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.
Archive for June, 2012
Jun 30, 12 Comments Off on Driftwood Boat, Driftwood Fish, Wood Crafts
Good morning from the States, we have finally arrived! It was a long trip, two full days of flying and three planes later we arrived in South Dakota. Dallas Fort Worth caused us the most trouble as we were unable to re-check our bags for the following day! Not a big deal if you don’t have to drag two big bicycle cases and tons of luggage all over the airport and then to a nearby hotel, that was a lot of work! We have countless stories we could tell from just this airport alone and found it one of the most difficult airports ever to navigate. For instance SOME of our luggage arrived in the “A” terminal and the other half was send to the “C” terminal, do any of you know how far those are apart?? It’s Far! So far that we had to load the bikes on a $5 cart and then wheel them outside and walk to a courtesy van that took us to the “C” terminal which was a long drive! There we had to wait while they located our bags which were locked up and rent another $5 cart and then once again haul everything back outside to the curb. Now how do we get all this junk and ourselves to the hotel?? I had Stijn wait with the massive pile and I walked back to the “B” terminal to ask an American Airlines agent for help. They were very helpful and called a courtesy van from the spesific hotel but in the end we waited outide for a long time in 100 degree heat. Once at the hotel we again had to drag the bikes and our luggage to the room and the following morning do everything I just mentioned all over again, it was not fun! So needless to say we are glad to be home! Once at the house we quickly put the bikes together and surveyed the damage. Stijn’s bike had not traveled well and his wheels were in need of repair. Tammi and Hannah drove us to Acme Bicycles and they dropped everything and gave us all the attention in the World and had us fixed and repaired in less than an hour, great bunch of guys! We are going on a long bike ride this morning with Leon and Sheila so I better sign off and get ready to go. I did post a photo on Stijns link above if your interested.
Your photo comes from Bonaire and is just something easy and fun you can do with a few pieces of driftwood and a little paint, so cool!
Talk more tonight, Barry
Jun 28, 12 Comments Off on Red Banded Hermit Crab, Petrochirus diogenes
Good very early morning to you all! I was up at 3:45 this morning as Stijn and his mom will be here to pick me up in about 30 minutes. I spent the night finding last minute things and doing the normal packing and re-packing of just about all the bags, insane how much gear I am taking.
After work last night I was able to go on one last bike ride. I raised the seat on Aimee’s bike and even though it was still too small for me I managed to get a nice hour and a half ride in on every trail I could find. Stijn and I are doing a 35 mile race thru the mountains on the 7th (in the States) and will be pre-riding some of that course this weekend with friends, we can hardly wait! And yes, the altitute will kill us, we are going from zero (sea level) to close to 7000 feet but I think after a week of acclimating we should be good to go!
Here is a big, beautiful Red Banded Hermit Crab, Petrochirus diogenes that we found crawing around on the Substation reef while diving, talk about a beautiful crab!
I need to get moving my ride will be here in a few minutes, talk soon from the States, Barry
Jun 27, 12 Comments Off on Smallest Pleurotomariidae Possibly Ever Found!?
Good morning Amigo’s, here is another super cool find, this COULD BE the smallest Pleurotomariidae/Quoyanus or Slit-Shell ever found!! This little treasure was found last week dining on this exact sponge (seen here) along with an adult at approximately 580 feet! His or her little shell measures a mere 7mm tall by about 10mm wide, that’s a small Slit-Shell! Weeks ago while the Smithsonian Institution was here they also recovered another small Slit-Shell but turns out this one is smaller. We also found out that the Smithsonian has around 800 Slit-Shells in their collection and this one here is the smallest they have seen to date.
