Cuttlefish Hunger

Posted in Under the Sea on June 9th, 2010 by MadDog
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I have a fantastic shot for you today. A couple of days ago I put up a post showing an image of a Cuttlefish. I had looked over the frames which I had taken and chosen the one that I thought was the prettiest. Yesterday, as I was going back over the images from that dive on Planet Rock last Saturday, I discovered something which I had not noticed in my earlier examinations – something which blew my itsy-bitsy mind.

The is the same Broadclub Cuttlefish (Sepia latimanus)  which you saw in the post linked to above. Do you notice anything odd about it? Go on, have a good look before I tell you. Click on it to make it larger:

It quite clearly has a fish sticking out of its mouth. Richard Jones told me that he thought that it was actively hunting when we ran across it. I never thought more about it. It must have snatched this fish with its long feeding tentacles only moments before I snapped this shot. I Googled some “cuttlefish feeding” images this morning and found plenty of examples of the act of feeding, but no others showing a fish sticking out a a cuttlefish’s mouth. I get lucky so often that it is beginning to frighten me.

Today, we’ll alternate back and forth between beauty and weirdness. Some might say that the Cuttlefish is beautiful, but it’s also weird.

Here’s your beauty. It’s lovely Geneviève Tremblay waving “Hello” to you:

Geneviève is a volunteer worker here in Madang. She is a physiotherapist, a much needed skill here in our hazardous country.

I used the “Hello in All Languages” WordPress plugin for the greeting from Geneviève. If you get something other that your local language equivalent of “Hello” please let me know. I’m still testing it.

Snapping back to weird, here is an elegant Longsnout Flathead (Thysanophrys chiltonae):

These are very common on our reefs. They are ambush hunters. Their camouflage abilities are amazing as you can see in this post.

Let’s flip back to beauty for a moment:

Here is a sweet shot of Roz Savage with some lovely orange Antheas and a Feather Star in the foreground. I was so pleased with this shot. It’s definitely going in MadDog’s Little Book of Memories.

Now, this one is not ugly, but it is weird looking. It’s a common Scorpion Shell (Lambis scorpius):

It doesn’t look like much when you first see it laying in the sand.

But, gently turn it over and:

Zowie! That’s a whole different thing there.

Mother Ocean is full of surprises.

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A Curious Collection

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on June 8th, 2010 by MadDog
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Okay, today I’m just winging it. I have no coherent plan, no petty rage to vent, no earth-shattering news, no malicious gossip (no, wait . . . I hate that stuff), and no gonzo wisdom to dispense. I’m reasonably calm, considering the mountainous pile of work which I fear will soon avalanche down upon me and out of which no St. Bernard will come bearing a little keg of Monk-crafted brandy will come to dig me.* I partook of my placebo this morning, consisting of a tiny nibble off of the edge of a 5mg Valium tablet. I know that it’s not enough to affect my body chemistry, it simply lets me feel as if I have some control. I feel like a mouse nibbling on a teeny-weeny chunk of cheese which must last him for a month. The things you do when the mind starts to go . . .

So, I’ll spare you the chatter and show you some images which have lifted me out of the muck a couple of times already this week. We’ll start with a sunrise for which I can credit only God. Sorry folks. Simple physical processes are not up to the task:

Thanks, God. I needed that one.

This is a picture I got a few weeks ago up at Guntabag with my old buddy Tag Tap. He took me to a tiny little house to see this wonderful old man who they say is eighty-three years old:

It is hard for me to keep tears from my eyes when I look at this image of a man who has lived almost literally from the stone age to the space age. How much the world has changed during his lifetime. He would have been born at a time when nearly the entire population of Papua New Guinea lived in areas which had never been mapped and were presumed to be uninhabited. I do not know his name, and If I did, I would not tell you. Names of venerated persons, especially those who are in the twilight zone are often not spoken aloud. A glance or pointing of the chin in his direction is sufficient to indicate the subject of the conversation. He was alert and could speak, offering to shake my hand. However, he was clearly confused concerning why a foriegner would want to come to meet him and take his photograph. I’m going to get a good framed print made of this one and send it up to him.

I can’t get enough of the Finisterre Mountains.  Despite being surrounded by mountains to the west, the Finisterres,  across Astrolabe Bay,  are the only ones which we can see clearly:

I’ll call that one Too Blue.

