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.

General

Archive for August, 2013

Aug 29, 13     Comments Off on Yellow Crowned Night Heron, Nyctanassa violacea

This has been such a busy week that in order to get any riding in I left the house at 6:00am yesterday and got in a two hour ride before work, that’s a first!! I then spent the rest of the day with photo shoots and working in the deep-water lab and again came home wiped out!

Hope all is well out there, have a great weekend!!!!

Barry

 

Aug 28, 13     Comments Off on Eating Lionfish, Fried Lionfish, Lionfish Recipes
Aug 27, 13     Comments Off on Blue Tang Aggregation, School of Colorful Fish
Aug 27, 13     Comments Off on Ocean Mysteries with Jeff Corwin, Curacao Substation
Aug 25, 13     Comments Off on Tiger Tail Sea Cucumber, Holothuria thomasi
Aug 23, 13     Comments Off on King Neptune Sculpture at Playa Piskado, Curacao
Aug 22, 13     Comments Off on Lady of the Night Cactus Flowers, Cereus repandus

Good morning friends, sorry about the NO-BLOG yesterday (thursday) but I honestly had no time! So to kind of get you caught up, Wednesday evening our friend Kees (pronounced Case) called and said his giant cactus that he has in his back yard was about to explode with flowers for the second time this year and invited us to come watch the show, again, it’s great to have friends!! We arrived at 7:30 that evening to see the flowers of the Cereus repandus just starting to open as seen in the top photo and by 10:00 the show was on! Aimee was shooting away on the ladder and I raced around the base snapping away as fast as I could, it was out of this World fantastic!!!! The third photo was a major team effort as Aimee and Kees both took turns holding a flashlight trying to illuminate a single flower, not as easy as it sounds. Because of a light breeze we ended up having to do 1.6 second exposure multiple times and by multiple times I mean it took 30 minutes of shooting, it was a bit frustrating!!! There was a full moon as well but I just couldn’t quite get that in the photo, this giant blooming cactus was hard enough to light up with a single flash. The combination of a perfectly timed tropical downpour and the full moon is most likely what inspires this cactus to bloom and it was a show that only lasts one night, by morning they are all gone! The locals here call this plant, Dama di Anochi which translates to Lady of the Night. In Spanish it’s called; Dama de Noche. Turns out the real name is, Cereus repandus or the Peruvian Apple Cactus. Cereus repandus, is a large, erect, thorny columnar cactus found in South America as well as the nearby ABC Islands of the Dutch Caribbean. It is also known as Giant Club Cactus, Hedge Cactus, cadushi, (in Wayuunaiki and kayush.

With an often tree-like appearance, the Peruvian Apple Cactus’ cylindrical gray-green to blue stems can reach 10 metres (33 ft) in height and 10-20 cm in diameter. The nocturnal flowers remain open for only one night. The fruits, known locally as pitaya or Peruvian Apple, are thornless and vary in skin colour from violet-red to yellow. The edible flesh is white and contains small, edible, crunchy seeds. The flesh sweetens as the fruit opens out fully.

Cereus repandus is an unresearched, under-utilized cactus, grown mostly as an ornamental plant. As noted above, it has some local culinary importance. The Wayuu from the La Guajira Peninsula of Colombia and Venezuela also use the inner cane-like wood of the plant in wattle and daub construction.

Hope all is well out there and your having a wonderful summer!

