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 January, 2013
Jan 31, 13 Comments Off on Invasive Lionfish, Caribbean Lionfish Problem, Lionfish
Good morning from the sunny Caribbean all!! Our sub has been getting it’s annual GL check-up this week which means that it gets a full inspection of all the parts and if all is good we can continue to dive. One of the tests that had to be done was taking the sub down to 1000 feet and doing all kinds of tests at this depth. So yesterday when they went out I also took off equipped with my trusty camera and for once a full wetsuit because of the very cold water. I first took some pictures of the sub and it’s passengers at around 50 feet and then went for a fun deep dive down to 120 feet which brings us to the photo of the day. I came across this beautiful lionfish just floating like he was in outer space over a very busy section of the reef with fish swimming everywhere. I am always carrying my 10.5/2.8 Nikon wide angle lens which in most cases makes taking photos of small fish very difficult but in this case having a big section of the reef showing is pretty cool. You would never know by looking at this shot that I was only about 24 inches from the fish, that’s the magic of wide angle photography! I laid there for a few minutes and watched as he or she just floated about and could have cared less about me. It’s amazing that this fish has completely invaded the Caribbean and is taking over the reefs around the World, how can something so beautiful be so much trouble??
Not much else to report, I took the dogs for two long walks yesterday and went to bed early, tonight I have a bike ride with Dorian and a long ride planned for Sunday.
Have a wonderful day folks, Barry
Jan 30, 13 Comments Off on Sand Tilefish, Malacanthus plumieri, Tilefishes, Curacao
Good morning friends, here is a fish I don’t think I have ever sent before called a Sand Tilefish, Malacanthus plumieri. I found this young tilefish in Klein Curacao and was lucky to get to watch as he went in and out of his cool house located under the sand and dead pieces of coral. This fish has a long body and varies in color from yellowish white to light bluish gray and has beautiful blueish-yellow markings on it’s head. It also has long dorsal and ventral fins and a crescent yellow tail with a dark area on the upper central part. The sand tilefish can reach a size of 24 inches long and can be found down in the 30-70 foot depth range. This is primarily a shallow-water benthic species found on sand and rubble bottoms and builds mounds of rubble and shell fragments near reefs and grass beds that they live in. They often hover near the entrance, undulating the long dorsal and anal fins and enters its mound head first when frightened. Feeds mainly on benthic invertebrates.
I just got back from the airport and now have to be underwater in 10 minutes so I have to go!!
Have a wonderful day, Barry
Jan 29, 13 Comments Off on Spotted Trunkfish, Lactophrys bicaudalis, Boxfishes
Good morning all, Aimee leaves tomorrow for a week to the States and I am watching the castle while she is away. Our friend Emily will arrive a few days after Aimee returns for a 10 day vacation and after that our friends from South Dakota will be here for another two weeks, we can hardly wait!! We have been busy getting Aimee packed and ready to go and for us it’s a perfect time to get some of our belongings back home and in storage, it’s kind of like free shipping.
Here is a cute little Spotted Trunkfish, Lactophrys bicaudalis, that I found the other day in Klein Curacao hiding under the reef in his own little protected cave. These fish are very weary of divers unlike the more common Smooth Trunkfish that you can almost pet. These guys spend their days hiding in the reef and unless your really looking for them you probably won’t see one. The Smooth Trunkfish on the other hand is out in the open all day and those can be found everywhere on the reef either digging in the sand looking for food or eating algae off rocks. Since we have been here we have only seen 3 or 4 juvenile Spotted Trunkfishes, those are so hard to find and are on our “Holy Grail” fish finding list.
Not much else to report, all is well, the sun is shining and the water is clear!!
Have a great day, Barry
Jan 28, 13 Comments Off on Lionfish in Klein Curacao, Lionfish Invasion, Lionfish
Hi friends, I am back!! Sorry for the no blog again for the past three days but your’s truly has been very, very busy! On Friday we left Curacao aboard the Chapman with the “Curasub” submersible on board and headed for the small island of Klein Curacao which takes around three hours to get to and that’s only around 18 miles!! Once there the sub was lifted and set into the water and took off for a long 4 hour exploration trip staying at around 600 feet. While they were down I jumped in the water and did two long exploration dives of my own and quickly discovered that this island should be renamed to “Lionfish Island”!! I was down right blown away at the numbers of lionfish I saw on each dive, they were under every single overhang and sometimes multiple lionfish could be found in a single little cave as you see above! I am sure I saw over 40 on both dives and most of them were pretty big, this means the next time we go back there will be a big fish fry on board! Here in Curacao these lionfish are really taking over the reefs, it’s amazing how fast they can multiply?? And yes, I agree they are beautiful beyond words but they are eating the little fish non-stop and if the numbers are not controlled the reefs will soon disappear! Besides the lionfish I did get a few nice shots of a tilefish leaving his home in the sand and found new sponges that are not in Curacao. So other than the freezing water and the insane amount of lionfish it seems to be a great dive spot. The sub returned at around 3:30 and by 4:00 we were on the way back home. Going back only takes around two hours because of the direction of our wind and waves and it’s much smoother.
