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 March, 2013

Mar 29, 13     Comments Off on Lionfish, Caribbean Lionfish, Curacao Lionfish

Happy Good Friday all!! We are all off today here at Substation but I will still be around here shooting some aquariums and diving with Stijn later in the afternoon.

Here is one of our resident Lionfish who lives around a big orange Elephant Ear sponge at 100 feet right out in front on our Substation reef. Even though these fish are now everywhere I still find myself stopping to photograph every one, they are just so beautiful.

Sorry so short, I have a ton of things to do, have a great Easter weekend!!

Off to the sea, Barry

Mar 28, 13     Comments Off on Giant Fireworm, Bristle Worms, Polychaetes

Good morning friends, I found the largest Fireworm/Bristle worm I have ever seen yesterday out in front of the Substation at around 35 feet! I kid you not when I say it was over a foot long and honestly it kind of freaked me out just being so close to it! I watched as this giant, nasty Bristle worm, also known as a Fireworm crawled to the tip of each gorgonian branch and proceeded to eat it?? Look at the bottom bottom, he or she has it’s mouth completely around the tip and really seemed to only be interested in the tops of the soft coral?? These creature are what I call “bad to the bone” and I avoid contact with them on a daily basis! If you were to brush up against one with your bare skin you will be stung beyond belief and be left with blisters and welts!! The reason for this is because they have thousands of little hairs that are just like stinging Fire coral! Aimee once brushed up against one and paid for it for about a month, it is one of the most painful stinging animals in the sea. The Polychaeta or polychaetes are a class of annelid worms, generally marine. Each body segment has a pair of fleshy protrusions called parapodia that bear many bristles, called chaetae, which are made of chitin. Indeed, polychaetes are sometimes referred to as bristle worms. More than 10,000 species are described in this class. Common representatives include the lugworm and the sandworm or clam worm Nereis. Polychaetes as a class are robust and widespread, with species that live in the coldest ocean temperatures of the abyssal plain, to forms which tolerate the extreme high temperatures near hydrothermal vents. Polychaetes occur throughout the Earth’s oceans at all depths, from forms that live as plankton near the surface, to a 2“3 cm specimen observed by the robot ocean probe Nereus at the bottom of the Challenger Deep, the deepest spot in the Earth’s oceans. Only 168 species are known from fresh waters. 

Last night we went to see “The Croods” and it was fantastic!! This is yet another realistic animated Dream Works movie that will leave you in tears from laughing, it’s really fun!!

That’s about it, have a wonderful fun filled day!!

Barry

Mar 27, 13     Comments Off on Cushion Sea Star, Oreaster reticulatus, Giant Starfish

Good morning friends, I have a close-up shot of a big Cushion Sea Star, Oreaster reticulatus that I shot for you all yesterday. This is one of my personal sea creatures that I kind of look after and lives in the ocean right out front under and around where our submarine dock is located so I see him everyday. This species tends to live on sandy bottoms or in sea-grass fields in shallow waters but here on our reef we see them down to 180 feet. This species is well known because of the size and wide range of colors. The arms are short and thick and the body is thick and heavy. As you see from the close-up photo above it also has short knobby spines on the surface that form a net-like pattern, it’s so cool! When young, the color is olive green, later the color changes to brown, red or orange. Size: up to 45 cm in diameter.

I had one of my fastest rides this year last night with Stijn, man has he grown and become so strong!! Stijn is winning every race he enters and soon will be traveling around the Caribbean to race as well, he will be hard to beat! We only rode for an hour last night but at full race pace, I was so tired when I got home but it was such a great time!

I had a great walk this morning with Aimee before work as well, we carried two backpacks full of water out into the desert and watered our plants that we planted months ago, they really needed it.

That’s about it, going diving soon with Aimee, have a great day!!

Barry

Mar 26, 13     Comments Off on Black and White Crinoid, Nemaster grandis, Echinoderms

Good morning from one super dry island in the Caribbean!! Yes, I am still doing the rain dance and even washed my car which usually does the trick but so far nothing seems to be working. I was thinking last night that I will need to put up another watering hole out in the desert for the birds and Iguanas, that’s always a big hit and is easy to fill as we walk the dogs there day and night. I remember a few years back when it got so dry that Bonaire issued a plea to all residents to put out water for any animals in need and really it’s such a simple thing to do so why not??

