Bart Simpson’s Hair – Why I’m Talking to Myself

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on November 18th, 2010 by MadDog
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Now that I have all of these pictures loaded onto my WordPress page, I am wondering how to write something that makes some kind of sense. In cases such as this my usual ploy is to abandon any hope of writing anything which pleases me and put the job off until tomorrow. However, I have a deadline. It’s 8PM and I want to be ready to drink some kava an hour before I’d like to sleep. It worked the last two nights. I got more sleep than I have for a long time and I felt great in the morning. I’m going to write about kava soon. So, since I can’t put it off, I’ll write nonsense. It probably fits the subject matter better anyway.

As the title implies, the subject is twofold. Here is Bart Simpson’s Hair:

Okay, does that give you some idea of where we are going with this? Fasten your seat belts.

I’m going to the kitchen now to get some cookies . . . okay, I’m back. Hmmmmm . . . delicious. The other subject, which I made you think has something to do with Bart Simpson’s hair but it doesn’t, is Why I’m Talking to Myself.

I never used to do that – talk to myself – at least not much. I’d let slip, “Idiot!” or “You old fool.” or something similarly self- deprecating, but I had no serious conversations. Even now, my solo exchanges are usually not directed to me, but since there is nobody else around (I try not to do this when others might be observing.) one might be prone to suspect that my brain is doing a little recursive boogaloo. I don’t know if this is healthy or not, but it is making me feel better.

So, who do I talk to?

Not far from Bart’s hair I found this disgusting, encrusting sponge trying to strangle a branch of black coral:

See, I’m going to do that to you. I’ll go along as if I have something interesting to say and when I sense you nodding off, I’ll throw a bean bag at you. The image above is trying to connect up some wires in my brain between it and Sponge Bob Squarepants. Okay, time for another cookie. Hey, I need some milk.

Mostly I talk to two entities. I probably spend the most time conversing with Eunie. She was always a good listener. I ask her for advice. Then I think about what she would tell me if she were sitting next to me or we were having a walk through the woods. The surprising thing is that what I hear in my head, or rather what I make up from the million memories of how she was, seems very real to me. It can’t be so far off from what she would have said. Quite often it makes me laugh.

Tonight I had a ham sandwich. The ham had been in the freezer for I don’t know how many months. I got it out of the freezer a week or so ago. It didn’t look bad, but I can’t smell it, of course. I’m constantly concerned that I will poison myself. I quit thinking about suicide about a month ago, mainly because I couldn’t stand the thought of the colossal mess it would leave behind for my friends to clean up. So, since that prospect is off the table, I’ve gone back to a less hair-raising and reckless existence. I actually don’t want to die now. Something interesting might happen. I call that progress. I also had ten-day-old steamed broccoli which had nothing obvious growing on it. I don’t know why I feel compelled to tell you what I’m eating – cookies, ham sandwiches, broccoli. I’ve been doing it for some time now.

Here is some whip coral at Magic Passage:

No, I’m not going to explain why it’s called whip coral. I don’t feel pedantic tonight. In fact, I don’t feel much of anything. That’s funny. I haven’t had any kava yet. It has a strange calming effect which my pleasant Dr. Mackerel told me about. I told him no Prozac, so he said to try kava. I’m going to do this without major drugs. As I said, I’ll get to that later. It’ll be a hoot!

Talking to Eunie is fun. I close my eyes and see that surreal half-smile which said, “I’m watching you, you crazy guy.” Man, I loved that smile. I carry it on my shoulder.

Often, though – about a hundred times a day, I need to unload on or seek counsel with someone with more clout. Eunie is my gentle advisor. When I need the heavy artillery, I talk to God. I talk out loud, like I do with Eunie.

It’s much more difficult for me to imagine what God is saying back. Obviously, I don’t hear anything. I’m not that far gone. I also have to admit that I don’t know as much about God as I do Eunie. The truth is that you never know what God is up to. I do trust that it’s all going to work out in the end, but man, in the meantime you have to be ready to catch some fast curve balls. I was never any good at baseball. After teams were chosen, I was always the one guy left standing there staring at my toes sticking out of the end of my sneakers.