Barry

Aug 20, 13     Comments Off on Playa Forti Dive Site Curacao, Natural Reef Ball
Aug 19, 13     Comments Off on Purple Stove Pipe Sponges, Aplysina archeri, Curacao

 

Aug 19, 13     Comments Off on Deep-Sea Creatures, Pawsonaster parvus, Starfish

Good morning friends, did you a great weekend, I sure hope so because it’s go-time again! I had a great weekend and got to spend the whole day with one of the Worlds top Paleontologists named Kirk Johnson who is now the new director of the Smithsonian!!  Kirk and I go way back and first met at a T-Rex dig in South Dakota, I was digging bones, he was looking for the fossil leaves around the bones. Then years later I donated a double-Didymocerous specimen to him and the Denver Museum of Natural History that is currently on display in the semi-new Prehistoric Journeys exhibit. We have been trying to get Kirk and his wife down here for years and now that he is part of the largest museum in the World we may be seeing him a bit more. I met them at 7:00 Saturday morning and off we went to climb the tallest peak on Curacao called Mount Christoffel which is located on the West end of our little island. The drive takes around an hour, costs about $12.50 to get in and the hike up takes about an hour and a half, it’s something I send everyone to do if visiting because the view is so breathtaking! When we got to the parking lot at 8:00 it was packed full, this is one of those Curacao activities one should get to when the gates open because of how fast it warms up around here! Also, take a lot of water, a dry pair of clothes, good shoes, NO flip-flops and bring a hat, this can be a very difficult hike. For those of that know me, if I go anywhere I carry a ton of camera gear and this hike was no different! Normally there are lots of birds to be photographed at the summit but on this trip we saw very few. Also, it was a bit dry and the bromeliads we found had already bloomed and only a few still had the red colors, I will send a photo this week to better explain. So in the end I carried 20 pounds worth of gear up the mountain and hardly used any of it but none of that mattered because of the company I was with, I mean who gets to go hiking with Kirk Johnson, it was fantastic! Once back down to the parking lot we drove straight to Playa Forti and ate lunch at the restaurant that overlooks the whole coast, talk about a scenic place to dine! Kirk had Lionfish and they brought out the whole fish fried on the plate, we both jumped up and grabbed our cameras, it was that cool! After lunch we headed to an area called Willibrodus where we stopped and watched the flamingoes feeding out in a well known historic area built by slaves. The rest of the day was spent collecting sea-glass and relaxing and in the evening took the dogs out for a long, fun walk along the coast.

Sunday, I left the house at 6:00am and did a fast paced, three hour, 35 mile mountain bike ride to the North coast and back hitting every trail I could find, it was fun from start to finish!! I then had to be into work at 10:00 for a dive with the sub and the folks from “Yachting Magazine” who are doing a story for the Nov/Dec issue, will keep you posted on that. At 4:00 I took the dogs out for a two hour hike and carried a ton of water to water the frangipani plants we planted out there months ago. So that was pretty much my weekend, what did you all do??

I do have a blue-light photo in the new issue of Sport Diver that is on the stands now, so get out there and grab a copy, it’s good reading!!

The creatures above were found by the Smithsonian at Play Forti a few days ago in the mini-sub/submersible. As soon as I get the depths and names I post those and update this immediately. I do know the smaller, one inch starfish in photo #3 is called, Pawsonaster parvus, talk about a cool little creature and NO they do not have arms.

Lots to, more scientists just arrived from the Smithsonian and the sub is getting ready to leave, talk to you more tonight.

Barry

Aug 15, 13     Comments Off on Sharptail EEL Stuck in a Beer Bottle, Saving Animals

