ABOUT

Avid outdoorsman and underwater photographer, Barry Brown has spent the last 12 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.

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Archive for July, 2010

Jul 31, 10     Comments Off on Caribbean Flowers, Curacao Flowers, Tiny Flowers

!oacaruC morf olleH, That’s a big backwards Hello from Curacao for you all this fine evening!  By request again and not from the same people, here are more “now blooming” Curacao Wildflowers.  Again I shot these with my 105 macro so these are very small flowers!  In fact the one at the top left, the whole cluster of flowers is the size of a pencil eraser!  Most of these I found along the road and I am sure they are some kind of weed but boy are they ever beautiful!  The top right is my newest re-shoot of those tiny starfish looking flowers which I just found the name for.  They are called, Tournefortia Volubilis, ( Boraginaceae) Twining Soldierbush and the salmon colored flower at the bottom right both open when the sun hits them in the morning and close within two hours, that’s it!  I saw a ton of the blue flowers this morning out in the desert like the ones in the left hand corner.  This flower grows wild in big bushes and when blooming like they were this morning it’s quite a sight!  I have found it close to impossible to get nice shots out in the wild as the wind is always blowing.  For the orange starfish flower photo I first found a cluster I liked then gently cut it and stuck the cut end in a piece of dried wood that was on the ground and used my camera case as the background.  I laid on my stomach in the dirt and blocked the wind with my body and thanks to my little tripod I was able to make it work, this is what we go thru for a single photo. 
 
We are off to an employee party, see you all again tomorrow.  If you find names for any of the flowers I have sent please let me know so I can update my web page. 
 
See ya, Barry
Jul 31, 10     Comments Off on School of Fish Surrounding a Mini-Sub, Substation

Good morning all, yes as you can see it’s getting harder and harder for me to get these out at night anymore!  I don’t have much for you all this morning.  I am headed out with the dogs in a few minutes for a walk and hope it doesn’t rain again. 
 
The new job seems to be going very well.  I have a friend coming in on Monday who I will start training.  He will help me with photos underwater and hopefully be able to take my place when I go to the States for a few weeks in September, he will be the first person I have ever trained in depth and I think he will do a great job!  We have pretty much just been taking media folks out in the sub this week although we have been disappointed with some of the articles that have been written and they seem to always pick the worst photo?  I just don’t get it.  I shot this photo a few days ago when a giant school of Brown Chromis swam by and engulfed the sub, the passengers just loved it! 
 
We have some friends coming from our home town in Rapid City, South Dakota next week, sure hope I can find enough time to spend with them!  That’s about it, more tonight, Barry
Jul 30, 10     Comments Off on Porcupinefish Facts, Diodon Hystrix, Curacao

Morning friends, I again was busy last night with so many things including getting home late from riding that when it came time for the blog I just said forget it! 
 
Here’s another Porcupinefish photo I found the other day that I never sent out.  As you may already know, Porcupinefish have the ability to inflate their bodies by swallowing water or air, thereby becoming rounder.  This increase in size (almost double vertically) reduces the range of potential predators to those with much bigger mouths.  The puffers body contains a type of poison called tetrodotoxin.  If large enough amounts of this poison are ingested, it can cause paralysis or even death!  A second defense mechanism is provided by the sharp spines, which radiate outwards when the fish is inflated.  Did you know that salt water porcupine fish can grow in excess of lengths of 4 feet and the largest on record is in captivity in the Cape May aquarium and it is 6 feet plus!!  Their teeth never stop growing like a rat and they need to chew on hard corals, rocks and shells to keep them trimmed.  Plus they only have blue eyes, No other color, and they can squirt water out of their mouths to knock down bugs or ward off enemies at the surface.  For the most part they are excellent swimmers (except when they are inflated) and they have the ability to secrete a slime on their bodies to feed their young.  I think the coolest thing is that Porcupinefish  can recognize care givers in captivity and are ranked as one of the “Smart” fish.
 