I do seem to be getting some answers lately. The big questions remain mysteries, but some of the little ones are falling into place. So, I’m calling these productive conversations. There are fewer swords hanging over my head. I’m not afraid to look in my mailbox any more. Part of that is because I can’t imagine what could happen that has not already happened. There’s a certain comfort in knowing that the only things left to lose are things that really don’t matter that much. It’s tremendously liberating. Money – EHHH! There will always be enough. One simply has to adjust one’s expectations. Property – MEH! I don’t have any (Or at least I soon will not – that house is GOING, one way or another!) All of the rest of the stuff that I have accumulated – PFFFT!  I can carry everything I need in a back pack and a small camera case. Free! Free at last!

What brought that on? Hey, my kitchen is full of ants. I’m too cheap to buy bug spray any more. That’s off the shopping list. Beside, they don’t eat much – only what I have dropped or slopped. There are a couple of dead ones floating in my milk. At least I hope they are dead. If they are not, they are in for quite a ride.

Does this look like a giant corkscrew to you?

I guess I mostly talk to myself because I am so used to having someone around to talk to and I just can’t stop because she’s not here now. I’ve noticed that I am much more talkative than I used to be when friends are around. I hope that is not a bad trend. I have seen that flick of the eyes to another which says, “When is he going to shut up?” I’m on the lookout for it.

This is the model which was used for The Blob  in the original movie starring Steve McQueen:

It’s about a metre wide. They had to scale it up and make it mobile for the movie. Inert blobs aren’t very scary and they get real hungry. This one is quite immobile.

I don’t anticipate finding any other conversation partners for my lonely quiet times when I’m feeling chatty. Who else would there be, Elvis? John Belushi? Jack Kerouac?

No, not them. If I talked to anyone else it would be absent friends, the living kind. There are so many who I would love to spend an evening with in quiet discourse.

Speaking of friends, I’m going to take advantage of you and sneak in a couple of very amusing images sent to me by Alison Raynor of Toogoolawah in Queensland. Here is what she wrote to me:

I’ve been on the road a fair bit in the last couple of days and this 6ft carpet snake (a common constricting python) crossed our path yesterday.  We stopped for a look and he stopped  to geek my camera… such a pretty snake, you should see the size of their mouths and fangs though……EEEEK!   This one would be able to swallow an animal or bird heaps bigger than its own body weight and size:

Okay, Ali. How close are you going to get to this thing?

Close enough for THIS!

Okay, I’m impressed.

Today, I spent a fair amount of time getting lawns mowed. No, I didn’t mow the lawns. It’s Gosel’s job to mow the lawns. However somebody has to haul his lawnmower around and get him to the grass which needs cutting. That’s what I did today. Exciting, eh? Here is Gosel mowing a lawn:

I sat in there my blazing hot brand-new Nissan Navarra twin-cab utility truck. I didn’t particularly want to buy a new car, but Eunie wanted one. Her old red truck was getting rusty and she didn’t like that. Anyway, I’m glad now that I have it. It’s like money in the bank, not that money in the bank is any guarantee of security. And, I probably have a car which will serve me for the rest of my life. Hey, my dog Sheba has a good chance of outlasting me. I’m not planting any more trees either. Like many other things which I am discovering, there is a certain comfort here.

I got bored reading Hollywood Crows  by Joseph Wambaugh, so I had a nice, long conversation with Eunie.

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Madang – The View from Heaven

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Photography Tricks on April 29th, 2010 by MadDog
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Today is my day to try to catch up. I’m behind in some paying work as well as still behind here on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.  Today is the first day in a week on which I’ll be posting the same day as the post date. Not that it makes much difference to anyone but me. I hate getting behind in my work, because I am fundamentally extremely lazy. It’s all too easy for me to start thinking that I just don’t have enough time, so there are some things to which I’ll never attend. Then I have to be honest with myself and think of how many hours a week I spend staring at TV. I’ve come to think of this as a complete waste of time. Frankly, if I really want down time, I’d rather read. TV is the lazy person’s amusement. It requires absolutely no effort and little imagination. I simply don’t want to spend my life that way any more.

So, with the sermon out of the way, let’s have a look at this morning’s sunrise:Not bad, but not great, either. Maybe I’m getting a little to demanding. After you’ve seen a few thousand here, it’s easy to get picky.