We all woke up Thursday morning to the smell of fresh omelets and coffee made by our Substation crew member Tico, I already told him he needs to open his own restaurant! After breakfast I got my dive gear ready, my underwater housing out and built up and got one of my small aquariums ready for anything new that might be found. I didn’t know it, but before bed the Smithsonian put a light trap out in the open ocean and in the morning came back with the contents. A light trap attracts tiny pelagic fish and creatures and really without a contraption like this scientists would never know what many of these new-borns look like. One of the coolest things they had caught overnight was a tiny, one inch, see-through flounder that was probably about 25 days old and yes I got a photo and will send it out, he’s so cool! The other items in the bucket included a baby flying gurnard, a weird see-through shrimp, strange looking little crabs and dozens of little reef fish that were just born, it was a great way to kick off the morning! After that I got a ride to shore and did a quick photo-shoot of the ship lifting our sub into the water, it was very scenic with the limestone cliffs and calm water. I then raced back to the beach, signaled the boat, and within five minutes had my dive gear on and was in the water waiting for the sub to launch. Since we were parked quite a distance from the reef I held onto the sub and let them pull me out to where we did our fun photo-shoot with the scientists which usually only takes a few minutes. After waving good-by I figured since I am out here why not do some exploring and put this camera to good use. I found countless purple stove-pipe sponges, in fact maybe the most I have seen in one area and yes I tried to shoot them all! I ended up doing a nice hour dive and found so much cool stuff here, I will definitely be back soon to do some more reef photos but this time bring a model. When I got back to the ship it was very quiet, the Smithsonian was either in the sub or out diving collecting specimens. So since I had a little time I grabbed the tiny pelagic flounder and did my best to get a photo which was not easy as I thought it would be and I realized I need to be much more prepared next time for such tiny things! During my shoot and just as the sub was returning, our new intern Laila shows up with her mom who had driven from town and wanted to join in the fun. We helped them out the water and pulled all their dive gear aboard and seconds later the sub returns with finds from the deep. Three of the creatures they found I brought back live to Curacao last night, one was a large Pearlfish found in the anus of a sea-cucumbber and other two things were cool-looking sea-stars, I will be in the lab this morning shooting those. Carol Baldwin, (Smithsonian fish expert) was of course mainly interested in the fish they brought up and was racing around getting those specimens photographed and processed and thinks they may have a few new finds. Along with the fish the sub always bring up bottles filled with little crabs and deep-water shells which will go home with the Smithsonian as well for their collections. Within 30 minutes of the sub returning the next tour was getting underway, which meant I needed to be back in the water for a second photo-shoot. This time I was joined by Laila, her mom and a bunch of scientists and after photographing the sub I joined the group for a super fun dive on the reef. I again raced around from sponge to sponge and each one seemed to be better than the next, I just love this place! This brings us to your photo’s of the day!! On our way back, in about 30 feet of water I could see what looked like a dead eel with it’s belly up???? As I got closer I could now see that it was in fact a Sharptail eel, stuck in a beer bottle and at this point I thought is was dead because it was laying motionless and belly-up!!! I quickly swam down and grabbed it’s very slimy body and picked it up and to my surprise it moved?? I then used my hand to wipe the bottle to see it’s head and sure enough it was not only alive, it was major stuck and looked like it had been in there for quite awhile!! Eels are super slippery and it was impossible to hold onto it’s body and pull, thankfully Laila’s mom came to the rescue. She quickly swam down and grabbed the bottle (photo 2) and I pulled! What I ended up having to do was to grab handfuls of sand and put the sand around his body to help with the gripping! At one point I thought there was no way he was coming out and I actually was thinking how we could break the glass. Finally after many attempts the eel started to move and once we got it moving we kept pulling and then “presto” he was free! We watched as he slowly swam off and didn’t seem to be harmed at all, I’m sure just very hungry!! I always tell divers, pick up bottles but first shake out anything alive inside, these things like all trash are death traps!! Once back to the ship we started packing up our gear for the return trip back and about an hour later the sub returned again with more cool finds from the deep. I think we ended up leaving around 3:00 yesterday, it was a beautiful trip back along the coast and everyone was wiped out from a long day of adventures!

I have to get to the lab, have a great day and a wonderful weekend!!

Barry

 

Aug 14, 13     Comments Off on Brittle Stars on Purple Sponge, Caribbean Sponges
Aug 13, 13     Comments Off on Smithsonian’s ARMS-Deep Reef Monitoring Project