It’s off to work, talk to you more tonight, Barry
Jul 28, 10     Comments Off on Mini-Sub Exploring the Reef, Elephant Ear Sponge

Good evening gang, how was your day??  Mine went by so fast as I kept so busy today.  I did two sub dives both with VIP’s aboard from either newspapers, t.v. or local radio stations.  On the first dive I got to photograph the giant school of Boga’s again, this time even better shots plus I got photos of the sub and it’s passengers watching a giant 6 foot long Green Moray eel eating on the reef, that was so cool!  On the second dive a friend showed up so he ended up following me on a dive with the sub to see first hand what this baby looks like underwater.  After I took the normal people shots in the front window I gave the OK signal to our sub pilot Bruce and off we went holding onto the sub at 70 feet down the reef.  Our destination was this big Orange Elephant Ear sponge that you see here that I had found weeks ago and thought it would be great to shoot with the sub.  I got into position and again gave the OK signal and seconds later here came the sub and stopped right behind the sponge for a quick “Kodak Moment”.  The two beautiful ladies inside are from a local radio station called Paradise 103.1, you can check that out at www.paradisefm.an  The girls were some of the best models I have ever had, they never stopped smiling!  I lucked out in getting some Brown Chromis and a single Creole Wrasse into the photo as well, that’s what you call perfect timing!  After about three minutes I gave my last OK to everyone aboard and I waved good-bye, it was time for me to head to safer depths and for them to get on with the tour, it was a fun dive! 
 
Not much else to report, Aimee had the day off, she took the dogs for a long walk this morning after the rain and spent the rest of the day keeping busy.
 
I’m out, later folks, Barry
Jul 28, 10     Comments Off on Endangered Green Turtle, Chelonia Mydas, Turtle’s

Good morning friends.  Yesterday I stayed very busy working on the computer most of the day and at 2:00 we did one sub dive with a local newspaper.  After that I raced home and got my gear ready and met a friend for a fast one hour ride and the weather was perfect, nice and overcast!  This morning it has been raining since around 4:30 and it’s still going, I am sure that won’t be good for my underwater photos today as everything flows into the sea! 
 
Here’s a sweet little Green Turtle heading up for a breath of air.  This is yet another shot from the once incredible dive spot called Vaersenbaai but as most now know Omar took care of that reef and it still hasn’t healed.  Vaersenbaai used to have this big area of turtle grass which grew in the shallows and every morning you could easily find many turtles there eating breakfast.  Sea turtles spend almost all their lives submerged but must breathe air for the oxygen needed to meet the demands of vigorous activity.  With a single explosive exhalation and rapid inhalation, sea turtles can quickly replace the air in their lungs.  The lungs permit a rapid exchange of oxygen and prevent gases from being trapped during deep dives.  Sea turtle blood can deliver oxygen efficiently to body tissues even at the pressures encountered during diving.  During routine activity green and loggerhead turtles dive for about 4 to 5 minutes and surface to breathe for 1 to 3 seconds.  Turtles can rest or sleep underwater for several hours at a time but submergence time is much shorter while diving for food or to escape predators.  Breath-holding ability is affected by activity and stress, which is why turtles quickly drown in shrimp trawlers and other fishing gear.
 
Off to work, talk to you tonight, Barry
Jul 26, 10     Comments Off on Boga’s, Bonnetmouth’s, Caribbean Schooling Fish

Good evening friends!!  Today I got to swim in a giant school of beautiful Boga’s and it was great!  After finishing a sub shoot and waving good-bye I immediately saw this dark cloud of Bonnetmouth’s above me and slowly swam up towards them.  They must have sensed I was no real threat because they let me swim with them and moments later totally encircled me.  These fish are so beautiful, they are silvery blue with thin stripes and most had a yellow nose.  This is a schooling open-water fish that are occasionally found swimming over reefs and along walls most often between 50 and 90 feet.  I did three different sub dives today all short and all fun!  Today we did a bunch of practice dives and a bunch of different friends got to jump in the sub for an underwater ride and photo shoot!  It’s so cool to be underwater taking pictures of your buddies as they tour the reef in style.  I forgot to mention this to my divers the other day, remember a few days back when I was down at 450 feet at the Stella Maris?  Well I saw an adult Creole Wrasse hanging out there all by himself, I didn’t know they could go so deep, just thought that was pretty interesting. 
 
I guess that’s it for my day, hope all is going well, see you again tomorrow, Barry
Jul 25, 10     Comments Off on Caribbean Spiny Lobster, Panirus Argus, Curacao

Hey gang, for those of you thinking, “didn’t you already send us this photo years ago?”  Well kind of.  The photo you may remember is with Aimee also in this scene on the left behind the black sea urchin looking at the lobster.  We found this guy in the shallows many moons ago at Vaersenbaai back when it was the place to dive!  I remember how shocked Aimee and I were to see this guy hanging out in the only chunk of rock for as far as you could see, the rest was all sand!  These lobsters are normally nocturnal but I guess this guy figured he could get more done during the day?  We don’t ever see many of these spiny lobsters not even at night, usually we always see the smaller spotted spiny lobster instead. 
 
