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.
Oct 23, 14 Comments (0)
Good morning all, I had a few people asking this week about our resident school of Boga’s, Inermia vittata and how they are doing so yesterday while out with the submersible I snapped a few photos just for you. The group or school has tripled in size over the past few months and everyday now I spend swimming amongst them and taking their photos before the submersible arrives. These beautiful fish are so calm with divers, you can slowly enter the school and they will then completely surround you and be just inches from you showing no alarm at all. These fish are around 5-9 inches in length and can be found in depths of 30-150 feet. I would love for some of my friends back home to join me swimming thru this large school, it’s so cool to be surrounded by so many fish, I will try and shoot some video for you. Most of my diving buddies will tell you how rare it is to see big schools of fish in Curacao and when you do come across such a site one usually tends to follow in hopes of being totally engulfed in fish! These Bonnetmouths/Boga’s are also one of the few fish that can be closely observed with a slow, non-threatening approach.
Not sure I told any of you or not but on the 31st of this month I have a pane of deep-water fish being issued as Curacao stamps, cool huh?? I will send a photo of them on the release date so be on the lookout for those, your going to love it!
Got in a fast 25 mile mountain bike ride last night, rode from the Sea Aquarium to Vaersenbaai and back, not a ton of fun but did get some miles in.
Have a great day…
Oct 22, 14 Comments (0)
Good morning from wet Curacao! So these new rains are a good example of “be careful what you wish for” we went from bone dry to soaking wet almost overnight, gotta love the monsoon season! With these live giving rains brings mosquitos, our single most hated creature on the island and we are busy swinging our electric zappers non-stop at home!!! These constant torrential downpours will change our daily hiking and biking routines quite a bit now, as all our trails are flooded and we can’t drive to many areas to walk the dogs but don’t get me wrong I’m not complaining, the rains are great!
I have a Common Octopus, Octopus vulgaris for your viewing pleasure that we found out climbing around the reef during the day.
The common octopus would be unique for its appearance alone, with its massive bulbous head, large eyes, and eight distinctive arms. But by far the most striking characteristic of the octopus is the wide array of techniques it uses to avoid or thwart attackers.
It’s first—and most amazing—line of defense is its ability to hide in plain sight. Using a network of pigment cells and specialized muscles in its skin, the common octopus can almost instantaneously match the colors, patterns, and even textures of its surroundings. Predators such as sharks, eels, and dolphins swim by without even noticing it.
When discovered, an octopus will release a cloud of black ink to obscure its attacker’s view, giving it time to swim away. The ink even contains a substance that dulls a predator’s sense of smell, making the fleeing octopus harder to track. Fast swimmers, they can jet forward by expelling water through their mantles. And their soft bodies can squeeze into impossibly small cracks and crevices where predators can’t follow.
If all else fails, an octopus can lose an arm to escape a predator’s grasp and regrow it later with no permanent damage. They also have beaklike jaws that can deliver a nasty bite, and venomous saliva, used mainly for subduing prey.
Considered the most intelligent of all invertebrates, the common octopus is found in the tropical and temperate waters of the world’s oceans. They can grow to about 4.3 feet (1.3 meters) in length and weigh up to 22 pounds (10 kilograms), although averages are much smaller. They prey on crabs, crayfish, and mollusks, and will sometimes use their ink to disorient their victims before attacking. Thanks to National Geographic for that nice bit of information….
Have a great day all!!
Oct 20, 14 Comments (0)
Good morning friends, we started our Caribbean morning out with a massive tropical downpour and we are loving it!! These next few months are typically our wet months and it’s looking like we are off to good start which is great for the island, bad for mountain biking!
This morning when I got to work I took off directly into the water for an early morning dive, what better way to start out a monday right? I immediately found a full size 12-inch long Glasseye Snapper “Blotched Bigeye”, Heteropriacanthus cruentatus motionless alongside a coral wall and moved in very slowly for just a shot of his big beautiful eye that looks like glass, thus the name. These bigeye fish often hide in dark recesses of the reef by day and are active at night. During the day when out diving I see these fish quite often just chilling under rocky ledge’s displaying their striped daytime colors and for the most part could care less about a passing diver.