The superfamily of Pleurotomariacae Swainson, 1840, are among the oldest surviving mollusca on Earth, having first appeared in the late upper Cambrian period over 500 million years ago. The Pleurotomariidae family includes all recent slit-shell species, first appeared in the Triassic period, some 200 million years ago. Since the discovery of the first living plearotomariid species, all have been commonly referred to as â€œliving fossilsâ€ having previously thought to be extinct since the Tertiary. The slit-shell was first illustrated by a Japanese naturalist named Kimura Kenkado in 1755. The slit-shell family consists of top shaped shells characterized by a slit in the edge of the outer whorl. When threatened as you see here, the animal is capable of discharging a very toxic white solution! These mollusks like others do have a cool little circular operculum but it is not visible in this photo. The operculum is like a shield and uses it as a last defense to block entry into it’s delicate mantle area. Sixteen species are known to exist and all are found deep. Most extant species are in the genus Perotrochus and Entemnotrochus. The slit-shell is evolutionarily primitive and lives as a grazer. Sponges form the staple diet, although other food residues have been found in the esophagus and rectum of preserved animals. It is found in tropical and subtropical waters, typically at 300-3000 foot depths. Few people have actually observed a living slit-shell in it’s natural habitat, which can be easily explained by the nature of the habitat it is found in. The uniqueness and sheer beauty of these magnificent shells make them one of the classic rarities of the shell world.
I spent the evening packing and getting ready to go, we leave Curacao very early tomorrow morning! I will do my best to post photos but be patient as I am traveling. Hope all is well out there, keep in touch, Barry
Jun 26, 12 Comments Off on Island Dogs, Inca and Indi, Dalmations, Mix Breed
Good morning friends, your photo today is compliments of Joey our “house sitter” who took this fun photo with her “Bunny IPhone”. Last night I helped her load the dogs into the car and off she went on a fun evening walk with our two kids, Inca (left) and Indi. I stayed home and continued to pack while they went walking, it’s border line insane how much stuff I am taking for a one month trip! I called Joey during the walk just to make sure all was going well and she said no problem and for me that’s a big relief knowing the dogs are out and safe with someone new. The photo was taken down at one of our small private beaches which is about a 15 minute walk from the Sea Aquarium.
Yesterday went by so fast and I still have a ton of last minute things to do before we leave!
Have a wonderful day, sorry so short, Barry
Jun 25, 12 Comments Off on Deep Water Crab, Crab Using Shell to Hide Under
Good morning once again from Curacao. I have so much to do before work this morning that I again had to get up before the sun! Yesterday I left the house at 6:40 in the morning on my bike and didn’t get home till close to 10:00. My ride was filled with having to stop and fix flat tires which is as aggravating as it gets when your out trying to get a ride in. Here in Curacao our trails are filled with these long two inch thorns that constantly fall from these insane thorn trees and it’s impossible to avoid them! I do have tubeless tires but even those can only do so much! I ended up riding for an hour and a half on 20 psi tires which means near flat, especially hard on the road. I came home covered in mud and then spent the next few hours washing the bike and tearing it apart and getting it packed as we leave in just a few days!
Here is another cool crab that was found at around 600 feet. This little guy is super cute and very smart. We put him in the photo aquarium and he instantly found an old shell in the corner and picked it up. We then watched as he lifted it over his head and then used it as a roof or a hiding spot, talk about smart!
Sorry so short this morning, I have so much packing to do! Have a great day!
Jun 23, 12 Comments Off on Heart Shaped Piece of Sea-Beach Glass
Hi all, it’s Saturday evening and I am just winding down after another crazy day in Curacao! A BIG thanks to Loet and Maikel for literally “lending a hand” to help me with today’s photo. The story goes, last Christmas while Scott, Tammi and Hannah were here I took them to collect sea glass and one of them found this super cool heart, something I have yet to find! Well when they left they of course took it with them but soon after I had them send it back down to Curacao with friends so I could take a photo of it. So finally today with the help of Loet and her pretty hand and Maikel “the beach security guard”, we got it photographed right where it was found. All of the other little pieces that surround the heart were picked up in a few minutes as well just to lend a little spritz of color to the photo but really it’s the prize winning hand that makes the photo “POP”! Thanks again guys and have a safe trip back to Holland!
