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 November, 2013

Nov 29, 13     Comments Off on Invasive Fish Species, Curacao Lionfish Photos
Nov 28, 13     Comments Off on Fireworms, Sea Creatures Seen Under Blue Light

Good morning friends, I first want to apologize for the lack of blog information this week but I just don’t have time!! We have had a crazy week here with our super cool little submersible and today again we have three dives scheduled! I just got back from a fast two hour mountain bike training ride and now have to get my gear on and get myself and the camera underwater for the first of the three dives. This Sunday is the “Curacao Extreme Mountain Bike Race”. I’m doing it with my buddy Dorian who is only 13 and I think we have to ride around 65 kilometers which is the short course, Stijn and his team mate have to ride 80-90k which is the normal course.

Above is another fun shot Aimee and I found late at night out on the reef with our blue-lights. This is a little Bearded Fireworm, Hermodice carunculata strolling around in search of a midnight snack on top of some glowing star corals. We normally see these fireworms out mostly during the day and boy do they love eating dead stuff!! Finding them at night is not as common but when searching with a blue-light they are very easy to spot!

Bearded fireworms are usually between 5“10 centimetres (1.9“3.9 in) in length, but can reach up to 35 centimetres (13.8 in). They have a group of venomous white bristles on each side, which are flared out when the worm is disturbed.

Bearded fireworms are usually found on reefs, under stones in rocky areas of the sea, and on some mud bottoms. They live throughout the tropical western Atlantic and at Ascension Island in the mid-Atlantic. They can be found near ocean reefs and at depths of up to 150m. They are very common in Caribbean reef systems across the Antilles, where they are often spotted by divers at a wide range of depths. They are also common in the Mediterranean Sea in the coastal waters surrounding Cyprus and the Maltese archipelago.

The bearded fireworm is a slow creature, and is not considered a threat to humans unless touched by a careless swimmer. The bristles, when flared, can penetrate human skin, injecting a powerful neurotoxin and producing intense irritation and a painful burning sensation around the area of contact. The sting can also lead to nausea and dizziness. This sensation lasts up to a few hours, but a painful tingling can continue to be felt around the area of contact. In a case of accidental contact, application and removal of adhesive tape will help remove the spines; applying alcohol to the area will also help alleviate the pain.

Thanks for tuning in, Barry

Nov 27, 13     Comments Off on Coral Reef Photo, Coral Reef Scene, Giant Sponge
Nov 26, 13     Comments Off on Blue-Light Underwater Photos, Blue-Light Corals

Good morning from wet Curacao!!! We have very overcast skies today and most of us are cold, we are not used to 70 degree weather!! Last night when Aimee and I got out of the ocean it was raining and it was so cold!!! I kid you not when I say the ocean water was warmer than the surface temperatures! The “blue-light dive” last night was again a total blast and well worth all the work it took to prepare for it earlier in the afternoon. We jumped into the sea last evening at around 7:30 surrounded by curious hotel guests and a security guard that was shaking his head in disbelief. Many people here think I must be insane to go under the sea at night and I guess they could be right but I will never admit it! The dive I did this weekend with Stijn was to go out and place plastic bottle buoys near or next to some of the corals that Aimee and I had found a few days earlier on our blue-light night dive. The reason I’m marking these spots is so I can go back out at night and photograph all these beautiful blue-light corals in regular white light so you can see a before and after photo. Your photos today are more examples of the beautiful little corals we have out on our reef and with the addition of fluorescent blue-light the reef is instantly transformed into a glowing underwater World.

Very busy day, we have three submersible runs so not much time for anything else!!

See you tomorrow all, Barry

Nov 25, 13     Comments Off on Endangered Elkhorn Corals, Fragile/Delicate Hard Corals

Good morning from Curacao, how was your weekend out there???? Mine was two days of non-stop fun from start to finish! Saturday morning I met Dorian and Stijn plus about 20 other riders for a three hour mountain bike ride to Porto Mari and back starting at Piscadera Centrum. The goal of the morning was to pre-ride this coming weekends “Curacao Extreme” course which is a team event that I will be doing with Dorian who is only 13. We will be doing the 60k race while Stijn and his team-mate are racing the 80k loop. The race course is a mixture of trails and road and should take around two and a half to three hours to finish. Our ride Saturday was more of a fun ride and we had to stop quite a bit to let others in the group catch up and we ended up finishing in around three hours, a long time to be sitting in the saddle! One of the best parts of this ride Saturday was learning about new trails that I never knew existed and will going back soon with Aimee and the dogs to do some more exploring.