I just got home from a two and a half hour bike ride and now we are on the way to a birthday party.  Sorry so short friends, I am out of time this evening, see ya, Barry
Jul 24, 10     Comments Off on Secretary Blenny, Tiny Caribbean Reef Fish

Hi friends, something a little different tonight.  This is a tiny little Secretary Blenny hiding in his hole waiting for small particles of food to pass by.  These little half inch beauties spend all day feeding on plankton.  They have really great vision and every time a tiny little food piece passes by they shoot out of their homes like a rocket, grab the food and return before you even know what happened?  And I am serious when I say “if you blink you will miss it”  These little colorful creatures are not shy at all, you can get very close and they will still carry on with their daily chores.  This photo was shot in color but the blenny blended in so well with his surroundings that you couldn’t see him so I made the background in black and white and left him in color, don’t you just love Photoshop! 
 
Other than working on the trails this morning and a little shopping I had another peaceful day at home.  Aimee left for the evening to an employee party so it’s just me and the hounds, think we will go watch a movie and chill!
 
Later every one, Barry
Jul 23, 10     Comments Off on Fun With The Mini-Sub, Substation Curacao

 

Ya’at’eeh all, that’s Navajo for (Hello) (pronunciation dependant upon the tribe, or area of the reservation you are on).  I must say it was another super fun day in mini-sub land!  Mark, from the World Famous Dive Bus Hut brought two friends/customers for a sub ride at 8:30.  These are friends and divers that Mark and Suzy have known over the years and they wanted a close encounter of the deep kind!!  So while the sub got ready to go and was lifted by crane into the water Mark and I suited up for a fun dive along side the sub.  We went out first and within minutes here came the sub with two smiling faces right up front!!  Those of you who are lucky enough to know Mark will immediately recognize his rubber chicken hanging on the back of his tank.  Rumor has it that the chicken gives Mark his incredible sense of humor and direction underwater!  Some claim they have actually seen mark talking to his chicken but I can not confirm this to be true or false, although I do see him playing with his chicken a lot??  Hmmm??  As you can see Mark had a great time with his friends and after five minutes of goofing around we both waved goodbye and off they went down to 450 feet to see the giant Stella Maris.  Later in the morning we all got to watch the sub come back from it’s journey and moments later two very happy people climbed out.  About an hour later I jumped in the water again for another quick photo shoot with some new passengers and then spent the rest of the day inside sorting photos.
 
I forgot to congratulate Andy and Alberto on a wonderful stage in the Tour de France yesterday.  Aimee was screaming and yelling at the t.v. and I think it’s safe to say she scared me and the dogs a bit, she’s a Tour Freak!  It’s so weird to watch these races and know that we spend time with these guys now in Curacao each year, heck I took Alberto on his first dive, how many people can say that?? 
 
Good night everyone, be back tomorrow, Barry
 
Jul 22, 10     Comments Off on Sun Halo, Icebow, Gloriole, Nimbus, Rainbow Colors

Hi friends and readers of the Curacao blog, how is everyone this fine evening??  I always try hard to write these little stories between 7-9 pm, I hate doing them in the morning as it takes way too much time!  Today I had the day off with Aimee and we started things out by taking the three dogs out for a hot morning walk.  We got out there at around 7:00 and it was already hot and by 9:00 we could hardly breath and both of us were completely soaked from the 100% humidity!  Even though there was no wind at all this morning we still tried to do some much needed trail maintenance on the Calabash because it’s gets so much traffic!  Once back home we hid inside for most of the day and get this, I even laid down and took a two hour nap!!  Yes, you read that right, I took a nap.  I know, what’s happening to me??  I even had a dream that the mini-sub was at the surface floating like a boat and we were pulling Aimee at top speed on skis, she did great!  At 5;30 I met a friend for a fast and hot one hour ride on all the single-track trails we could find, it was great fun but man we were soaked to the bone upon our return.
 
