Sunrises Until You Want to Scream

Posted in Humor, Mixed Nuts on June 15th, 2010 by MadDog
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I usually try to get my daily post off at the beginning of the day before disaster strikes. I didn’t make it today. Nobody is dying and there are no injuries, but otherwise what started out as a hectic but promising day including hard work in the morning and a dive with some very significant visitors in the afternoon turned out to be a day of interesting events (In the sense of the Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times!”) which simultaneously led to both sadness that something so disgusting should happen and gratitude that it wasn’t much worse. Someday, when the dust has settled, I may tell you about it.

In the meantime, I’ll show you garish images until you feel like screaming, “Enough with the sunrises!”

Here is this morning’s immensely uninspiring sunrise:

Yawn . . .

I tried to doll it up with some cocount trees:

Hey, we’re getting a hint of some crepuscular rays. Zzzzzzzzzzzzz . . .

Okay, how about if I put my dog, my lovely sweet mongrel, Sheba, in the sunrise?

Okay, I had to use a very low shutter speed, so one of her legs is blurred. She really does have four legs.

Now, let’s try it with my neighbor’s haus win:

A haus win  is a little platform on which one can sit with a roof overhead and enjoy the breeze without being fried by the tropical sun. It is also an excellent place for a nap, since the roof will protect you from falling coconuts knocking your head off.

Okay already, enough with the sunrises. I’ll show you a failed image of a Spotfin Lionfish (Pterois antennata)  which I love nevertheless:

I got this one on Saturday someplace. I can’t remember where. It’s all a blur. I was shooting down in a hole and I had to use a ridiculously slow shutter speed. Therefore the blurry fins. However, I love the look of the image. It implies motion. Heaven knows, we need motion. Otherwise we would all turn into Ice 9.*

As you may have gathered, I am rather zoned out at the moment. Others say, “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” I say, “What doesn’t kill me gives me the giggles.”

Okay, here is my last desperate attempt to amuse you. If this doesn’t do it, I give up:

One might ask, “What is it?” And, this would be a perfectly reasonable question, if, in fact, there were any reason to be had. Is that too many commas?

Well, let me tell you what it is. It is a piece of metal off of The Green Dragon,  a B-25 bomber which regular readers will remember from many tiresome messages sent into the black hole of the web in times before. It has slept on the bottom of Tab Anchorage  near Wongat Island  since the year I was born.

And, it’s still shiny.

* See Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle.

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The Spooky Eastern Sunset

Posted in At Sea, Under the Sea on June 1st, 2010 by MadDog
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Whoah, got a day behind again. What a bummer! I don’t know what happened to the clock yesterday. It kept moving in big, sporadic jumps. I had intended to tell you about Saturday evening at Kranket Island  where we had a party for Jo Noble’s birthday, but now I’ve already forgotten most of it.

The part that I do remember is the stunning sunset effects which we saw in the Eastern  sky. Yes, that’s right, you are looking East in this shot, just as the sun is nearing the horizon in the West:

I know that there is a proper name for this effect, but I can’t remember it right now. It’s 05:00 and I’m not going to trudge through Google to find it. I’ll count on a knowledgeable reader to leave a comment. The effect lasted less than five minutes.

The curve that you see in the ray on the right is an effect of the way which I took the panorama shots. The image is made up of about seven frames. Of course, the boat was sloshing around a lot, so it was difficult to hold the camera perfectly straight. The image covers about 150°

Here is a single frame image of the centre of the scene:

The main ray on the right side shoots up (or down, rather) past the huge cumulonimbus incus cloud on the horizon, which is still catching the last rays of the sun, reddened by their passage through the dusty lower atmosphere. I think that these rays are shadows of clouds near the horizon in the West. They appear to converge on the Eastern horizon at a point opposite the sun because they are passing through the atmosphere at a low angle and are visible for a long distance. Think of a pair of straight railroad tracks stretching off to the horizon. They seem to meet at a point in the far distance.

Okay, if that isn’t geeky enough for you how about the pileus cloud cap on the top of this towering cumulus cloud:

The pileus is the fuzzy little hat sitting on top of the cloud. It is formed when the cloud is rising very rapidly, pushing warmer, wetter air up into cooler areas. The moisture condenses out into a little lens-shaped cap which folds over the top of the main cloud.

Okay, enough meteorology. Since we’re doing reddish stuff, have a look at this Spotfin Lionfish (Pterois antennata):

The image is actually upside-down. I found him under a ledge and could barely see him. I had to stand on my head and shoot to get the image. This fills your sinuses full of salt water pretty quickly. It usually produces a few good sneezes when you get right-side-up again. Sneezing into a regulator underwater is an amusing experience.

I’ll throw in one more reddish thing before moving on. This lumbering, spiky critter is a kind of Sea Cucumber, specifically (Thelenota rubralineata):

The rubralineata  is one of the more colourful Sea Slugs. I have another picture of one here.

