Avid outdoorsman and underwater photographer, Barry Brown has spent the last ten years documenting life above and below water in Curacao, Netherlands Antilles. He is currently working with the Smithsonian Institution documenting new Caribbean deep-water species and building a one of a kind database. His underwater images can regularly be seen in Sport Diver, Scuba Diver and on the Ikelite website. His image of a "Collage of Corals" seen under blue-light at night recently placed in the TOP 10 images for the 2014 NANPA (North American Nature Photographers Association) photo contest.
Dec 18, 14 Comments (0)
Hi friends, I’m in and out of the water today photographing tourists going down in the submersible and you might be able to see us at www.seesubmarine.com just remember there is a one hour time delay in what your seeing.
For my poor neglected dolphin friends out there I have a beautiful bottlenose diving out in the open ocean for you today. Many who have been connected with us from the start (2004) remember the days of me sending out dolphin photos just about every day and for sure every week. But since I moved over to work with the submersible (4 years now) the dolphin photos are getting less and less, I just don’t take the time to go over and swim with them like I used to, that’s Aimee’s job!
Having a busy day!!
Dec 17, 14 Comments (0)
Good morning all, I have an extra special creature for you all today called a Pipefish found by our crew here at Substation Curacao at 560 feet! Because this fish was close to 8-inches in length I was unable to photograph him in a single shot so I took seven photos and stitched them together in Photoshop. To see the panoramic photo you will need to click on my “GALLERY” link on the left side of the home page, it was too long to post on my normal blog page. I have been told this is a rare find and that there is little known information on this deep dwelling pipefish, the Smithsonian scientists were very excited. In the four years we have been diving with the submersible (over 1000 dives) we have never seen one of these so it once again goes to show there is so much yet to be discovered.
Here’s a link to one of the shallow pipefish I found living in 15 feet of water right under our submersible dock months ago remember him??
These strange beautiful little fishes all have trumpet-like snouts and small mouths. Their bodies are encased in protective bony rings which are quite apparent. Pipefish are in the same family as seahorses and we have about ten shallow species swimming around the Caribbean, good luck finding them! Seahorses are vertically oriented, and have a cocked head. Their finless, elongated tail base is often coiled around a hold-fast. Pipefishes are elongated, snake-like bottom dwellers with heads that extend straight from their bodies, and have small tail fins, both are slow swimmers and masters of disguise!
Slowly getting over my mosquito illness, not something I wanted for Christmas!
Have a great day all!!
Dec 16, 14 Comments (0)
Good morning all, I’m in recovery mode from my chikungunya but still a long ways a way from recovered! This horrible stuff cons you into thinking your felling better then knocks you back down, so much fun!
I am still chasing fish around every chance I get trying to get some new “face shots” but this has turned out to be one of the most difficult tasks ever! This parrotfish will go through three major color transformations with the above photo being his or her last and final color called the “Terminal Phase”. As a cute little juvenile they have three rows of widely spaced white spots that run the whole length of their bodies and have a mossy green head with a pinkish belly. As they get older they enter the “Initial Phase” and look nothing at all like the photo above, in fact most divers don’t even know the two fish are one and the same. In the initial phase the fish will have a beautiful red belly and tail and the rest of the fish is different colors of green looking almost camouflage, again it’s hard to believe they will go from this phase to what you see above. In their “Terminal Phase” (above) they are emerald green with salmon to yellow markings on head and fins with a crescent shaped tail.
We are having a quiet week, the Smithsonian is gone and the deep-divers have left, only a few runs later this week with the submersible.
Countdown to Christmas is on!
Dec 15, 14 Comments (0)
Good morning all, I have another super-cool find compliments of our friends from the Smithsonian Institution and Substation Curacao for your viewing pleasure today. This is a small 2-inch crab (Dicranodromia sp.) they found at 982 feet walking around carrying a sponge on it’s back, how cool is that?? Because this little beauty has a soft shell and in general is without defense it needs to carry items like this piece of sponge on it’s back to keep it hidden from any and all would be predators. The sponge was held in place by an extra arm or claw that lays on his back, you can see it well in both the second and third photos. His or her little arms and antenna are covered in tiny hairs that are almost impossible to see under the naked eye. I’m guessing this crab carried this same piece of sponge around for a long time as the inside was perfectly molded to just his body, it was like a custom piece of foam molded just for him.