On Saturday I kept busy with more trail work and running errands and at 10:00 went to a nearby hotel to photograph some rooms for them and that took most of the afternoon.
Yesterday I met Dorian at 7:30am for a two hour mountain bike training ride to the North coast and back and it’s safe to say we were both tired when we got back because of the never-ending wind fighting us the whole way!
I hope all is well out there, drop a line when you can.
Have a great day, Barry
Jan 24, 13 Comments Off on Scyliorhinus hesperius, Whitesaddled Catshark, Sharks
Bon Dia Amigos, how are you all doing today??
This is the new shark we recently discovered at 960 feet and was identified by the Smithsonian as Scyliorhinus hesperius, the Whitesaddled Catshark. They noted the distinctive dark bar under the eye, which is characteristic of that species. I apologize for the tiny photo but panoramic type photos do not fit well with the Word Press layout or at least I haven’t figured it out. This is a VERY uncommon deep-water tropical shark and has been recorded from 274 to 457 m in the Western Central Atlantic where it is restricted to the continental slopes off Honduras, the Netherlands Antilles, Colombia and Panama. Reaches at least 47 cm total length but nothing is known of its biology. If anyone out there knows anything about what they eat or other important behaviors, please let me know and I will add your info to the page.
We had a very busy day yesterday at the Substation and this morning will be the same, it seems we are either super slow or crazy busy as we are now. Tomorrow we still plan on leaving for the island of Klein Curacao so I will be far away on another great adventure with the ship and the sub, stay tuned.
Sorry so short, I have to get to the sea, have a wonderful day!!
Jan 23, 13 Comments Off on Tubastrea coccinea, Orange Cup Corals, Cup Corals
Good morning all, we are busy here at substation getting ready for our third trip to Klein Curacao this Friday with the Chapman and the Submersible. Once there the sub will take off on two long underwater exploration dives and I will do my best to record it as it comes and goes both topside and underwater. Our goal is to get to know the outline of the reef on this tiny island a bit before the Smithsonian group arrives in February, that way we kind of know where to go without wasting a bunch of time.
I spent a good part of yesterday photographing a little 14-16 inch shark we found at 960 feet called a Whitesaddled Catshark, Scyliorhinus hesperius. The shark is so long that I had to take 4 different photos and stitch them together in photoshop and change the background from blue to black. I will try and post the photo but it’s such a long panoramic that I am not sure it will display will on my site but I will give it a try.
Here’s a photo of a bunch of small clusters of Orange Cup corals out on our Sea Aquarium reef at night. As you may or may not know, many corals feed at night. These cup corals collapse into a hard “button” during the day but at night they open and extend their tentacles to capture floating plankton.
Many don’t know this but Tubastrea coccinea “Orange Cup coral” is an invasive species just like the lionfish. While lionfish get all the attention and are subjected to extraction derbies and are appropriately placed on a platter, orange cup coral silently keeps on growing.
Fortunately it is much more selective than lionfish. So far it has specialized on artificial reefs, dock pilings and oil rigs. Isn’t it funny that two of the most visually attractive species of our waters are invasive aliens?
In the REEF coral identification book, there is a two-page spread devoted to orange cup coral. In a study by Douglas Fenner and Kenneth Banks, they note the spread of orange cup coral is quite similar to the pattern of die-off of Diadema urchins. Basically the orange cup coral larvae follow water movements, settle, release larvae, settle, and so on. This process has been progressing for about 60 years, rather than only one year for the Diadema tragedy.
Based on that thinking, they postulate it takes about 18 months from settlement to larval release for orange cup coral.
I have a sub dive at 11:00 so I better get going, have a wonderful day all!!