As the title suggests, we’re having aerial shots today courtesy of Sir Peter Barter with whom I hurled through the atmosphere for almost three hours on Tuesday. His Robertson R-11 is a beautiful little machine. I can only imagine what a dream it is to fly. Here is a lovely shot of my home town, Madang:As you can see, the bulk of the town is on a peninsula. To the left (east) is Astrolabe Bay  and to the right is Madang Harbour.

Here is another shot looking north. You can see part of Madang Town and the North Coast:The chain of islands stretching to the horizon is where we do most of our diving.

This a very nice angle from which to view the entire Madang Coast:Madang is on the left. The large island is Kranket,  followed by Leper Island, Little Pig Island  and Pig Island.  These are all local contemporary names, except for Kranket Island,  which is traditional. The others have different names on the nautical charts.

This image covers pretty much the same area, except that you are looking east out over Astrolabe Bay:The fuzzy blue area under the clouds to the right is the mighty Finisterre Mountains. 

I got some very nice shots of some of our favourite dive sites. This is Magic Passage  in the centre and the southern tip of Leper Island  on the right:Kranket Island  is on the left. This is easily the best aerial view that I’ve seen of Magic Passage.

This shot shows an easy month’s worth of daily dives. At the far left is Little Pig Island  with The Eel Garden  to its right. The large mass is Pig Island  with superb diving all around the ocean side. At the bottom is Barracuda Point:

Up the right side clear to the edge of the image is all wonderful diving. The gap in the barrier reef near the top is Rasch Passage,  an excellent dive.

That’s my back yard from the air.

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A Feather for the Captain’s Hat

Posted in Under the Sea on March 17th, 2010 by MadDog
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The steam from the Saturday dive at Magic Passage has just about run cool, so tomorrow I’ll have to invent something different with which to annoy you. It shouldn’t be difficult, as that’s one of my genuine talents.

Speaking of annoying, we had a bit of a fracas at the office yesterday. Our outside IT consultant, Mark, who has been wonderfully helpful to me as I’ve been rolling out a completely new network, inadvertently left a desktop computer system unit in his vehicle. We heard frantic cries from our receptionist, Ruth, that someone had stolen the computer from Mark’s car. A couple of people out in the street were pointing in a general direction, so Mark and I gave chase. I’m sixty-six, but fit, so I hotfooted it around following peoples’ pointings until I ended up with someone who said that the thieves gone to the bus stop near the market. Mark was on his cell phone and talking to bystanders, so he had to catch up with me.

Some people waiting for vehicles at the stop had seen the boys carrying the computer and told us what bus they had taken. Mark’s call to the cops actually got some attention and they soon gave chase. We never got the afternoon’s work finished, but at least Mark found out where the computer went. Now all that remains is to “extract” it from the thief.

I won’t make an example of Papua New Guinea, since the same thing happens everywhere. However, I will ask why so many people witnessed what was obviously a crime and did absolutely nothing to thwart it? If I had seen kids breaking into a car and filching the contents I would have done something,  though I’m not sure what. It would depend on the situation.

In fairness, I should mention that some people came to the office door immediately to tell us that the computer had grown legs.

And now, for something completely different:That’s a nice little reef scene in which I was hoping to get a nice image of the anemonefish. Just as I was taking the shot, an Angelfish swam past. I can’t identify it, but it is certainly very pretty.

Later, I was attracted to this very nice, neat round Acropora hyacinthus  coral with a pretty little reef scene behind it:There were many feather stars waving around in the fairly strong current, so I decided to snap a few.

These are all Comantheria briareus,  as near as I can tell. The taxonomy is a little confusing and many species can be identified only by counting the arms, something which I am not going to do:The arms are extremely sticky, being like Velcro. They will stick to anything, your hand, your wetsuit, fins, camera, etc. The arms tear off when they stick, so we try to be very careful when moving around them. It’s far too easy damage a feather star by simply brushing against it.

Here’s an nice shot showing how they attach themselves to the bottom by grabbing on with their “feet”:There are many subtle colours, even within the same species.Okay, that’s the feather bit. How about the Captain’s Hat?