Yesterday I did a super fun deep dive down to 150 feet just to photograph this spectacular Black and White Crinoid that I had seen the week before perched on the lip of a giant red vase sponge. Our reef here at the Sea Aquarium (Shipwreck Point) is so unique, it’s solid coral reef down to 140 feet and then it’s sand! This sandy area is only about 25 feet wide with a steep coral ledge at the end, this is where the darkness starts and our submarine adventures begin. These crinoids are living animals and honestly are one of the coolest creatures in the ocean, it’s one of those things you have to see to really believe. Crinoids, also known as feather stars are the most ancient of echinoderms. These animals have changed very little according to fossil records, and are often referred to as “living fossils”. Crinoids have small, flattened pentagon-shaped bodies with five arms that immediately fork one or more times, giving them a total of ten or more long arms in multiples of five. They also have numerous short appendages that extend along both sides of each arm creating a structure that resembles a feather. Skeletal ossicles give the arms a jointed appearance. Arms are used to sweep the water for particles of food. They adhere tightly, like Velcro, to anything that comes into contact with them and break easily. Fortunately, broken arms can be regenerated. Some crinoids can move short distances by swimming with coordinated arm movements, but most walk on jointed legs called “cirri”. Some species anchor inside narrow crevices with only their arms visible; others position themselves high atop coral heads and other reef structures like this beautiful vase sponge as seen above.

Busy day ahead, sub dive at 11:00 and a mountain bike ride with the fastest kid on the island Stijn, should be fun!!

Have a wonderful day all, Barry

 

Mar 25, 13     Comments Off on School of Fish, Bogas, Bonnetmouths, Inermia vittata

Good morning my friends, how was the weekend?? I had a great weekend filled with long bike rides, dog walks and building trails with Stijn, there was never a dull moment! The new trail is a crazy amount of work because of the steep hillside we have to cut across, meaning the banks need to be dug out and the only tool we have is a pick.

Our island continues to get dryer and dryer and everything green is dissapearing at an alarming rate! The weird thing is that we have had overcast skies for a few weeks now but with little to no moisture, maybe I need to wash the car then it will rain, it’s worth a try! 

Here are the Boga’s once again that reside in front of our Substation that are so much fun to swim with! This super large school of fish has been here now for about two years and seems to just love this area for some reason?? I usually go out and swim directly into their school pretending I am one of them and the weird thing is they just don’t care! On most days I am in the middle of the school just swimming around with them, they really love the bubbles that come from my regulator and many times chase them up to the surface, it’s pretty cool.

Well, we have a sub dive at 11:00 and wild dolphins were spotted yesterday at 10:00 passing by so I want to be ready.

Have a great Monday!!

Barry

Mar 22, 13     Comments Off on Night Diving Photo, Shipwreck Point Curacao, Wrecks

Good morning friends, it’s good o’l Friday!!! I had a super fun ride with Dorian last night and for once we went and did something different. Instead of tearing it up in the dirt and jumping from rock to rock we took to the streets and rode through the middle of town, it was great! We ended up riding to the Hilton and back and on the way climbed one of the steepest hills in Curacao near downtown Outrabanda. This climb I kid you not is straight up and is close to 500 feet, it’s a major grind for 10 minutes straight up and the view at the top is spectacular! Riding around the town on a mountain bike is such a blast because of all the fun obstacles like steps, curbs and walls to play around on, it’s like a concrete playground.

The above photo is another from last week when Aimee and I went out on a fun night-dive in front of the Sea Aquarium, it’s pretty much a non-stop adventure. The reef here is littered with old ship relics like this massive anchor that is hundreds of years old!! This anchor here is around 12-15 feet in length and must weigh multiple tons! I can always tell where I am at during the day or night when I find these, they are perfect underwater reference points. 

We have a sub dive at 11:00 this morning and after I will probably head back to the reef for a fun dive. 

Have a wonderful weekend all, I will be out trail building, walking dogs, bike ridding, collecting sea glass and entertaining the new puppy!!