.Good morning all, our 2nd week of working with the Smithsonian group is underway and going well!! Yesterday they took the sub out and down to 180 feet and collected two of the three ARMS (Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures) that were placed in an area called Jeff’s Ledge one year ago. “The ARMS act as small condominiums for reef life and the longer they are left down the more creatures that will move in”. For this dive we sent down two of our best deep-divers (one was the owner Dutch) who helped pick-up the boxes (they look like milk crates) and load them onto the front of the sub, for the rest of the crates that are still at 400 and 735 feet the sub will be use it’s robotic arms. After the two ARMS crates were loaded onto the front of the sub in our big collecting basket they headed back to the surface and at 60 feet encountered yours truly with his big underwater camera. Before they hauled all these goodies to the lab I wanted to do a fun photo-shoot of the crates in the sub with Chris Meyer and Nancy Knowlton peering out at them through the large dome (photo 1 & 2). Once the crates arrive at the surface they are quickly taken out of the water and submerged in waiting tubs and hauled off to the labs, now begins the real fun. Lee Weigt of the Smithsonian carefully opens the crates (photo 3) and places each different panel (there are 10) in it’s own shallow tray of water (photo 4), (photo 5) shows the encrusted panels laying in their trays waiting to be processed. Chris Meyer then photographs each one of the 10 panels (photo 6). (Photo 7) shows Cristina Castillo and Nancy Knowlton carefully filtering out any live creatures that fell out of the ARMS crates while removing the panels. (Photo 8 ) is a close-up shot of the live creatures that were found in the ARMS, you can see shrimps, fish, brittle-stars, and on and on!! (Photo 9) is the group looking through their live finds and getting them ready to photograph. The last photo is the whole group in the “ARMS processing lab gently scraping the panels and removing samples, this is a long process and takes countless hours to achieve.

Here is a link to the Smithsonian’s site and the ARMS project, and if you have questions let me know and I can ask them directly.  http://ocean.si.edu/blog/uncovering-biodiversity-arms-and-submarine-claw

Tomorrow we are headed to the West end of the island with the Chapman and the sub in search of new finds so I will be off-line for a day or two.

Take care out there, I have to run, Barry

Aug 11, 13     Comments Off on Deep Sea Flounders, Pleuronectiformes, Flat Fishes

Good evening friends, how was your weekend??? Mine again disappeared in a blink of eye and I’m sitting here now trying to recall everything I did??? Saturday morning I left the house at 6:30am and did my weekly three hour mountain bike ride through the wilds of Curacao. During the ride I encountered numerous short rain storms which wasn’t bad enough to stop riding but created some areas of mud that I could have done without! Once home and cleaned up I spent the rest of the day running errands and for once just stayed home and relaxed a little. In the evening we took the dogs on a fun hike to the salt ponds but ended up spending most of our time cleaning up trash along the shore! Today (Sunday) I met the Smithsonian scientists at work at 8:30am and did a dive with them to pick up three of their DROP BOXES they placed on the reef a year ago. These are milk crate looking contraptions that are placed on the reef and encourage tiny reef visitors to move in, like little shrimps, tiny fish, urchins, sea stars and the list goes on and on. This is one way new species and specimens are found and collected. Once the boxes arrive at the surface they are placed in water and hauled off to our deep-water processing labs where the scientists carefully open the crates and see who is living inside, you would be amazed at what cool stuff was in there! So while they were busy underwater picking up these big heavy crates I was there with my camera to document it all and I promise I will send you some photos to better understand this whole thing. After my dive I met the scientists in the lab and photographed them doing what they do, which means opening those crates and unloading all the cool little live creatures, you can’t believe how much work it takes to just go through one of those boxes! The rest of my day was spent out walking with the dogs and doing trail work, that’s kind of my weekend in a nutshell.

