Growing New Legs

Posted in Under the Sea on May 8th, 2010 by MadDog
No Gravatar

Today we went up to Wongat Island to do The Green Dragon B-25 Mitchell bomber and The Henry Leith. The bomber went fine. I got some nice shots which I’ll be showing soon. However, when we went to do The Henry Leith, I brilliantly decided to anchor the boat at the beach so that the ladies could snorkel while Hendrick and I did the wreck. Than meant that I we had to dive off of the beach and I had to remember where the wreck was. I’ve done it many times before, but years ago.

Of course, I couldn’t find it. It’s only twenty metres down, but the water was too dirty so see more than about ten. The bottom where the wreck lies is at twenty metres, so we followed that contour in the area where I thought it was. After fifteen minutes, we gave up and came up to the shallow reef to shoot some pictures. This was my second dive on a big 80 tank. I ended up with 110 minutes. I was using my gills most of the time.

This is a cute little starfish missing only one leg. That’s pretty good by small starfish standards. This one is about five or six centimetres across. I’d say that about half of the starfish that I see are missing at least one leg:I think that it’s a Linckia multifora, but I’m not sure. It doesn’t look quite right.

However, what happens to the leg, if the fish which bit it off doesn’t like the taste? Well, we simply grow a whole new starfish from the leg. Some people call them arms, I call them legs, since we don’t walk on our arms, do we? Here on this severed Linckia multifora leg, you can see four tiny new legs growing out of the severed end:This is a pretty cute trick. Many organisms can do this. Medical researchers are busting their guts trying to find a way to mimic this behaviour in humans. The reason is obvious. Whoever solves the problem first will become the richest person on the planet.

Here is an absolutely lovely young Electric Swallowtail nudibranch (Chelidonura electra): Older specimens develop a lemon yellow edge around the edges.

This particularly nice Divericate Tree Coral (Dendronephthya roxasia) caught my eye:It’t quite lovely and I certainly appreciated the pleasure of seeing it.

However, this is my choice of the day for the shot which pleases me most:The little Glass Shrimp (Periclimenes holthuisi) is about as big as your thumbnail. He has several buddies swimming around him.

They are a nightmare to photograph. They are very small and don’t like the camera up close. They never stop moving, hoping around from place to place and waving their little pincers. Flash photography is useless; you have to use available light. Finally, they are nearly invisible in the first place! You can not see their bodies, only the spots.

It’s like playing “connect the dots”.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Banana Bana Bo Bana

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on May 4th, 2010 by MadDog
No Gravatar

Wooo hooo, I got up this morning and felt like Atlas. The world was wobbling around on my shoulders. After yesterday’s near anxiety attack, I calmed down nicely with a couple of beers, a nice cheap cigar and some encouragement from my soul mate. This morning it was all back. Nobody should ever have to start a new job. People should get jobs at birth and keep them until they drop. Think of the savings in stress alone. Of course, many would die of boredom, especially the renegades who expect more from life. However it might be a neat solution to the population problem.

Rambling already and I haven’t even gotten to the pictures yet.

This morning ‘s sunrise didn’t help much:I was about as stormy and confused as the inside of my head. I took a 5mg Valium out of the bottle and put it in my pocket, determined not to use it unless I felt like I was coming unglued. I made it all the way to 08:30 before chewing it for nearly instant relief. I an such  a wuss! My excuse is that I’m a recovering bipolar. That’s even more lame.

Anyway, by the time that 10:00 rolled around I’d received several emails which ameliorated a soupcon of my self-doubt delivered a second blessed release of endorphins. It’s 14:24 now and I’m about half way down. I think I can do this. I know  I can do this! I’m The Little Editor Who Could! Hey, it’s not Rocket Science.

Which, in an unfathomable way, brings me to my bananas. Of course I do absolutely nothing to grow them. Juli, our house helper, has absolute dominion over the garden. I’m allowed to walk about importantly, stroking my beard and saying things like, “Ah, yes.” and “Coming along fine.” while wagging my cigar around in my teeth. I call it “Playing the Planter”. Here is a bunch of bananas which Juli harvested yesterday:

Note that they are green, but not the green which you get from temperate zone store bananas. These are one to four days from going brown. You have to eat them quickly. They are called banana mau  or ripe bananas. They are incredibly delicious. I prefer mine after a day or so when they turn yellow. Eunie likes hers a little firmer.

These however are the gold standard of banananess:

If you harvest at just the right time, you will probably be rewarded by a very few bananas which have ripened sufficiently on the stalk that their skins have split. You have mere hours to get to these. The level of flavour and aroma is indescribable. These “splits” are my favourite. Bananas in heaven must taste like this.

