Growing New Legs

Posted in Under the Sea on May 8th, 2010 by MadDog
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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”.

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Henry Leith and the Green Dragon

Posted in Under the Sea on January 15th, 2010 by MadDog
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No, I have not taken up writing children’s fantasy stories. A couple of days ago Anita, Wouter and I went diving at Wongat Island  on The Green Dragon  B-25 Mitchell bomber and the coastal freighter wreck, The Henry Leith.  It was an amazing day of diving, as the water in that area was as clear as I have seen it in over twenty years. Both wrecks could be clearly seen from the surface. Anita’s father, Jos, stayed on the boat most of the time, as he is pleased to do so. We all took some time while we waited for a safe period between dives to take a walk on the beautiful beach.

We started our day at The Green Dragon.  Here is an amusing shot of Wouter peering through one of the waist gun ports. There is an identical port on the opposite side of the fuselage. I stuck my camera through it and snapped Wouter as he shined his dive light around examining the ammunition feed chutes and other equipment scattered inside:

Under the port wing of the bomber there is always a mob of these fish. I should know the name of them, but it escapes me at the moment and my big fish book is at the office:I’m luxuriating in the glory of a 31.2KBS connection at my house. It took me only two years to get my phone line repaired by TELIKOM. We learn patience here in Madang – or we leave. We’re suffering another mass exodus of expatriates recently. Economic woes, lost contracts, fears of violence and a general dismay concerning the rapid deterioration of the cival infrastructure has caused many to abandon Paradise. It makes me sad to lose so many friends.

If you are a regular reader of Madang – Ples Bilong Mi you will be familiar with this scene. It is a Blue Spotted Stingray (Dasyatis kuhlii)  fleeing in terror:Or, maybe not. If there were any sense to this situation, it should be the other way around. These creatures are remarkably tolerant to a close approach, as long as you do it slowly and don’t surprise it. If you put STINGRAY in the search box, you’ll find many other posts with images of this fascinating critter. We nearly always see one or two at The Henry Leith.

On the deck we found this juvenile Papuan Scorpionfish (Scorpaenopsis papuensis):They are very easy to photograph, as they seldom move unless you actually poke them, but they are difficult to find. They normally lay in wait for a meal on a coral rubble background where they are extremely difficult to see.

Also on the deck, at the stern, we found this lovely juvenile Common Lionfish (Pterois volitans):The common name refers to its numbers not its appearance. They are commonly seen, since there are plenty of them. There is, however, nothing common about their form. They are beautiful beyond description.

At the end of the dive, while hanging near the anchor line waiting for my blood nitrogen to bubble out like a fizzy drink, I took this image of my air bubbles racing to meet the sun:If life gets to be any more enjoyable, I’m going to have to hire someone to take part of the load. I’m pretty well maxed out on pleasure.

Maybe it’s just a mood swing.

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Back to The Green Dragon

Posted in Under the Sea on January 14th, 2010 by MadDog
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A few days ago, Wouter, Anita and I dived The Green Dragon,  a B-25 Mitchell bomber shot down near Wongat Island  during WWII. We dived on The Henry Leith  later that day. While walking on the beach during our de-gassing surface time I picked up a couple of handfuls of the little treasures that Mama Nature placed there for my amusement:
Among the lovely baubles I find several opercula (the “door” of a marine snail’s shell), a bunch of cowrie shells, including a rare Golden Cowrie (I think), lots of colourful bivalve shells, and some beautiful blue coral.  The opercula are commonly called “cat’s eyes”. I imagine that you can easily pick those out. The bit of bright blue glass at the top is a weathered fragment of a fancy wine glass. Somebody had a party on Wongat Island  a long time ago.

Down on The Green Dragon,  I got a nice shot of the starboard engine. The port engine was lost when the huge machine was ditched after being hit by Japanese gunners:

As you can see, the wreck is rapidly being made part of the reef.

Since I began diving The Green Dragon  a couple of decades ago, I’ve seen it deteriorate severely. The wonderfully tough and corrosion-resistant aluminium framework and skin are finally giving up the ghost. Here you can see all that remains of the four 50 calibre Browning M2 nose guns:

It’s sad to see the once powerful war machine going back to nature. Or is it?

Here is Anita waving hello to you from the cockpit:Nearly everyone wants to have a photo of this strange activity.

Wouter would rather pretend to fly the plane than wave:To each his own.

Under the Starboard wing we found one of the resident Ribbon Eels (Rhinomuraena quaesita):

You can enter RIBBON in the search box to find other images of this fascinating and gorgeous critter.

At the tail of the plane, just above the little 30 calibre “stinger” machinegun, I found a new growth of very unusual coral:I don’t have a clue what species it is, but it certainly sports an incredible colouration. I believe it must be a Fire Coral of some sort. It has the right shape, but it is tiny compared to the other species of that family of corals.

I’m having difficulty finding time to write much in my posts. I love doing the photography, but I also enjoy the writing. Since work pressure forces something to be left behind for a while, you’ll be spared my incessant jibber-jabber for a few more days.