I’m not a guy to shy away from beauty, wherever I find it. Anyone who is a regular reader will know that. I found a bit of beauty on Sanguma  on Saturday when Jennifer Miller was modeling her new hat. Jenn is usually found in the company of my good friend Richard Jones who, along with our mutual mate, Pascal Michon, our resident Frenchman, have purchased Sanguma  from our other mutual buddy, Trevor Hattersley:I think the Captain’s Hat is donned in celebration of the recent purchase. I don’t really care, because Jenn needs no further adornment. She’s a lovely lady and a dear friend to all of us motley expatriate crew.

So, congratulations to Captain Jenn and shipmates Rich and Pascal. May you catch many large fish and share the occasional nice filet of Spanish Mackerel with your poor, non-fishing dive buddy.

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The Coral Corral

Posted in Under the Sea on March 16th, 2010 by MadDog
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Sometimes I get tired of chasing fish around. As a rule, I don’t do that, but we all know that rules are made to be broken. It happens most often at the end of a dive, when I should be moving in an orderly fashion toward the surface and I see that fish,  of which I have no image. Oh, yeah. It’s decision time. Check my air – okay; I always have plenty left at the end of a dive. I breathe mostly with my gills. That fish  is inevitably going down.  You are not supposed to end up your dive deeper than your last few minutes. That’s called a reverse-profile dive. It can build up too much nitrogen in your body and make your blood fizz like a freshly pulled Guinness.

So, what I usually do is say adios  to that fish  and slide up to five metres for my safety stop. Coral, however, requires no chasing at all, since it does not move. It may wave around, if it’s limber, but it stays firmly fixed to the reef and poses very nicely.

Therefore, today I’ll show you a pretty selection of corals that I corralled on our dive at Magic Passage last Saturday. I believe that you’ve seen all of these species here before, but these are much prettier pictures. The Canon G11 is making it so easy to get great shots that I’ll soon have to find new challenges. Hmmm. . . underwater fashion photography . . .

This young Divericate Tree Coral (Dendronephthya roxasia)  stands out nicely against the dark background:If you look carefully, you can see a diver in the distance.

I really like photographing D. roxasia  because there are so many beautiful colours available and they look completely different when the lighting changes. Sometimes they seem to glow as if lit from inside: The shot above accentuates the crispness of the coral image because the foreground and background are out of focus. It is a nice technique for “framing” your subject.

I am heavily into patterns. Something about them calms me. Corals make great subjects. This Diploastrea heliopora  is a good example:The individual polyps are about 1 cm in diameter.

Here is a shot of another specimen differing in colour and with a little more acute angle of the light:All of these images are more interesting if you click to enlarge. These regular patterns make mesmerising desktop backgrounds. Maybe a little too much so.

Here is one of the many wildly differing Leather Corals. This one is a species of Lobophytum:There are so many different leather corals that it’s difficult to identify a specimen from a single reference. I have only one book. It takes far too much time to dig into the web for a species name. That’s why many shots here give only the genus. I could not identify the species.

Here’s another one that is a mystery. It’s a coral of the Sea Whip mob, some species of the genus Ctenocella:They are very pretty and add a little action to the scene, waving around like wheat in a summer breeze. These are about as tall as full-grown wheat.

This outlandishly red coral is of the genus Lobophyllia:They are easy to spot, since they are about the reddest items on the reef.

Here is an interesting shot of the coral Goniopora djiboutiensis:I’m not sure what’s going on here. The white polyps appear to be the same species as the brownish ones in the background – the normal colour. I do not understand why this particular bunch of polyps on these old reef knobs are snow white. Maybe someone can explain. UPDATE: My Facebook friend Roshan Abeywickrama suggests that this may be G. lobata,  which I agree is a good possibility. I’m certainly no expert.

Finally, I give you one that I have been trying to photograph properly for years. It is very difficult to get the green to look natural. If you use flash, you have no chance. The colour is a combination of the pigments in the slimy coating of the very hard, brittle tree and the spectrum of light at that depth. The Tubastraea micrantha  has caused me much aggravation:I think that I’ve just about got it figured out. This is as close as I’ve come to reproducing the exquisite deep green colour that I see in this coral with my eyes at about twenty-five metres.