Barry

Mar 21, 13     Comments Off on Banded Butterflyfish, Chaetodon striatus, Reef Scene

Good morning friends, I have a simple little “life on the Curacao reef” photo for you all today with a single Banded Butterflyfish, Chaetodon striatus hanging out in a little oral overhang. The main reason I took this photo is you never see one of these butterflyfish alone, they always are in pairs and this one here just seemed so lonely. This is a small section of the Sea Aquarium house reef or it’s old name, Shipwreck Point and it’s an area I dive almost every week. A few days ago I sent you a photo of a giant sea-fan at night with Aimee checking it out, well that sea fan is right behind this coral head at the top of the reef, look close and you can kind of see it.

It’s been very busy at the Substation this week with our new group of scientists from Australia who are concentrating their efforts on deep water corals. I just came up from 150 feet helping them return live corals that they collected yesterday with the sub. The goal is to see just how fast these corals can grow and then return in a year or so to check the progress, should be interesting.

Sorry so short, I have so much to do today plus get ready for a bike ride later this afternoon.

Be back soon, Barry

Mar 20, 13     Comments Off on Indiegogo, Seaval Shades, Custom Bamboo Sunglasses

Good morning from the Caribbean all!! Here’s something super cool for all of you out in cyber-land today, Bamboo Sunglasses!! Yes you read that right, sunglasses made from real bamboo, I mean how cool is this?? The story is; a teenager friend of mine here on the island, named Cival came up with this great idea and is now selling them after almost two years in the making. This is our friend Mandy from Holland showing off the pair she liked the most called “ORIGINAL EARLY BIRD (DP) on their website. The glasses as you see in the bottom photo come in natural or dark bamboo for the frames and with three different types on lens, amber, grey and electric blue and they all come with a super cool bamboo case. My favorite part about them is they float and second they are so light, you won’t even know your wearing them!! The glasses are half price for the first initial shipment so please take advantage of this, you only have around 13 days to get in on this introductory deal. For more information and to order your one of a kind bamboo sunglasses go to; www.Indiegogo.com/SEAVALShades

I had a great ride with Dorian last night, it was one of those rare nights when body and mind was really in tune with each other, it was like the perfect ride! Dorian is so much like Stijn and continues to surprise me each time, his riding skills are really getting tuned in. Stijn and Dorian both won their races last weekend again, these are really two of the fastest kids on the island and I had the pleasure of getting them started, how fun is that!

Well, we have a busy day planned with the sub and a bunch of coral scientists, I will try and send a few photos.

The new puppy is doing great, her hair is growing back now at full speed, you won’t believe the next photo I send!

Ok, get your glasses ordered and have a great day!

I’m out, Barry

Mar 19, 13     Comments Off on Shipwreck Point Curacao, Night Diving Shipwreck Point

Good morning folks, here’s another fun shot from the night dive we did last week here at Shipwreck Point or as many of you know it, the Sea Aquarium house reef. This is Aimee checking out our giant sea fan that has been here on the edge of the reef in around 35 feet of water since we have been here, that’s almost nine years! This spectacular soft coral surround by finger corals is such an important part of this reef especially at night, it serves as one of my main underwater navigational points and without it I would be getting lost a whole lot more. The sea fan itself is home to countless little crabs and shrimps and even tiny little fish but you really have get up close to see them. During the day it serves as a shelter or hiding spot for dozens of Blackbar Soldierfish which can be found on the West side at the base just about every single day.

We have had a whole now of overcast skies with rough seas and very little rain! I walked with the dogs this morning out on the trails and was shocked at how dry everything has become, it’s really turning into a desert fast!!

Sorry but not much to report today, I have to get to the sea!

Till tomorrow, Barry

Mar 18, 13     Comments Off on Whitespotted Filefish, Cantherhines macrocerus

Good morning friends, how was your weekend?? Mine was so busy but will spare you the details because I’m starting to sound like a broken record, it’s almost like everyday is Groundhog day here!!