Jan 22, 13 Comments Off on Orange Elephant Ear Sponge with Diver, Curacao
Good morning all, we are finally getting a little needed rain today here in Curacao and we need it! I’m always amazed at how fast the green stuff disappears on this island, it’s either dry as a bone or it looks like a rain forest, there doesn’t seem to be much in the middle??
I got my bike back last night from the hospital and it looks and rides great! It needed new derailleur cables and the rims trued after my head on collision with another rider on Sunday, boy did that hurt! I lucked out and found a new top notch bike mechanic named Wim who is an absolute master with repairing bikes, talk nice and I will give you his number.
Here’s my buddy Rolf from Holland at 75 feet checking out one of the many giant Orange Elephant Ear sponges, Agelas clathrodes that we have here on the Sea Aquarium reef. These sponges are really one of the coolest creatures I have ever seen and stand out like a flamingo in a bird bath!! They are also one of the biggest sponges in the Caribbean and can easily get up to six feet in diameter and can be found as deep as 130 feet!
Hope all is well out there, drop a line when you can.
Jan 21, 13 Comments Off on Dolphin Photos. Baby Dolphin Photos, Baby Bottlenose
Good morning readers, how was your weekend?? Mine went by fast as usual and I really can’t believe it’s Monday already?? Saturday morning Stijn joined me for a few hours of trail work and this time we went and worked on the older Calabash trail which is a complete mess! We ended up redesigning one of the bad downhill sections and finally making it much easier to climb and less dangerous to go down which only took a few hours. After that we took the tired dogs home and then took off to register for “the Ride for the Roses” mountain bike ride that was held yesterday. Stijn registered for the 60k road ride that he did with his new team mates from Vista Bike and I registered myself and Dorian for the 20k mountain bike ride. The whole “Ride for/Walk for Roses event is to raise money for Cancer and is by far the biggest event in Curacao and raises a whole lot of money for a good cause. So yesterday morning the ride/race started at 8:00 and Dorian and I took off like a rocket leading the pack of hundreds up the Bon-Bini climb and then onto all my trails, it was a blast! The downside was the poorly marked course which ended up leaving many wondering which way to go and caused yours truly to have a head on collision with another rider at top speed! Both of our bikes and bodies sustained injuries from this 35 km crash but we still made it back to the finish leading the pack! Dorian was on fire yesterday, he reminded me so much of Stijn and rode with the big boys the whole way and in the end beat 90% of them, this kid has talent! After the ride we took Aimee to the starting line to do her event called “Swim for the Roses” which was a 2.7km swim from Zanzibar resort to Mambo beach. Aimee again beat her old time and finished the swim in 43 minutes, that’s pretty fast considering this is a swim out in the open ocean with waves and current!! I was very proud of her at the finish line, she was in the top 25% to finish first something I could never do!!
Here’s a fun photo a newborn baby bottlenose calf swimming at high speed next to her mother. This baby as you can see is just days old and still has her fetal fold marks, those are the lines on her back where she was folded inside her mother.
Busy day ahead, have a great Monday, Barry
Jan 17, 13 Comments Off on Lionfish Photos, Invasive Lionfish, Curacao Lionfish
Good morning gang and yes, late again!! I went with Aimee and the dogs to work on the old trails that have been neglected for the past few months, we cut, and remodeled one of the big downhills. At around 9:00 work called and said we had an 11:00 dive and with that we dropped everything and I rushed back to the Substation. While I was down at around 100 feet photographing the sub and it’s passengers I noticed a big Lionfish out swimming above the reef way below me and figured if he was still there after my shoot I would go down and try for some shots. So after saying goodbye to our guests in the sub I took off back to were I last saw the Lionfish and instantly saw him again and he was still out swimming freely over the reef without a care in the World. I really thought that once I got closer he would take off to safety but that was not the case, he just hovered there and let me take all the pictures I wanted. There is no doubt about it that Lionfish are truly beautiful fish, it’s just sad that all of a sudden there are so many and that they are invading the Caribbean by eating all the baby fish!! Any ways he was so fun to watch and I enjoyed watching him swim gently around me, amazing that something so beautiful can be so deadly!
I have to pack for our trip to Klein Curacao tomorrow, this will be the third trip with the Chapman and the sub.
Have a wonderful weekend, Barry
Jan 16, 13 Comments Off on Sand Divers, Synodus intermedius, Lizardfishes
Good late morning all, I had so much to do when I got to work that I almost forgot about the daily. We are busy today and tomorrow with getting ready for a third trip to the nearby island of Klein Curacao (on Friday) with the Chapman and the “Curasub” submersible. The plan for this trip is to get in a lot of underwater dive time and kind of learn the outline of the strata below the surface before the scientists from the Smithsonian get here in February. I will again be taking photos topside and below and while they are out either go diving or go explore the island some more, will keep you posted.