I’m calling this one Boards Over Water at Blueblood:

The sand from out feet on the deck and the ripples of sand under the water below the deck connected furiously in my medula oblongata. I stared curiously at my hands as they, of their own accord, set the controls on my trusty Canon G11 and framed the shot. I heard a subtle “click” inside my head when the shutter released. It was surreal.

Here is a happy, happy picture:

It is (Rozlings take note) Roz Savage, Genevieve Tremblay, me and Jo Noble in Faded Glory  on our way out to Planet Rock on Saturday. Thanks to pal Meri Armstrong for the snap. Meri was intensely concerned with getting the iconic Madang Coastwatchers Monument in the background. I enlarged my bicep only slightly – honest! And, by the way, I am not “making a donkey” out of Genevieve. I’m giving the Peace Sign.

Which reminds me. I haven’t shown the Faded Glory  Diving Crew t-shirt logo for a long time:

I’m putting it up here because I’m looking for a t-shirt company who can make some up for me. If anybody out there has any ideas, please leave me a comment or send me an email.

Just a couple of more and then you can get back to work before the boss comes around. I love spirals. When you are in the sea you are surrounded by them. Here is one of my favourite spiral shots:

What I like about them is that none of them are perfect. They are only suggestions of what spirals might be if they tried harder, if they cared more about being true to their good nature. They remind me of humans.

So, now that I’ve gone completely silly, I may as well carry on. I saw this bottle on the otherwise pristine reef at Planet Rock:

As you can see, the reef is desperately trying to incorporate it into itself. It is a hopeless task, because the bottle is of a different nature from the reef. The reef lives. The bottle is dead and always has been. The bottle does not belong to the reef and the reef does not want it there. So, the reef hides its shame and restores its beauty by absorbing the foreign bottle into itself.

I’m calling it Message in a Bottle.

* Please note the incredibly clumsy sentence which I crafted to avoid ending it with the prepostiion “out”.

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Dive Day – A Little Surprise!

Posted in Under the Sea on June 5th, 2010 by MadDog
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Saturday morning weather looked promising. It appears as if the dry season is arriving on time this year. This will be a great relief to the many people who depend on their gardens for their main food supply. I was feeling quite happy as I prepared Faded Glory  for departure.

I arrived at the Madang Resort Hotel wharf where we meet and rent air tanks for our little dive club from Sir Peter Barter’s dive shop, a generosity which allows us to go diving every week. Most of us could not afford to do that otherwise. As friends appeared, I noticed a strange look on some of the faces. They seemed to be looking over my shoulder as I was leaning over tending to some gear. When I turned around I did a double-take of movie quality. Grinning down at me was Roz Savage, who seemingly had not had enough of Mother Ocean. It was very pleasant to have her along and allow her to be simply “one of the mob”.

The lighting was all wrong for this cute shot of Geneviève Tremblay:

It looks as if she is about to be eaten by the big sea slug in the foreground. It was only about a half-metre long.

A week or so ago, Geneviève took this shot of me checking our anchor line. I don’t often get any decent pictures of myself. This miffs me a bit, because I never tire of looking at myself:Geneviève did a nice job of composing the shot, so all I had to do was Photoshop my love handles down to  less grotesque dimensions. One wants to look as good an one might. The emphasis is on might.  The amusement of exercise escapes me. I simply try to eat as little as possible.

I used up a fair bit of air chasing these Bigeye Trevally (Carnax sexfasciatus)  up and down over Planet Rock:

I was very lucky to catch the bubbles of a diver in the background.

Another treat was this Broadclub Cuttlefish (Sepia latimanus)  which allowed me to snap several shots before it tired of the game and rocketed off with a puff of ink:

Any day when you get a cuttlefish shot is a good day.

I like this one of the little fish hiding right next to the gaping jaws of a Moray Eel (Gymnothorax javanicus):

Possibly they know that this is probably the safest place for them. If you stand behind a bully who ignores you, you are unlikely to be bothered by anybody else.

Though we were trying to allow Roz to enjoy not being the centre of attention for a few hours, I could not resist this shot as were were coming up the anchor line to Faded Glory  after our dive:

I can’t imagine a more perfect day.