My day started out with a long two hour walk at Saint Joris with the dogs. After that I did a deep dive to 140 feet, then shopping, the sea glass photo and finally dinner over at Stijns house!
Stijn and I leave for the States Thursday morning so be patient I will be posting the blog but when I can. Also if you look up at the top right of this page you will see a link called “The Adventures of Stijn”. This is where we will be posting photos of Stijn for all to see during the month of July, we made this mostly for the family but everyone is welcome to join the fun!
I have a pint of ice-cream waiting for me upstairs and two dogs needing some daddy time, talk more on Monday!
Have a great weekend, Barry
Jun 21, 12 Comments Off on New Deep Water Crab, Hermit Crab in a Rock!
Good morning all, thanks to the cat we are ALL up at 5:00 in the morning, I wish she would learn to let herself out in the mornings!
Yesterday went by so fast I can hardly remember everything I did?? The morning started out with taking the dogs out to the trail behind the Sea Aquarium which for us is about a one minute drive from the house. And, since I was already out there I decided to continue to cut and sweep to make this section of trail more enjoyable for all.
After a short walk I raced into work and went directly to the deep-water labs where I proceeded to do some more aquarium photography for about an hour and then got ready for a sub dive at 10:30. Right after the sub dive and still underwater I did a photo-shoot of sorts for two Interns from Holland that had recently got their Padi Open Water. They had been begging me for weeks for pictures of themselves under the sea and those of you who know me know I have a hard time saying NO to anything, it’s one of my downfalls!
After the dives I raced home to let the dogs out and eat and then back to work this time cleaning out my office getting it ready for when I leave. After work I met Joey our friend who will be staying at our house for a month and we both took the dogs out for an hour and a half walk, it was great!
Aimee arrived safe and sound but not without a bit of trouble. She said there was a big storm in Miami and they had to fly around the Bahamas for an hour before landing in Fort Lauderdale?? They all missed connecting flights but she ended up getting there!!
Your photo today is another brand new crab that was found at around 700 feet! I believe this one was collected by accident and we thought it was just a rock until someone saw it move?? This rock is about an inch and half in height and the crab is smaller than a pea!! When we first saw this we figured OK, he’s just living in a hole in the rock and we never dreamed he would be able to drag the rock around let along pick it up into the air and walk with it over his head??? Talk about cool! This has to be the strongest crab I have ever seen and it’s the first one of it’s kind we have ever seen! If anyone again has any info they would like to share please let me know.
Time to get the dogs fed and get them out for their morning walk, have a wonderful day! Till tonight or tomorrow, be well!
Jun 21, 12 Comments Off on Fish with Big Eyes, Squirrelfish, Caribbean Reef Fish
Hi all, sorry so late today, I am so busy my head is spinning! I had to go back to the Aquarium till almost midnight last night to shoot a bunch of new deep sea creatures that were found yesterday with the Curasub.
My whole day was like a race from start to finish starting with getting up at 4:30 am and getting Aimee to the airport. Then I raced home and took the dogs for a walk before work which meant I barely made it to work on time. My day was filled with diving, Lionfish hunting, photographing the deep-sea creatures and a two hour bike ride starting at 5:00, it took a lot of coffee to get me back to work to do photos for the whole evening!
Your photo comes from out front on the reef at Substation. These are by far some of the most common fish we have here on the reef, they are called, Blackbar Soldierfish, Myripristis jacobus. I only ever dove with one person that exited the water and claimed these were the coolest fish she saw on the whole reef, that’s my wife’s sister Missy. Hey, these big-eyed fish need love to right??
Off to bed, I have a new creature again for you in the morning.