The Glasseye Snapper inhabits shallow reefs and spends its days hiding in or at the entrance to caves. They are nocturnal and feed at night on zooplankton such as shrimp, larval fishes, and small squids and octopuses.
This snapper can be recognized by its reddish coloration, large eye, relatively symmetrical body shape, and by the small elliptical spots on the soft dorsal, anal and caudal fins. It has a scaleless preopercular margin that is covered with small ridges.
H. cruentatus is the only species in the genus Heteropriacanthus.
So how was your weekend out there??? Mine was fairly busy and a lot of fun. Saturday morning I took both dogs for a long overdue walk to the North coast in search of driftwood and we hit the jackpot! I was shocked at how much new wood had floated in over the past few months and it was a blast looking through it all. I actually found so many nice pieces that I had to leave a big pile hidden out in the desert, not sure when I will be able to get back out there now to pick it after these crazy hard rains. While I collected driftwood the dogs ran around chasing each other on the beach and explored every nook and cranny, tired dogs are good dogs! On Sunday I pre-rode the 40 mile extreme mountain bike race course and pretty much hated every minute of it! Not only was it 75% uphill and blowing wind it’s mostly on dirt and paved roads, not much of a mountain bike race! After the ride I spent the rest of the day working on my “honey do list” and hiding from the heat, I never would have guessed rain like this was coming! That’s the island news in short, have a great week friends!
Oct 17, 14 Comments (0)
Good morning friends, I have a beautiful colony of some kind of Brain Coral for you all today photographed at night under blue-light. For me Brain Corals are very hard to identify, there is Symmetrical Brain Coral, Knobby Brain Coral, Grooved Brain Coral, Rose Coral (which looks like Brain Coral) and Boulder Brain Coral, you have to a coral expert to figure this stuff out! This half dome colony was around a foot across and was screaming to be photographed! When we do blue light dives Aimee usually does the searching and I do the shooting, that way you are constantly busy and not wasting time, it’s so much fun!
Brain corals get their common name from the grooves and channels on their surfaces that look like the folds of the human brain. While delicate staghorn corals grow rapidly to gain new territory, slow-growing brain corals rely on brawn, meaning they hold their ground by being solid and strong enough to withstand the storms that pound more delicate corals to rubble.
Took off with Aimee yesterday morning to finish the new trail cut-off at Vaersenbaai and I must say it’s beginning to take shape. Yesterday I moved rocks from the desert above (one at a time) with a wheelbarrow and set them in a line all along the trail, it’s looks nice and will keep riders from caving in the sides with their feet and tires. This Sunday I am going to go pre-ride the Extreme route (that Dorian and I won last year) and see how long it takes, I think we did it in 2 hours 50 minutes last year.
Well, we have a submersible run at 11:00 so like always I have lots to do before that.
Take care all…
Oct 15, 14 Comments (0)
Good morning folks, This is another extreme close-up I shot yesterday with the ever faithful 105/2.8 macro shot at 160/F22 and 2-strobes on half power. Geez talk about a fish with a mouthful of teeth!! I had some questions about parrotfish teeth and found a little more information for you.
Parrotfish are so-called because their fused teeth give their mouths a beak-like appearance. These teeth are situated outside the jaw bones, so the beak protrudes beyond the mouth. This is perfect for scraping algae from the surface of rocky substrates, but can also get past one of the algae’s defenses — growing within the matrix of the coral itself. In some species, such as the hump-headed parrotfish, the beak can take a chunk out of the reef itself. Interestingly, although the parrotfish eat the polyps themselves, these herbivorous fishes are probably primarily Interested in the zooxanthellae contained within the coral’s tissues, rather than the coral itself.
To counteract their tough diet, parrotfishes teeth grow continuously. But those that form the beak are not the only teeth that these remarkable fish have; the plate-like pharyngeal teeth towards the back of the mouth can bring considerable crushing force to bear, pulverizing even the tough limestone. After this, the coral’s resistance is at an end. In the fish’s gut, living tissue is separated from the limestone rubble and powder. This ground material is ejected by the parrotfish as fine, white grains, which makes up a considerable proportion of the highly prized white sand found in coral reef lagoons and beaches!