My weekend highlight was getting to dive with Mark from the World famous “Dive Bus Hut” located right across the street from Breezes Hotel or as it’s called now, “Sunscape Hotel”. I love diving with Mark because we always find cool stuff, he has eyes like a hawk! One of the first things he showed me was this new, tiny black blenny that I have never seen before!! We both watched as this cute little thing with an electric blue stripe on it’s back popped it’s head in and out of it’s little hole in the side of a coral head, it was so cool! I will have to go back soon with my macro lens and get a photo and send it to the fish experts at the Smithsonian. The next thing we found were these two adult Whitespotted Filefish, Cantherhines macrocerus and we stayed with them for quite awhile. These fish as you see above are very curious fish and will swim around you if you are a good diver and just remain still. These incredible fish are also able to change colors in the blink of an eye, notice the one on the left has spots and the other doesn’t, cool huh, they can turn those spots on and off! Like many fish on the reef these filefish are usually always seen in pairs but trying to get the two together is not always an easy thing to do! We said good-bye and took off in search of other fish but any big fish we saw we were unable to approach, they saw us coming and said “see ya”!! I did get to see some nice looking colonies of endangered Elkhorns and Staghorn corals, I was happily surprised at how well they were doing and took a bunch of photos. On our way back Mark found a black seahorse on the sand and was swimming from one spot to another, so cool to see they feeding! So yet another fun dive with Mark, I tell everyone here that visits if you want to see stuff call the Dive Bus gang, you won’t be disappointed!

Yesterday evening I picked up Stijn and dorian and we went to work on the new trail for three hours, lots of work but it’s looking great!

Off to the ocean, have a wonderful day, Barry

Mar 15, 13     Comments Off on Purple Stove Pipe Sponges, Vase Sponge, Sponges

Good morning all, it’s almost weekend time!! My dance card is completely filled for the weekend with trail building and diving on Saturday and bike rides and diving on Sunday, it will go by so fast!!

I did a dive yesterday to photograph three “Drop-boxes” that were placed on the reef a few months ago by the folks from the Smithsonian. These boxes are placed at different depths and the purpose is to see what moves into them, kind of like little reef hotels and in a year they will be brought up and checked.

While I was out there I found this sexy little cluster of Purple Stove Pipe sponges growing out of a sponge vase and just had to stop for a photo! I swear these sponges are like an underwater traffic light that signals me to stop whatever I am doing and take their picture!! These sponges like others become 100 times more beautiful when artificial light is applied as seen here, they just come alive. Inside the sponges are black brittle stars waiting for darkness to fall while little gobies perch themselves all around the base waiting for a bigger fish to stop and be cleaned. Inside the vase sponge I found a hermit crab feeding and a little shrimp hiding along the lip, you would be amazed at how many little things call these sponges home!

Well, it’s off to the sea for me and tonight I have a bike ride so busy day ahead!

Have a great weekend, Barry

Mar 14, 13     Comments Off on Night Dive Shipwreck Point Curacao, Wreck Diving

Good morning friends, what a busy and fun day we had yesterday!! Our day started out with a fun walk with the dogs down to the newest trail that I built a few months ago and is now open. The trail seems to be getting a lot of use and it’s a blast to ride!! After our walk I went into work and tore my D-200 housing apart and took apart all the push pin buttons and replaced them all with new ones, you would be amazed at how corrosive salt can be! At 5:00 I did a mountain bike ride with my co-worker Bruce and got in a super fun hour and a half ride before dark. I then rode directly back to the Substation where Aimee met me at 7:00 for a super fun night dive. We are working on photos for an article in a dive magazine on “Shipwreck Point” which is what they call the Sea Aquarium house reef. The reef here is littered with all kinds of old ship relics like this giant propeller in today’s photo. Aimee and I swam around and found and photographed as many antique anchors as we could find and had such a great time! We also came across two giant green morays and a super big reef crab that was so much fun to watch. Other than the cold water it was great to once again be out in the ocean in the darkness, it’s still my #1 favorite thing to do here!!

We have a busy day ahead preparing the sub for our new coral scientists that are here now from Australia. I think the plan is to take them down tomorrow and all next week so stay tuned for more.

I have to go, Barry

Mar 13, 13     Comments Off on Apricot Bass, Plectranthias garrupellus, Rare Sea Bass

Good morning friends, this is for my fish collectors out there that know a rare fish when they see one!! This is the ultra rare, deep-water Apricot Bass, Plectranthias garrupellus found at around 450 feet!! This fish is so rare there is virtually nothing known about them and until recently one had never even been seen alive! If you Google Apricot Bass you will find only one or two photos and half of them are from me, all thanks to our new 1000 foot “Curasub” that has the technology to show these fish to the whole World. These are little sea basses and eat just about anything including small shrimps and crabs. This one here is only around 2 inches in length and like all small sea bass has a lot of attitude, he thinks he’s bigger than he really is!! 