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Hanging Out the Door

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on April 27th, 2010 by MadDog
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I am now officially so far behind that I will never catch up. Yesterday had a three hour chunk removed from my plans when I went out on Sir Peter Barter’s Robertson R-44 helicopter and spent a literally hair raising period of time hanging out of the door. I’ve always had a sort of fetish about sitting in the open door of a helicopter with my feet hanging over the side. It’s so close to the edge, right where I like to walk. I spent many hours sitting in the open door of a Hotel model Huey when I wasn’t piloting.

At one point I let the wind get under my headphones. That was a mistake. In a flash they were clunking against the rear window on the end of the cord. I reeled them in and mumbled, “That’s not good.” into the microphone. Honestly, I couldn’t think of anything else to say. Though the trip put me further behind in my work schedule, I got 480 images for the grist mill of Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.

Those will dribble in as they fit with the plans of my wandering Muse. Today I’ll show you this pretty shot of the far north end of Madang with Kranket, Leper, Little Pig and Pig Islands  stretching up the coast:I have a few rather sensitive images also – things that some folks hereabout, I’ll let you guess who, might not want you to see. I’ll just have to see if my waning testosterone level allows me to display them.

In the meantime, let’s go to the fish market:This should be starting to look familiar by now, since I’ve shown it many times. It’s the wonderful fluorescent Magnificent Anemone (Entacmaea quadricolor)  hosting Spinecheek Anemonefish (Amphiprion biaculatus)  at Planet Rock.  Put “spinecheek” in the search box to see plenty of these wonderful fish.

Since I’m feeling a little frayed around the edges – up until 01:30 last night and had just one too many glasses of red, I’ll tickle myself back out of my temporary coma with some brightly coloured feathers:That one was a Comanthina schlegeli.  I can’t find species names for most of them. It has a lot to do with counting legs and arms. Since the creatures are so incredibly delicate and stick to you like super glue, I don’t care to destroy them just to figure out what the Latin name is. Let the guys in the white lab coats take care of that.

Here’s a very pretty one which I can’t identify:It’s curled up very neatly.

This is the feather star equivalent of The Mall:

Everybody wants to go to “The Mall”, especially in small towns. “Oh, let’s go to the city to The Mall!” The kiddies shriek, “The Mall, The Mall. Oh, yes! Take us to The Mall!” Personally, I don’t get it. I avoid the places like the plague unless I need something which I can’t purhase somewhere else. The main problem is that I nearly always get lost and end up wandering from door to door looking out into the parking lot to see if I can remember if it’s the one where I left my car. I once took a cab to a mall, just to avoid that trauma. I experience a mild form of panic when this happens. I worry that I may have had a mini-stroke. It’s hard to know what to do. Go to the security goofs and admit that I can’t find my car? I’d nearly rather slit my wrists in the central fountain and go out with a bang. They could  decide that I might be a danger to myself or some unspecified “others” and bang me up in the slammer while The Suits figure out what to do with me.

Oh, sorry, I’m running on again. The brakes went completely out on our truck today. The timing was unfortunate, as I was blasting up Modilon Road at about 80 kliks per with my hair on fire. It’s such  a weird feeling when you shove that pedal and it just glides all the way to the floor with as much resistance as I could offer to Raquel Welch. With some fancy clutching and shifting I managed to get it creeping back to the office. They towed it away an hour ago. I had just put the “For Sale” signs out yesterday. If figures.

Alright, enough! Have a look at this:

Dig that hair, man. It looks as if Kate and the Feather Star are in a fierce competition. “Hah! My hair’s bigger than yours!”

Okay, I’m finished now. You can go back to work.

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Photgraphing the Photographer

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on April 26th, 2010 by MadDog
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ANZAC Day has past now, and I’m into the work week with a fury. Well, a flutter, anyway. I’m so far behind that some things are simply getting put into the If I Ever Get Around To It tray. My situation report this morning will be terse, but I do have some nice snaps for your amusement.

I’ll begin by showing you my distressingly flabby triceps. As I was shooting a very nice sunset on Trevor Hattersley’s Lyin’ Dog,  I kept noticing flashes coming from behind me. I took little notice, since everybody was ohhhing  and ahhhhing  at the pretty colours. I assumed it was someone who did not know enough to turn their flash off. Little did I suspect that I was the subject and the cameraman knew exactly what he was doing. Witness the work of Lt. Colonel Simon Watts:Thanks for sending that along, Simon. It will help me to get back to hitting the weights a couple of times a day.