Great information from….
Aimee and I took the dogs to Vaersenbaai early this morning before work and finished the new trail, it’s now rideable but still needs to be cleaned up.
We have a late submersible dive today and I will most likely head out now to hunt for more photos for you all.
Have a great day..
Oct 14, 14 Comments (0)
Good afternoon readers, better late than never right?? You want to talk about HOT, Curacao is baking today!! There are no clouds to be seen, very light wind and like always…. melting humidity, oh what fun! Because of the sweltering heat I did what everyone else is doing and took off to the water and got in a nice cool relaxing dive on our Substation reef armed with my trusty 105 macro lens, you can’t go wrong with that! I immediately swam down to around 50 feet and just took in the view and tried to figure out which way to go? As I quietly hovered I heard the all to familiar sound of “crunch”, crunch”, “crunch” and knew without even looking there had to be a large parrotfish near by scarping his teeth on the rocks looking for lunch. Sure enough within seconds a giant Stoplight Parrotfish, Sparisoma viride pops his head up from his algae dinner plate and looks me straight in the face, “SNAP”, that was the photo! I have found through trial and error if you want any kind of fish face shot you have to not only be prepared to spend the whole dive with a single fish but you have to catch them off guard as I did here. Parrotfish have some of the most comical faces and there are so many different species of parrotfish meaning there are countless fun face shots waiting for you down there. I also saw my school of Bonnetmouths out there today (that have been there for years) and was shocked at how many there are now?? I estimated the school at around 350-400 and if the water would have been more clear I would have gone back out for some wide angle shots, talk about a beautiful little fish!
I will have to force myself to get on the bike today in this heat, this is the downside to Curacao in October!
Not much else going on, it’s very quiet at the moment, next month and December will be crazy around here!
Have a great day!!
Oct 13, 14 Comments (0)
Good morning one and all, how are we doing today?? I have a photo from Aimee that she took with her GoPro for you all today of her new baby bottlenose dolphin that was born about two months ago. Is this little thing cute or what??
The 2015 NANPA results are finally in…What is NANPA? NANPA is “North American Nature Photographers Association” and this year I was one of the top 10 prize winners with a blue-light photo, here is the link to that photo. Underwater Blue Light Photos, Blue Light Photography For the 2015 photo contest I sent in a bunch of bird photos and one blue-light photo. My one blue-light photo made it into the top 120 and one bird photo made it into the top 250, very happy with those results as this is a tough competition. Here is the NANPA link, www.nanpa.org
We are finally getting rain and the island is really starting to green up again, it’s such a welcome sight. We had friday off because of “Curacao Independence Day”, there were parades during the day and a big one that went by our house at night and WOW was it ever loud! I spent a good part of the weekend building a new trail at Vaersenbaai but am still far from getting it done, talk about a lot of work. Saturday afternoon at 3:00 I took off into the wilds of Curacao in 100 degree heat and crazy humidity and got in a 30 mile mountain bike ride and was soaked to the bone when I got back home at night. Not much else going on, we continue to run our little animal shelter at home with 4-turtles, and 2-birds and everyone so far is doing well.
I am off to the sea, have a great day.
Oct 9, 14 Comments Off
Good morning friends, sorry about not getting around to the blog yesterday but I just couldn’t find the time! Did any of you get to see the eclipse??? We got up at at 5:30 and raced down to the Sea Aquarium and got to see half of it but then it fell behind the clouds and that was it, we didn’t get to see it!! This was supposed to be a beautiful orange moon eclipse so now we have to wait till April 2015 for the next one.
So Aimee and I are now the proud owners of bluelightphotos.com. We were contacted by a .com auction company saying it was for sale and we jumped on it, so in the near future we will get a site built and have all our blue light photos there for your viewing pleasure.