Feeling a little better today but that seems to change every three hours, such a weird illness.
Lots to catch up on today, can’t believe Christmas is only 10 days away??
See you soon..
Dec 12, 14 Comments (0)
Hello all, most of you have already guessed, I am CRAZY sick!! And not just with a cold or a flu, I have joined the other 11,500 people on Curacao with an illness called…Chikungunya, one of the hands down worst bugs (no pun intended) I have ever had! This is a mosquito transmitted illness and because this is the rainy season it’s the price some of us pay for living in paradise!
I have a super hidden very camouflaged reef scorpionfish for your viewing pleasure today that we found a few weeks ago on our house reef in front of the Substation. This is the same scorpionfish that we found about a month ago at night that was so beautiful under blue-light but if you remember I only had a macro lens at the time and was only able to photograph his eye. We have been searching like crazy for this guy again (at night) but every time we are out looking for him we never can find him. These scorpionfish rely on the ability to blend in with their environments and have the patience to not move all day. Most divers never even see these fish, that’s how well they blend in. You can swim inches over them and they will not move which is also how many folks get stung by stepping on them, they didn’t get the nickname “stonefish” for nothing.
It’s back to bed for me, if you don’t hear from me it’s because I am still down!
Hope your holidays are going better than mine!
Dec 10, 14 Comments (0)
Good morning friends, I have a small, super beautiful, live 3-inch juvenile Toadfish/Sea Toad for you all today that was found at 810 feet by our friends from the Smithsonian Institution. On just about every deep-dive with the submersible (past 800 feet) we see at least one toadfish laying out in the open all by himself. They are usually partially buried in the sand or rubble just sitting there in complete darkness waiting for food to pass by. This is the first small one we have seen, usually they are quite larger up to a foot in length. If threatened this animal can fill it’s belly with water and become a floating ball making the animal very hard to eat! Once the threat has passed the animal will expel the water and go back to laying in the sand watching little fish pass by all day. He also has a “lure” in between his eyes that he can use to attract fish, once raised it looks like a little tree of sorts and is very effective. I added a second photo to better show you his “lure” which is in the lowered position. Yeah I know, talk about a face only a mother could love! You will also notice he is standing on his two super cool pelvic fins which he or she uses for standing and walking around, it’s like some spooky fish that escaped from Area 51.
Toadfish is the common name for the sluggish, bottom-feeding fishes of the genus Opsanus, found in the shallow waters from New Jersey to the Caribbean. Toadfishes feed almost entirely on crustaceans and small fishes. The head of a toadfish is broad and flat, with barbels and fleshy fringes, sharp gill covers, and spiny protrusions on the cheeks; the mouth is enormous and has many sharp teeth. The scaleless, slimy body tapers to a slender tail. Toadfishes grow to 1 ft (30 cm) in length. The eggs, sometimes laid in empty shells or tin cans, are guarded viciously by the male. The midshipmen (Porichthys species) of the same family are deepwater fishes of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, with many small luminescent organs on the underside of the body. Other members of the family are found in tropical waters and have venomous spines. Toadfishes and their relatives are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Osteichthyes, order Batrachoidiformes, family Batrachoididae.
Still sick as a dog but going to the doctor Saturday.