Once in a great while, I get a shot that drops my jaw. So much is up to luck. You can do it perfectly ten times and only one will be good. A hundred times and maybe you’ll say, “Oh, that’s really nice.” Give it a thousand times and you might get something like this:When the colours are so ethereal that it looks fake . . . no, painterly,  then I feel as if I’ve been somehow blessed. It is, of course, a Spinecheek Anemonefish (Amphiprion biaculatus).  There are presently two of them living in a Bulb Anemone (Entacmaea quadricolor)  with incredible pigmentation at Planet Rock.  I’ve been shooting this same anemone for at least fifteen years. I visit it every time I dive at Planet Rock.  I’ve shown it to hundreds of divers. It’ my  anemone. I’ve made it the most famous Anemone in Madang, so it owes me.

Bulb Anemones, like some other anemones, can display an almost unreal range of colours as you can see from the one in this post.

This is what happens when you stack beauty on beauty. Kate and I were the only divers on Saturday, so we had Planet Rock  all to ourselves. Here a lazy Blue Plastic Toy Starfish (Linckia laevigata)  lounges atop an ancient coral bomie wearing a feather star for a cap while Kate provides the real eye candy:

Lots of blue there.

Since I’ve gotten started with blue, we’ll just keep that theme. Here’s an unfortunately motion-blurred shot of a Pink Anemonefish (Amphiprion perideraion)  in a Magnificent Anemone (Heteractis magnifica):The tentacles of this anemone were absurdly blue. I don’t think that I’ve seen one this bright, though there are several other colours which reach this level of saturation. Witness the wonderful green-tentacled Magnificent Anemone here.

What this shot lacks in quality, it makes up for in blueness. It’s a school of Fusiliers of some kind racing past me:We like to say that diving in Madang is very much the same as diving in a huge aquarium. We seldom have to deal with fussy weather or big seas. The water is not always crystalline, but the quantity and the wonderful nearness  of the sea life makes up for the less than perfect visibility.

Not even Paradise is perfect. We don’t care. It’s close enough for us.

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Planet Rock – Move Along People, Nothing To See Here

Posted in Under the Sea on March 7th, 2010 by MadDog
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I may as well continue feeding you a steady diet of fish for a couple of more days, at least until I run out of images from our dive on Planet Rock  yesterday. Richard Jones, (A. K. A. “Eagle Eyes”) has been spotting for me. It’s like having an experienced tracker along on a safari. We’re not shooting big game, but I bet Rich could spot a lion’s ears peeking above the savanna grass at 200 metres.

Here’s Rich doing his thing:Not a single nook or cranny escapes his attention.

However, while Rich is poking around looking for treasure, I’m usually takin’ in the scene, man. When you first start diving you’re looking for the big, flashy stuff. After the shine wears off you can begin to appreciate the simple beauty of a starfish:It looks as if it’s strolling along the bottom, which, in fact, it is – though very slowly. I admire the starfish’s lack of urgency. When you pass, there’s always a little whisper, “Hey, man. Stay cool.”

You look for the odd juxtapositions. There’s no shortage of them. Here two species of Solitary Coral seem to be cuddling:Nobody told them that it’s wrong. It’s blissful ignorance. Life is simple in the sea. You only have three things to think about. You eat. You reproduce. You are eventually eaten or otherwise return to Mama Ocean’s storehouse of building materials.

You can never swim far without encountering a bit of magic. Here little jewels of amber hover over a plate coral.They are Reticulated Dascyllus,  but that matters not a bit when the magic overcomes you. Everything is alive and a part of the whole. Identity merges into the gestalt.  Are the Dascullus Reticulatus  and the coral inseparable – needful of one another? Technically, no. However, the sense that you get is that it is all meant to fit together just as it is. Everything is copacetic.

Here and there passes a Unicorn . . . no, not really. Nevertheless, what it is is no less magical:A Trumpetfish hurries to escape the camera. It’s no less a beautiful mystery if you call it Aulostomus chinensis.  The background blurs and the camera strains to follow the motion. The photographer feels a part of the daily life of the reef. I think of the Don Knotts movie, The Incredible Mr. Limpet.  I feel somehow more peaceful and accepted as a fish. I move like a fish, through a three dimensional world. My breathing slows and my body relaxes. I’m in the sea. I’m of  the sea. I am home.

