Additional Miscellanea

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on May 16th, 2010 by MadDog
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Well, it’s a rainy Sunday morning and I’m doubly stymied. We had planned to put up a new VSAT receiver on the satellite dish on the roof of our office, but the rain looks as it it may prevent that. And, since it’s raining, there’s not much point in going up the beach at Blueblood. Our present vendor for the Internet signal has simply become too slow and expensive for us. We are switching to another vendor partly because of their much lower price and partly because they have appointed me their sales representative for the Madang area. I’m hoping to sell a bunch of them. It is the first time that we have had, in Papua New Guinea, a VSAT system that is really affordable by a small business or even a well-heeled household. More to report later after the introduction at the Madang Club on Tuesday evening.

The sun this morning was putting on a rather nice show:

If you click to enlarge, you’ll see that I caught two eagles in this shot. One is just to the left and above the towering cumulus at the left edge of the yellow shaft of sunlight. The other is in the centre of the frame at the very top.

This is very similar to the one I got a couple of days ago:

And, I’m still very upset with Digicel. This is not over yet. When I get upset, stinky stuff begins to hit the fan.

This is the most colossal collection of Christmas Tree Worms (Spirobranchus giganteus)  which I have ever seen:

The area at which you are looking is maybe a half-metre wide. I guess that it contains at least a hundred Christmas Tree Worms. I found it directly under Faded Glory  when we were tied up at the buoy near The Green Dragon  B-25 bomber. I put this shot up on my server at much higher resolution than usual. If you click on it you’ll see a very detailed image, but it will take a little time to load, as it’s almost 700KB.

At the very end of the port wing of The Green Dragon  is a giant barrel sponge. It is so huge that I’m worried that will eventually break the wing. I caught this shot of bubbles from our tanks trapped underneath the sponge:

The bomber is in considerably worse shape than it was when I first dived it about about twenty-some years ago.

Here some fish which are exceedingly unlikely to end up on your table for a light lunch. They are the improbably named Shrimp Fish (Aeoliscus strigatus):

They are much too small to make a meal of. These were attempting to hide from me on the port wing of The Green Dragon.  They normally swim with their heads down as you see them here. If their ruse to appear as if they are part of the coral fails, then they adopt a horizontal position and swim away rapidly.

Yesterday afternoon in my garden the sun was shining through a yellow Trumpet Flower blossom:

I fooled around for about five minutes to get the flower lined up with the orange lilies which you see in the background. Photography is a very fussy hobby. I can take in a scene with my eyes and know exactly what I want to capture in the bits of digital data. Getting it there is sometimes more difficult than imagining it.

Yesterday I got lucky. Everything was copacetic.

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Fish Bites Lady

Posted in Under the Sea on May 10th, 2010 by MadDog
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Saturday was  a beautiful day on Astrolabe Bay  north of Madang at Wongat Island.  The sun was shining fiercely, the sea was flat and mirrored and the fish were jumpin’ and the cotton was high. Whoops, that’s a little of George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess  slipping in there. I must have listened to that operetta a thousand times as a child. The line is from Summertime  sung by Porgy. I can still sing it from memory.

Here are the first couple of verses:

And the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’
And the cotton is high

Your daddy’s rich
And your mamma’s good lookin’
So hush little baby
Don’t you cry

I always loved Gershwin. Rhapsody in Blue  is my very favourite.

Well, I’m rambling already, but it’s Monday morning, so I may as well get an early start on the week.

How about this very cute French Canadian, Genevieve, sitting in the cockpit of the B-25 bomber The Green Dragon:Now, that is a very fetching sight. However, it’s not funny. I’m in the mood for funny.

And funny I give you:Just forward of the starboard wing is an anemone inhabited by a very feisty little group of Clark’s Anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii).  That’s not the funny part. Here you can see Genevieve’s darling hand stretched out to play with the cute little fishies. They dart about and brush against your fingertips as if they are enjoying it. Do not believe it. It is a ploy to lure you within range of their teensy-weensy little teeth. A couple of seconds after I took this shot I heard a piercing scream. I looked at Genevieve. She had a startled look on her face and was shaking and rubbing her hand. I knew, of course, what had happened and I began to laugh into my regulator, an experience which itself is comical.

After doing the Bomber, we attempted The Henry Leith  from the beach. It was a mistake. I couldn’t find a 34 metre wreck only about 100 metres off the beach. I will excuse my poor navigation by mentioning that the visibility was less than ten metres. Back up on top of the reef, we spent the rest of a seventy minute dive snapping whatever looked promising, such as this ridiculously orange sponge:

What’s that  all about?

I did manage a nice one of a couple of Clown Anemonefish (Amphiprion percula)  in an absurdly green anemone:Yes, those are Nemo’s cousins.

