Time Warp

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on November 8th, 2010 by MadDog
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I had no intention of being absent from this place for an extra day. I have no shortage of ideas for posts and writing seems to be more than usually good for me these days. However, the power situation in Madang for the last few days has been absolutely miserable. On Thursday my UPS died a hideous death. I went to get a new one, hating to spend the money, but unwilling to risk my computer. On getting it home I was disheartened to discover that it did not appear to work. So, I spent the entire weekend without the web. I felt as if I’d had a lobotomy.

As it turned out, the new UPS worked fine. I took it back to the dealer today. It was pointed out to me that I had the connections wrong. Sigh . . . Yet another stupid mistake. How many does it take?

None of that has anything at all to do with what I want to write about today.

I can remember at times near the end of the year, such as now, when I would think to myself – for example – “Where did 1992 go? Time is whizzing by so fast! I’ll soon be dead.” This is what happens when you’re having fun. When life is sweet it flashes past so quickly that it seems unfair. You feel cheated. The inevitable close of the show seems to be approaching in too much of a hurry.

And then something happens. Suddenly life is not such a joy ride. Nobody escapes these seasons. Winters come to us all. Winters seem to last forever, eh?

Remembering that I once thought where did the year go, it seems so awfully opposite now to look at the calendar and note, as it has been creeping up on me day-by-day, that it has been only two months today since Eunie died. Amazing! It feels like a year. It feels like forever. I’ve been thinking about this for a while. I’ve had plenty of time to think about it – centuries. I found it an odd coincidence (is there really such a thing?) that I met Nancy Sullivan today, who is an old friend I seldom see, and practically the first thing that she said to me upon reflecting that it had been only two months was, “It seems like forever, eh?” My case rests.

I pondered mightily concerning what images I might use for this post. Dali’s The Persistence of Memory kept wafting around the corners of my mind. Finally I decided that I needed timepieces. No worries. Eunie and I both had a small collection of what we called our “Seven Dollar Watches.” We collected them from Wal*Mart:

I looked for the better part of an hour for Eunie’s watches. I’m not ashamed to say that I cried for a while when I couldn’t find them. It’s that kind of day. I put mine on a sly grinning cat which Eunie applied to a bedspread, along with frisky puppies, well over two or three decades ago. It’s a very durable bedspread. It will outlive me. I hope some child enjoys it.

I can hear the watches ticking. Too fast? Too slow? I can’t tell.

Then, unbidden today, but always on my mind otherwise, came the thought of solitary creatures as I looked through the images of my dive on The Green Dragon B-25 bomber on Saturday. Solitary creatures . . . I don’t intend to stay that way forever, not if I have anything to say about it. Eunie will be my cheerleader.

Here is a solitary Clown Anemonefish (Amphiprion percula):

That’s right. It’s Nemo come to cheer us up. Good luck, buddy.

I wonder if time will speed up again in a year or so. Of course then, when I’m having some fun again, I’ll moan that it’s going too fast. I’m never satisfied.

Here’s a critter that seems to prefer solitude, a Ribbon Eel (Rhinomuraena quaesita):

Weird, eh? But pretty.

Now with my brain churning so furiously that it has set my hair on fire I run across this image which I took at the end of the dive. It seems to fit here:

It’s good old Faded Glory. She’s a lot like me. She’s beat up and corroded, but she’s still afloat. She’s still a bit pretty in a sort of efficient, functional way. She’s still got a lot of love and good times to give. Just like me. I’m certain that someday this will be my favourite image of her.

I’ll wrap this up with a magic trick. See . . . nothing up my sleeves.

Stuck in the sand near the rapidly deteriorating corpse of the war machine in which good men died I found this bit of the Perspex windscreen, which was smashed to smithereens when the bomber ditched near Wongat Island. Geneviève hovers like a pixy ghost in the near distance:

This shard of plastic has been resting alone in the warm sea since about the time I was born. It had never been disturbed before. I came along on Saturday and dug it out of the sand. I resurrected it.