I’m almost there.

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Oh, Blenny!

Posted in Under the Sea on March 15th, 2010 by MadDog
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Today’s interesting development concerns the Facebook/email hack that I mentioned a few days ago in The Birds! It seems that my Facebook friend had been hacked and the emails urgently asking for money to escape London were sent to her Facebook friends by the hacker. I noticed that the same person returned to Facebook, so I sent her a message asking if she had, perchance, recently been to London. She related the hacking incident to me. It is a sad tale. It reminds me to keep my own security up. I was happy to find that I had not been suckered into an elaborate fake Facebook friend scheme. She is real, and a nice person at that. I’m slightly less cynical than I was a couple of days ago. That’s always a good way to start the week.

Speaking of starting the week, here’s a Monday sunrise for you:I’ve seen better, but this one will do. I you click to enlarge, you’ll see that I caught a man in his canoe just where the sun is reflecting on the water.

Today we’re doing mostly Blennys. I’ve had quite a few of these cute little fish here before. You can find them by putting blenny in the search box. You’ve seen the Three-Lined Blenny (Ecsenius trilineatus)  before on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi:The details of the eyes are interesting, if you care to examine them by clicking to enlarge the image. Blennys are usually small fish, some species are among the smallest fish on the planet. Some Gobys are even smaller.

And here, for your viewing pleasure, is a fish that you’ve never seen before on MPBM. If fact, you’ll have to look closely to see it at all:It’s a Tripplespot Blenny (Crossosalarias macrospilus)  and this is the first one that I’ve managed to digitize:

Here’s another shot of the same specimen. It was moving around nervously from place to place. Where it landed here on this leather coral its camouflage doesn’t work very well:

The common name makes no sense to me. I see only one big spot.

You’ve seen the Latticed Sandperch (Parapercis clathrata)  several times here, mostly females. I admit a bias towards photographing females:Males of this species have a big, black spot on each side just above the pectoral fins behind the eyes. You can see in this young specimen that it is just developing. You can see an adult male specimen in this post.

I’ll toss a little colour onto this page with one of the reddest fish that I know, the Scarlet Soldierfish (Myripisits pralinia):They tend to hang around in these little caves in the reef. You can see another one in this post.

It’s time now to go out to check for the sunrise quality level. I know, I know, it’s a dirty job. Such is the life of a beach bum.

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Saturday Diving – A Row of Boats

Posted in Under the Sea on March 14th, 2010 by MadDog
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Sunday dawned clear and bright. Just what I needed to lift my spirits when I realised that my sinus infection (oh, I’m sure  you want to hear about that) has come back with a vengeance. I may possibly have insulted it during my very pleasant dive yesterday at Magic Passage.  Actually, I’m not telling the truth. The part that is not  true is that this is actually Monday’s sunrise:Could be Egypt, eh?

Conditions at Magic Passage  couldn’t have been much better. There was a manageable current flowing in from Astrolabe Bay,  making the water nice and clear. I usually get into the water first, to get out of everyone’s way and check to make sure that I’ve anchored where I think  I anchored. I got this shot from about seven metres below Faded Glory  and Sanguma,  which we had parked alongside each other:

Funny thing – coincidence strikes. The Beatles song Come Together  is playing with a heavy bass bias here in the IT Dungeon as I write. (In case you’re wondering, I was thinking of the boats coming together over the reef.)

He roller-coaster he got early warning
He got muddy water he one mojo filter
He say “One and one and one is three”
Got to be good-looking ’cause he’s so hard to see
Come together right now over me

I think that it is one song that nearly every person of my age who was brought up in The Western World (whatever that is) can probably sing along with without mumbling too many of the words. It always seemed like nonsense to me – nonsense ambiguous enough to mean anything you like. I give you the examples of Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky  or James Taylors’ American Pie.  Still, the pitiless call of reason leads me to conclude that the song must  be about the members of the band. Four musicians, four verses, lots of obscure references – it’s not Rocket Science. If you’ve nothing better to do and you want to enrich your mind with some spaced-out references from the 60’s you might check here and here if you’re feeling clueless. The first link seems plausible. The second feels more like stoner-speak.

