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 September, 2013

Sep 30, 13     Comments Off on Sleeping Parrotfish, Sleeping Stoplight Parrotfish
Sep 27, 13     Comments Off on Free Swimming Caribbean Reef Octopus at Night
Sep 26, 13     Comments Off on Free Swimming Caribbean Reef Octopus, Curacao
Sep 25, 13     Comments Off on Coral Spawning in Curacao, Spawning Star Corals
Sep 24, 13     Comments Off on Soft Corals, Gorgonians, East Point Dives, Curacao
Sep 23, 13     Comments Off on Pelagic Fish, Pelagic Peacock Flounder, Bothus lunatus

Good morning all, how was your weekend?? As promised weeks ago, I have a rarely seen, pelagic baby flounder for you all day, talk about cool!! This was discovered by the Smithsonian using a state of the art “light trap” that was placed out in the ocean and left there overnight. For those of you wondering what a light trap is, it’s a long floating net with very fine mesh with a waterproof light attached to one end. Light traps float at the surface and attract new-born pelagic fish and creatures and really without a device like this scientists would never know what baby fish look like. So the evening we were parked at Playa Forti with the “Chapman Research Vessel” and our mini-submersible called the “Curasub” Carole Baldwin of the Smithsonian took the light trap out and tied it to a floating buoy which was about 100 feet above the reef. The next morning I was one of the first awake and saw the light trap way out at the edge of the reef with the light still on and wondered what was inside?? As soon as Carole woke she jumped in our small boat and took off to collect the trap which only took a few minutes. Inside was this beautiful, one inch translucent flounder as you see above and without the black background that I placed under him you would have never seen it, I tell you he was almost invisible!! The blueish color you see on his body was not visble to the naked eye, this was brought out by the flashes, cool huh?? Along with this flounder, there was also a see-thru pelagic shrimp, a pelagic flying gurnard, lots of baby sharpnose puffers (which I set free) and many assorted pelagic reef fish but I did not get photos of everything. For the flounder I took him up to my room on the ship and photographed him on a piece of glass that was submerged in an 8th inch of water. I then slid a piece of black velvet under that and shot away, the hardest thing was getting him to sit still, if he moved I couldn’t find him, he was that translucent!!

Peacock flounders swim close to shore in the late winter and early spring to breed. The females lay two to three million eggs each year. After the females lay the eggs, the males fertilize them. Flounders are pelagic spawners, which means they gather in groups in areas where the fertilized eggs will be taken by the currents. The eggs float in the epipelagic zone or the zone in the open ocean near the surface. The fertilized eggs float, but as the young develop, the eggs sink. It takes 15 days for the eggs to hatch. For the next four to six months, the larvae or the newly hatched fish float free in the pelagic or open ocean environment. The larvae may even float hundreds of miles from where they were laid. It’s during this time that the eye on the right side of the body begins to move so that both eyes settle on the left side.

The peacock flounder changes its color and the pattern on its skin to exactly match the sea floor. One of the eyes recognizes the pattern of its surroundings. If this eye is covered by sand, the peacock flounder can’t camouflage itself. Each eye can move independently, seeing forward and back at the same timePeacock flounders are covered in spots. The dorsal or back side is trimmed in dark flower-like spots on the dorsal surface that have blue borders. Because of their spots, the peacock flounder is also called the flower flounder. This flounder can be 20 inches (50 cm) long.

The eyes stick up from just the dorsal side of the body and there is a wide space between them. One of the eyes is closer to the mouth than the other. The eyes are raised up on short stumps to give the peacock flounder a good view of its surroundings from the ocean floor. Each eye moves on its own, meaning each one can look in one direction while the other looks in the other direction. This not only helps the flounder watch out for predators, but it also helps the flounder look for a quick snack.

Like other animals, a baby flounder has an eye on each side of its face. But as the fish grows, one eye moves until both eyes sit together on the same side of its head. The mouth doesn’t move though, giving this fish a crooked-looking face. Flounders even swim upright like most other fish until they mature. Then flounders swim sideways, making it easier to lay flat on the bottom.

The side of the body that is left eyeless doesn’t ever get the coloration of the wildly patterned and colored topside. It is a uniform tan colorIn shallow waters, peacock flounders live on sandy bottoms of coastal coral reefs and lagoons. Sometimes, these fish take a break on smooth rocks. This flounder will even bury itself under the sand, leaving only its eyes sticking out from the sand.

I raced in the Dutch Championships on Sunday but sadly did not finish!! This was a 5 lap, 20 mile race that started at 8:00 and I was still going at 9:30 and man was it HOT!? I did well the first three laps and had the winner in sight, but on lap number four crashed into a big rock and landed in a cactus all thanks to a novice ridder in front of me who was unable to stay on his bike on a sharp corner. Stijn ended up winning and I can’t even tell you how proud we all are of him, this was a hard race!! I had ice on my elbow all day and in the evening Aimee helped dig thorn after thorn out of my arm, boy is it swollen today!!