And speaking of blue light photos that’s what we did last night. We took off under the sea (Aimee and I) at around 7:00 last night and had a fantastic dive! For the first time ever I took a 28-70 lens with a screw on yellow filter for the blue-light photos, we have been using just the 105 macro for most dives. Our goal last night was to photograph some larger reef creatures for once like this beautiful glowing green Giant Anemone, Condylactis gigantea you see above. This anemone was about a foot across and for the first time (because of the larger lens) I was able to photograph the whole animal. We also found and photographed a giant lizardfish and a flounder not to mention countless beautiful corals but we never found the scorpionfish we were looking for. Our total surprise of the evening was mating/spawning brittle stars and they were everywhere! Once we saw the brittle stars out we called it quits on the blue-light dive and quickly got out! I then rinsed the camera and carefully opened it and took off the yellow filter and changed some settings and was back underwater within 5 minutes! I was in such a rush I left the wetsuit and rash-guard and jumped in with only a pair of shorts, Aimee thought I was crazy! Since I was using the same tank as the first dive I only had half a tank but it was enough to get the job done. Strange that the brittle-stars out out spawning maybe because of the eclipse?? We have never seen this event this time of year before! I raced around from rock to rock to coral to coral and shot as many as I could, most were together in pairs and a few were out on their own maybe looking for a mate? Brittle-stars are never out like this, they are one of the hands down most reclusive creatures on the reef so when you see one out you know something is going on! In the second photo you can see two of them entangled in a brittle-star love mass on top of a black spiny sea urchin, that was just plain crazy to even watch and they could have cared less about me being there. The third photo shows two of them holding arms, ahhhh true echinoderm love! The fourth photo is a giant Ruby Brittle Star, Ophioderma rubicundum in a vase sponge while the last photo is a giant Banded Arm Brittle Star, Ophioderma appressum clinging to the side of a mound of star coral. So once again you never know what you will see diving in the Caribbean on any given night, we never get tired of it!
Tomorrow is Curacao Flag Day and I am off, going back to Vaersenbaai for the day to finish that new trail!
Take care all, thanks for tuning in……
Oct 7, 14 Comments Off
Good morning from the Dutch Caribbean. I have a crazy beautiful clam for you all today called a Flame Scallop or Rough Fileclam, “Lima scabra”. This is hands down one of the most spectacular mollusks in the sea, and you really have to see it to believe it!
This alien looking clam is a marine bivalve mollusc in the family Limidae. Although their name would suggest otherwise, flame scallops have no relation to scallops, besides their exterior. The flame scallop is found in the Caribbean Sea. It is similar in appearance to the Indo-Pacific electric flame scallop (Ctenoides ales).
Flame scallops have a rough outer shell with a red mantle. Surrounding the mantle are red and white tentacles. The flame scallop’s vibrant red color is due to the large amount of carotenoids found within their body. Flame scallops can reach 3 in long. The gills are used for respiration and filtration.
Flame scallops rest in their own nests made of small coral and rocks. Because flame scallops have no photosynthetic properties, the herbivorous flame scallops eat only phytoplankton. During the consumption process, flame scallops sift and sort through the phytoplankton with their gills to determine what is appropriate for ingestion.
To escape predators or harm, like crabs and shrimps the flame scallop’s valves are used. Flame scallops push their valves together to propel themselves away from dangerous situations. YES folks they can swim!!!
We have a submersible dive at 11:00 and I was told our live underwater camera is working again, try it and let me know, www.seesubmarine.com
Have a wonderful day all!!
Oct 6, 14 Comments Off
Good morning friends, how was the weekend?? I’ve had some reports that summer and fall are long gone and that winter is on the way, now is your time to come to Curacao! Our good news here is that rain has started falling and the island is starting to slowly green up again, it’s such a welcome sight!
I spent the weekend with the dogs, building a new trail at Vaersenbaai and cleaning out my driftwood stash over at Stijn’s house and for the first weekend this year I didn’t touch my bike! For those of you asking, Inca (our dalmatian) is doing better, she is finally able to walk after months of being inside. Our little parakeet is adjusting to his new cage I recently built and learned a valuable lesson on why he is in there. The other morning while feeding him he jumped out and took a 12 foot “beak dive” onto our driveway and just laid there in shock, I guess he forgot his wing is broken? I raced downstairs at top speed and gently picked him up and said, “I’m sorry but you can’t fly!” For us the hardest thing is listening to him call his friends over to the trees in our yard and knowing he cannot join them, will never own another bird! The turtles still need a new home, we are trying to find someone with a nice home and nice yard but so far no luck. We also have another little bird that had lost it’s mother and is still not old enough to fly, Aimee is hand feediing it 3-4 times a day by hand!
