Nearing the End

Posted in Guest Shots, Mixed Nuts on December 30th, 2009 by MadDog
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Counting the years as they whiz past seems less fun than it did at twenty. And, whizzing past they are.  It’s a pity that life speeds by so quickly as you get close to whatever is at the end. It feels as if I’ve had the pedal to the metal since I was thirteen and now I’m running flat-out in the fog at night with my hair on fire. The thought, “Pretty soon I’ll be dead.” intrudes daily into my otherwise manageable world.

Well, there is no sense in crying over milk that has yet to be spilt. It’s not that death frightens me. I made peace with death a long time ago. Accepting The Big Sleep as something that is as natural as life itself, indeed, defining life,  has removed the heebie-jeebie factor from the death equation for me. There’s some kind of Big Plan. My death is simply a part of that. I’ve been inches or seconds from death so many times that I’ve lost count. I’ve lost interest in counting. Death is the biggest tease of all. How close can  you get?

No, I’m not going to off myself. I’m having way too much fun for that. I’ve been sitting here listening to Pink Floyd for about three hours now. That’s enough to make anybody ponder darkly the meaning of life.

Today I’m feeding you a stew of images that don’t fit anywhere else. Butter up some bread and have a seat:

That was Wongat Island  which just flew past and is left in the wake of Mike Cassell’s boat, Felmara,  on our way up to Blueblood on Christmas Day. It has a very nice beach and is the only place that I know of where you can pick up magnificent specimens of weathered blue coral. I’ll have to do a post on it someday.

This is a much prettier island image. I think that it is Sinub Island;  the outline looks right. I wasn’t really paying much attention to navigation, since I wasn’t driving:The sun lit it up nicely and a polarising filter over the lens darkened up the sky just as it is supposed to do. The big Cumulonimbus cloud is casting a lovely reflection on the sea.

Here is an example of how to blow out your whites. The little sensor in my Canon G9 simply can’t handle the dynamic range of brightness levels in this shot:The rest of the image was recoverable, except for the blocked blacks which I can live with in this image. However the bright area in the centre was blown out to pure white. I couldn’t get any detail out of it. This is where a US$5,000 camera comes in handy, if you have the moolah for it. I had to fake something in there, so Photoshop saved the day with the Selective Colour tool set on Absolute. Choosing Whites as the colour, I tweaked up the Yellow slider and added just a touch of Red. It looks a little fakey, but hey, what do you expect for a tenth of the price?

This shot fits my mood today like a glove. It’s raining and cold outside; Eunie would say that it’s winter today in Madang. The Finnisterre Mountains  are glowering in the distance as rain tumbles down from the gravid clouds:Mind, when we say ‘cold’ were talking maybe 24°C (75°F). I never sweat any more. My body has fallen deeply in love with tropical weather. In Indiana, at this time of year, I’d be dead in a month – I’m sure of it!

I gave you a frame of this series of sunrise over Astrolabe Bay  in another post. I like this one better:The canoe man is more clearly visible here. I also used a different mood for the colours. You can compare them, if you like.

Since I seem to be wallowing in the ephemeral nature of life today, here is a perfect image with which to illustrate the principle:

When I named this image Ephemeral Mushrooms, I thought that I was being very cute and trippy. Then I Googled the phrase and got 731 hits. So much for originality. Among other scholarly titles was, The Predictability of Ephemeral Mushrooms and Implications for Mycophagous Fly Communities.  That will give you the gist of the subject. I didn’t even know that mycophagus flies had  communities. I thought they were like wandering hunter-gatherers.

Okay, okay, I’ll wrap up this orgy of self-pity and random fluctuations with a Guest Shot by our fine friend and enthusiastic fellow photographer, Ron Barrons of Hamilton, Ontario. Ron, like myself, is a waterfalls buff. Here is his latest shot of Princess Falls.
I call the image above Princess Falls Mugged.  That’s because it’s my interpretation of the image that Ron sent to me. As I do, Ron struggles with ‘flat light’. He emailed the image to me with the remark that the lighting that day was very flat. My addition of a blue sky at the top seems to contradict this, but it’s fake. Punching up the contrast and increasing the γ of the image did wonders for it. Lightening only the shadows and changing the water in the pool from sickly green to deep blue put on the finishing touches. Actually, I liked the shot the way Ron sent it to me.

By the way, Ron said that Princess Falls only works when it rains. Otherwise it is dry. A dry waterfall. Hmmm . . . Is  it a waterfall, when it’s dry? Anyway, Ron said that he was going out to try again, but it will have to wait until all the ice is gone. Thank heavens I  don’t have to deal with that!