Here’s another fun shot of the beautiful Sun Halo’s we have down here once or twice a year.  I think this is our friend Loet’s arm and hand that was used for this shot but I can’t be sure.  As some of you already know a Sun Halo (also known as a nimbus, icebow or Gloriole) is an optical phenomenon produced by ice crystals creating colored or white arcs and spots in the sky.  Many are near the sun or moon but others are elsewhere and even in the opposite part of the sky.  They can also form around artificial lights in very cold weather when ice crystals called diamond dust are floating in the nearby air.  There are many types of ice halos. They are produced by the ice crystals in cirrus clouds high (5“10 km, or 3“6 miles) in the upper trosphere. The particular shape and orientation of the crystals is responsible for the type of halo observed.  Light is reflected and refracted by the ice crystals and may split up into rainbow colors because of dispersion.  The crystals behave like prisms and mirrors, refracting and reflecting sunlight between their faces, sending shafts of light in particular directions.
Jul 21, 10     Comments Off on The Stellar Maris Ship Wreck, 450 Feet in Mini-Sub

Good evening friends, guess what I did today??  Yep, I went down in the sub to a depth of 450 feet and got to see and explore the big sunken ship called the “Stella Maris”.  As the story goes, the Stella Maris was seized by local authorities many years ago because it was found hauling illegal drugs into Curacao.  It then sat empty for years and years in the harbor.  Dutch told me today that after all the court cases it finally became a liability to the Curacao government and the Sea Aquarium received permission to make an attempt to use the ship as a dive object or artificial reef.  So 18 years ago the boat was pulled out of the harbor by tugboats and slowly made it’s way to it’s chosen location out in front of the now Mambo Beach.  The plan was to sink it in 120-140 feet of water which would have made it a great deep diving spot but as you know things sometimes don’t go as planned!  The charges were set and the boat began to sink and all looked good until it all of a sudden decided to turn the wrong way because of a big air bubble inside the hull.  The tugs tried and tried to force it in the right position but may have ended up doing more harm than good.  I was talking to people today that were on location when it was sunk and they said, “the back went down first and then the front came out the water like a breaching whale and you could hear this terrible whistling sound!  Then the ship was gone, never to be seen by anyone again, until now!  What happened years ago was that the ship slid down an extremely steep vertical slope, (in fact it looked like a sheer wall to me today) and then came to rest in the sand at 450 feet!  So now as luck would have it anyone can visit the Stella Maris as it’s going to be one of the main trips that will be offered thru Substation Curacao.  Today we took a young man and his father down and upon returning the son wanted to go again so at 2:30 we loaded him up and off he went again, talk about great parents!  I can hardly wait for you all to take a journey of a lifetime, for me just getting to see all the weird fish and corals was worth the trip, the ship was a bonus!  For more info go to www.substation-curacao.com
 
Well, my head is spinning with images from today, I am so tired!  It’s off to bed, I have a day off tomorrow with Aimee.
 
Sunken Regards, Barry
Jul 20, 10     Comments Off on Purple Stove Pipe Sponges, Diving Eastpoint

Hi friends,  not a lot to report this evening as the sub has been inside for the past few days but tomorrow we have customers and will probably do around three trips.  In one of the sub dives tomorrow I will be going inside the sub to a big sunken ship that lays at around 450 feet deep, we are going to try and make some nice photos from inside.  After work I met a friend for a fast one hour ride.  We ended up riding on all the trails in the area behind the aquarium and down by the salt ponds.  Speaking of the salt ponds they are again filling up with water from all this rain we have had lately, really strange weather year!
 
Here’s another fun photo from my last trip to the Eastpoint.  This is Eric checking out a beautiful little cluster of purple stove pipe sponges, these are about as good as they get.  I found it very hard to concentrate on the job at hand as there was so much stuff to photograph, it’s really the place to dive in Curacao!
 
Very tired, sorry so short, back tomorrow, Barry
Jul 19, 10     Comments Off on Portuguese Man-O-War, Man-Of-War, Blue Bottle