I have a simple, pure Caribbean water shot for you all today that I snapped while waiting for the submersible to arrive last friday. The fish you see at the bottom left are still my school of bonnetmouths (Boga’s), they are still here and I love them!
Here’s a killer video for you all toady!
Have a wonderful monday…..
Oct 3, 14 Comments Off
Here is yet another cool creature that was found last week with the Curasub at a depth of around 990 feet! These beautiful, hightly sought after, live, deep-sea Murex shells are called Siratus beauii and can grow to a length of about 15cm! Look closely and you can see his two little black eyes and his cool trap door called the operculum. When disturbed his slug like body will retract back into the shell and the operculum will act as a door and keep him safe inside from predators. Here is a link from the Smithsonian if your interested;
Murex is a genus of medium to large sized predatory tropical sea snails. These are carnivorous marine gastropod molluscs in the family Muricidae, commonly called “murexes” or “rock snails”.
The common name murex is still used for a large number of species in the family Muricidae which were originally given the Latin generic name Murex in the past, but have more recently been regrouped into different newer genera.
The word murex was used by Aristotle in reference to these kinds of snails, thus making it one of the oldest classical seashell names still in use by the scientific community.
These shells are similar the carrier shell I posted yesterday in that they are both mollusks. Check out the text from the blog yesterday to read more about what is a mollusk.
I’m recovering this morning after two straight days of hard 3 hour mountain bike rides, need to chill now until Sunday.
I hope you all have a super fun weekend, thanks for tuning in this week!!
Oct 2, 14 Comments Off
Good morning friends, I have a super cool, LIVE Onustus caribaeus, that the Smithsonian scientists found at 990 feet!! This is a mollusk that attaches rocks and pieces of metal to it’s shell (for camouflage) and the animal itself lifts it’s shell and walks around the reef, really a truly amazing creature!
Onustus caribaeus is a species of large sea snail, a marine gastropod mollusk in the family Xenophoridae, the carrier shells.
The shells can reach a maximum height of 45mm, in average 37mm. The diameter of the base reaches a maximum length of 88mm, in average 60mm. The color of the dorsum is yellowish-white.
Onustus caribaeus is distributed in the North-eastern Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea and along the Atlantic coast of Brazil between 35m and 640m (mostly deeper than 100m).
The three most universal features defining modern mollusks are a mantle with a significant cavity used for breathing and excretion, the presence of a radula, and the structure of the nervous system. Other than these things, mollusks express great morphological diversity, so many textbooks base their descriptions on a “hypothetical ancestral mollusk” (see image below). This has a single, “limpet-like” shell on top, which is made of proteins and chitin reinforced with calcium carbonate, and is secreted by a mantle covering the whole upper surface. The underside of the animal consists of a single muscular “foot”. Although mollusks are coelomates, the coelom tends to be small, and the main body cavity is a hemocoel through which blood circulates; their circulatory systems are mainly open. The “generalized” mollusk’s feeding system consists of a rasping “tongue”, the radula, and a complex digestive system in which exuded mucus and microscopic, muscle-powered “hairs” called cilia play various important roles. The generalized mollusk has two paired nerve cords, or three in bivalves. The brain, in species that have one, encircles the esophagus. Most mollusks have eyes, and all have sensors to detect chemicals, vibrations, and touch. The simplest type of molluscan reproductive system relies on external fertilization, but more complex variations occur. All produce eggs, from which may emerge trochophore larvae, more complex veliger larvae, or miniature adults.
A striking feature of mollusks is the use of the same organ for multiple functions. For example, the heart and nephridia (“kidneys”) are important parts of the reproductive system, as well as the circulatory and excretory systems; in bivalves, the gills both “breathe” and produce a water current in the mantle cavity, which is important for excretion and reproduction. In reproduction, mollusks may change gender to accommodate the other breeding partner.
Did a nice 3 hour mountain bike ride last night and have another of the same tonight as I am training the Wannabike kids, lots of riding!
I have to get to the sea, talk to you later.