Last week I talked about the two very cool and very different flat fish/flounders the Smithsonian found last week in the new deep-sea “Curasub” and finally, here they are. The first and second photo show the flounder that was found at 850 feet and the last photo is the weird looking flounder from 750 feet, talk about weird looking! Flounders are unique, flat fishes that actually lie on their sides, not their stomachs. While in their pelagic larval stage the tiny flounders have typical bilateral fish-shaped bodies, properly aligned fins and one eye on each side of their head. Just before settling to the shallow or deep seafloor, muscles, skin, blood vessels and bones slowly shift into the flattened shape of a benthic juvenile with both eyes on the upper side of their bodies. The eye protrudes noticeably, sometimes appearing to be raised on short, thick stalks. Their exposed pectoral fin is more than a dorsal fin, while the dorsal and anal fins almost ring the rounded body. Flounders can change, lighten or darken their colors to blend with the bottom. Many enhance their camouflage by partly burying themselves in sand or mud. They glide over the bottom with a slight wave-like motion. Many of the flounders are difficult to distinguish like these two deep-water specimens, but with careful attention to subtle markings, many can be identified.

Off to bed, have a great Monday out there!!

Barry

Aug 9, 13     Comments Off on Sargassumfish, Histrio histrio, Sargassum Frogfish

Good morning from the island of no wind called Curacao!!!! Yes, it’s official the wind is gone and it’s HOT!! I seriously take back all the bad things I said about the wind in the past few months, this calm, hot and humid thing is not a whole lot of fun, I think I took 10 showers yesterday just to cool down and rinse off!!

The Smithsonian continues to find new cool stuff everyday in our mini-sub called the “Curasub” which can explore and collect down to 1000 feet. Yesterday the scientists stayed under for almost 6 hours exploring the reef out in front of the Sea Aquarium!! The find of the day was a small goby and another strange deep-water squirrelfish that I will go photograph right after I post this in the deep-water labs. I did get permission to show you some of these new fish they found so next week I will be posting those.

As promised I have a spectacular Sargassum Frogfish for your viewing pleasure today. First off I want to explain what sargassum is. Sargassum is a genus of brown (class Phaeophyceae) macroalgae (seaweed) in the order Fucales. Numerous species are distributed throughout the temperate and tropical oceans of the world, where they generally inhabit shallow water and coral reefs. However, the genus may be best known for its planktonic (free-floating) species. While seaweed may be viewed as nothing more than a smelly nuisance by many beach-goers and sunbathers, it provides important habitat and food for marine life. Sargassum, also known as “gulf weed,” provides critical nursery habitat for many species of fish, crabs, shrimp and other invertebrates, as well as endangered sea turtles. Some of the fish seeking shelter amongst the brown algae include larval and juvenile tuna, dolphin fish (mahi mahi), wahoo, and several species of billfish. The floating algae provides the young with shelter from predators and also food. Later, some of the same fish will return to the sargassum as adults looking for small fish to feed on.

In Curacao our sargassum float resides a long way off shore (about a mile) and drifts with the waves and current out in the open sea. If we get a big storm, like Omar, the sargassum float will be pushed into shore leaving many creatures and animals stranded on the reef or along the rocks. If the water is calm like it is now you can jump overboard with a mask, swim around and under the floating sargassum/seaweed and view all the different baby fish, crabs and turtles that use this stuff for protection. This brings us to the photo of the day. This is one of the coolest fish in the sea called a Sargassumfish or better known as a Sargassum Frogfish that resides and spends it’s whole life in the floating seaweed. It’s little 2 inch body looks just like the sargassum and blends into it’s floating environment better than any creature I have seen!! Yesterday when we were looking for him we couldn’t even see him, we had to move the sargassum around just to find him, he blended in so well and will not move unless noticed. These frogfish will hang or hook themselves to the sargassum and then just wait for an unsuspecting little fish or crab to pass by, it’s so unfair it’s not even funny!! As we watched him yesterday he also went through multiple color changes depending on his background, I tell you this is one of the coolest fish I have ever seen!! We found this guy in a small piece of sargassum that was floating by the Sea Aquarium in our shallow channel, this is strange because there was only this one small piece?? It’s amazing if you think about all these beautiful creatures, mostly babies floating in seaweed out above the deep ocean with no bottom or reef in sight?? Talk above brave!! I get scared just diving out there because you never know what is below you, I mean it’s thousands of feet deep!!

I have to get to the labs and photograph the new fish from yesterday!!

Have a wonderful day, Barry

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