Great Barracuda!

Posted in Under the Sea on May 28th, 2010 by MadDog
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Today begins a new pursuit for our J & E Enterprises Limited company. I’m going out to install the first VSAT dish which we have sold. I’m familiar with the technology, so the job should be simple and take only a couple of hours. On Monday, after the unit is switched on at the Orion terminal in Australia, our customer will enjoy Internet communications and VOIP (voice over Internet – think Skype) the likes of which have never before been seen in Papua New Guinea at the relatively low cost of these units. It really is an exciting event for us. It’s fun to be involved with what, in this country, is the cutting edge of technology. Never mind that it has been available in most of the rest of the world for at least a decade.

Here is your morning sunrise:

Provided I arise early enough, I should be able to show you a new one nearly every morning now that the dry season is arriving.

The subject of this post is the large, toothy critter in this sadly poor photograph:It is a Great Barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda). It’s not called “great” because it’s particularly famous or gifted or nice, but simply because it is big. I reckon that this one was about a metre and a half long. I tried my best to sneak up on it while it was getting the fishy equivalent of a car wash here at a “cleaning station” where tiny cleaner wrasse swim around and pick off tasty parasites from the barracuda’s skin – even inside its mouth! However, the instant it sensed me as a possible threat (pretty unlikely, I’d say), it shot of so quickly that it was just a blur in my eyes. Its departure was accompanied by a sound like a whip snap and a general panicky scattering of all of the fish in the general area as they hurried to get out of its way. It was quite a spectacle.

The water at Barracuda Point was murky, so the photo is very poor, despite my being only about three metres distant from the fangy bullet. This is only the third or fourth Great Barracuda which I have seen here in over 2,000 dives.

I have selected the rest of my images today not for their excitement, but rather for their calm, restful beauty. Here is one of my favourite creatures, the Mushroom Coral (Fungia fugites or possibly F. scutaria):

This one is resting next to the large colony of beautiful green and white Sea Squirts, Lissoclinum patellum.

This is a very lovely Divericate Tree Coral (Gendronephthya roxasia) which is growing between the hulls of the old wrecked catamaran on the ocean side of the barrier reef at The Eel Garden near Pig Island:

The Tree Corals are some of the few things which I like to use flash to capture. The way that they light up seemingly from the inside out is quite amazing. This one has a wonderful blue and pink colour scheme which I have not seen before. As soon as I began to work with this image my mind drifted to the recent movie Avatar. That film is packed with creatures which any diver would immediately recognise.

Here is another colonial animal which is best seen with flash. It is some species of Semperina, I think:

In ambient light it is a dull brown. When the full spectrum of sunlight hits them, as a camera flash is designed to replicate, it light up bright red.

We may as well finish up with a couple of Disneyesque Nemo impersonators. The Clown Anemonefish (Amphiprion percula) has certainly become the most universally recognised reef inhabitant on the planet:

That’s it for today. Tomorrow is Dive Day. I’ll be back to waste more of your valuable time.

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Warship Panorama, Blondes and Other Stuff

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Photography Tricks, Under the Sea on April 7th, 2010 by MadDog
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Today is yet another day when there will be no plot to follow. I’m free associating. Come along for the ride. The big Australian Hydrographic Survey Ship HMAS Leeuwin sitting across the harbour from our house inspired me to Zoomify nearly the entire west side of the peninsula.

Here is the view from our front yard in a zoomable image:

On the far left is the main wharf and the warehouse. Moving to the right, you see HMAS Leeuwin.  If you zoom in as far as possible, you can read the name of the ship on the side of the bridge. At the far right is a the only three floor house in Madang. It belongs to a big-shot politician about whom I will say nothing else. I’m not a fool. In front of the house is a sunken boat. Again, no comment.

Geeks may be interested to know that the image above is about 20 MB and is comprised of nearly 1,000 files.

Eunie occasionally feeds me tidbits from the newspaper. I read neither The Post Courier  nor The National.  They’re simply too depressing. However this tasty morsel merits a bit of space here:

BLONDE-haired women may be traditionally labeled as fun-loving and less intelligent but a new study reveals they earn seven percent more on average than women with other hair colours. They also marry wealthier men, who earn six percent more than the husbands of other women, the University of Queensland study revealed. The study, which surveyed 13,000 women, found that the difference in pay remained the same even when factors such as height and education were removed. No other hair colour had the same effect. The research, reported in journal Economics Letters, does not explain just why blondes earned more and have wealthier husbands. But Dr David Johnston, who led the study, said: “Blonde women are often depicted as being more attractive than other women, but also less intelligent. But it seems the association between blondes and beauty dominates any perception that they have low intelligence.”

You see, this makes perfect sense to me. Having married a fun-loving blonde who is also, I’m quite certain, the Smartest Person On the Planet, none of the positive aspects of blondeness surprise me. My wife missed out on the big money, but that’s because she married for love. That she got a looser for her trouble is not her fault. I’ll never be a big earner, but I’m ever so sincere and also cute and cuddly – like a 59 kilogram puppy.

Well, I’m not out of space yet. I’ve done a lot of work this morning and I have a few minutes before my lunch hour. I don’t actually take a lunch hour. I just eat while I work. That leaves me more time for a beer when I get home. Then I have to go back to work again in our “other” office. I’m not complaining. It’s not like I’m stoking boilers on the Titanic.  Most of my work is enjoyable now that I have the network bludgeoned into submission. So, since I’ve got the time, here’s this morning’s sunrise which I have titled from the depths of my boundless imagination Sunrise with Canoe:Also, since we can’t have a post without a fish smell, I’ll show you a Mushroom or Solitary Coral (Fungia fungites):The green stuff is a kind of Sea Squirt. Tomorrow I’m going to show you the biggest blob of those that you are ever likely to see. I bet you an hardly wait. The anemone above and to the right is the fairly rare Merton’s Anemone.