So above is a cool photo I took yesterday at around 110 feet out in front of the Substation. What your looking at is two beautiful Sand Divers, Synodus intermedius, but in different colors! I asked the Smithsonian experts this morning about the color patterns and they said the orange colored sand diver (left) is a male and may be courting the normal colored female on his right. I noticed that if the female moved or swam to another spot the male followed and always parked himself right next to her as if to say “look at me”, “look at me”!!! This was the first time I have ever seen two different colors together so they must be up to something but at that depth I was unable to stay and watch for long. These are some of the most aggressive fish I have ever seen and can ambush prey like a bolt of lightning, blink and you will miss it!!
Hope all is well out there, see you tomorrow.
Jan 15, 13 Comments Off on Octopus Eating a Queen Conch, Feeding Octopus
Good morning friends, busy day here at the Substation yesterday, we did three full runs meaning I did three dives. The water in the Caribbean this year is really cold, around 75 degrees, better for the corals but not so good for you divers that get cold quick. And yes I know 75 degrees is warm for most of you divers out there but not for us, we are truly spoiled with constant 80 degree water.
This photo is from Friday when I was getting out of the water after a sub dive I noticed not one but two big common reef octopus attacking this big beautiful Queen conch right under our sub platform. As I moved in closer for a photo one of them became alarmed and moved into some rocks and then turned on his camouflage and was now completely hidden to the untrained eye. The other as you see here was not about to give up his or her prize, it was a case of “finders keepers”!! After shooting a few shots I laid the camera down and grabbed the Queen conch and picked it up thinking the octopus would let go but instead he or she started pulling and tugging trying to get it out of my hands! You can’t believe how strong these animals are and their suction is nothing less then amazing!!! As hard as I could hold on he still managed to win the “tug-o-war” contest and once I dropped it he covered the whole shell with his body and wasn’t about to let me or anyone else near it! The poor conch just didn’t have a chance and when I came back a day later there was just an empty shell sitting where I last left them and no octopus in sight! I am sure after eating that much food he is now hidden in a cave sleeping and may just stay there for a week!
I have to get to the water, have a wonderful day all!!
See ya, Barry
Jan 14, 13 Comments Off on Research Ships in the Caribbean, Klein Curacao, Submersibles
Good morning one and all, how was your weekend?? I first want to apologize for the inconsistent blogs as of late, I have some excuses but I’ll just say “I’m Sorry” and hope that gets me by.
Saturday was so crazy and so busy that it would take hours of writing to fully explain it all so I will just give you the highlights. We all got to work at 6am and drove to the Chapman that left the docks at around 7:30, more or less right on schedule. The day was very overcast and it rained just about all day, sometimes so hard we couldn’t even see the island of Klein Curacao which we were docked at. When we first arrived after two and a half hours out to sea the boys took me ashore and dropped me off and I took off on a super fun two hour driftwood collecting trip around the island. The downside of my hiking trip was the rain and at times it rained so hard that I had to stop and make myself into a ball and wait for it to pass, it was down right crazy!! On an island like this there is no where to hide from storms, I was soaked to the bone but found myself just laughing about it, I mean other than being a bit cold it was just water!! I ended up finding a ton of great wood and carried as much as I could back to the ship and even used it to float on to get all the way back to the ship, it was pretty fun. Once back on-board and finally dry I got out the camera and spent the rest of the day either taking photos on-board or in the water as you see above, this was the first trip with the submarine to Klein Curacao. The procedure for launching our submersible is to first lift it with the crane to the back of the ship where we have a floating dock made specifically for the sub. Once it’s lowered into the floating dock we then raise the cradle that the sub rests on which gives the pilot and crew time to board. Then once we hear via the radio that all is good we lower the cradle and off they go under the sea to explore. Because of our time schedule the sub was only down for a short trip and I think ended up stopping at around 700 feet but next time will be much different. We left the island at around 4:30 and got back much faster than the trip there, it was a great day at sea. On the way there we saw a whale of some kind feeding and following a big school of fish and while on the island we saw a massive school of tuna being chased by something as well and we all watched as tuna after tuna launched itself from the water high into the air at top speed, that was cool! I think our next mission to Klein Curacao will be in a few weeks when scientists from the Smithsonian arrive, we will most likely being staying on the island for days at a time.