I simply couldn’t resist “improving” it.

Ron is a forgiving guy.

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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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The Henry Leith – A Ghost Ship

Posted in Under the Sea on November 1st, 2009 by MadDog
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On Saturday, we motored up to Wongat Island  in our dive boat, Faded Glory.  There are two world-class dives there within a couple of hundred metres of each other. One is the B-25 Mitchell bomber, The Green Dragon.  The other is a scuttled cargo vessel, The Henry Leith.  Bob Halstead bought the wreck for K1.00 and sank it as a diving attraction. It’s beautifully preserved. I believe that a clever student could probably work up a Doctoral thesis in Marine Biology without ever leaving the thirty-four metre length of this beautiful ghost ship.

I have been stalking a critter for a good specimen shot for about ten years. It is very elusive and quite rare. Near Madang, The Henry Leith  is the only place that I can guarantee  that you might  see one. For now, I’ll call it the “Mystery Fish.” That’s because I want to see if anybody is paying attention. The first person to leave a comment with the correct common and taxonomic name of this fish, based only on this partial view, wins a prize. The prize is that you get to be first:

Mystery Fish - Leave a comment if you know what it is.Yes, I’m cheap. What did you expect, a Rolex?

In the next couple of days, I’ll be showing you the shots that I’ve been trying to get for over ten years.

Here’s another difficult fish to photograph. It’s commonly known as a Trumpet Fish, but you can call it Aulostomus chinensis  if you like:Trumpetfish (Aulostomus chinensis)They constantly try to hide from you in very curious ways. They assume odd positions. I was upside down with salt water gushing into my sinus cavities, nearly dying to sneeze, when I got this shot. UW photographers have to take risks for their prizes. You can see the railing of The Henry Leith  upside down at an odd angle. Possibly predators have difficulty matching memory-stored food images up with objects in the water if they are in unexpected configurations. That’s my utterly unscientific guess.

This is a lovely, snowflaky, starry coral which I am pretty sure is the Pipe Organ Coral (Tubipora musica). For once the taxonomic name makes sense, if you remember your High School Latin (yes, I am  that old):Pipe Organ Coral (Tubipora musica) [uncertain]I said that I’m pretty sure about the identification. There are quite a few corals that have a similar appearance. I forgot to look at the base of this one, so I’m thinking it may possibly be some Anthelia  species, which are very variable.

And now, would you care to venture a guess as to what this is? I bet that most people would be able to identify this as the eyes of a stingray which is hiding just beneath the sand.  This is why they are troublesome to divers. You often cannot see it easily until you have already frightened it and it escapes. That’s when the stinger is most likely to get you.Blue-Spotted Stingray (Dasyatis kuhlii)As I approached this one he began to rise up slowly in preparation for flight:Blue-Spotted Stingray (Dasyatis kuhlii)A second after this shot, there was nothing left in the camera frame but swirling sand.

SITE NOTES: I’m hoping that you will find that Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  is loading much faster. I’ve reduced the eqo-stroking clutter in the side bar – the locations of our visitors and a visitor live feed. I’ve also dumped a few plugins that made calls to third-party sites and slowed things down. There are now seven pages on HOME instead of fifteen. I hope that this improves the experience for everyone. I’m also not bothering to link to every phrase or word on which I have posted before. I know that I’m supposed to do that to keep people from drifting off to some other site. However, for dedicated readers wanting to see what else I’ve written before on a given subject, use the Search box, or click on the title of the post that you want to read and you will get a “single” page with that post and up to seven related posts listed beneath. Remember also that you can “Click a Tag” in the sidebar to see all posts to which I have added that tag.

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The Sailor’s Eyeball and Other Salty Amusements

Posted in Under the Sea on March 6th, 2009 by MadDog
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A few days ago at the Eel Garden, near Wongat Island we had very warm, clear water. The temperature at 25 metres was 29°C (more than 84°F). I felt a bit over-warm in my wetsuit.

Down at the catamaran these Vanikoro Sweepers (Pempheris vanicolensis) were swimming behind a beautiful white Sea fan. You can see the tilted deck of the catamaran in the background:

Vanikoro Sweeper (Pempheris vanicolensis) behind Sea Fan

On the hull, I found an unusual Feather Star. I can’t identify the species. I think it’s probably a juvenile from the very few arms that it has. But, hey, I’m no expert. My invertebrates book is pretty slim. It’s an interesting image anyway. You get an idea of the range of colours that you can see within a small area. The image would just cover my hand:

Feather Star (unidentified crinoid)
I’ve always admired the Palm Corals for their beautiful delicacy and subtle colours. This one is a Clavularia species. I have no idea which one:

Palm Coral (Clavularia sp.)

