Rainy Day – Barracuda Point

Posted in Under the Sea on February 9th, 2009 by MadDog
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When I got up on Saturday morning and heard the rain on the metal roof of our house, I knew all was not well. We seem to be curiously blessed with an abundance of sunny Saturdays – even during the rainy season, of which we are in the middle.

I left my gear at home and went over to the dock to see if anybody would show up for a dive. A couple of hardy friends did show up, so we were off to Barracuda Point at Pig Island to check the conditions.

A current was raging. Since there were only two of us diving, we decided to swim for it.

At first, there didn’t seem to be much to see. All the fish were elsewhere. I fiddled with some bubbles and a Semperina fan coral:
Bubbles rising through a fan coralGetting into the coral now, I shot this image of an Acabaria fan coral. If you click to enlarge, you can see the individual polyps:

Fan Coral

This Ctenocella coral is a beautiful red colour and sways grasslike in the current:

Ctenocella Coral

I don’t know the identity of this sponge, but it is an example of how we often see one sponge growing on another. The tan coloured sponge appears to have a red encrusting sponge growing on parts of its surface:

Sponge with another sponge encrusting it?

Finally, some fish life! This baby Blue-Spotted Stingray (Dasyatis kuhlii) was hiding under a ledge. He is only about the size of a dinner plate:

Blue-Spotted Stingray - Dasyatis kuhlii

I caught these Reticulated Dascyllus (Dascyllus reticulatus) hiding in their favourite coral (Seriatopora hystrix):

Reticulated dascylusHere is a YouTube shot of the Dascyllus reticulatus swimming around a Acropora hyacinthus (I think!) coral:
The video quality is not as good as the original. I’m still trying to figure out how to get the best quality on YouTube. You can get the idea, anyway.

Finally, here is another shot of a White Bonnet Anemonefish (Amphiprion_leucokranos):

White Bonnet Anemonefish (Amphiprion leucokranos)In approximately 2,000 dives in the area, this is only the second time that I have seen this species.  Given that all Anemonefish have a free-floating larval stage that must find an anemone in order to survive, it isn’t surprising that they may suddenly appear in places where they were not previously found.

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Ocean Patterns

Posted in Under the Sea on January 2nd, 2009 by MadDog
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I’ve always been fascinated by the infinite variety and complexity of natural pattens. I reckon that nowhere else on the planet are these patterns more striking and varied than in the ocean.

Sometimes the more mobile of the inhabitants can form patterns. These patterns are less rigidly organized and regular. They change from moment to moment. Here Reticulated Dascyllus (Dascyllus reticulatus) hover in a cloud over plate coral:

A cloud of Reticulated Dascyllus (Dascyllus reticulatus) hangs over plate coral

Bigeye Trevally (Caranx sexfasciatus) form a solid mass of fish. This creates a mesmerizing pattern that looks artificial:

A solid mass of Bigeye Trevally (Caranx sexfasciatus)

The spots on a giant clam mimic a leopard:

Giant Clam pretends it's a leopard

Extended coral polyps feed on passing yummy bits. The flower-like polyps extend starlike, gather food, and then clench like a fist to “swallow” the meal every two or three seconds:

Coral polyps feeding in the ocean current

Being less mobile, the stone-like skeletons of coral serve up more visual feasts. Here you can see that the plates under the growing edge of this coral are so thin that sunlight passes through and casts a golden glow:

Sunlight glows through thin coral walls

The familiar Brain Coral presents a treacherous maze:

Brain Coral - not as yukky as it sounds

Algae growing upon and within the coral can look like tree-lined streets between twisty rows of apartment blocks:

Twisty, tree-lined avenues on coral

A bumpy coral head doesn’t disrupt the persistent labyrinth:

The maze goes right over the hills on this coral

Evenly spaced alien vehicles travel along canyons on a strange planet:

Alien vehicles navigating twisty roads on coral

Holding with the alien theme, I wonder how many UFOlogists would swear that this photograph must show the skin of a visitor from another world:

Close-up of the skin of a reptilian alien discovered in my garden in Madang, Papua New Guinea

Some patterns are so strange that no appropriate title comes to mind:

Weird coral pattern that defies description

I snapped all of the coral pattern images above in a single thirty-minute dive. There were many more patterns, but I selected only a few, since there’s a time limit for staring at these things.

If you want to get trippy at work, download the larger versions of these images and use them for screensavers or desktop backgrounds.

It can make your head go funny.

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