Dec 9, 14 Comments (0)
Good afternoon one and all, sorry about the late post but I have been in the deep-water labs all morning photographing a bunch of new specimens found by the Smithsonian Institution on their submersible dive yesterday. I spent the morning shooting a juvenile 4-inch toadfish found at around 800 feet, a beautiful hermit crab, two more slit-shells and this giant 12-inch tall sea star you see above. We think this is a Linckia nodosa Perrier but until we know for sure I will just say “don’t quote me on that”. Unlike brittle stars that are so fragile and can move so fast, this sea star is hard and moves super slow! I watched this thing for an hour and was amazed at not only how slowly it moved but how much suction those arms have, such an amazing creature! How deep was it found you ask?? Close to 750 feet!! Are you as amazed as I am that all this stuff is not only for the most part unknown but it’s so colorful and resides deep below the Earths surface? It hurts my head to think about all the creatures and fish that no no human will ever find, there is so much down there yet to be discovered and like they say…so little time!
Echinoderms are members of the phylum Echinodermata, from the Greek words for “spiny skin.” This group of marine animals lives only in salt water and includes sea lilies, brittle stars, sea cucumbers, sand dollars, sea urchins, and starfish. Though not all echinoderms actually have spiny skin, in most cases it does have a very rough texture, and some species also wield toxic spines as a defense mechanism. These complex invertebrates possess many distinctive features.
An adult echinoderm has a body made up of equal sections, usually five or a multiple of five, that surround a central point. In starfish and brittle stars, each of these sections is in the form of an arm-like appendage that points away from the center like a wheel spoke. Often each body section will house a duplicate set of internal organs.
Echinoderms possess the remarkable ability to regrow lost limbs or other body parts, even internal organs. When attacked, many will gradually regenerate a damaged or severed limb after the wound has closed up. Also, some species can use regeneration to reproduce by deliberately breaking themselves apart, after which each piece will grow into a whole new organism.
Still fighting my weird sickness, I feel good for a few hours and then WHAM” I get hit with it all over again, meaning sick to my stomach and my back starts hurting, so bizarre!
Two weeks till Christmas and we haven’t even put up our driftwood Christmas tree or any lights, talk about waiting till the last minute!
I have to run…
Dec 8, 14 Comments (0)
Good morning all, I hope your weekend was better than mine! First off, I came down with some kind of crazy, wacked out Curacao sickness about a week ago and it just seems to be getting worse! Not only did I miss the big extreme race this weekend that I have been training for all year, I had to spend the whole weekend in bed, not fun at all. My symptoms include a stomach that feels sick all the time, burping, back ache, headache and minor joint pain, any ideas out there? I had to come into work today to get some photos prepared for the Smithsonian group but after this note to you I am headed back home.
Last week our team found a beautiful pipefish at 560 feet and I spent friday in the lab photographing it, talk about a thing of beauty. As some of you know there is very little known about deep-sea pipefish and very little to no photos exist so again being the first to see a possible new species and photograph it is quite the honor. The pipefish was around 8 inches in length and I ended up shooting him in a sequence of 7 photos and stitching them together in Photoshop, not sure how I will be able to post a photo so long?
I have three photos for you today showing a common behavior in Surgeonfishes called Aggregations. We have three different surgeonfish here in Curacao, the Blue Tangs, the Ocean Surgeonfish (above) and Doctorfish all of which can be seen swimming in these large aggregations. The top photo shows our Ocean Surgeonfish swimming in a school, the second and third photo show them stopped picking at algae. They do this behavior non-stop all day, swim in a big school seconds later dive onto the reef and eat algae and they could care less about any divers watching and taking their photos.
We see these large groups called “aggregations” on the reef here every single day and I still never seem to get tired of it, they are just so beautiful. Adult surgeonfish have three social modes: territorial, wandering, and schooling. Territorial adults defend their home rage from other members of the species. Schooling adults are not aggressive. Wanderer adults are not aggressive nor do they interact with other individuals like schooling fish do. Wanderers are mostly chased by other fish including blue tangs and damselfishes. Occasionally, Blue Tangs will join in on the fun forming large multi-species aggregations with other surgeonfishes as seen above.