By the way, the title comes from the 1964 song The Name Game  written by Shirley Ellis. I remember it being all the rage. How simple life was then . . . hmmmm . . .

Switching from bananas now to something that doesn’t make my tummy gurgle with hunger, let’s have a look at my foolish interpretation of the week. This starfish, a Linckia multifora,  reminds me of (get ready for it now):A joyful person dressed in a cover-me-all-over pink cow suit running to the right and hollering something like “Whoop tee doo!” If I have to explain it, just move on. It’s getting crazy in here.

Let’s settle down now for some nice relaxing Dascylus Reticulatus:I don’t know why I say relaxing. They are very nervous fish. At the slightest threat they dart down into the spiky coral and hide. You can see a Red and Black Anemonefish over on the right. Note the greenish background colour. It was impossible to take available light images at The Eel Garden.  There was a metre of cold river water on top which was loaded with algae. Everything looked very green.

This last image blows my tiny little mind. This is two flatworms doing . . . something . . . I honestly don’t know what. Truly, I don’t care to speculate, but what the . . .  I can think of three possibilities. (1) a simple crossing of paths (3) someone is about to have lunch or (3) I don’t want to say it:I’m going with the “ships passing in the night” hypothesis. If this is true, it must be an astoundingly rare occurrence. As if you could possibly care, the dark one with the solid, 24 carat gold dots is a Thysanozoon nigropapillosum  and the fancy yellowish one being wrestled to the coral is a Pseudoceros dimidiatus.

I wish I was rich and had time to indulge my dilettante fantasies. I’d research this incident until the cows come home and write a scholarly paper to submit to some club of dorky flatworm experts. It would be my fifteen minutes of fame.

I would dig that.

Really.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Photgraphing the Photographer

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on April 26th, 2010 by MadDog
No Gravatar

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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

I Shall Now Tease You

Posted in At Sea, Madang Happenings, Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on April 25th, 2010 by MadDog
No Gravatar

It’s no trick at all to figure out when I’m completely stuck for a title for a post. It makes even less sense than usual. Though I am  going to tease you today concerning some amusing posts which I will have coming up in the next week, don’t get your hopes up too much. No, the war in the Big A is not over, nor are any others that I know of. Aliens have not landed to my knowledge, but I’m still hoping. The only interesting news is that we absolutely must buy a new car. Eunie has now “mentioned” for some time how nice it would be if we had a car from which the fenders were not falling off and I’m becoming more and more inclined to agree with her. On an insane whim we stopped off at Coastal Automotive to see, perchance to dream, if there was anything remotely within our price range. Well, there was a red Nissan Twin Cab ute there which is like the younger sister of the one we drive at present. Since Eunie will resolutely not  drive anything but a red car, my fate was sealed.

I reckon that if we sell all of our PNG stocks, get a good price for the rust bucket and I can remember where I buried the cash in the back yard, we’ll be only about K10,000 short. We decided two years ago that we would never again borrow money for anything. Eunie won’t let me sell the Harley, bless her heart. So, we’ll fall on the mercy of our corporate account for a couple of months and pray for a miracle. All that just to work up to this sunrise, which is a lulu:No, we’re not to the teasing yet, though I will have some very nice underwater shots over the next few days.

This image is in support of my philosophical sermon for today which  is titled, No Matter How Bad Something Is, If You Can Practice Utter Denial, You Can Probably Make It Better.  This is the same advice which I give when poor desperate wretches come to me for marriage counselling. This proably explains why my success rate is so patheically low. When I snapped this image as a Vlaming’s Unicornfish (Naso vlamingii)  darted past me, I thought that it was a complete waste of valuable pixels: However, when I saw the image on the screen, all washed out and motion-blurred, something snapped in my mind, an all too often occurrence, and I denied utterly the possibility that the image had no merit whatsoever. So, kiddies, what do we do when this happens?  (All together now . . .) We make ART! In a mere five minutes I created something. What it is, I cannot say. However it is distinctly more than it started out. I appears vaguely as if it is a rocket-propelled fish. Hurrah! NASA, eat your heart out!

Since we’re in fail mode, I’ll underwhelm you with this excruciatingly ordinary, plain Jane starfish. Honestly, if I were a starfish so devoid of charm as this one, I’d simply hide under a rock and await the Rapture:Hmmm . . . that’s more or less what I’m doing now. Oh, well.

Still no major tease, so don’t get confused. I didn’t have time the other day to work on these two panoramas which I shot on Orion.  This is, as you might well imagine, is The Library:There’s Justin Friend lecturing my gorgeous, platinum blonde wife, Eunie.