The individual polyps are about 30mm in diameter. They sway gracefully in the current like miniature palm trees – thus the name.

This little beauty is a Pink Anemonefish (Amphiprion perideraion). There was a pair of them on the anemone, but I could never get the two of them in the frame long enough to snap a shot:

Pink Anemonefish (Amphiprion perideraion)

There is another similar fish called the Skunk Anemonefish. It looks exactly like the Pink Anemonefish except it doesn’t have the white bar down the cheeks, leaving only the white stripe down the back. Thus the name “Skunk Anemonefish”.

I caught this little crab, which I can’t find in my books, in a coral head. I tried as I might to coax him out, but he outsmarted me. It was embarrassing. He is quite a handsome little crab with his blue eye glimmering in the shadows:

Unidentified Crab

I know you are wondering if I’m going to get around to the subject of the post. Patience, patience.

The Sailor’s Eyeball (Valonia ventricosa) has to be one of the strangest non-animal items that you’ll run across on the average dive. It is the world’s largest single-cell organism. This one is about the size of a golf ball.

Sailor's Eyeball algae (Valonia ventricosa)

And, no, I’m not making it up. It is ONE CELL! As you may have guessed, it is an algae. The cell wall is tough like the plastic that we curse whenever we buy practically anything these days. It is quite durable and completely transparent. The inside is filled with a greenish (surprise) fluid. If you take one for inspection (one per lifetime, please – we don’t want to over-exploit them) and hold it up so that you can see the sunlight coming through it, it looks very much like a dirty green marble. A little rubbing will remove all the surface incrustation.

Another thing that I’ve noticed is that the surface shows a refraction pattern exactly like a star sapphire. The star appears to be inside the ball. I’m going to try to get a photo of that sometime.

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More Wongat Island Miscellanea

Posted in Under the Sea on February 27th, 2009 by MadDog
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I’m almost finished reminiscing about Wednesday afternoon’s dive. The torture will soon be over.

Amidst the abundant life there is a small anemone that has been near the bow of the Henry Leith   for many years. It is the true home of Nemo and his extended family. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. Nemo lives in Madang and always has. All you kiddies out there, watch Nemo now. In case you are wondering, Nemo is the big one that keeps coming into the middle of the shot:Back over at the Green Dragon B-25 bomber I took this shot of the yoke (the “steering wheel”) with the usual bunch of tiny fish swimming around:

Yoke of the Green Dragon B-25 bomber in Madang, Papua New Guinea
Up on the tip of the port wing, where the giant barrel sponge is, I captured this Pixy Hawkfish [red variation] (Cirrhitichthys oxycephalus):
Pixy Hawkfish (red variation) (Cirrhitichthys oxycephalus)
Much, much too much work at work is driving me crazy. It’s cutting deeply into my playtime. Eunie will be travelling to the USA and Canada during April, May, and half of June. I will be a temporary bachelor – not one my favourite things.

Never mind. I’m planning a trip to the highlands to climb Mt. Wilhelm.  I’ll be writing an article f or Our Way  magazine about an insane Englishman who is planning to jump off of the top (with a parachute, one would assume). I’ll also be going on a research trip to Rabaul to get as close to the volcano as I possibly can. I promise you some interesting shots. I’ll also be doing some diving there and grab more images.

At 65 life is beginning to get interesting.

About time!

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Weirdness at Wongat Island

Posted in Humor, Under the Sea on February 25th, 2009 by MadDog
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We treated ourselves to a mid-week dive yesterday afternoon. In fact, we did two separate dives on one tank each. We went to the Green Dragon  B-25 bomber first and then to the wreck of the Henry Leith,  both near Wongat Island.

The water was very murky around the bomber, so macro shots were the only option. I found this nudibranch on one of the ammunition boxes in the dorsal gun mount:
Nudibranch on the Green Dragon B-25 bomber at Wongat IslandI can’t find it in my invertebrates book, but it’s pretty common. It always makes me think of a fancy bit of candy that you might find in an expensive sweets shop in Vienna. UPDATE: It is a Pipek’s phyllidiopsis (Phyllidiopsis pipeki),   as if you care.

Anyone who knows Carol Dover understands that she is a natural actress. Point a camera at her and she will start hamming. It’s in her blood. Case in point:

The gang was hanging on the anchor rope above the Henry Leith. As soon as Carol caught sight of the camera, the show was on.

I got a couple of other nice videos that I will post tomorrow. YouTube seems to be slow today processing them.

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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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