Well, that’s it for yesterday’s post. I have to hurry on to today’s post or I’ll miss the sunrise.

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Anita and Wouter Dive Madang

Posted in Under the Sea on January 12th, 2010 by MadDog
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Friends from Belgium, Anita and Wouter and Anita’s father, Jos are visiting this week with us here in Madang and I am enjoying half-days off from work to take them diving and sightseeing. Today I’ll show you some images from our dive on The Henry Leith,  which you have seen featured many times here on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.

Here is a nice shot of Anita and Wouter hovering over the wreck in unusually clear water, something that is a rarity in the area where the wreck has rested for decades:

As usual, the hulk was teeming with fascinating life. Here is a lovely young Spotfin Lionfish (Pterois antennata)  lurking in a corner in wait for an unsuspecting fish to pass by:You can use the search box for SPOTFIN and find other images of this beautiful fish.

This is a close-up image of the polyps of a sea fan:I have uploaded this image in a higher resolution that I normally use so that you can see the delicate structure of the individual colonial organisms. It’s worth clicking it to enlarge the image.

This is a Periclimenes  shrimp. I can’t determine the species. Many of them are so similar that it takes a very close examination to figure out which is which:

They are also difficult to photograph, as the tentacles of the anemone are constantly waving about and the shrimp itself is restless and does not like the camera lens hovering a few centimetres above it.

This is a very beautiful nudibranch that Wolter found hiding in a difficult to reach spot. I should be able to find this species in my invertabrates book, but it also eludes me:

I need to invest someday in a dedicated nudibranch book. As helpful as the web is for finding things, I still prefer a real paper book in which to find species photos and descriptions. Wading through the web to find a particular species is simply too time consuming for me to work it into my hectic life.

Along with the critters inhabiting the deck we found three juvenile Circular Spadefish [or Batfish] (Platax orbicularis) wandering around near the bottom at the stern:

It was dark there, so flash was necessary, but this youngster was remarkably cooperative, allowing me to approach within an arm’s reach. Fish rarely pose for the photographer, but this one showed some interest. The only problem was the extreme contrast between the white, highly reflective bars and the darker portions. Still, this is one of the best shots of this species that I’ve managed so far.

We have many more dives to report and a nice collection of images coming up later this week.

Stay tuned.

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Out of Ideas – Back to the Fish

Posted in Under the Sea on August 14th, 2009 by MadDog
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Having bashed out my brains against a wall of Windows 2008 servers, I’m in no state to be witty or even intelligible, so it’s time for more fish. If you’re still uttering, “Errrrrp . . . ” from the last meal, excuse me please.

We’ll start off with something nearly indigestible, nevertheless recognisable. Everyone has seen a Giant Clam (Tridacna maxima),  at least in any movie featuring divers. Some hapless fool is always getting a leg or arm caught in one. Here’s the man-eating beast slobbering in wait for the unwary:

Giant Clam (Tridacna maxima)

Of course, that’s all Hollywood silliness, a commodity that is never in short supply. A Giant Clam couldn’t eat you if it wanted to. It hasn’t got a brain, so it doesn’t “want” to do anything at all. It’s a filter-feeder. It sucks in water at one end, runs it through some fancy lace work to strain out the goodies, and ejects the useless salt water out the other end.

It’s hard to believe that some slugs that call themselves humans kill these huge creatures for a fist-sized ball of muscle that pulls the shells together if the clam sees a threat. Yes, it does have eyes – hundreds of them all around the margins. Just swimming over the top of one will make it close its shell. Can it hold onto you? No.

Here’s something also familiar, but even less edible. The humble Starfish (Fromia milleporella):

Starfish (Fromia milleporella)

You’ve seen this image before, but I’ve dolled it up for publication and the image is much better, so I’m dishing it out again – makes a great screen saver or desktop background image. The thing about starfish is that they don’t move very fast. I guess that that is an understatement. I reckon that top-speed for this little hand-sized fellow is about a kilometre per year. If you look at one from the side, you can see the hundreds of tiny “feet” that they walk on. The feet are moving very quickly, but the steps are teensy-weensy.

Moving toward the unfamiliar (not to mention less edible) here is a magnificent Spotfin Lionfish (Pterois antennata):

Spotfin Lionfish (Pterois antennata)

This image is easily the best that I’ve ever gotten of this critter. It’s a perfect example of what we call a “specimen shot”. I wish I had gotten the same individual from the side also, but it would have involved some serious coral scrapes, something to be avoided if at all possible. Aside from the fact that it’s not good for the coral (we’re covered with deadly bacteria and fungi), a coral scrape itches beyond belief and keeps on itching for several days while it exudes stickiness that is disgusting. It can also easily become infected.  You’ve probably seen this image here before. I can’t remember for certain.