And, this is one third of the stunning spiral staircase wrapped around the elevator in the central “Light Well” of the ship:Pretty flash, eh?

Okay, now I’ll deliver The Big Tease. Don’t get too excited, because if you’re not an Australian, New Zealander or Papua New Guinean, you may not begin to quiver with anticipation. Sunday morning was ANZAC Day. I’ll trouble you to look it up if you don’t know what it means. Let me just tell you, however, that here it is a big deal indeed:I could never be mistaken for a war enthusiast. To me it seems to be the stupidest thing that humans have ever dreamed up. Nobody has yet explained to me why we have to keep doing it. However, in this part of the world, as in others, naked aggression made war unavoidable. It was about defending against the rape and murder of entire cultures.

People here are rightly proud of the part that they played in defending themselves against seemingly overwhelming odds. Eunie and I felt privileged to be invited to participate. I’ll probably do a two-part post on the ANZAC Day memorial and following festivities during the next week.

Tags: , , , , ,

Waterspout!

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on April 21st, 2010 by MadDog
No Gravatar

I had intended today to write a post called “Green’s the Thing”, but then Trevor Hattersley came into the office with an image on a flash drive which upset me very much. Last Sunday, work seemed more critical than fun. I turned down an invitation to come up to the beach at Blueblood for the second week in a row. As if that’s not bad enough, I missed seeing something that I’ve wanted to see all of my life – a waterspout!

Here’s Trevor’s nice shot of the waterspout:You can clearly see that it appears to be a hollow tube. He said that the base was visibly sucking water up from the sea. He tried to get a telephoto shot, but a temporary brain malfunction prevented him from remembering what I’ve told him a thousand times about focusing his camera. Thanks, Trevor for the shot. I sneer at you for not telling me that a waterspout was on the entertainment schedule.

So, to the green. Green just happens to be my favourite colour. Green stuff is easy to find on the reef, especially if you pay attention to corals. Here is a close-up shot of a Brain Coral (Platygyra lamellina):The tracks of skeletal material are not always squiggly; sometimes they are straight:The area which you see in the image above is about 10cm wide.

Acropora  corals can also be green. This one is about the size of a large coffee table:In this shot, you can see hints of the spiral shapes that dominates the large scale growth pattern of many corals.

We’ll take a brief break from coral to adore this cute little Linckia multifora  starfish:Three of its arms have been bitten off, but are growing back nicely.

Prepare to use your imagination. Look at the right side of this Acropora  coral:Does it look a little like Australia to you?

Well, it’s almost 07:00 and I have to quit now. When I got back from diving on Saturday the motor on Faded Glory  would not go up, only down. Down doesn’t help. Up is what I needed. So, this morning, I have to take the boat over to the marina to get it fixed. I’m often reminded that a boat is simply a hole in the water into which you pour money.

I’ll leave you with a nice shot of our lovely orange lilies:Now I have to haul the fuel tank and the battery out to Faded Glory.

If I leave them on the boat they will be stolen within a week. Security guards seem to believe that their primary duty is to get a good night’s sleep. Useless! Why do we bother?

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Warship Panorama, Blondes and Other Stuff

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Photography Tricks, Under the Sea on April 7th, 2010 by MadDog
No Gravatar

Today is yet another day when there will be no plot to follow. I’m free associating. Come along for the ride. The big Australian Hydrographic Survey Ship HMAS Leeuwin sitting across the harbour from our house inspired me to Zoomify nearly the entire west side of the peninsula.

Here is the view from our front yard in a zoomable image:

On the far left is the main wharf and the warehouse. Moving to the right, you see HMAS Leeuwin.  If you zoom in as far as possible, you can read the name of the ship on the side of the bridge. At the far right is a the only three floor house in Madang. It belongs to a big-shot politician about whom I will say nothing else. I’m not a fool. In front of the house is a sunken boat. Again, no comment.

Geeks may be interested to know that the image above is about 20 MB and is comprised of nearly 1,000 files.

Eunie occasionally feeds me tidbits from the newspaper. I read neither The Post Courier  nor The National.  They’re simply too depressing. However this tasty morsel merits a bit of space here:

BLONDE-haired women may be traditionally labeled as fun-loving and less intelligent but a new study reveals they earn seven percent more on average than women with other hair colours. They also marry wealthier men, who earn six percent more than the husbands of other women, the University of Queensland study revealed. The study, which surveyed 13,000 women, found that the difference in pay remained the same even when factors such as height and education were removed. No other hair colour had the same effect. The research, reported in journal Economics Letters, does not explain just why blondes earned more and have wealthier husbands. But Dr David Johnston, who led the study, said: “Blonde women are often depicted as being more attractive than other women, but also less intelligent. But it seems the association between blondes and beauty dominates any perception that they have low intelligence.”

