerting habit of staring you right in the eyes. Isn’t this supposed to me the universal sign of challenge or aggression. Here this Orange Finned Anemonefish (Amphiprion chrysopterus) seems to be asking the age-old questions, “Hey! Who you lookin’ at? You lookin’ at me? You want trouble, mate? I got yer trouble!” I like the little nondescript damselfish in the background who is hurrying to flee the scene of impending carnage:As some prefer to be outwardly agressive, other, wiser critters such as this Clown Anemonefish (Amphiprion percula)  spurn the macho tactics and find cover from which to taunt:Above, Nemo, the fish every little kid wants to grow up to be, sasses me from the relative safety of his anemone. “Nyaa na na na na naaaa . . . this is deadly poison . . . you can’t touch me.” Little does Nemo know that this species of anemone will simply feel ilke silk on my fingers and I’ll feel nothing but a slightly creepy chill up my spine.

Never mind. I wouldn’t think of hurting Nemo.

I’d rather take on Chuck Norris with one hand tied behind my back. HUUURRRAAAAA!

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Cleaning Up the Christmas Mess

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on December 26th, 2009 by MadDog
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My birthday has come and gone. Christmas has come and gone. Boxing day has come and gone. I’m now waiting patiently for New Year’s Day. It to, providing nothing drastic occurs, will come and go. So will 2010. And, so it goes. I’m still having fun, so let it roll. I do, however, need to settle on a new New Year’s Resolution. So much left to improve . . . so little time left.

When I came to the office this sunny Sunday morning to catch up on two days posting which I missed (shame, shame), I fully intended to do so. However, a faulty power supply on our main router had knocked the web on its bum. This was a big monkey-wrench in my gears. It took me a couple of hours to find the problem. I kept trying to sort out the router – no luck. Then I got a new router and set it up. It worked fine on the test bench. Plug it into the network – buzz, humm . . . same problem. Fortunately William Butler was looking over my shoulder, patiently waiting for the web to come back. He pointed out to my foggy mind that the problem was the same and the only common factor was the power supply. DOOH!  I should have thought of that. This is why my job becomes more and more annoying year after year. They keep inventing new stuff and I can’t keep up!

Anyway, here is an amusing panorama that I grabbed the other day. If you ever get tired of looking out my front door, I’m going to be out of the journaling game:

Spooky, eh?

Yesterday out on Astrolabe Bay,  the Finisterre Mountains  looked like big piles of coal in the distance:I took KP Perkins, a Yank who has been working for the British Volunteer Services Organisation, out for her first SCUBA dive. She has just finished her Open Water Course. Other than teensy-weensy problems with her buoyancy control, which everybody  experiences at first, she did herself proud and had a good time. We did a second dive to celebrate:

Working with new divers is one of my favourite things.

Back to the scenery one more time. Here is a sunrise scene that taxed my Photoshop skills. As it happens, it was worth the effort:

Now, as I can see that I’m never going to catch up today and I’m hungry, I’ll close with something that seems to be a favorite among my readers – the forever humble and humorous Hermit Crab, some species of Dardanus:

Hopefully, I’ll finish catching up tomorrow.

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Hermit Crab Survives Earthquake

Posted in Humor, Under the Sea on October 20th, 2009 by MadDog
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An egocentric popularity-hound such as I would never pass up a chance to get a bookmark in your browser. I got so many comments on my Facebook page about the Hermit Crab a few days ago that I’m going to repeat the ploy – this time with another poor, unsuspecting Dardanus.

Last Saturday at Barracuda Point  near Pig Island  I was fooling around under the boat using up the rest of my air and looking for something, anything to shoot. I noticed a Trochus shell sitting on top of a plate coral. This is a dead giveaway for the presence of a Hermit Crab. There’s no other way that the shell is going to get there.

I went over to have a look and saw that there was, indeed, a hairy little occupant. I tipped its house over as gently as I could, though I don’t imagine that it felt very gentle to the householder. Here is the shell, appearing empty:

An empty Trochus shell?No, wait! Somebody’ home:No, somebody is in there. A Dardanus Hermit Crab emerging from a Trochus shell.Having observed this many times, I’m intrigued that Hermit Crabs don’t seem to be able to get their eyes out for a look-about before exposing their thorny, but undoubtedly tasty legs first. It’s like sticking your hands around the corner and waving them to see if your burglar has a gun.

Anyway, out comes Mr. Crab looking a mite grumpy:

Hey, who turned my house over? A Dardanus Hermit Crab emerging from a Trochus shell.

While its feet still dangle above the coral it seems to rest a moment to evaluate the situation. Is it possible that it’s waiting to see if there will be an aftershock?

Sooner or later, the job of re-erecting the house must be done. This requires reaching way out of the front door, grabbing the coral and giving a mighty heave:

You JERK! Now I have to fix this mess. A Dardanus Hermit Crab emerging from a Trochus shell.One wants to get this over as quickly as possible as the soft, ticklish and predator attracting end of the critter is highly exposed.

Now, go away and leave me alone. A Dardanus Hermit Crab emerging from a Trochus shell.

Finally, with an audible ‘plop’ the house returns to its vertical position. A little grooming is in order now. Clean up the bits knocked off of the top of the house onto the coral. Be sure to check if anything tasty fell off of the roof.

I’ve never met a hermit crab that I didn’t like. I wish that I could say as much about people.

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