A Long, Hot Ride on a Harley

Posted in Humor on June 20th, 2010 by MadDog
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Today’s post will be a brief one as far as the chatter is concerned. Eunie has gone off to Fiji to represent the Papua New Guinea Chamber of Commerce and Industry at some big Pacific Island international conference. I find this intensely amusing as, I am quite certain, this is the first time in history which someone who’s primary work is being a missionary has ever been chosen to do this. This makes me proud of my wife, of course, but it is also satisfying that our constant guidance within our organisation that we should fully engage with all segments of society have paid off. The salt isn’t much good for anything as long as it’s in the shaker.

While moping around at the office last week moaning that I had to stay once again at home while Eunie went off to exotic places our receptionist, Elizabeth, said to me, with what seemed like a mocking tone, “Well, why don’t you just GO!” So, in my Mars way, I began to tick off all of the reasons why I couldn’t go. First on the list was:  I can’t afford it. The second was: The IT operations will fall apart.

Eunie put me “on the carpet” in her corner office – the one with windows – and gave me my instructions. “You can write enough magazine articles about your trip to more than cover your expenses.” That took care of reason number one. “You already have Mark coming in at least once a week to help out with the technical stuff. Just put him on notice that you’ll be gone.” Reason number two shot down like a rabid dog. Within an hour she had all the bookings done and had gotten me an Australian visa for my night in Cairns. Oh, how I love powerful women!

So, on Wednesday morning I’ll be off to Fiji. I’ll try to post daily while I’m travelling. I would have gone on Friday with Eunie, but, of course, Air Niugini was by then booked up for days with long waiting lists. For a country which depends on air travel exclusively for internal commerce, we have a pretty sorry example of a national airline. Anybody want to argue that point? And don’t use “they are doing the best that they can” as an argument.

Well, I said that I wasn’t going to chatter. So much for promises. The cat being away, the mouse played yesterday. I took a long, fairly fruitless ride up the North Coast Road with Ush to a place which we heard about from the Marshalls at a party at Lockland’s house on Saturday night. It was Marleen’s last party before departure and Ush’s birthday. I severely abused a bottle of Chardonnay and danced and kakaoked until 01:30 when Monty and Meri Armstrong finally herded me to their car and deposited me back at our house. Chattering again . . .

Anyway, 108 kliks up a road which is the Swiss cheese of highways you will find a place with a promising name: The Tapira Surf Club:

That’s the Harley sitting there in front of a little bar shack just to prove that we actually went up there.

It looks considerably better with Ush decorating it:

It was an exhausting ride up there. On three separate occasions I had both wheels locked up with Ush slammed up against my back to get the beast slowed down quickly enough to avoid Harley-eating potholes which stretched across the road.

I had decided already that I would have one beer only and smoke a nice Cohiba which Pascal Michon gave me on Saturday. It turned out to be a bit of a wasted trip. There was no surf, nobody home and only a toasty warm beer:Nevertheless, Ush and I had a nice time chatting in the club house or whatever they call it. We asked when the surf was up. The answer was “October”. Go figure.

I’ll finish up with a rather remarkable image which I shot on The Henry Leith on Saturday.

On the left side of a fan coral which you are seeing side-on is the rather rare Longnose Hawkfish (Oxycirrhites typus). On the right is a Black-Saddled Toby (Canthigaster valentini). They are both nibbling bits off of the fan coral. In the background is the extremely rare Rozas savagica bearing the common name of Roz Savage.

I feel quite smug about this shot.

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Ants in the Sugar

Posted in Humor, Under the Sea on June 19th, 2010 by MadDog
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Though I love living in a tropical paradise I’d be less than honest to say that it’s all fun and games. There are minor imperfections. Having had malaria seven times is an example. Horrible things called tropical ulcers and a flesh eating bacteria which attempted to remove my left are other trivial complaints. My recent bout with staph and bacillus bacterial gobbling up my olfactory organs, leaving me odorless (at least as far as I can tell) could have happened anywhere, but upper respiratory infections are very common here. You haven’t had a cold until you’ve had a “tropical cold”.