Ending up with something edible (if it doesn’t eat you first), but uncommonly seen by anyone but divers, feast your eyes on this terror:

Yellowmargin Triggerfish (Pseudobalistes flavimarginatus)

This image has appeared here before, but I reworked it extensively for the magazine article, so I’m dishing it out again. The toothy menace is a Yellowmargin Triggerfish, sometimes known as a Green Triggerfish (Pseudobalistes flavimarginatus).

What makes them so interesting, aside from the pit-bull face is that they are exactly that – the pit-bulls of the sea. I’ve seen a lot of scary things in my 2,000 or so dives, but I’ve never been as disconcerted (okay, scared into a panic mode) by anything more that one of these charging at full speed (pretty fast) straight at me. They don’t turn away as a shark normally would. They just keep right on coming unless you do something to stop them. One of these little beasties can take a sizeable chunk out of you, even through a wet suit. I’ve seen divers lose bits of their swim fins when a Yellowmargin bit some off and promptly spit it out.

We don’t tease them.

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Planning a New Tattoo – Danger and Beauty

Posted in Tattoos, Under the Sea on May 7th, 2009 by MadDog
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This will probably be my last tattoo. I’m 65 years old. My skin is reptilian from decades in the tropical sun. With eight tattoos already, I’m running out of prime space. However, I’ve been dreaming for years of a very special page that I’d like to add to my bodily journal. I want to proclaim in vivid colour my gratitude for the thousands of hours that I’ve enjoyed with hedonistic ecstasy  in the blessedly warm tropical waters savouring the beauty and excitement of a world that few are ever lucky enough to see. Danger and beauty are the intermingled themes. I have in mind three specific creatures to represent these paradoxically parallel pleasures.

This is (arguably) the most poisonous snake on the planet. It is the Banded Sea Krait (I’m not going to bother with the taxonomic names in this post. You can use the search box if you want to find them elsewhere on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi):Banded Sea Krait for new tattooStrangely enough, of all deadly snakes, this one is probably the least likely to bite you, unless you are very foolish indeed. I have hovered only a few metres away countless times while watching them feed. All you have to remember is to watch it from the side, not from directly above. When it has to breathe, you do not want to be in its way as it swims to the surface.

This is getting rather too close, but I wanted to capture the stunning colouration of its head:

Banded Sea Krait for new tattoo - head detail
The next creature holds the middle ground. It is simultaneously dangerous — though hardly deadly — and supremely beautiful. This is the  Spotfin Lionfish:

Spotfin Lionfish for new tattooIt has extremely poisonous spines along its back. One would have to be either ignorant or stupid to play with it.

Occupying the opposite end of the hazard spectrum is . . . yes, Nemo, the Clown Anemonefish:

Clown Anemonefish possibility #1 for new tattoo

I have not yet decided which of these poses I prefer:

Clown Anemonefish possibility #2 for new tattoo
The general plan is to have the Banded Sea Krait wrapping twice around my left forearm so that only its body, the repetitive scaly banding, appears when my arm is hanging at my side, provoking the question, “What is hidden?” If I choose to do so, I can reveal a scene of transcendent beauty by simply lifting my arm to reveal the Yin which balances the Yang. The deadly head of the Krait and its paddle-like tail will rest at peace with the Spotfin and Nemo in the panorama of peace and harmony on my inner forearm.

Now all I have to do is find a Hamiltonian tattoo artist good enough to punch the dream into my wrinkly old skin.

The search is on tomorrow.

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More Fun at Magic Passage

Posted in Under the Sea on October 11th, 2008 by MadDog
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Today we went to Magic Passage for our Saturday morning dive. There was a fairly strong incoming current and the water was very warm.

Here is Tracey, Albert, and Anna heading out to the mouth of the passage:

Tracey and friends

At about twenty metres, Albert was frantically pointing under a ledge. I had to stand on my head to get a shot. It’s two spot-fin lionfish lurking next to a bright orange sponge. I was, of course seeing all this upside-down. I inverted the photo so as not to give you vertigo:

Spotfin lionfish

When we returned to the boat, I found out that he was actually trying to show me a painted lobster. Oh well . . .

Back up on top of the reef I spotted this arc-eyed hawkfish. It’s one of less common hawkfish in these waters:

Arc-eyed hawkfish

After our dive we went over to Pig Island for some snorkelling and sun. There were thousands of small fish swimming all around. We threw some bits of bread in the water and they gathered around us. Karen was mesmerized by them. I like this shot of “aquarium swimming”:

Karen in the aqarium

Even after all the diving that I’ve done, I still enjoy snorkelling as well. You don’t have to be concerned about a lot of gear and it is wonderfully relaxing, especially when the water feels like a warm bath.

I may as well show you this morning’s sunrise while I’m at it:

Just another sunrise in Paradise

Just another day in Paradise.

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