I carried it back to the wreckage and dropped it into the pilot’s seat.

Home at last.

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A New Library of Articles

Posted in Articles on July 30th, 2010 by MadDog
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For some time I have been thinking about collecting all of the magazine articles which I have written and making them available here on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi. Today, I got myself in gear to start the process. The work is slightly complicated and time consuming. First I have to scan the magazine pages into a compact PDF file. Then I have to get the first spread into an image file. Then I have to go through a process in WordPress that is ridiculously complicated. I want both the link and the thumbnail image to point to the same PDF file on my server in the USA. You would think that WordPress would make this easy. Maybe I took too many Stupid Pills last night when I started working on it.

The first article that I tried was Heart of the Hunter. from Niugini Blue magazine. You should be able to click on the link or the thumbnail image below to get a new window or tab. It may take a while for it to load, but if you have Adobe Reader on your computer, you can then read the article. The file is about a megabyte, so be patient.

Since that one seemed to work after two hours of fiddling, I decided to add a couple of more while I was on a roll.

This is about diving at Planet Rock. a location about which you have seen many posts if you are a regular reader.

Though it is one of our favourite locations, it is a little farther out and if the sea is rough it can be an unpleasant experience.

The last one for today is The Green Dragon. This is the B-25 Mitchell bomber near Wongat Island.
I hope to find a neater way of doing this. I plan to have a section in the sidebar for Articles, but I haven’t figured out how to get the PDF files over there. It should be child’s play.

Unfortunately, I’m no longer a child.

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A New Fish

Posted in Under the Sea on July 26th, 2010 by MadDog
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Yesterday I took a long overdue holiday from journaling daily. I let my compulsion go and worked on other things. A family portrait session for friends took up most of the morning. I came back and worked on some editing projects in the afternoon, fully intending to read for a while and maybe take a nap. The nap would follow naturally after about fifteen minutes of reading. Neither the reading or the nap eventuated. I ended up working on images for our friend Ush’s article for Niugini Blue  called A New Fish.  Ush came over to the house and we edited her text and Photoshopped images for the article.

One of the images was from Saturday’s dive on The Henry Leith  near Wongat Island.  Here is Ush half-way down in the cargo hold:

I asked Ush to write a short article about her experiences while completing her PADI Open Water Diver course. This course covers all the training and knowledge required to allow one to dive safely down to eighteen metres.

The dive on The Henry Leith  was Ush’s second dive since finishing the course. I was happy to see that she had been well instructed. She did very well on the dive. I did note that she was fascinated by this Trumpetfish (Aulostomus chinensis):

It and a friend are almost always hanging around the bow area of the Henry. They are very shy. I was lucky to get the shot above when the fish was moving from one bit of cover to another.

They are nearly a half-metre long, so it’s impossible to get fine details in one shot. You have to take a picture of the head:

As you can see, it has a very unusual mouth.

Then you shoot the tail:

The tail is just an unusual as the head.

The Henry Leith  is covered with life. This is a large sponge with colonies of coral on each side:

One could probably complete a Doctoral degree by describing the life on this one wreck. I’ve been photographing it for almost twenty-five years and I still find new thing on every dive.

There are some familiar friends, however. This Golden Damsel (Amblyglyphidodon aureus)  has been haning around just aft of the cargo hold for several years:

Every time I stop to photograph it, it tries to bite me, sometimes successfully. The red stain on my fingers is not blood. Blood appears green underwater. The colour comes from touching bits of corroded iron while I steady myself for taking shots.

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Ordinary Saturday

Posted in Under the Sea on July 24th, 2010 by MadDog
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No Saturday is genuinely ordinary. One never knows what to expect. This one started out with a cheery red sunrise. When I see colour coming in through our front windows I run for my camera. The one thing that I know, regardless of the quality of the colour, is that I’m looking at a brand-new sunrise which nobody else has ever seen before. That’s a pretty cool way to start out the day. Here is a zoomed in shot of the sun rising over Madang town across the harbour from our house:

The close-up view is almost too intense.