Jun 20, 12 Comments Off on Deep Water Murex Shells, Gastropods, Siratus beauii
Good morning all, it’s 4:45 in the morning and I’m sitting here half asleep!! Why would anyone get up this early you ask?? I have to get Aimee to the airport by 5:30 as her flight leaves at around 7:15! Stijn and I will meet her in about 10 days then she will be with us for a few weeks, we are all very excited and can hardly wait!
Here is yet another cool creature that was found this week with the Curasub at a depth of around 800 feet! This is live Murex 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; http://www.gastropods.com/2/Shell_2912.shtml
Had a pretty busy day yesterday with two sub dives and working in the deep water lab taking photos and making sure all the creatures are getting enough to eat. In the evening we met our friends Loet and Maikel (hah, I finally spelled it right) at the best eating place in all of Curacao called the “Ribs Factory”. This place should get an award for it’s constant fast service and great food, it’s just always a guaranteed great time!
That’s about it, Aimee is high in the sky on her way to Miami and I am off to the sea! Have a great day.
Jun 18, 12 Comments Off on Curacao Reef Scene, Gorgonians, Brown Tube Sponge
Good day all, It was yet another very busy weekend and honestly I am shocked at how fast that one went?? I spent three hours walking the dogs and cleaning trails Saturday morning and then met Stijn for a fun afternoon of diving. It’s really amazing how much work it takes to go diving! First we race around getting all the gear together which includes tanks, weights, wetsuits, BC’s, regulators, fins, masks, and in my case tons of underwater equipment! Then you either strap it all on and jump into the sea or load it all into a vehicle and drive to your dive spot. Once in the water you instantly remember why you went through all that trouble, it’s like swimming in outer space and you just float about the reef. Here is a little reef scene we found yesterday with a perfect little baby gorgonian protected by a nice cluster of Brown Tube Sponges.
Yesterday (Sunday) I again took the dogs out for close to three hours. We drove over to Baya or Caracasbaai where one of the local bike clubs just finished making some new trails but they had neglected to sweep meaning they were full of thorns. So being the nice person I am I dedicated my weekend to the new trails and removed 90% of the tire killing thorns, the dogs just followed and did what dogs do, chase lizards. On the way back home we stopped and swam in the ocean to cool off although our little male dog we are currently watching would not go in?
At 12:00 I took off on a very HOT and tiring two hour bike ride, I really wanted to ride what I had worked so hard at cleaning. I left under overcast skies but soon after leaving the sun came out which made the ride brutal to say the least.
At 6:00 we went over to Stijns Grandparents house for a three course meal that was bar-none the best food we have had since we have been here! Since we are leaving soon for the States they wanted to throw us a “have a great trip party” and it was great!!
That’s kind of my weekend in a nut-shell I hope you all had a good time as well. It’s off to the sea for me, have a great day, Barry
Jun 16, 12 Comments Off on Large Deep Water Crab, Crabs with Big Claws
Hi friends, I am unfortunately up again at 5:00am thanks to Indi (our dog) throwing up and my back is hurting again. My problem is I never give myself enough time to heal, it’s ice on the back at night and then back to work doing the same painful things each day. Yesterday I did three days, two only lasted about 15 minutes but the other was over an hour. I had gotten a request for a photo of an adult Bluehead Wrasse so I figured I”ll just run out and get it how hard can that be?? Ha, turned out to be very difficult and now I understand why we don’t have many of these photos in our library. These wrasse NEVER stop moving!! Many or most fish will stop and rest under a coral head or stop to get cleaned or even stop to eat something but not these fish! I found out quickly they never slow down making it a total photo nightmare! Finding the fish was no problem it was trying to focus on them that became the real challenge. I finally found one that seemed to be doing the same thing over and over so I stuck with him for close to an hour. I figured if he gets used to me a little maybe he would stop and relax but in the end I just chased him all over the reef, so much in fact I exited the water completely drained feeling like I had swam an underwater triathon! Did I get any photos?? Yes, I did get around a dozen that were usable but am going back again today for one last try, I know I can do this!