Blue tangs and ocean surgeonfish may benefit from forming schools for two reasons. First, individuals may experience lower rates of predation when feeding in large groups. Second, by feeding in groups, fish might be able to work together to overcome the territorial defenses of other fishes. For example, a single blue tang is easily chased away by an aggressive damselfish defending its territory. However, when a large school of blue tangs and their schoolmates try to feed on algae in a damselfish’s territory, there is little that the damselfish can do. When this occurs, the damselfish frantically, but ultimately fruitlessly, attempts to chase away their more numerous attackers while the school consumes all of the algae in their territories.
All three Surgeonfish species are active during the day, hiding in crevices on the reef at night to avoid predators.
I can hear Christmas music in the background playin on the radio, hard to believe it’s that time of year already!!??
Back to bed….
Dec 4, 14 Comments Off
Good morning friends, first off I made a Christmas/Holiday card for the Smithsonian Institution and as of yesterday it went live on their site, here is the link below…..
We have been working on this project for a long time and we finally have all the letters in the Alphabet including numbers, hearts and tons of designs and shapes that will remind you of something in nature. It’s pretty fun right?? Needless to say this could not have been done without our friends at the Smithsonian who share similar dreams of not only fun designs in nature but learning more about them in hopes of saving them for generations to come!
Above is a super tiny Juvenile Sponge Brittle Star, Ophiothrix suensonii crawling around at night on a brown tube sponge. Brittle stars, order Ophiurae, have a small central disk that rarely exceeds one inch in diameter, and five arms with numerous spines arranged in rows. The spines of different species can be distinct; they can be short or long, thin or thick, pointed or blunt. The tops of the arms are lined with large calcareous plates that allow only lateral movement. This armor results in arms that break off easily, giving rise to the common name. Severed arms, however, can be regenerated. In spite of their brittleness and restricted mobility, the arms allow the animal to move more rapidly than other members of the phylum. During the day brittle stars are occasionally seen clinging to sponges and gorgonians, but they generally hide under rocks and inside crevices, waiting for night before moving into the open to feed.
Super busy day ahead, remember to check out www.seesubmarine.com you might just see us pass by.
Cheers all, thanks for tuning in.
Dec 3, 14 Comments Off
Good morning friends, I had a question sent in asking if leaf, plate and sheet corals react under blue-light and YES they do!! These thin very breakable stony corals are turning out to be one of our favorites on any given blue light dive and most of them react differently. Because there are so many varieties of these plate corals I have a terrible time with identification. For instance we have Honeycomb Plate Coral, Sunray Lettuce Coral, Fragile Saucer Coral, Whitestar Sheet Coral, Dimpled Sheet Coral, Scroll Coral, Lettuce, Scaled, Keeled, and Purple Corals and Low and Thin Leaf Lettuce Coral, that’s a whole lot of leaf, plate and sheet corals! The tiny star-like polyps (all the yellow spots) have this beautiful yellow glow to them and the rim of the coral is almost a fluorescent lime green, it’s so beautiful to see in person! The reds you see below the corals are either cyanobacteria or algae of some kind and really add a nice mixture of color to the photo. For you smarty coral pants out there, I would love a positive I.D. on this one, I can guess but that doesn’t always work out!
We have a ton of deep divers arriving today from the California Academy of Sciences and our ladies from the Smithsonian arrive tomorrow. I believe they are doing some kind of combined effort with collecting lion-fish at depth using the submersible and the divers who will go down below the 400 foot mark with tanks!
Sorry so short, have a great day!!
Dec 2, 14 Comments Off
Good morning friends, it’s not to often I beg for anything but my friend Jon Kramer who lives in Florida and works with wild Manatees has asked me and my loyal readers for a little help. They are tying to raise a little over $4000 and they already have half so please if you are able and have a few minutes this is a major great cause!
All you have to do is copy and paste the address below into your internet browser (above) and donate a few bucks, your not only helping a great friend of ours but also your helping animals that really need our help.