Here is a shot of eleven frames stitched together. I covers about 180°:

From about 06:00 to 09:00 I usually work on my post for Saturday. So, after I did these sunrises, I went to work looking for some images. I ran out of time before I could put anything together which wasn’t so discombobulated that it would make you nauseous. Therefore, between the image above and the next one, a half day of diving will have passed.

It is now much later, about 16:00. I’m tired, but before I take a nap, I’ll show you some of our enjoyments of the day.

On the beach at Wongat Island  there were a bunch of young boys collecting green coconuts and stripping off the husks. Since we were thirsty for the delicious, sweet fluid inside them, we offered to buy a few from them. While the rest of the boys were scampering up coconut trees to kick a few more down, one boy built a high-jump rig, which you can see at the water’s edge. He repeatedly ran screaming down the beach and jumped over the pole into the water:

In the shot above, he has tired of this entertainment and three of the boys are bringing our kulau  (green coconuts) to us.

Here you can see one of the boys handing up a kulau  to George. We scrounged together seven Kina to give to the boys. They were extremely happy about that:

We did our dive on The Henry Leith,  a 34 metre coastal freighter which started life as a steamer and ended up as a dive attraction. We have all enjoyed many wonderful dives there. You can find dozens of images by clicking on “henry leith” or “The Henry Leith” in the Tags section of the sidebar.

The visibility is never great at this site. Here is a shot which I have not cleaned up at all. I’ve corrected the colour, but have made no effort to remove all of the speckles which obscure visibility. It gives you a very realistic vision of exactly what you would see if you came down with us:

Anything made of iron attracts a lot of life, since the ocean is relatively iron poor. The presence of iron in the water stimulates life.

Speaking of life, this Divericate Tree Coral (Gendronephthya roxasia)  is indeed alive, but it look more like an astonishingly beautiful glass artwork:

If you click to enlarge, you’ll see what I mean. A glass artisan who could create something this delicate and beautiful would be world famous. I’d guess it would take years to to it.

Diving with me on Saturday were Geneviève Tremblay and Ushtana Antia. Here you can see Geneviève looking at me with Ush hovering in the background like a guardian angel bestowing a blessing:

We enjoyed many more interesting sights today on The Henry Leith,  but now it’s time for a nap.

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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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Another Fine Mess

Posted in Under the Sea on June 14th, 2010 by MadDog
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Thanks to the Queen’s Birthday, a public holiday here in Papua New Guinea, I did not have to go to work today, a bright and sunny Monday. That gave me a chance to work on one of my other jobs and write an article for Niugini Blue  about diving with Roz Savage. Well, it was a productive day, but I’m knackered, so I will spare you my usual nonsensical chatter.

My Facebook friend Kevin Lock sent me a link to a very scary site which allows you to put the footprint of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico right over the top of your house, if you are so inclined. My sense of geography is askew because of living in the same place for nearly half of my life, so I wanted to get an idea of the scale of the disaster. I put it right over Madang:

I was dumbfounded. All that I could think of was to be thankful that we have no ecological woes that could, even in the worst possible case, hold a candle to this one. That would be the same as comparing a firecracker to a hydrogen bomb.

I spent years in the U. S. Army National Guard flying helicopters. A large percentage of our missions were in support of disaster relief. I have seen close up and personal the kind of personal tragedy that such disasters cause. This one goes well beyond my imagination.

To get my mind off of those dreadful memories, I’ll show you the wing of The Green Dragon  B-25 bomber near Wongat Island:

What you see is the remaining metal framework of the control surface at the rear edge of the wing.

Inside the fuselage at the corner of one of the ammunition boxes was a spindly shrimp with an eel poking its head out next to it:

I wonder if they are even aware of each other.