Oct 1, 14 Comments Off
Good morning friends. I’ve had countless mails asking about what kind of research the Smithsonian Institution is doing in Curacao so today I will show you just one of the cool things they are working on. Besides collecting and studying rare, new species of fish and invertebrates they also do all kinds of reef and ocean experiments like keeping track of the oceans temperatures with these cool state of the art SBE temperature loggers. www.seabird.com
I believe the Smithsonian placed these underwater a year ago at depth’s of 800, 700, 600, 500, 400, 300, 200, 150 and 50 feet and a few days ago they went down and picked them all up to download the information. And when I say “they” I mean World famous Carole Baldwin (top photo in pink) and her lovely assistant Christina (in blue) Bruce, our pilot is in the middle you just can’t see him. The loggers are tied to heavy pieces of chain and (second photo) set at their different depths by the use of the robotic arm. When they go back to collect them they can either scoop them up with the basket or use the arm. Once at the surface the loggers are rinsed and cleaned and then all you do is unscrew them to open them exposing two o-rings, the unit is then pulled out and plugged into any usb and presto there is all your information. These particular ones collected data every minute of every day but can be set to be even faster than that if you wish. The battery of these babies last for years, it’s really some killer technology! We are currently getting the loggers ready to take back down to their respective depths for another year of recording ocean temperatures, if I get any more info on this project that I am able to share I will send it your way.
We have some folks from the Dutch Navy going down in the submersible at 11:00 so I need to get ready for that.
Have a wonderful day!!
Sep 30, 14 Comments Off
Good afternoon friends, sorry I am running late again. I have a super rare slit-shell that the Smithsonian found last week between 480-650 feet!
This spectacular slit-shell above is named Perotrochus quoyanus and is limited in distribution to the islands and mainland coasts of the Caribbean Sea, and is primarily found in the Greater and Lesser Antilles. There have been no recorded findings in the Gulf of Mexico or the Western Atlantic; nor the Bahamas where it is apparently supplanted by the closely-related Perotrochus Lucaya. Until recently insufficient material existed to permit meaningful observations about diversity among the small Perotrochus species of the Caribbean. The increased use of submersibles (like our little beauty) has yielded beautiful, live specimens for scientists to work with. Most known specimens have been found between 137-200 meters but many seem to be most comfortable at the 190-200 meters mark. This one here was around 63mm in diameter, that’s about normal size for an adult. This one went home with the Smithsonian for their collection and for study,lets hope it gets a good home and something can be learned from it.
On the right side of the slit-shell you can see a rare little crab called Acanthodromia erinacea and on the left side there is a deep-water hermit with glowing blue eyes, both of these were found on the same dive but not near each other. We can easily bring up crabs and shells alive without hurting them, we just have to be quick about getting them into cold water as fast as possible once at the surface.
You can’t believe how HOT is is here right now, not fun!
I have to run…
Sep 29, 14 Comments Off
Good morning friends, how was your weekend??? Mine was spent taking the dogs out for some much needed exercise, getting some trail work done and working on photos for the Smithsonian. I had planned on doing a long bike ride yesterday but because of the crazy heat I found myself coming up with all kinds of excuses not to go. So this morning at 6:15 I took off and got in a nice early 30 mile mountain bike ride and still got to work before 9:00.
Here’s something new for all of us, this is a Scalloped Fireworm, Chloeia sp that I found last week right under the floating Substation dock crawling around on the sand. I have NEVER seen one of these in Curacao and the book I have says this is possibly an undescribed species and the full range of this animal is unknown. As I watched him on the sand he would stop and then start borrowing straight down into the sand until he was gone, the whole process took around one minute! When disturbed fireworms display their nasty bristles which can easily penetrate and break off in skin causing a painful burning sensation and irritating wounds, “just ask Aimee”! For a visual ID, the caruncle is large, triangular and ribbed with scalloped edges. Segments have tufts of long whitish bristles and stalks of red, branched gill filaments. Single dark stripe centered on back runs length of body and the colors vary from whiish to orangish. Occasional sightings range from Venezuela to the nearby islands and they are found in reef areas of sand and rubble.
It’s a busy monday, still have to finish my photos for the Smithsonian, see you tomorrow.