I have what looks like a “blue tang with wings” hovering above the reef for your viewing pleasure today. I was quietly parked above a beautiful colony of finger corals watching these little yellow bluehead wrasses who were waiting for any fish to stop so they could get down to the business of doing what they do best….cleaning! Then, out of the blue, no pun intended, this blue tang comes darting in at full speed, puts up his fins like you see above and came to a full and complete stop! His two fins acted just like brakes on a car! Then once parked here came our little workers to inspect the blue tang and remove any little parasites, it was like watching a pit-crew at the Indianapolis 500 changing tires, they were so fast and within seconds the blue tang took off back to the reef.
Busy week here at Substation Curacao, I need to be underwater in 30 minutes!
Have a great day!
Dec 1, 14 Comments Off
Good morning all, how was your weekend?? Can you believe it’s December 1st today?? Geez, where did November go?? Or where did this year go?? I still feel like we just got back from Peru but that was way back in April, man does time fly by when your having fun!
I have another comical sleeping parrotfish “face shot” for you all today that we took last week on a night dive. These fish just crack me up the way they lay about the reef most of the times right out in the open acting as if they are under some weird spell but this is how they sleep. Many times waking up a sleeping parrotfish ends with them being so startled that they blindly take off into the darkness in search of a better home which can be bad for the fish as they really have no idea where they are going! I have seen a startled fish swim right into corals or rocks at such high speed doing either damage to their bodies or knocking them out! We always tell divers, “don’t shine the light directly at them” keep the light to the side or diffuse it with your other hand. Think of it like this, your in bed asleep and all of a sudden there is a bright light in your eyes, “it’s panic time”!
My buddy Dorian and I pre-rode the extreme course again this weekend, it was 40 miles of mud and water, not fun at all! This coming weekend is the real Curacao Extreme and if it rains any more the course could be unrideable! We got back to the truck under three hours but we both were completely covered in mud and the poor bikes looked even worse, I guess that’s why it’s called the Extreme.
We have a busy week on tap with the Smithsonian arriving on thursday and a bunch of crazy deep-divers arriving today and tomorrow. They will be doing research on lion-fish that live deep so stayed tuned for more on this story to come.
Have a great day all!!
Nov 28, 14 Comments Off
Good morning all, it’s Black Friday!! I have been so busy this week with Holiday parties, work and cycling that my poor daily blog is just not getting done!
I have a crazy beautiful colony of Great Star Coral, Montastraea cavernosa that we photographed the other night with our alien looking blue-lights. Shooting “OPEN POLYPS” like you see above has turned out to be a real challenge! Why you ask, go ahead ask why!! Because coral polyps are super sensitive to light! What we are trying to do now is to sneak up on them if you will and some times it works and other times it doesn’t. When we spot our “to be photo” I now try to NOT shine any light on them until the last second, it’s a case of “one shot one kill”! If we hover over them for more than a few seconds all these open polyps you see above will quicky close and if we want to re-shoot it again we would have to come back in say 30 minutes when they re-open, you just gotta be fast and your exposure and light has to be perfect.
Yesterday for Thanksgiving Aimee and I got up early and took the dogs for a three hour beach combing adventure to the north coast in search of new fun driftwood but to our surprise we found very little. We did find one big piece that looks like a sailboat, we just need to add a cabin, mast and sail and it should be super cool when finished. We have had almost a whole week now without rain but there are still standing puddles everywhere making driving and cycling along the coast challenging at times. We are going to ride the 40 mile Extreme course again early tomorrow morning, this time at more of a race pace, I’m hoping there is not much mud! At 4:00 yesterday I met two of the fastest teens on the island and we took of on a two hour, 25 mile sprint. The kids have yet to catch me on the single-track trails but I was struggling at times to keep up to them on the road, man are they fast! We had a great Thanksgiving meal last night compliments of two American ladies that we met this week and invited us to their hotel for dinner, it was fantastic!
We have a submersible dive at 11:00, I need to get ready to go.
Have a great day…
Nov 25, 14 Comments Off
Hello readers, first off… so sorry about the NO blog for the past few days but my Word Press/Coral Reef Photos site needed updated and backed-up and had to be done by someone other than myself. Sorry but I’m not a computer expert!