Down on the bottom, behind the wing is a Heliofungia actiniformis  coral full of Periclimenes  shrimp:

The shot above is about as good as I can get with the Canon G11 in the low light conditions. I had to shoot at ISO 400. If you know what that means, you’ll have respect for this little camera a bit bigger than a pack of cigarettes, if anybody remembers what that looks like.

Here is another shot that gives an idea of how many of these little nearly transparent shrimp you might find in one coral:

They were hopping around like tiny bunnies.

This is very young coral colony which Monty Armstrong found out near the nose of the bomber. It was as delicate as any flower I’ve ever seen:

Its current size is about five or six centimetres. It will be interesting to see how fast it grows.

I’m tired and I still have captions to write. There will be more useless mumblings tomorrow.

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Climbing Up the Chimney

Posted in Under the Sea on June 13th, 2010 by MadDog
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Yesterday we went up to Wonagat Island  to dive a spot on the barrier reef we call The Chimney. I don’t think that we have dived there since I began Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  in September 2007. This is a little odd, since it is an interesting site and easy to get to. The conditions there vary wildly. Saturday wasn’t great, but I did get some amusing shots. We’ll get to that later.

First, have a look at Sunday morning’s sunrise. I deliverately made it darker than it really was. I wanted to bring out the very faint crepuscular rays. I could barely make them out visually. Some tender massaging with Photoshop brought them to life:

Trying to lighten up the rest of the image simply makes it look fake, which is not necessarily a bad thing, if you’re going for an artistic interpretation. The most interesting bit of this image is the dense black smoke erupting from the stack of the large ship as the left. Click to enlarge, so you can see it.

Here is another shot with a completely different colour interpretation which shows the ship’s smoke much more clearly:

Thank goodness that this amount of smoke is not normal. I only see it when the ships are starting up their main propulsion engines. It usually lasts only a minute or two. I would love to get into the engine room of one of these big ships. Maybe somebody out there will arrange this for me. I’m amazed at the things I ask for here which magically appear. Having a journal with thousands upon thousands of readers can come in very handy. Thank you , gentle readers.

If I project the numbers out to the end of June, it seems that I will have had 275,000 visitors in the first half of 2010. This simply stuns me. I sometimes find it difficult to get my fingers going in the morning, because it is absolutely scary how many people are going to read what I write while still waking up, sitting there in my nightwear (I’ll let you guess.) drinking a Fanta Orange soda. Hey, think about it! It’s a frightful responsibility. But, it’s still very small potatoes.

Well, enough of puffing my head up like a toy balloon, let us have a look at the mysterious dive site which we call The chimney for a very obvious reason. I carefully positioned Faded Glory  for the dive, because if you get the anchorage wrong, you will never find the hole. The trick is to anchor in a known position slightly to the North of The Chimney so that you know which way to go when you get down on the reef. Here is what it looks like if you get things right:

In my dive briefing I said the we would descend, go to the edge of the reef, descend again to 28 metres, turn right and look for the hole. And maybe we might find it. I have miscalculated the anchor point several times and failed to find it. This time, after the dive, I marked in on the GPS.

Here is how it looks from the bottom as you see a diver exiting from the top:

I should have mentioned beforehand that one shouldn’t use fins to swim up through it. It’s best if you just let a slow ascent take you up through the narrow passage. If you do it right, no sediment is kicked up to spoil the trip for the next diver.

Our resident French clown, Pascal Michon could not resist hanging upside down for a comical shot:

It’s nice to know that you have friends you can count on for a laugh.

Back up on top we went hunting. This little Blackspotted Puffer (Arothron nigropunctatus)  kept trying to hide from me. I caught him as he was peeking out to see if I was still there:

They are cute, but not very bright. They remind me of me, except for the cute part.

I’m still experimenting with the deep focus technique, but it takes a lot of light. this shot of Reticulated Dascyllus (Dascyllusreticulatus)  bobbing up and down into their coral hide-out is not yet what I’m looking for:

It seems a little flat to me. I’m looking for more depth.

I may have to send you a pair of 3D glasses.

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