However, the trivial day to day irritations bug me the most. For instance, ants in the sugar:I slipped that pun in so cleverly that you may have missed it. It is also easy to miss the ants in the shot above, because they are the teensy variety. You can’t miss them when you take the lid off, though. They scurry around in a panic and try to hide by burrowing into the sugar. You can see  them better if you click to enlarge.

You may also note that our sugar is rather odd looking. It smells funny too – not funny ha-ha. No, it’s more like funny they forgot to take some of the goop out when they were making it. Some might call it raw sugar. We call it the best we can get.

Here I have enlarged that culprits for you:I honestly don’t know how they get in the sugar. We take it straight from the bag and put it into an air-tight plastic container. The lid goes “suck” when you pull it off. One must assume that there are ant eggs in the sugar. Why these are considered a suitable ingredient I don’t know either.

Well, enough of that.

Here’s an nice fan coral which I shot yesterday on The Henry Leith:

I managed to grab the wrong battery for my Canon G11 on Saturday morning, so I was out of juice half way through the dive.

Here’s Richard Jones poking around the stern of the wreck. Rich forgot to load a battery into his camera. Therefore, Rich was the chief dunce of the day:

It’s Sunday evening here. I’m pretty wasted from riding three hours on the Harley up the north coast road and back, dodging Harley-eating potholes all the way. I’ll have more to say about that tomorrow.

So, I’ll cut it short and get some down time. First let me show you the collapsed roof of the pilot house of The Henry Leith:

It’s too bad that it finally fell down. I was cool to get into the pilot house and look out at all of the fish swimming around.

Here’s one of the better shots that I’ve ever gotten of a Blackspotted Puffer (Arothron nigropunctatus):

They are very shy, so it’s difficult to catch them out in the open.

This Divericate Tree Coral (Gendronephthya roxasia)  doesn’t move at all, so it’s no fuss to get a nice close-up:

Nice detail in that one. It’s worth a click to see the full-sized version.

I’ll have a Harley story tomorrow and some shots of the Tapira Surfing Club.

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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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Underwater Miscellanea – Yet Again

Posted in Under the Sea on November 28th, 2009 by MadDog
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I’m working like a dog today, the day after American Thanksgiving to get a new calendar put together, hopefully to make a few bucks selling it. Before I go back to the Publishing Department to use their equipment, let me show you a few of the less ordinary images from my library. I don’t have a theme today. My mind is more or less blank. That seems to be happening a lot lately.

This is a spooky image of the interior of The Henry Leith,  a 34 metre cargo ship that was scuttled off Wongat Island  for an artificial reef and dive attraction:Interior of The Henry Leigh near Wongat Island

Creepy, eh? The image seemed to be more interesting in monochrome. Simon and Garfunkel were wrong. Not everything  looks worse in black and white.

This lump-of-coal thingie is an Egg Cowrie (Ovula ovum).  It’s quite rare to see them. They always seem to favour this Leather Coral (Sarcophyton sp.)  as a resting place:Egg Cowrie - Ovula ovum

They make horrible photographic subjects. The mantle is as black as the inside of a witch’s psyche. I’ve often wondered if it looks different to fish. Maybe it reflects some portion of the light spectrum that our eyes can’t see. You can barely see some of the snow white shell peeking through the seam where the two halves of the mantle meet.

This, I think, is a very juvenile specimen of the coral Heliofungia actiniformis:Coral - Heliofungia actiniformis ?I put it in here because, to us divers, it is a cute little baby thing. We bubble stupid stuff to each other like, “Awwww, look at the sweet little baby Heliofungia actiniformis.  Coochie coochie coo.”

It’s true.

Speaking of babies, these will grow up to have very big teeth, indeed:

Barracuda [juvenile] species unknownThey are juvenile barracuda. I don’t know what species. It’s interesting that the juvenile form here looks like a perfectly miniaturised copy of the adult.

Okay, back to work on the calendar.