Here’s a new, live Slit Shell for you all today called Entemnotrochus adansonianus, Crosse & Fisher, 1861. Most of the live slit-shells I photograph are super shy and won’t come out to feed or explore for hours but this one for the first time ever was ready to go! I stayed in the lab for hours watching this guy climb all over everything and eating the thin layer of algae that covered the rocks and old ceramic bottle you see here. Look closely and you can see his little black eye located below his two tentacles. His mouth is stuck to the side of the jug sucking algae and the rest of his body you see around the edges of the shell is called his foot.
Here’s a small note from a pleurotomariid expert that wrote in this morning… ”the bright colors in some shells and animals from deep water are astonishing…but don’t forget that yellow and red/pink colorations are the first to be filtered out by the light (wavelengths) reaching those depths….and thus are a kind of “hiding” colors in these depths for predators …..there’s also a hypothesis that particular color pigments present in the encrusting sponges, which form the mean diet in most slit-shell species, are incorporated into the outer prismatic layers during shell development (and those yellow and red encrusting sponges are found around the same habitat where adansonianus lives, in the same depth cline).”
These are the shallowest occurring and most commonly collected pleurotomariids in the Western Atlantic with a range that extends from Bermuda to Southern Brazil. Slit Shells of this species live at depths of 180 feet to 700 feet so it’s safe to say that not many folks will ever see one while out diving! In the rest of the Western Atlantic, there are three species of pleurotomariids that co-occur in any given area, but they are not sympatric as they occur at different depths. It’s safe to say that most shell collectors will cry when they see this, these shells are a thing of beauty! Once again I find myself asking “why is everything so colorful at such deep depths”?? I mean it’s really dark down there, why are fish and shells so colorful?? We are one of the first companies ever to not only find these in their natural habitat but we are also able to study them and find out how they live and what they eat plus photographing them in their natural surroundings. On any given sub dive with Substation Curacao you have a very good chance of seeing a Slit Shell in person, so come on over and see us for a ride you won’t soon forget.
We are having a very busy week at Substation Curacao and our underwater live video camera is finally up and running again, here is the address again and remember there is a one hour delay in what your seeing, meaning it happened an hour ago.
We are still in our rainy season, the island looks like a tropical rain forest and is making my cycling very difficult. Saturday morning I took off to Porto Mari and back but that was mostly a road ride due to that nights rain, it turned out to be a not so fun 31 mile ride.
The sea is so rough lately but it’s bringing in tons of beautiful driftwood from somewhere?? Tomorrow we are going over the north coast to do some more collecting and to haul some bigger pieces home that I stashed in a hiding spot this weekend. Remember our driftwood Christmas tree from last year? Well I am working on making it bigger and better for this year. I found a new post and I have a few new better bases to now choose from, I hope I can get it done in time.
Happy Thanksgiving to all my Stateside Americano’s!!
I am off to the sea…
Nov 20, 14 Comments Off
Good afternoon all, here’s another seldom seen fish called a Rusty Goby, Priolepis hipoliti that we found with the submersible below 200 feet. This is a mega tiny fish, this one here was only three quarters of an inch long and was super hard to photograph. These little reclusive treasures are found in shades of brown to red-brown to orange, iris is red to gold with green pupils. Their most distinctive features include orange spots on dorsal, tail and anal fins and about 9-11 wide dusky body bars. Although these fish are noted as common to South Florida, Bahamas, Caribbean, Northwestern Gulf of Mexico and Bermuda they are seldom seen as they often perch upside down on ceilings of small recesses in reefs or under rocks and boulders. As an adult in it’s terminal phase it will only reach a maximum length of a whopping inch and a half, no wonder they are seldom seen!
We had a fun but freezing cold night dive last night, we were both so glad to get back! We found some cool corals and giant anemones to shoot under the blue-light but never found the orange cup corals, not even sure how that is possible unless they plain don’t fluoresce under blue-light?
Off to go biking, have a great day all…