And she rewards me for my admiration, respect and love. She sparkles for me:The sweet Anthea  gather round me and frolic. I join their dance and music rushes through me.

We must protect our mother. If she dies, we shall all perish with her.

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Planet Rock – Nudibranch Metropolis

Posted in Under the Sea on February 10th, 2010 by MadDog
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Last Saturday, with my buddy Rich Jones spotting for me, we had a nudibranch-fest at Planet Rock.  Because of the river water covering the top of the sea mount, there wasn’t enough light to avoid using the flash on my Canon G11. However, this worked to my advantage when shooting nudibranchs.

There are so many kinds of nudibranchs that I sometimes have difficulty identifying them. I have a book on marine invertebrates, but it includes only about a hundred nudibranch species. There are far more than that within twenty minutes of my house. Sometimes it’s difficult to get it down to even the genus level, because species within a given genus can appear wildly different.

Ah, I can hear some yawning out there, so let’s get down to the pretty pictures.

This one is fairly easy. I can tell that it’s a Pteraeolidia  of some kind, probably P. ianthina:I have a very difficult time finding these. They are usually only about 1.5 to 2 cm long. Richard is a master at spotting them, being a total freak about nudibranchs. We spotted two in a row. This is the second one:I know that it’s very illogical, but I sometimes wonder how something like this can even be alive. It is so utterly alien to anything that we are used to seeing. If you think about it, they are no less bizarre than the deep-sea monstrosities that we sometimes see in the news. It’s often said that we know more about the surface of Mars and our Moon than we know about the abyssal habitats of the oceans. I don’t know if that is true, but I can take it in.

The next ones that I have to show you are among my favourite nudis, the Electric Swallowtails.

This Electric Swallowtail (Chelidonura electra)  is relatively common around here. You can see it elsewhere in Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.  Just put swallowtail in the search box and you’ll see all of the posts which contain images.

Here is another individual of the same species. As you can see they are amazingly plastic. I’m reminded of Rubber Man from my comic book days. For example, have a look at this one moving from one bit of coral to another:I estimate that between the two shots above the critter increased its body length by a factor of four. I measure about 164cm (that’s 5’ 4” and a half for metric-challenged Americans) in my bare feet, not exactly a giant. If I could stretch out that far, I’d be 6.5 metres tall. I’d have to bend over to look in 1st floor windows (that’s second floor windows for Americans).

Perhaps I should explain, briefly. In America, the numbering of floors, in common parlance, begins with the floor that is more or less even with the ground, in other words, it is just above what would be the first basement floor. This, in America, is called the first floor. The floor above it is the second and so forth. In much of the rest of the world, the said floor even with the ground is called . . . well, it’s called the ground floor. Hard to argue with, eh? Then, of course, you have to call the next floor the first floor and so forth. Forget mezzanines and such which just add additional confusion. I’ll not get into which is correct or more logical. I’m just explaining the way it is.

Oh, my, I’ve drifted off point again. That’s happening more and more lately. Let’s get back to the nudibranchs.

Here is a final shot of Electric Swallowtails enjoying an intimate moment:I shal not describe their activity. This is a family-friendly site (mostly). Use your immagination.

This is an entirely different nudibranch which is soometimes referred to as the Black Electric Swallowtail, the Chelidonura inornata:As you can see, there are physical similarities, but the pigmentation is radically different.

We saw quite a few of these. In one small area, less than a quarter metre square, there were five enjoying an impromptu love-fest. Here are a couple of frolicking nudis for you:Richard spotted some eggs and attempted to point them out to me. I was busy snapping, so I missed them. I could see him gesturing and attempting to say, “Eggs” through his regulator, It came out something like, “Eblublublelbgshblubelbule”. I couldn’t translate, so I never did see the eggs. I didn’t know about them until I was back on Faded Glory.  I’d never have found the spot again on my own and Rich is limited to one dive because of his insurance limitations. So we said forget the eggs.

However, while snapping away, I peeped on further evidence of a sort of nudibranch Woodstock:Naked nudis doing the boogaloo right out in the open. Shocking!

I wonder what they were smoking.

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