Here is another deep sea crab found by the new two million dollar Curasub. This one came from close to 800 feet and she is soooo cool! I say “she” because we think she has eggs, it’s that cream colored bundle under her body. This creature has one claw for cracking open clams and shells on the left and the other for grabbing fish and chunks of meat, she is super cool! Again, we don’t have a name for this creature so if any of you out there know please let me know and I will update the site.
It’s time for coffee and then off to walk to dogs, have a wonderful weekend!
Jun 15, 12 Comments Off on Baby Deep Water Octopus, Deep Sea Creatures
Good morning friends, as promised earlier this week here is the photo of the cutest little octopus I have ever seen!! His body is about the size of a nickle but his arms are super long, about two inches in length!! As the story goes; the sub was down exploring the reef at around 600 plus feet when they spotted what looked like a small cigar tin and proceeded to pick it up as we don’t want trash on the reef. We have a few different collecting methods, we can scoop it up with the front of the sub into a basket, grab it with our robotic claw or use the vacuum. Once back to the surface they took the cigar tin out of the basket and like all trash it was just going to be tossed in the trash if no one wanted it. Thankfully someone pried it open and looked inside and to everyone’s dissbelief this little octopus was hiding at the bottom. We rushed him to fresh cold water and then over to the deep water lab where he is still doing well, in fact I will be over there again today trying to get some more photos. If anyone knows anything about deep-water octopus please let us know and I will update this blog.
Also, remember when Aimee took our little island dog Lola to America a few weeks back?? Well here is a story in a magazine that was done about her and Lola. Once the link opens scroll down to page 9 and then enlarge so you can read the text, it’s pretty cool, if your having problems just let me know, here it is, you will have to copy and paste it in your browser-
Have a wonderful day, I am off to the sea!! Barry
Jun 14, 12 Comments Off on Flying Gurnards, Dactylopterus volitans, Fish with Wings
Good morning once again, how are you all doing today?? Your photo this morning is being posted for some American tourists that are staying down the street at Breezes Hotel. They stopped by Substation the other day with their kids for some information about the sub and while talking to them I discovered they had seen three Flying Gurnards in the shallow, sandy lagoon behind Breezes. I always ask visitors what they have seen of interest either in or out of the water and they quickly mentioned they had seen a weird fish with wings! Little did they know they had spotted something super cool that many folks here never get to see! The Flying Gurnards, Dactylopterus volitans are on the Top 25 “most requested things to see underwater” and these guys found them just snorkeling!
The flying gurnards are a family, Dactylopteridae, of marine fish notable for their greatly enlarged pectoral fins. As they cannot literally fly, an alternative name preferred by some authors is Helmet Gurnards. They are the only family in the suborder Dactylopteroidei. They have been observed to “walk” along sandy sea floors while looking for crustaceans and other small invertebrates by using their pelvic fins. Like the true Gurnards (sea robins), to which they may be related, they possess a swim bladder with two lobes and a “drumming muscle” that can beat against the swim bladder to produce sounds. They have heavy, protective, scales, and the undersides of their huge pectoral fins are brightly coloured, perhaps to startle predators. Most species live in the Indo-Pacific, but at least one is native to the Atlantic. The adults live on the sea bottom, but many species have an extended larval stage, which floats freely in the oceans.
I did two dives yesterday with the sub and then spent the afternoon TRYING to photograph the baby octopus again but had zero luck!! I found out once again yesterday that one can not get an octopus to do anything if he doesn’t want to! We are full again today at Substation and I will already be under the sea at 9:00.
A big thanks to our friends Loet and Mikel for bringing us car parts from Holland this week and installing them for us, our little red Toyota named “Shari” is starting to already look better!