Here is a typical coral bomie in the range of depth between one an about seven metres. They are covered with Christmas Tree Worms (Spirobranchus giganteus):Last Christmas I gave my faithful readers Christmas Tree Worms for Christmas, complete with Christmas presents.

I’m such a cheapskate.

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Christmas Presents on a Coral Reef

Posted in Under the Sea on December 25th, 2009 by MadDog
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Well, it’s Christmas Day here. Most of the world will not catch up with us for a few hours. In the spirit of the season, I’ve prepared a modest, hastily constructed Christmas present for you. I honestly had something much more elaborate planned, but we all know how plans go this time of year. Just ask all of the people who are lined up for a plane or train. I’m quite happy to be “Home for Christmas” without moving a muscle.

So, to my readers, who have given me so much joy since I started Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  only a little more than two years ago, here is my humble gift to you:

You can no longer say that nobody has ever given you a Spirobranchus giganteus  for Christmas.

And, since I have exactly one Christmas Tree Worm image left, I am going to give it to you for Boxing Day:Now, let’s get on with the party.

Here is a cute little “puppy dog” Blackspotted Puffer (Arothron nigropunctatus)  being desperately persued by a Bluestreak Cleaner Wrasse (Labroides dimidiatus)  looking for some fast food:The little cleaner wrasse is in its juvenile phase. It will be much less dramatic as an adult. They swim with a curious curling motion to advertise their services. It always reminds me of a fish dancing to Chubby Checkers singing “Come on Baby. Let’s Do the Twist.”

This Slender Grouper (Anyperodon leucogrammicus)   is a very handsome fish, indeed. They are easily spooked, so you have to sneak up on them while holding your breath:After a minute or so, just as you are dying for good, deep breath, you might get a chance for a shot. I only managed one exposure of this fish. Fortunately, everything worked perfectly. It’s a good specimen shot.

Being right in the middle of nudibranch heaven, it’s not surprising that I run across cute little eye candies such as this on a regular basis.It has the less-than-endearing name of Phyllidiella pustulosa.  Just play with that one for a while. You’ll find it just as revolting as I do.

Finally, as I run out of words and images, I leave you with one of my trusted and favoured themes:Yes, that’s right. Once again I give you Water Drops. I just can’ t stop taking pictures of them.

I am so easily amused. It comes of having a simple mind.

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Orchids, Orchids, Orchids

Posted in Mixed Nuts on December 24th, 2009 by MadDog
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Here in Paradise, we have so many species of orchids that it’s ridiculous. Orchids are everywhere. You can’t swing a dead cat without damaging a priceless orchid plant. I found some good orchid information on an Australian site,  We have our own PNG orchid site at Papua New Guinea Orchid News.

I was waiting yesterday afternoon for Eunie to do some work at Madang Lodge, so I pulled out my trusty Canon G9 and started stalking orchids. Not a bad haul for fifteen minutes of killing time.

Don’t look at me as if you think that I know what I’m talking about. I have no intention of wading through the sites listing orchid species to discover the proper names of these beauties. Let’s just call them orchids and leave it at that:I call that one a purple orchid.

And, this one is a furry orchid:

I don’t know; is that fur or fuzz? It’s hard to tell. It’s not short enough to be fuzz and not long enough to be fur. Maybe it is furz.

Here is the business end of the same orchid:

And, here is your basic ‘going to the prom’ orchid. When I was a teenager, I used to spend exorbitant sums of money buying these things to pin on the modest bosoms of girlfriends when embarking on special dates. They were good investments:Purple seems to be a very popular colour for orchids:However, sometimes you get a weird surprise:
What is that  supposed to be, anyway?

It’s the day before Christmas and you haven’t had your Christmas Tree Worm yet. So, here it is:Yes, that is a particularly spiky looking Spirobranchus giganteus.

Tomorrow is Christmas Day. I don’t have a clue what we are going to be doing yet. We will probably go up to Blueblood for a swim and a BBQ. Eunie and I wish all of you (getting to be quite a crowd now – about 1,500 per day) a very happy holiday season.

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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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Hungry? Have a Delicious Sea Cucumber (Bêche-de-mer)

Posted in Under the Sea on December 22nd, 2009 by MadDog
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On Saturday, our regular dive day, we went to Barracuda Point,  on the eastern side of Pig Island.  The water at the surface was filled with particulate matter, but below about twenty metres, it was fairly clear. Just after we entered the water we saw this huge Sea Cucumber (Thelenota ananas).  This species is also known as the Prickly Redfish or the Pineapple Fish. Of course, it’s not a fish at all, neither is it a pineapple. However, its species name, ananas,  does mean pineapple. Well, okay, a pineapple is actually Ananas comosus.


