Ah, Sweet Saturday

Posted in Under the Sea on February 22nd, 2009 by MadDog
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The weather the last few weeks has been miserable, at least by Madang Standards. I don’t think that there has been a single day without rain. It has also been very cold. You have to remember, of course, that is tropical cold, not regular cold. When the mercury drops below 24°C (75°F), we call it cold.

However, this Saturday was sunny as reasonably warm. We went to Magic Passage. The surface conditions looked good – little current and clear water. Down at the bottom at about 3o metres, though, it was milky. The current was running sluggishly outward, carrying the foggy-looking water from the anchorage out to sea.

I did manage some interesting shots which I’ll give to you in a gallery without a lot of comment for a change:

The Bigeye Trevally shot is interesting. It was so murky at the bottom that there was virtually no colour. I decided to take advantage of this instead of moaning about it. So, I made the shot monochrome.

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Bearded Nightmare

Posted in Under the Sea on January 23rd, 2009 by MadDog
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I woke up at the dismal hour of 2:00 in the morning. My mind was ready to rock and roll, but my body could barely move. I started to write a post to relax me and I took a small Valium.

I remembered that I had said that I would show more photos of the Tassled scorpionfish (Scorpaenopsis oxycephala) that we saw last Saturday at Magic Passage.

Well, here is a closeup of this beauty:
Closeup of a Tassled scorpionfish
He is not only superbly camouflaged, but he will redo his colour scheme if he moves to a different background.

Here’s another shot of the detail of his head:
Head detail of a Tassled scorpionfish
I’ve noticed that most times when I’m able to find one, it is the eye that gives it away. The eys is so unnaturally round that it stands out in all that tiny chaotic detail.

My Valium is knocking me out now. I can feel it coming on. Goodbyeeeee . . . . .

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Surprises at Magic Passage

Posted in Under the Sea on January 18th, 2009 by MadDog
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Yesterday, for our regular Saturday dive, we motored out to Magic Passage, just ten minutes from my house. It always amazes me that I’m so fortunate to live in a place where I can so easily get to some of the best reefs on the planet.

The day provided plenty of familiar sights and a couple of surprises.

When I first saw this spadefish at about thirty metres, I thought he was an old friend. Then I noticed the black spots on his belly. This made me notice that his shape and the colour of his fins were less familiar. When I checked in my fish book at home, sure enough, he’s not the common variety that we see most often.

We usually lump them all into the generic term “batfish.” However, this guy is more special. He’s a Batavia Spadefish (Palatax batavianus):

Batavia Spadefish (Palatax batavianus)

And he is a rather handsome fish.

The next two shots practically make me giggle, because I’m so pleased with them.

First, I’m happy because this is the first time that I’ve ever seen this particular nudibranch. It’s an Ardeadoris egretta:

Nudibranch (Ardeadoris egretta)

Sorry about the Latin taxonomic name – most nudibranchs have no common name, because they are so seldom seen and many are very recently discovered or described. This species was undescribed until 1984.

This nudibranch is apparently common around Heron Island in Australia – thus its species name egretta  – Egret.

The photo above is more from the top. Here’s a side view:

Nudibranch (Ardeadoris egretta) side view

It is about as long as your finger – quite large as nudibranchs go. I also have to say that it is a spectacular vision underwater. These shots were taken at about thirty-five metres with available light (no flash). I’m more and more amazed by the quality of images that I get from my Canon G9 in its factory underwater housing. It has some limitations, but the price is hard to argue with.

A more familiar character is the Map Puffer (Arothron mappa):

Map Puffer (Arothron mappa)

There are always a few of these lumbering around Magic Passage. This fellow was at a cleaning station getting his parasites removed by the blurry cleanerfish that you can see in the foreground.

Finally, let’s play “Find the Fish.” The Tassled Scorpionfish (Scorpaenopsis oxycephala)   is very common in our area, but that’s not the perception that you get from looking for them:

Tassled Scorpionfish (Scorpaenopsis oxycephala)
I can remember many occasions when one of us spotted a well-camouflaged specimen and tried to show it to dive buddies. It’s sometimes very difficult to see even when someone is pointing a finger at it only a few centimetres away. When we got back on the boat on Saturday morning, Amanda was saying to me that she stared at the spot that I was photographing for several seconds before she saw the scorpionfish.


By the way, the eyes are not where you think they are from looking at the photo above. See if you can find them (click to enlarge).  I’ll do another post of this guy from another angle so you can see what I mean.

Sometimes I wish I could blend into the background like that.

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More Fun at Magic Passage

Posted in Under the Sea on October 11th, 2008 by MadDog
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Today we went to Magic Passage for our Saturday morning dive. There was a fairly strong incoming current and the water was very warm.

Here is Tracey, Albert, and Anna heading out to the mouth of the passage:

Tracey and friends

At about twenty metres, Albert was frantically pointing under a ledge. I had to stand on my head to get a shot. It’s two spot-fin lionfish lurking next to a bright orange sponge. I was, of course seeing all this upside-down. I inverted the photo so as not to give you vertigo:

Spotfin lionfish

When we returned to the boat, I found out that he was actually trying to show me a painted lobster. Oh well . . .

Back up on top of the reef I spotted this arc-eyed hawkfish. It’s one of less common hawkfish in these waters:

Arc-eyed hawkfish

After our dive we went over to Pig Island for some snorkelling and sun. There were thousands of small fish swimming all around. We threw some bits of bread in the water and they gathered around us. Karen was mesmerized by them. I like this shot of “aquarium swimming”:

Karen in the aqarium

Even after all the diving that I’ve done, I still enjoy snorkelling as well. You don’t have to be concerned about a lot of gear and it is wonderfully relaxing, especially when the water feels like a warm bath.

I may as well show you this morning’s sunrise while I’m at it:

Just another sunrise in Paradise

Just another day in Paradise.

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