Have a great week all, Barry

Sep 20, 13     Comments Off on Lionfish, Caribbean Lionfish, Invasive Animals
Sep 19, 13     Comments Off on Underwater Photographer Holding a Camera in Curacao

Good morning friends, sorry about the no blog yesterday but I took the day off and was never around a computer. Aimee and I took the dogs to Saint Joris bay yesterday morning and thought if we got there early we would beat the heat, not the case! By 8:00 we were already soaked to the bone from the lack of wind and 110% humidity, it was insane! The dogs were having fun but pretty much just running from one shady spot to another while Aimee and I worked as a team planting baby agave plants along one of the trails. After about an hour of sweating and digging we finally arrived back to the bay where the dogs ran to and jumped in, you would have thought we had been out there all day! After cooling down we did another quick photo-shoot with some floating volcanic rocks that we found along the beach and YES, I promise those will be on the way to you all soon.

In the evening we did another super fun night dive and had another close-encounter of the octopus kind. We have been finding so many octopus lately and most of them like this one above could care less about us being there. I tell a lot of divers that if you have the time and your not with a big group, stop and just hangout with one of these creatures for awhile, you won’t be disappointed! They are the undisputed masters of disguise, they can change colors in the blink of an eye and are some of the most intelligent creatures in the sea especially when it comes to hunting! We watched this one last night as it swam up to small coral heads and then covered the whole thing with it’s body so nothing could escape, it was unreal to watch!!

Aimee is using a Nikon D-7000 inside an Ikelite housing, Ikelite DS-161 strobes and their NEW, super cool, silver focus light which attaches nicely to the top of the housing on an easy to use flex-arm. The sleek flashlight comes in three colors, red, black and silver and is a must for all divers or snorkelers, here’s the link to get yours, www.ikelite.com

We have a busy day ahead!!

Barry

Sep 17, 13     Comments Off on Shipwreck Point, Sea Aquarium House Reef, Curacao
Sep 16, 13     Comments Off on Underwater Photographer in Action, Swimming Octopus

Good morning from wet Curacao!! Yes, we are getting more rain and the island is quickly turning green again, good for the plants and animals bad for bikers!! We have been glued to the television watching the floods in Boulder Colorado and in New Mexico, what a mess!! The news said this flood of water was of Biblical proportion and the last time this had happened was over a 100 years ago, if you haven’t been following it go to You-Tube and check it out!

So talk about your close-encounters of the cephalopod kind???? Friday evening Aimee and I took off on a super fun night dive in front of our very own Substation. Diving here is about as easy as diving gets, we are 30 feet from the ocean and have a ladder to get in and out and a pool to rinse in after, what more could you ask for?? Our goal for the next few weeks is get some photos of the new high-tec dive lights that were just sent to us from Ikelite, they would like to see them in action and want to use the photos for promotion. So out we went into the darkness at around 7:30 and the first thing we found at 75 feet was a beautiful Caribbean reef octopus and ended up staying with him for the whole dive. Many times we find an octopus and get to take a few photos and then usually it’s, “poof” they are gone but not this one, he or she let us shoot away and could have cared less we were there! After around 10 minutes the octopus made his way to the top of a small colony of giant star coral and then without warning leaped onto Aimee’s camera!!!! They say a picture is worth a thousand words and I say the expression on her face says it all, this is why night diving rocks!! Once he attached himself to the camera he must have not liked the texture much because he immediately let go and went back to hunting. We ended up just laying on the sand watching him for the whole dive and in the end hated to leave, I think I saw Aimee even blow him a kiss as we left!!

My weekend was filled with biking, hiking, dog walks and beach combing, really what else does one need!!

I just got back from a super fun dive with a friend, that’s why it’s taking all day to get this out to you!!

See you tomorrow, Barry

Sep 13, 13     Comments Off on Baby Caribbean Reef Squid, Sepioteuthis sepioidea
Sep 12, 13     Comments Off on Jack Hannah in Curacao, Into the Wild, Jungle Jack

Good morning gang, we had a fantastic day with Jack Hannah yesterday and it’s safe to say we all hated to see him go!! Jack and his crew are here filming all kinds of cool stuff in Curacao like our local batts, flamingos, dolphins, sea-lions and the sub and when I find out when it airs I will let you know. The top two photos are of Jack and our Boss Dutch who took off down to 560 feet in search of new species of fish to collect and film. In the back of the sub, (you can’t see them) was his wife Suzi, the cameraman plus Bruce in the middle as the pilot. The third photo is our pilot Bruce and Jack posing together before the sub was hoisted into it’s floating platform. The fourth photo shows Jack being filmed and getting ready to climb in, his wife Suzi in the blue and orange jacket watching, the Go-Pro gang and Mark from the World Famous Dive Bus Hut (lower left), and our crew doing what they can to either help or stay out of the way. The fifth photo is myself and Aimee with Jack and Suzi and the last is just Jack and Suzi, talk about a great couple!! I learned yesterday that “EVERYONE LOVES JACK”!!! I watched on as he signed countless autographs and posed for countless photos and all with a sincere smile on his face, the guy should run for President!!