On Sunday I finished the giant bridge I have been building on my new trail and got it put into place and at 5:00 took a ride to try it out, it was fantastic!!
That’s kind of it, our whole crew is tired for the weekend!!
Have a wonderful day all,
Jan 11, 13 Comments Off on Baby Bottlenose Dolphin, Baby Dolphins, Dolphins
Hi friends, we found out on Wednesday that we will be taking the Chapman to Klein Curacao again this Saturday so I took yesterday off to make up for it. Aimee and I took the dogs over to the new trail yesterday morning and finished painting the 12 foot bridge I am currently building over a very muddy area. All that is left now is to hammer it all together and nail down some screen for traction, it should be done by Sunday. In the evening, in between rain storms, Aimee and I took off for a fun one hour bike ride and to my disbelief was not that muddy and was a whole lot of fun.
Here’s a new dolphin photo for my patient dolphin lovers out there. This was taken months ago when we had our three newborn bottlenose dolphins, now they are much bigger and faster and spend their days playing and chasing each other!! When they are born and for the first month or two they stick to momma like glue! But as time passes they get more brave and start exploring on their own but still under the watchful eye of momma! They will nurse or drink milk for up to two years or until momma has another calf, then it’s a case of your on your own and will rely solely on a fish diet.
It’s still raining here, hope all is well.
Have a great day, Barry
Jan 9, 13 Comments Off on Superior Producer Dive Site Curacao, Ship Wrecks
Good morning all, if your out and about this week pick up the Jan/Feb issue of Sport Diver and find the article and photo by yours truly about the Superior Producer, guest starring, the one and only Mark from the World Famous Dive Bus!! I use Mark for every Superior shot because lets face it, he knows the ship better than anyone in Curacao and he’s such a great diver!! Above is yet another fun shot of Mark exploring the front of the long cargo ship at around 85 feet surrounded by nothing but clear Caribbean water. Contrary to popular belief, this dive can be done from shore and is without a doubt the best way to experience it, boat diving is not necessary!! If you look to the left of Mark you can see a few clusters of purple stove-pipe sponges, Aplysina archeri which seem to love this type of metal environment. The ship is covered in red cup corals that are closed during the day but open at night, it’s a sight you have to see!! The ship is also home to every kind of fish and sea creature in Curacao, we have seen frogfish and seahorses here many times not to mention sea turtles sleeping on the deck. I tell all that go, “take a flashlight” because there are so many dark places where night creatures love to hang out and with your light it’s twice the fun!
Not a whole lot to report lately, our guests should be back home already we are just waiting to hear from them. Curacao is having a whole lot of on and off rain lately making it real hard to get anything done outside but we did get a ride in last night.
Hope all is well out there and your New Year is going well!!
See you tomorrow, Barry
Jan 8, 13 Comments Off on Klein Curacao, Small Caribbean Islands, Tiny Islands
Good morning from Curacao! We are all wondering if we can launch the sub today due to the very rough waves that are currently rolling in created from a multitude of storms in the area.
I had a few requests asking for a photo of Klein Curacao because of the photos I posted yesterday and as luck would have it I did take two while I was there. The top photo shows the North/West end of Klein Curacao and the bottom photo is the South/Eastern tip. The whole island is only about a mile long by a quarter mile wide and only has a few palm trees, other than that it is very barren! The main site on the island is a very old 1800’s lighthouse that is in ruins but still makes for a great photo but beware it is very dangerous if your thinking about climbing to the top. On the East side of the island there are many shipwrecks up on the rocks and the whole side is covered in beautiful driftwood. The East side is also a stopping point for sea turtles who lay eggs here each year so if you walk over to that side watch where you step! As you can see from the top photo Klein Curacao does have a nice little stretch of beach and the sand is as pure as sand gets! The major downside to this place is getting there and the heat! I tell everyone take sunscreen and a hat and lots of water, it’s a very unforgiving place!! The island is great for diving and on just about any snorkel trip you will see turtles in the shallows gracefully swimming over the bright white sandy bottom. The east side of the island offers some of the best diving in the Caribbean but be warned the currents there are not to be taken lightly, it will take you straight out to sea if your not careful! As you walk around the island you will find dead sea fans by the thousands washed ashore, a little reminder that this island like all the rest was not spared when Omar and other major storms passed through. The island is also home to millions of whiptail lizards, rats, mice, cats, and even an iguana or two.
So much to do today, be back soon, Barry