Here’s a cute little Linckia multifora  Starfish:That one’s for you Julie. It seems that one of his legs has decided to have its own way. In reality, I suspect very strongly that this starfish regenerated from a single severed leg. That would explain the one huge leg while the others are small. They are only now approaching normal size after having sprouted from the cut end of the severed leg.

Maybe if I ate enough of these I could grow a new face.

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Merry Christmas Tree Worm

Posted in Under the Sea on December 23rd, 2009 by MadDog
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Let me begin today’s mashup of disorganised visual and verbal clutter by wishing myself a happy birthday. This has, indeed, been an interesting year. Having lived through my 66th year, I now embark on my 67th. In the past year, as a result of a New Year’s Resolution,  I have banished foul language from my daily speech (almost  completely), made an unexpected trip to North America without busting the bank and begun to reverse the devastating financial situation at Casa MadDog.

So many blessings . . .  And now, it’s almost Christmas, a time of year that inevitably depresses me. So many reasons . . . No snow or cold weather (which would probably kill me anyway) Don’t get to see my son and his family, my beautiful, smart granddaughters. Never mind. I’m not going to whine on my birthday. Eunie will bake me a pineapple upside-down cake tomorrow, a family tradition. I’ll eat the whole thing. It will take me about two or three weeks, according to how rapidly my spare tire inflates.

And now for your daily Christmas Tree. Here is a cute little mob of them:

If you move your hand over these they will disappear down their hidy-holes in an instant. No, I’m not guaranteeing that it will happen on your computer screen. Hey, I could do that with a mouse-over. I wish I had time to try it. First I’d have to have the exact same shot with the worms retracted. Never mind. I didn’t think of that while I was under the water.

Here is the star Christmas Tree Worm (Spirobranchus giganteus)  for today:I like the little magenta stars on top.

Here is another “what I actually saw” shot. The murky water at Barracuda Point  last Saturday lends a spooky effect to this shot of Divaricate Tree Coral (Dendronephthya roxasia)  with Carol Dover in the background checking out some Pickhandle Barracuda (Sphyraena jello):It’s not pretty, but it’s what I saw.

Here is something that has puzzled me for some time. We often see these Solitary Corals, sometimes called Mushroom Corals, with damaged edges and colourful stains. This one is a deep form, that is it grows in deeper water, of Fungia fungites:If anybody out there knows anything about this, please enlighten me.

The contortionist of starfish is Choriaster granulatus  or, as we sometimes call it, the Dirty Starfish. I’ll let you wonder why:Another common name for this one is the Granulated Starfish. I don’t know how they manage to squeeze themselves into such awkward positions. This one looks as if it is trapped under a coral ledge.

Sticking with water, but on the surface now, here is yet another water drop image:

My fascination with water drops is boundless.

I wonder what that means?

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Nudibranchs, Solitary Coral and Whatnot

Posted in Under the Sea on August 23rd, 2009 by MadDog
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Oh, it’s Sunday morning and here I am at the office posting because Telikom can’t manage a telephone line four kilometres from the exchange that will pass a data signal. They just keep feeding me the same old lies and empty promises.

I went diving on the big reef just west of Kranket Island yesterday. I didn’t see anything exciting. One wouldn’t expect much inside the barrier reef, but it was too rough outside to anchor. The swell was running about a metre with white horses everywhere.

I do like this shot of a few Humbugs (the black and white fish) and some very pretty cyan coloured fish which I’m far too lazy to look up in my book this morning:

Little cyan fishes

There was an exceptionally brave Reef Lizardfish who allowed me much closer that can usually get. I don’t know how many time’s I’ve tripped the shutter on one of these and got only a puff of dust in the frame for my trouble:

A Reef Lizardfish

Nudibranchs were scarce, but I did manage to find a couple of them. This black variety is presents a genuine challenge to get a good exposure:

Nudibranch

The contrast between the black and white is greater than most cameras can handle. It takes some careful fiddling with Photoshop to get it right.

This was, by far, the best shot of the day:

Nudibranch

I’m getting too lazy to look up the taxonomic names of these. That’s a bad sign. I need someone to whip me into shape and get me moving again.

This, believe it or not, is an oyster:

Oyster

Like giant clams, they have light-sensing organs around the edges of the mantle. If you move your hand over it, it will close up and eject a puff of water strong enough to feel it on your hand.

Hmm . . . I got to the end of the post and nearly for the the Solitary Coral and Whatnot part.  At Kranket Lagoon, I wondered how it would be if I took a picture of nothing. Well, not nothing, exactly, just pointing my camera down at the bottom and snapping whatever was there. It turned out to be much more interesting than I thought it would be:

Solitary coral and whatnot

This is a typical bottom in a coral rich area. The predominant shapes are disk-like solitary corals, or mushroom corals, as they are called by some. They are called solitary because they do not attach to anything.

I often see these flipped over upside-down. The coral will die in this position, because it needs the sun’s energy to fuel the algae that live symbiotically with it and provide part of its food. I’m not sure how that they get flipped over. I suppose that some kinds of fish might feed by flipping things over to see if there is anything tasty underneath. I’ve certainly seen Triggerfish do this. Whenever I see a mushroom coral upside down, I turn it back over right-side up, so that it can carry on with its solitary life.

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