John Bushnell “Jack” Hanna (born January 2, 1947) is an American zookeeper who is the Director Emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. He was Director of the zoo from 1978 to 1993, and is viewed as largely responsible for elevating its quality and reputation. His media appearances, particularly with David Letterman, have made him one of the most notable animal experts in the United States. Hanna, nicknamed “Jungle Jack”, is known for his khaki safari outfit, deep tan, and Southern accent.

Hanna published his autobiography, Monkeys on the Interstate in 1989. He has published many books for children as well. He has been the host of the syndicated television show Jack Hanna’s Animal Adventures from 1993 to 2008, Jack Hanna’s Into The Wild (2009-2010) and Jack Hanna’s Wild Countdown since 2011. Hanna also occasionally contributes commentary as an animal expert on various local and national news programs, and has done guest spots on other shows such as Larry King Live, Nancy Grace, Maury, and Hollywood Squares. He was also named one of the “50 Most Beautiful People” by People magazine in 1996. Hanna also appeared in Neal McCoy’s 2005 music video for “Billy’s Got His Beer Goggles On” with a Hyacinth Macaw, a sloth and an albino burmese python. Hanna, along with Emmy-award winning musician Mark Frye, released an album through Virgin Records in 1996 entitled Jack Hanna’s World.

For those of who don’t know, Jack has a new TV show, Jack Hanna’s Wild Countdown, and it has started airing on Saturday mornings on ABC affiliates around the country! Tune in to see some of his favorite experiences with the World’s rarest, most endearing, and fascinating animals! You’ll even get to see his very own base camp at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

Don’t worry – they are still filming for Into the Wild and have many exciting adventures to share! The fifth season of the show will be airing this fall and in November the crew is headed to Africa for more WILD adventures. Check out www.jhitw.com to see when and where the show airs near you!

These two TV series exist because of his longstanding partnerships with his title sponsors, Nationwide Insurance and the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. They have  been working together for decades to protect and spread the word about wildlife conservation.://www.jackhanna.com

We were also joined by Karen and Adam from Go-Pro (http://gopro.com) are here on the island testing some new top-secret stuff that I am sworn to secrecy about!! Before the sub left they covered the sub with Go-Pro’s inside and out. The sub then went down to about 230 feet and when they came back we took them all off but left one running inside with Jack. As they were packing up Adam hands me two Go-Pro’s for us to keep!!!?? I almost fell over in shock and can hardly wait to put in on my mountain bike for the ride tonight! Thanks again guys, come back any time!!

We also did a super fun night dive last night with Mark from the World famous Dive Bus, his two guests from Go-Pro (Adam and Karen) and my dearest Aimee, it was a blast!!

Have a wonderful day. Barry

Sep 10, 13     Comments Off on Peacock Flounder, Bothus lunatus, Bothidae
Sep 9, 13     Comments Off on Sea Fans, Common Sea Fans, Gorgonia ventalina

Good morning readers, here are four, beautiful Common Sea Fans, Gorgonia ventalina that we found along the walls of the East coast this weekend. For those of you that have been with me diving you know if I have a camera you pretty much won’t see me till the end of the dive!! This is the curse of the underwater photographer, you get to dive a lot but you don’t necessarily take the time to soak it all in because your too busy racing around the reef trying to get as many beautiful images as possible in an hour! This was the case at Eastpoint, and I am sure many of my fellow divers were watching me thinking, “slow down buddy, you can’t shoot them all”! From the second I submerged to the moment we had to ascend I was racing back and forth on the reef from one beautiful reef scene to another and was amazed that each new shot was better then the last.

Sea fans grow attached to the seabed and look like exotic plants. Unlike soft corals, they have a supporting skeleton that provides a framework and allows them to grow quite large. It is made mainly of a flexible, horny material and consists of a rod that extends down the inside of all except the smallest branches. In the common sea fan, the branches are mostly in one plane and form a mesh that is aligned at right angles to the prevailing current. This increases the amount of planktonic food brought within reach of the polyps, which are arranged all around the branches. Here is Curacao if you want to see sea fans you need to get to our North coast where they grow like weeds! In Bonaire it’s the East Coast that is filled with forests of sea fans and is a favorite spot for sea turtles and schools of fish. These beautiful underwater corals really need strong current and seem to love the surge from passing waves. There really are not a lot of sea fans on the South side of Curacao but we do have a beauty in front of the Sea Aquarium that has been there since we arrived 10 years ago and has managed to survive countless big storms.

The hermit crabs are really out on the trails in numbers right now due to these on and off hard rains we have been getting. During these rains fossil shells wash out from the sides of the banks providing new homes for countless hermits who either want to trade in their old ones or who just want a newer model. Last night we brought a small hermit home because the shell it was in was so small that it’s body was all the way out. Once home I placed him in a big bucket with dirt and placed a few empty shells along side him and within an hour he had left his old home and moved into the new. Then this morning we took him back out to where we found him and said good-bye, and that’s how we do it!!

Off to work, Jack Hannah is here and can hardly wait to meet him!!

Have a great day, Barry

Sep 9, 13     Comments Off on Eastpoint Diving in Curacao, Purple Sponges

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