Believe it or not, people eat them. I guess people eat just about anything, but I have a problem with this one. Of course, there are many different species. None of them look tasty to me:Prickly Red Fish, indeed!

How prickly? Have a look at this. If you scaled this up to human size, we’d all be covered with 10 cm wide spiky star-shaped red warts:It’s pretty in a very bizarre way – definitely one of the more unusual skins that I’ve seen.

Here is the front end:Or is it the back end? Some Bêche-de-mer have easily discernible front and rear ends. I didn’t take time to give this one an anatomical exam. You can usually tell by the trail of sandy poo left behind. There was none here. Maybe it was constipated.

Keeping with my rare Christmasy mood, Here is a bit of green to go with our red. It is a particularly lovely Magnificent Anemone (Heteractis magnifica):The outside of the ‘jug’ is the underside of the anemone. They usually lie in the feeding position, which is spread out like a carpet. If the surge gets to be a bit much or it is not a good feeding time, the skin contracts and pulls up, often leaving only a few tentacles sticking out of a hole. Surprisingly, any anemonefish residing in the anemone will be popping in and out of the hole, much as you see here. By the way, the fish here is the Pink Anemonefish (Amphiprion perideraion).

Keeping in the spirit of “what you see is what I saw” here is an image of some Pickhandle Barracuda (Sphyraena jello)  coming up the side of the reef. Note all of the particulate matter floating in the water:It’s not all clear sailing.

Not forgetting my intent to bring you a Christmas Tree Worm every day until the 25th, here is your Spirobranchus giganteus  for today:Happy holidays!

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Sky and Water – A Camera as a Toy

Posted in At Sea, Photography Tricks on December 21st, 2009 by MadDog
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It’s part of my image of life, going back to childhood when my father taught me photography, that I think of a camera as a toy. Why do kids love the Transformer toys? Well, my theory is that, unlike a toy firetruck or doll, a transformer can be anything that you want it to be. As a child I used to play with Mechano sets. (In the USA they are called Erector Sets) That was a perfect toy. You could make pretty much anything that you could imagine.

A camera forces you to adopt a starting point, much as the instruction manual for a Mechano set, giving illustrations of things that one can build, suggestions, as it were. A camera gives very strong suggestions which are often excellent. In fact, many people are quite happy with the suggestions that their camera makes and fill their albums with snapshots of daily life and special moments (Kodak Moments – what a brilliant ad campaign).

The suggestions that your camera makes depend entirely on the scene in front of the lens and the settings you have chosen for your camera. By learning to use your camera controls you can drastically change the initial image, the suggestion, as it were. In this shot my camera was forced to expose for the brightest spot in the big cumulus cloud. I also held a polarising filter in front of the lens to darken the sky. Simple tricks such as these can dramatically affect the suggestion that your camera makes to you:

However, that is only where the fun starts.

In this image, I wanted to capture the ephemeral aqua colour that appears in the wake of a motorboat in clear tropical seas. It is very pale and showed up in the camera’s suggestion only to my eyes which were looking very hard for it:A few minutes with the Photoshop Replace Colour feature allowed me to pick out only the extremely pale aqua patches of the image and to incease the intensity of the colour until I was satisfied that it illustrated the effect.

And, if a camera is a toy, why not have a little fun with it? Eunie and I were in the cabin of Lyin’ Dog,  Trevor and Karen’s boat, when I noticed Karen sitting on the bow deck. There is a fly-wire screen inside the windscreen of the boat. I wondered about a shot through the fly-wire:

The camera made an excellent suggestion. This shot required no computer processing at all. Good job, Canon G9, my trusty old friend. Whe have an interesting and very colourful shot with just a tiny taste of cheesecake. Perfect for a weekend afternoon.

Up at the Blueblood Hilton, we settled in for a BBQ and a little vino. Sitting back in my chair behind the railing, I asked my camera for a suggestion:

Spot on, once again. I had to adjust the darkest parts to make them a little lighter so that they did not ‘fade to black’. Otherwise my little point and shoot suggested an image that’s fit for the cover of a magazine. Hooray!

Along the way back to Madang, the most distant clouds were showing the typical orange-ish colour caused by sulphur dioxide in the air from the many constantly spewing volcanoes in the inter-tropic zone:

The pollutant is trapped in the relatively calm air of the tropics.

Nearing Madang we are confronted my the horror of the tuna boats:Since RD Tuna came to Madang with its mostly unwanted tuna cannery we have noted a drastic reduction in the number of tuna that we see in Astrolabe Bay.

I did mention that I would get plenty of  Christmas Tree Worm (Spirobranchus giganteus)  shots so that I can show one each day before Christmas:

And, there is today’s specimen.

Hang some popcorn strings on it and put your presents under it. You get two trees for the price of one.

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