Aimee arrived back home safe and sound last night at around 6:30 and said her trip was not so great. They were there as voluntears to sit on a boat all day and watch for wild dolphins and whales but in the end saw very little, she is very glad to be back home!

Not much else to report other than the little puppy is doing well, very little rain has fallen and we need it and we are keeping busy at the aquarium.

Have a great day, Barry

Mar 12, 13     Comments Off on Dead Hawksbill Turtle, Endangered Animals, Sea Turtles

Good morning readers, here’s something we hate to see and makes me feel sick every time I see one, a dead Hawksbill sea turtle! This was found on the East side of Klein Curacao just a few weeks ago when Nancy was here but I had actually found it a week or so before that. The last time we were on the island with the submarine I found this recently dead animal floating in the water and dropped everything to drag it’s shell onto shore and then the plan was to come back with a camera at a later date. How did it die you ask?? Good question, my two guesses are it either got hit by a boat or local fisherman caught it and ate it, I guess we will never know. Aimee and I have found many turtles along the shores here that have been caught and used for food, the word endangered means nothing here as it does around the World. The weirdest thing about this is the way the head is sticking out of it’s back, talk about eerie!! In the nine years we have been here we have noticed a major decline in these turtles, we just don’t see them very much anymore and at this rate the numbers will continue to fall.
 
The hawksbill turtle grows to lengths of 3.5 feet long and weights of up to 180 pounds. Hawksbill turtles were named for the shape of their beak, which looks similar to the beak of a bird like an eagle, parrot or hawk just to name a few.
Recent studies showed that 95% of a hawksbill’s diet is made up of sponges. In the Caribbean, these turtles feed on more than 300 sponge species. This is an interesting food choice as sponges have a skeleton made of needle-shaped spicules (made of silica, which is glass, calcium or protein), which essentially means, “a hawksbill’s stomach is filled with small glass shards.” And although sponges are their favorite food they also eat sea squirts, soft corals, shellfish, sea-grasses and seaweeds.
A female Hawksbill turtle can travel up to 2400 kilometers (1500 miles) between feeding and breeding grounds. They only breed once every two to four years but during the breeding season they may nest up to six times, laying about 130 eggs in each clutch. The sex of the hatchlings depends on the temperature in the nest.

After hatching, the baby turtles swim out to sea for several days. They then spend the next five to ten years drifting around in surface waters at the mercy of ocean currents, and they feed mainly on plankton. They are often found in huge rafts of drifting sargassum, a type of brown seaweed, where they are probably best able to hide from potential predators. Once they reach lengths of 30 or 40 centimeters they settle in one particular area around coral or rocky reef.

Well, busy day ahead, we have two sub dives to start the day!!

See you tomorrow, Barry

 

 

Mar 11, 13     Comments Off on Worlds Smallest Slit-shell, Tiny Slit shell, Live Slit-shell

Good morning friends or should I say Good afternoon?? Sorry for the late start it has been a crazy morning starting at 4:50! I am not having much fun with the new puppy especially since Aimee has been gone, I’ve never seen an animal that needs so much attention! Because of her horrible skin problem I bath her 2-3 times a day in oatmeal which seems to relive the pain for about 30 minutes and then the scratching starts again. Besides the skin, she eats non-stop and has to go outside every 15-20 minutes to unload everything I just put in, this puppy-sitting is for sure a full time job! So with all that said my weekend was spent close to home. Saturday morning I went and worked on yet another new trail and then spent the day at home. Sunday I took off on my bike at 7:00am and got in a long and very tiring two hour ride. This loop I usually ride is almost all into the wind which make you feel like your standing still at times but the surroundings make up for it!! Sunday evening I picked up Stijn and Dorian and put them to work on our newest trail, this one won’t be finished for about six months at the pace we are going!

Here is our newest find, a mega tiny, Pleurotomariidae Quoyanus, this could be the smallest live slit-shell ever found. We currently have them (we have 3) alive in the deep-water lab and they seem to be doing great!! This is again by far one of the rarest shells on our planet and as small as this one is… well, it’s sure to be a bit hit!!

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 “living fossils” 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 have to get home and take puppy in for her weekly shot, will be glad when Aimee gets back tomorrow night!!

Have a wonderful day, Barry

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