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Stingray Magic

Posted in Under the Sea on September 6th, 2009 by MadDog
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On Saturday morning we motored in Faded Glory  up to Wongat Island  to dive The Henry Leith.  It is a favored spot for stingray watching. The most common type of stingray in the local waters is the Blue-Spotted Stingray (Dasyatis kuhlii).

The trick is to sneak up on them from behind, holding your breath as much as possible and catch them before they get nervous and take off. Often, you will see only their eyes protruding from the sand in which they have buried themselves. It is easy to glide right over one without noticing, which is probably the worst thing that you can do. This one is just taking off after letting me get close enough to get a good shot of him:

Blue-Spotted Stingray (Dasyatis kuhlii) taking off

Now the stingray glides to a spot a few metres away where it feels more safe. This one is headed right into a school of Pickhandle Barracuda (Sphyraena jello),  but they are no threat to the stingray (or me):

Blue-Spotted Stingray (Dasyatis kuhlii) fleeing

When the stingray has gotten far enough away, it settles down onto the sand again:

Blue-Spotted Stingray (Dasyatis kuhlii) landing

It’s fun to chase them around the wreck. Since the water is only about 20 metres here, you can spend about an hour doing it, unless it gets boring. In that case you have the entire wreck to explore while you finish your dive.

This image is not particularly good, but you can see the Pickhandle Barracuda from directly overhead in the shadow of The Henry Leith:

Pickhandle Barracuda (Sphyraena jello)

There are plenty of potentially dangerous critters in the waters in which we dive, including some rather comical ones. However, we are careful and know what is safe and what is not. It is part of the magic of diving that there is risk. When the risks are considered and dealt with correctly, the risks themselves add to the enjoyment.

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Little Fishes

Posted in Under the Sea on December 11th, 2008 by MadDog
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Fortunately for me, I enjoy taking photos of little things. That’s a particularly happy proclivity when it comes to underwater photography, because we don’t have the clearest water here. In murky water, the closer you get, the better the shot. Naturally, small subjects will yield the clearest shots.

That’s if you can get close enough.

This is a teeny-weeny fish. I don’t know what it is. When they are this small (about1 cm), they are very difficult to identify unless you have a lot of time to dig through the literature:

A very tiny fish

I do know the name of this one. It’s an Urchin Clingfish (Diademichthys lineatus). This little fellow would be about 4 cm long:

Urchin clingfish (Diademichthys lineatus)

The unusual half-vertical head-down swimming position is typical of this species.

Here are two fine examples of one of our most beautiful reef fishes, the Fire Dartfish (Nemateleotris magnifica):

Fire Dartfish - (Nemateleotris magnifica)

These are common on only a few reefs. They must have very specific requirements for habitat. They favour the tops of reefs that are swept clean of sand and small rubble. The specimens above are about 4 or 5 cm long.

This little fishy is a Three Lined Blenny (Ecsenius trilineatus):

Three Lined Blenny (Ecsenius trilineatus)

This is their typical resting position. They like to be out in the sun. Other blennys prefer to hide in holes.

Speaking of hiding in holes, that is the favourite habitat of the shrimpgobys. This one is a Randall’s Shrimpgoby (Amblyeleotris randalii). There is usually a small shrimp that inhabits the same hole. I’ll show a photo of that sometime:

randalls_shrimpgoby_amblyeleotris_randalii_p1070901

The little shrimpgoby above is about 5 cm long.

These are razorfish. I’m too lazy to look up the taxonomic name:

Razorfish

They appear to be impossibly tall and skinny – like a beanpole. However, if you look closely, you’ll see that they swim with their heads pointing straight down so that they blend in with the vertically branched corals and sea grasses that are their preferred habitat. They are really a long, slender fish, but they swim as if they’re standing on their heads. If you disturb them, they immediately adopt a horizontal position and dart away.

Even little fish can be startling if you get enough of them in one place. In this shot, Carol is rising up through a fish storm to the forward hatch of The Henry Leith:

Carol caught in a fish storm

I could hear her screeching with delight through her regulator. That’s a mark of an experienced diver.

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