Like The Terminator, I’ll be back!

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Tomato Soup and Other Esoterica

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on December 18th, 2009 by MadDog
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So, if you come to visit us in Madang for Christmas, what can you expect? Well, first you have to land your Fokker F-100 at the airport (hopefully) in Madang. Just because production ended for the F-100 in 1997 doesn’t mean that it’s not a good aeroplane. It’s just a little long in the tooth. I was recently allowed to land an F-100 at Madang. Here is a photo that I took through the windscreen as I guided us in on the final approach (never liked the sound of that, but that’s what they call it):Landing at Madang courtesy of Google EarthOkay, okay, I lie. I wasn’t flying the plane. In fact, there was no plane. It’s an image from Google Earth. Anyway, if you did land in Madang, this is exactly what it would look like. The big blob of land with the lake in the middle is Kranket Island.  At the top, to the left of the runway is an orange patch. This is the wood chipping mill. Our house is just to the right of it.

Sticking with aeroplanes for a bit, here is a shot of 50 calibre machine gun cartridges laying, after sixty-six years, in the salty water of Tab Anchorage  near Wongat Island  in The Green Dragon,  an American B-25 bomber shot down in 1943:Bomber bulletsWhen I first started diving The Green Dragon  many years ago, there were many more cartridges in the ammo boxes. Sadly some divers can’t resist taking a souvenir. Every time somebody takes “just one” it hastens the day when there will be none left to see.

Now I’ll show you (don’t ask me why) a Barrel Sponge (Xestospongia testudinaria):Barrel Sponge (Xestospongia testudinaria)Just because I can, that’s why. I find that “because I can” is often sufficient reason for doing something. Much of my life is delivered up to “just because I can” moments. Several of them have nearly killed me. Needless to say my aim is to not  die in bed with my boots off. My bucket list is getting shorter. I’ll cram as much of it in as I possibly can, I assure you. I’m a lemon squeezer and I like walking close to the edge.

Now this is a sweet shot. I could give you a handful of technical reasons why it is pleasing. It’s a geek thing, never mind:Coral (Diploastrea heliopora)It is what it is. And, it is Coral (Diploastrea heliopora).  But that, of course, is not what makes it interesting. My students out there:  State at least three compositional features that make it an “interesting” image. Turn you papers in before the bell.

A few days ago I briefly introduced you to a Tomato Anemonefish [female] (Amphiprion frenatus):Tomato Anemonefish [female] (Amphiprion frenatus)Let’s get up-close and personal. This little tomato is one of my favourites. Only the females are so pretty. They are very frisky. The slight shutter lag on the Canon G10 (maybe a third of a second) makes it very frustrating to shoot little scooters like this baby. You have to try to figure out where the fish is going to be a fraction of a second later and hope that you catch what you want. I took about twenty shots of this fish and got five that are reasonably good. Here are the rest of them in a little gallery:

Unbeknownst to you, I went to the bush yesterday. If I made it back, I’ll see you tomorrow. It’s DIVE DAY!! I’m going to fetch some more Christmas Tree Worms for you.

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A Real Pilot Flies the Bomber

Posted in Under the Sea on February 2nd, 2009 by MadDog
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A couple of weeks ago we had some new Spanish visitors. One young lady, Nuria DeFrancisco, was a keen diver. We did a dive on Saturday and she seemed to enjoy it. Then she started talking about the B-25 Bomber - The Green Dragon - at Wongat Island. She seemed to be very interested – not a usual thing for chicks!

They were flying out on Monday, so I said if she really wanted to do the bomber, we could go out at nine on Sunday morning. That would give her sufficient time to lose the nitrogen built up in her blood before she flew out on Monday.

Here’s a photo of Nuria sitting in the cockpit of The Green Dragon:

Nuria in the cockpit of The Green Dragon

Here she poses in front of the vertical stabilizer:

Nuria in front of the vertical stabilizer of The Green Dragon

The visibility, never the best at this location, was dismal. Fortunately, everything you need to see is up-close. This is a very cute shot of Nuria riding the dorsal twin 50 calibre Browning M2 machineguns:

Nuria riding the dorsal twin 50 gun turret on The Green Dragon

What is amusing about all this is that on the way back I learned why she has such an interest in aircraft. She is a pilot for a Spanish airline! She flies an Airbus A320. I didn’t have a clue. This is a first for me, and a first for Faded Glory.

I did get a couple of other nice shots on the dive. Here’s a photo of a tiny Black Saddled Toby (Canthigaster valentini)  with Nuria in the background:

Black Saddled Toby (Canthigaster valentini)

There are always Ribbon Eels (Rhinomuraena quaesita)  under the wing of the The Green Dragon. This time it was a juvemile:

Ribbon Eel (Rhinomuraena quaesita) under the wing of The Green Dragon

I have shown an image of an adult Ribbon Eel here.

We’re always happy to have visitors in Madang. It’s an out-of-the-way place and it’s expensive to get here. So, we always get a kick from new faces.

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