Boa Noite all, that’s good evening in Portuguese, thought that would kind of go with tonight’s photo.  This is a deadly Jellyfish called a Portuguese Man-O-War or Man-of-War.  Here on the island these are known as “the Blue Bottle” or “the Blue Bubble”, I call them “floating trouble”!!  As you can see this is a spectacular object to behold.  While it may look something like other well-known jellyfish, with its conspicuous float and trailing tentacles, according to scientists the man-of-war is NOT a true jellyfish (true jellyfish are those that belong to the class Scyphozoa).  Furthermore, the man-of-war is not a single animal.  It is actually a colony of numerous organisms called polyps (or zooids) that are so specialized that they cannot live without each other.  Four main types of polyps make up the man-of-war.  One individual polyp becomes the large gas filled float (pneumatophore) that sits horizontally on the surface of the ocean.  The float can be up to 15 cm above the water and is generally translucent, tinged with pink, purple or blue.  The other polyps become the feeding tentacles (gastrozooids), the defensive/prey capturing tentacles (dactylozooids) and the reproductive polyps (gonozooids).  The tentacles of the man-of-war can hang down in the water 165 feet (or 50 meters), that’s a scary thought!!  Our dolphin trainer Zenzi had a run in with one of these a few months ago and it sent her to the hospital.  She was just sitting on one of our floating platforms with her legs in the water during a dolphin swim and suddenly felt a sharp sting on her leg!  She immediately jumped up and saw a very small Man-of-War completely stuck to the side of her leg and did not have anything to remove it with.  She ended up having it on her leg for around 2-3 minutes and by the time they got it off she started to go into shock!  She told me days later that at the time it was hard to breath and her hands started to cripple up and was unable to speak or move!  If you come into contact with one of its tentacles while swimming, you may get a painful sting from the nematocysts.  Similarly, a washed up man-of-war on the beach (even if it looks dried out) remains highly venomous: it should be treated respectfully and care should be taken to avoid touching the tentacles.  If you are stung, the latest medical research suggests carefully removing (with gloves on if possible) any noticeable tentacles from the afflicted areas and then rinsing the area with plenty of lukewarm fresh water until the stinging sensation becomes lessened.  Ice can help numb the affected area for pain relief.  It has been suggested by lifesaving groups in Australia that applying alcohol may worsen the sting by making any remaining undisturbed nematocysts discharge.  If the sting is severe, seek medical assistance.  Keep the victim calm and watch for signs of shock or further distress as jellyfish stings may bring on cardiac or respiratory arrest.
 
Have a great day tomorrow, thanks for all the wonderful notes, we read and re-read them all!  Bye, Barry
 
Jul 18, 10     Comments Off on Dolphin Rocket Ride, Dolphin Show, Dolphin Trainer

Ihay eoplepay Hat’sway upway?  That’s Pig Latin for, Hi people! What’s up??  You may think “Pig Latin” was just something your grandparents made up, but take a closer look.  This pseudo-language is widely known and used by English-speaking people, especially when they want to disguise something they are saying from non-Pig Latin speakers.  It was first created in WWII when soldiers wanted to communicate to each other without eavesdropping Germans or Japanese understanding them.  Just another tid-bit of pretty much useless but fun information for you all this fine Sunday evening!
 
Last night we had thunder and lightning and non-stop rain and this morning the island was soaked!  I took the dogs for a long “mud walk” this morning but they could have cared less and I think enjoyed it even more than normal!
 
Very little to report today, I hung around the house just relaxing from my last five days with the sub.  I did go for an hour bike ride in the evening but for some reason just wasn’t into it!
 
This is our semi-new dolphin trainer Roxanne doing a fun Rocket Ride during one of our daily shows.  The trainers are getting more and more creative with these lately.  A few do the dive like Aimee, some do a back flip and others do the splits or as you see here kind of a fun cheerleading action with a wave, no matter what they do the crowd loves it!
 
Off to bed, more tomorrow, Barry
Jul 17, 10     Comments Off on Hidden Scorpionfish, Stonefish, Blending In, Poison

Good evening from Curacao!  This afternoon while waiting for the sub to make it’s way out of the channel I found this very hidden scorpionfish nestled in the rocks!  See the white arrow, it’s pointing to his head, he is laying almost straight up and down, crazy huh??  This clever scorpionfish will lay there motionless all day if he has to just waiting for a little unaware fish to swim by or come over to investigate.  They feed on crustaceans, cephalopods and fishes employing a lie-in-wait strategy, remaining stationary and snapping prey that comes near.  With their mouth they create a vacuum and suck prey in during a nearly imperceptible split-second movement (15 milliseconds).  This is why I constantly am telling folks to stay off the rocks!  There are so many people every year that step on these and get really sick as they are very poisonous, not from the bite but from the spines on their back which are coated with a venomous mucus.  Since the lifestyle of scorpionfish is sedentary, very often cyanobacteria, algae and other parasites are seen growing on them.  But the ability to shed their outer skin layer helps them get rid of the attached organisms.  Most scorpionfish that I have seen usually inhabit shallow waters, but few species reside at depths of 720ft.  Like many other fish, the scorpionfish are oviparous i.e. they lay eggs. During the process, they produce a gelatinous, floating mass in which the eggs are embedded. They usually breed in late spring or early summer.  They are widespread in the tropical and temperate seas and found in the Red Sea, the Caribbean Sea and the Indo-Pacific Ocean. 
 
It was another fun day with the sub although the water was not very clear due to last nights insane downpour!  Have the Greatest weekend friends, you guys are the best!
 
Barry

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