Leper Island – No Lepers – Never Were

Posted in Under the Sea on February 7th, 2010 by MadDog
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I already went into the whole thing of Leper Island  never having had any lepers on it. If you want to read the quasi-amusing details, you can find them here. On Saturday, we first dived Planet Rock  (more about that tomorrow) and then the southern tip of Leper Island.  I had only about 70 BAR of air left in my tank, but that was enough for forty minutes of bimbling around on top of the reef snapping anything that moves and some that don’t.

For instance, here’s the familiar (to regular readers) female Latticed Sandperch (Parapercis clathrata):

The female looks just like the male, minus the big black bulls-eye behind the eyes.

I’m just nusto about spirals. They are everywhere in nature. This coral (Acropora clathrata)  often makes pretty spiral shaped shelves with frilly coloured edges:I’d like to have a coffee table with one of these cast in acrylic plastic. No, cancel that. I’d have to kill about a million coral polyps.

There were some beautiful sand waves on top of the reef. The water above was quite bumpy. There was a lot of chop and some slow rollers coming over the top. This makes the sand pile up in lovely symmetrical waves. It also makes photography difficult, as sand is flying everywhere and you are being dragged around like a two year old child kicking and screaming through the supermarket because mom won’t let you have that 90% sugar breakfast cereal that makes you think that you’re Superman:Never mind. If you eat enough of that stuff you’ll soon be on crack cocaine.

Despite the thorough trashing, I was able to get a couple of nice three frame reef panoramas. The Canon G11 makes this a snap. There is even a stitching feature in the software that comes with the camera so that you can do the job without Photoshop:Much as I hate to brag, I have to mention that one of my previous reef panoramas will soon be on display at the Monterrey Bay Aquarium as a 7 by 2 metre background for one of their displays.

I didn’t think that it was that good. However, after I spent a few hours working on it, making it about 24,000 pixels wide and working the colours over until it made me go mmmmm, I sent it off to them and they liked it. Here’s another one:Now, if I could just get someone to actually pay me  to do this stuff . . .

These last two shots make me feel like the King of the Sea. This is a rarely seen juvenile Oriental Sweetlips (Plectorhinchus orientalis):During over 2,000 dives, I’ve only seen one maybe three or four times. They are very cautious. Being only about as long as your pinkie and as conspicuous as a fire engine red 1959 Cadillac, they are understandably secretive.

They usually try to hide under ledges. They never stay still. They swim ceaselessly in a tarty, twirly, Chubby Checkers kind of “Come on Baby, Let’s Do the Twist” dance which doesn’t at all help them to avoid predators. I don’t see where they get the energy, let alone how they  stay alive:I have to mention that I would never have gotten these shots to look as good if they had come from the Canon G10 instead of my new G11. The increase in the dynamic range allowed be to capture both the deep, deep brown and the dazzling whites without losing all detail.

I’m the proverbial happy camper. Except my camp is underwater.

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More Underwater Critters

Posted in Under the Sea on January 27th, 2010 by MadDog
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Well, the charter to Bag Bag Island  is off. There have been several small craft lost at sea in Astrolabe Bay  over the last few days. There’s a fierce nor’easter blowing and the chop is reported to be up to three metres. I’m poor and wild, but I’m not completely insane. The money was good, but the risk too great. As soon as I told my good friend Trevor Hattersley about the charter he called me back several times to talk me out of it. That is what good mates do. Thanks, Trev.

So, I find myself presently incomeless, but safe and dry.

Therefore, let me attempt to entertain you for a few minutes with some miscellaneous pretty pictures and some verbal rambling. This Coral (Lobophyllia hemprichii)  is not the stuff of of raw excitement, but it’s interesting to speculate how something that looks like this is actually alive:I’m reminded of the old Star Trek  episode in which the rocks were sentient, albeit slow movers.

After a few thousand dives and more time underwater than most people spend at church in a lifetime, you get to the point at which you can make educated guesses. Here’s a shot of a motion-blurred Oriental Sweetlips (Plectorhinchus orientalis)  and terror-frozen Many-Spotted Sweetlips (Plectorhinchus chaetodonoides):I knew how this shot would play out. The Many-Spotted Sweetlips will freeze for a while when it spots you. It will try to hide by pretending not to be there. “Look at me. HAH! Can’t see me, can you?” Then, as it slowly sinks in that it’s being observed, it will begin to swim away, usually without too much fuss. The Oriental Sweetlips, however, is easily panicked and makes haste to use the nearest escape route. I could see around a corner that the two fish were slowly finning in the sluggish current side-by-side. As soon as I popped my head up over the top of the coral bomie, the spotted fish froze for a moment and the Oriental Sweetlips headed for the door – thus the blurry fish image.

You’ve seen these fat slugs before. It may not sound politically correct to call them that, but that’s exactly what they are, so it’s okay:It’s a Sea Cucumber (Thelenota ananas),  a particularly pink one. They are usually more brownish. Possibly it has a fever.

Sometimes I need to show you a really bad image just so that you can see that underwater photography is a crap shoot. This is a Blacktip Shrimpgoby (Cryptocentrus polyophthalmus),  a fish which I seldom see:I knew the shot would be awful, because the fish was back in a hole and I couldn’t get close. Nevertheless, it’s the only image that I have of this species. I’m not bursting with pride.

This, however, is a nice little reef scene with a couple of male Purple Anthea (Pseudanthias tuka):When I saw these two, they were engaged in a little ritualised sparring. I snapped the shot as they were returning to their corners for a time-out. That’s why they are swimming away from each other.

Here is a perfectly beautiful image of a nudibranch that I still  can’t identify:I’m going to have to invest some money in a better nudi book.

You’ve seen these Divaricate Tree Coral (Dendronephthya roxasia)  here several times. I’ve mistakenly called them Diverticulate Tree Corals elsewhere. Gonna have to fix that:The one above is particularly nice. Good, symmetrical shape, rich colour; I like it.

Enough of the fishy stuff. Let me show you two UFOs that I caught on camera the other day. Actually there may be three, a big green one with an orange one riding on its back and a purple one up higher:

I yelled at them, but nobody came down to visit. If there were aliens aboard, they must be a snooty lot.

Of course, all that is wishful thinking. The coloured blobs are obviously lens flares caused by internal reflections within the optics of the bright orb of the sun.

Someday I’ll show you my real  UFO shots. They’ll blow you away!

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