Have a great day and like Aimee says to me every day, “Just do the best you can out there”!! Cheers, Barry
Jun 13, 12 Comments Off on Reflections in Water, Crazy Water, Designs in Water
Good morning friends, I spent all day yesterday in our deep-sea wet lab photographing strange new specimens and will send them out as soon as I can. One of the coolest things they found was a baby octopus at 700 feet! The story goes they picked up an old cigar tin with the robotic arm and upon opening it at the surface found the octopus hiding inside. He has really long arms and is only about the size of a quarter and talk about beautiful, I should have him here for you in a few days. I also photographed a new weird looking crab with big claws and a new fish that kind of looks like a Jawfish of sorts so stay tuned this stuff is on the way.
After work I met Stijn and we took off on a two hour ride through the Curacao wilds. The ride was great, I finally felt 100% last night and had a fantastic ride. There are some new, fairly primitive single track trails at Caracasbaai that someone just finished building…but, boy, do they still need a lot of work. If your interested in riding this new loop just look for all the fluorescent orange spray-painted arrows all over the road at Baya, the arrows point the way!
After the ride we went over to a friends house for dinner who made something we had never had before called, fruit lasagna?? Yes sounds bizarre but it was pretty darn good! I ended up calling it, pizza, pasta, fruit-pot-pie, that kind of sums up the flavors!
We have a very busy day ahead at Substation, three to four dives a day planned for the next 3 days, wish us luck.
That’s about it, I haven’t sent a crazy-water photo in a long time so that’s what your getting today, enjoy!
Off to the sea all, see you again soon, barry
Jun 12, 12 Comments Off on The Governor’s Palace in Curacao as Seen at Night
Good morning all, by request I have a photo of the Governor’s Palace which is located on the East side of St. Anna Bay or as we say here “the Punda side”. Aimee and I went downtown at dusk to get this photo a few months back but it still is lit up every night like just like this. In fact for you visitors that want to see and photograph something really cool go check out the whole waterfront of Punda on any given night, every building is lit up in a different pastel color! We originally thought this was just a thing they were doing for Christmas but soon learned that everyone liked it so much that the lights are now a main attraction here. During the day you can ride your bicycle or walk thru the palace entrance (tunnel) which leads you into the beautiful court-yard which is surrounded by very high walls and has the feeling of a well fortified fort. Once inside, there is an exit out the east wall which leads you through a narrow alley to the police station or directly into Punda.
In 1634 the Dutch, under the command of Johan van Walbeeck, conquered Curacao from the Spaniards. Curacao was considered a strategically situated island from where the Dutch could try to fight the Spaniards. Besides Curacao, Bonaire was also highly important for the extraction of salt. The biggest priority was to build a fort to defend the island. The mouth of St. Anna Bay offered an exquisite place for this purpose, and on this spot, the center of the island, Fort Amsterdam was built, around which (beside, rather than around it) Willemstad subsequently emerged. The palace is on the same spot where the first fort was built in 1635. In the subsequent two years, the first dwelling of the representative of the West India Company, the Director, was added to it. This precursor of the Government’s Palace was a two-storied wooden building, for which most of the material had been brought from Amsterdam. Not much later, the wooden building was replaced by a stone residence which forms the core of the present Palace. In the course of centuries, the style has changed considerably as can be seen here for instance from the windows. The oldest part of the building consisted of a closed pavilion on the front side which was split by its two wings with a central hall or passage in the middle. Not long after the first construction, the second pavilion with the monumental double stairs in front of it was added at the back. In 1765, the extension took place with an open gallery on the harbor side and the building remained in this state for approximately a hundred years without changes.
Most of the 1900’s were consumed with renovating and trying to keep paint on the walls which is still an on-going effort! Because of the coral stones used for the walls in the handmade bricks the salt is constantly drying out the paint or eating it up meaning that the Palace like all the other homes here on the island need to be painted every year!
We are very busy at the Substation this week, in fact we are full every day!! I am going to try to go riding tonight but not sure I will be up for it after 3 dives, we will see. We did get a nice little rain last night, we needed that very bad as it was getting way to dry around here. Have a wonderful day and thanks for all the notes.