Errr . . . drifting away there. Back to the dive. One of the first things that I encountered was this lovely little anemone which I am embarrassed to say that I can’t identify accompanied by two juvenile Clark’s Anemonefish (Apmphiprion clarkii):My finger is for scale, not for food. However, while snorkeling at The Eel Garden  later I was demonstrating how the larger cousins of these youngsters would play with your fingers and occasionally nip at them. One of the larger specimens of A. clarkii  bit viciously three times. Each time it would grab a bit of my skin in its jaws and shake its body furiously before letting go. Since I was out of breath anyway and needed to surface, I decided to end the demonstration.

This morning I felt a distracting itch on my hand and discovered a bite mark left by the little terror:Don’t let anybody tell you that Nemo is not dangerous.

In the clear incoming water, the beautiful Anthea were glowing like neon lights:We were blessed by a bit of sunlight on Saturday, the first we’ve seen in some weeks. The weather here has been dismal, at least by Paradise standards.

Richard Jones led the little expedition, though he was possibly a little miffed when I was uncooperative and lazy at the beginning of the dive. He got even later by mugging me:However, I shall have the last laugh. He complained a few days ago about me getting his “bald head” into the picture – his words, not mine. I would call him “partially bald”. My response is, “How could I miss it?”

Later on, a band of Cassells showed up in Felmara.  This array of fishing lures caught my eye:The Cassell Floating Fishing Party motored off after a while and left us to enjoy the lowering sun.

Just another Saturday in Paradise.

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Blurry Fish and Barrel Sponges

Posted in Under the Sea on February 6th, 2010 by MadDog
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Sometime I like amuse myself by going back through my accumulation of thousands of underwater images to find the ones which I first rejected as real.  Usually this rejection has to do with some technical fault such as bad focus (usually an image-killer), impossibly filthy water (sometimes fixable by laboriously removing the spots) or motion blur. Of the faults, motion blur is the easiest to turn into art. It sometimes generates a very interesting image. Here is a Many-Spotted Sweetlips (Plectorhinchus chaetodonoides)  which I tried to capture with a shap shot at Magic Passage:

The attempt, as you can see, failed miserably. Both the fish and the background are blurred. Nevertheless, a tiny, nagging tickle in the back of my skull kept mumbling, “Play with it, idiot.” I always pay attention to these messages from my id. As you can see, with a little work, the wasted pixels redeem themselves. A mistake becomes art. I don’t know if I’d want to hang it on the wall, but it provided me with a few minutes of not  thinking about computer networks. That’s a blessing.

Here is another one that I saved from the bit dumpster. The Silver Sweetlips (Diagramma pictum),  one of my favourites, hangs out in mobs at Magic Passage. You can find many more images of them here on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi by putting “pictum” in the search box. Is is a very beautiful fish:You can see in the shot above that the background is relatively unblurred (relatively, as I say) but the fish was moving quite smartly. This transforms the beautiful yellow spots of the sub-adult into concentric yellow arcs which give the image the impression of some kind of weird, mustardy fingerprint. Fingerprint? Okay, let me reboot . . . nope, still reminds me of a fingerprint. What can I say?

At any rate, a strange piece of chintzy art is better than wasted pixels. I might actually hang this one. No, wait. I’m far too lazy.

Here’s a shot of the Silver Sweetlips sub-adults hanging in the current. These are very chilled-out fish:

They gang up like sulky teenagers on the corner by the liquor store, waiting for some sucker to buy them a bottle. I’m sure that if there were an equivalent of Mary Jane for fish, this mob would be toking up.

I did mention something about Barrel Sponges.

Here are two Barrel Sponges (Xestospongia testudinaria)  at Magic Passage, right in the area of the highest currents:
When Barrel Sponges get really big, they are very heavy and present a huge surface area upon which a strong current can push. It’s not surprising that they occasionally get knocked over. Here you can see one that is hanging on and one that has been toppled. Not to worry, the severely tilded sponge can continue to grow. When knocked down like this, the sponge continues to try to grow up towards the light, so some of the ones which have been over on their side for a long time have very peculiar shapes.

I’ll wrap up with this anemone with one little anemonefish guarding it:
I have one hour left to load the boat and get to the pick-up point for our regular Saturday dive. I’m outta here.

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