You see, this makes perfect sense to me. Having married a fun-loving blonde who is also, I’m quite certain, the Smartest Person On the Planet, none of the positive aspects of blondeness surprise me. My wife missed out on the big money, but that’s because she married for love. That she got a looser for her trouble is not her fault. I’ll never be a big earner, but I’m ever so sincere and also cute and cuddly – like a 59 kilogram puppy.

Well, I’m not out of space yet. I’ve done a lot of work this morning and I have a few minutes before my lunch hour. I don’t actually take a lunch hour. I just eat while I work. That leaves me more time for a beer when I get home. Then I have to go back to work again in our “other” office. I’m not complaining. It’s not like I’m stoking boilers on the Titanic.  Most of my work is enjoyable now that I have the network bludgeoned into submission. So, since I’ve got the time, here’s this morning’s sunrise which I have titled from the depths of my boundless imagination Sunrise with Canoe:Also, since we can’t have a post without a fish smell, I’ll show you a Mushroom or Solitary Coral (Fungia fungites):The green stuff is a kind of Sea Squirt. Tomorrow I’m going to show you the biggest blob of those that you are ever likely to see. I bet you an hardly wait. The anemone above and to the right is the fairly rare Merton’s Anemone.

Here’s a cute little Linckia multifora  Starfish:That one’s for you Julie. It seems that one of his legs has decided to have its own way. In reality, I suspect very strongly that this starfish regenerated from a single severed leg. That would explain the one huge leg while the others are small. They are only now approaching normal size after having sprouted from the cut end of the severed leg.

Maybe if I ate enough of these I could grow a new face.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Cute Lady – Cute Dog – Cartooning Again

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Photography Tricks, Under the Sea on April 5th, 2010 by MadDog
No Gravatar

It’s Easter Sunday morning. In Papua New Guinea it’s an official holiday, so I have no excuse for going into the office. Miraculously, my TELIKOM copper line has dried out sufficiently so that I can get on the web, albeit at glacial speed. I sincerely hope to get my wireless connection to the office going tomorrow. It’s disappointing that we’ve put so much money and effort on it and it doesn’t work. I’m certain that the fix is simple. It just involved getting up on the supermarket roof again.

I have a small collection of miscellanea for you today. I am simply too lazy on this last day of a long weekend to go through the 160 exposures that I took on my two dives on Saturday. There are only two here. You will simply have to wait a bit longer for your fish. I hope that you’re not too hungry.

This morning I went outside to check out the photographic possibilities. Beside the front door, where I installed my last link in the wireless hop to my office, there was a katydid perched on the Cat 5e cable. I can only assume that it was trying to heal the link:Unfortunately, it’s efforts were unsuccessful.

Since this is an entirely random accumulation of images, I’ll jump to this one of Swami Monty wielding his new Canon G11 at some unsuspecting underwater critter. This was Monty’s first outing with the new rig, which is identical to mine:Richard Jones also has the same gear. I think that we’re going to have to start a G11 club here in Madang.

Today’s spider is a spindly looking critter. I’m not sure what the purpose of all the webbing is. Maybe it simply provides a firm scaffolding on which to hang:There is a fair amount of detail in this shot. It’s worth clicking to enlarge.

On one of the dives on Saturday I found this poor starfish which has had a leg chomped off by some predator:I can’t imagine that a starfish leg would taste very good, but then I’m not a fish. The most likely predators of starfish are sharks, rays and larger bony fish (as opposed to sharks and rays, the skeletons of which are cartilage and not true bones).

Back to the garden, I found one of my favourite subjects – water drops:As they say, simple things for simple minds.

I’m still slaving away to learn cartooning techniques. I’m not at all happy with the commercial software for creating cartoons from photographs. Most of the results look horrible and require a huge amount of reworking. If I’m going to go to that effort, I may as well develop my own workflow to get the results that I want. It’s really one of the most interesting and enjoyable Photoshop tricks that I’ve tried:

You saw the image above with Ush and Andrew and Jade Marshall’s Blue Heeler pup yesterday. I cleaned up the clutter in the background and cartoonised it.

I have in mind to someday write some cartoon strips based on photographs for Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.

I need to broaden the horizon. It’s getting smelly in here.

Tags: , , , , , , ,