On Sunday I left the house at 6:30 in the morning with the dogs and a whole lot of water and went to work on the new mountain bike trail that I started a month or two ago. At around 7:30 Stijn surprised me by showing up and with his help we got a lot done in two hours. At one point the trail work came to an abrupt halt as the shrub I was about to cut through had a nest in it with two new bird eggs. We quietly backed up and I made a temporary trail around the nest and just continued building the trail behind it, we will wait until the babies are hatched before we mess with that area. As we continued to work the momma bird, a beautiful little dove, came back and laid on the eggs the whole time and could have cared less about the dogs or us walking by. Later in the day Stijn and I went back and even took a photo of the two little eggs in the nest but because of the sun now shining on the eggs momma was not to be seen, would still like a photo of her sitting on them. At around 11:00 Stijn and I went for a dive and carried with us some plastic bottles attached to strings to mark some of the corals I shot the other night with the blue-lights. The goal for this week, starting tonight is to start marking the corals we shoot with blue-light and go back later with normal white light and re-photograph them so every out there in cyber-land can see a before and after photo, great idea right??

So I had a few folks ask me this week or actually wondering just how shallow the Elkhorn corals live and why they are in so much danger. I think the deepest Elkhorn corals we have on the Sea Aquarium reef is at around 20 feet and most of the others are at 10-15 feet. The corals in the shallows do much better than the deeper ones as they seem to love an area with constant water movement meaning the love areas with waves passing directly overhead with plenty of circulation. Most of these corals are in water that is so shallow that even just snorkeling through them or over them can cause them severe damage! I can’t even tell you how many times I have seen a person accidentally kick a coral with their fins, they break so easily! The #1 biggest threat to these fragile corals at the moment is global warming. If the temperature in the ocean changes by just a few degrees the corals start to bleach and if it gets too warm they will die! We also have the constant threat of storms which has destroyed countless endangered elkhorn colonies, they love normal waves passing overhead but only to certain extent, if they are too big the delicate arms will break. Once an arm breaks new colonies can re-grow from these broken pieces but those broken chunks must quickly get wedged tight into the reef and not move in order to grow, otherwise if it’s moving around it will die. So besides global warming, storms, human impact and coral diseases, we also have runoff which here in Curacao is almost as bad as changing water temperatures. We have two kinds of runoff here, one is raw sewage being pumped into the ocean and the other is caused from tropical downpours. During a big rain think about how much silt and sand, human contaminates, trash and especially gas and oils get washed into the sea, it’s unbelievable! After any big rain here in Curacao the ocean turns into a muddy mess and if you were to look underwater you would see all that sediment falling onto our delicate coral reefs! My wife and I have spent countless dives “fanning corals” after the big storms trying to remove as much sand off the top of them as we can but really it’s like to trying to rid the ocean of lionfish!!

I have to run, need to get registered for the big race this weekend.

Have a great day all, Barry

Nov 22, 13     Comments Off on Honeycomb Cowfish, Acanthostracion polygonia

Hi gang, it’s finally Friday!! So what are you all doing this weekend?? And don’t tell me nothing because even if it’s cold there’s something to do!! I have to say, the one thing we miss living down here are the seasons!! It’s always sunny and always hot and unfortunately we have to run our air-co’s every single day just to survive, especially at night! This past week was really brutal with the no wind and the recently hatched mosquito population which we are battling non-stop with our electric mosquito zappers that look like miniature tennis rackets.

We had an early morning run today with the submersible meaning I was already underwater taking photos and am now waiting for it’s return. On my way out this morning at 13 feet I found a big octopus clinging to a small conch which he was using as a door to block his cool little cave, I will definitely have to go back later and try to get some photos. I also noticed my resident GIANT snapping shrimp is still in his same home after almost a year, I guess it’s all about location, location, location!!!

Your photo today is a cute Honeycomb Cowfish that lives on our Substation house reef and I see him or her just about every time I go out. There are so many different fish on our reef that have gotten used to seeing a diver on a daily basis and now, instead of fleeing, they will let you get pretty darn close, which is great if you have a camera! These cowfish are some of the most gentle creatures on the reef and are so much fun to watch. They have the ability to change or flash their colors in the blink of an eye very much like a squid or octopus, it’s one of the coolest things I have ever seen.

I have so much still to get done today including getting ready for a big mountain bike ride in the morning.

Have a wonderful weekend, Barry

Nov 21, 13     Comments Off on Underwater Blue-Light Photos, Blue-Light Photography
Nov 20, 13     Comments Off on Brown Pelican, Curacao Birds, Caribbean Birds

Good morning from the very quiet Caribbean!! We are going on day four of no wind, no rain and calm seas and it’s mega HOT, we really need our tropical breeze back!! My hour and a half bike ride last night was just plain torture, I came back soaked to the bone from the heat and humidity and it looked like I had fell in the ocean. This mornings dog walk was about the same as well, because of the lack of wind the dogs could only stand to be out there for an hour, by 9:00 it was already unbearable!

Dive boats and pelicans are an everyday sight here in Curacao and figured this would be a perfect photo for today. On days when the sea is calm like today, the tropical birds of Curacao that hunt in or near the water eat very well because the water is clear and there are no waves. Even the ospreys are here now diving into the ocean all day long feeding on blue tangs and parrotfish, it’s like an all you can eat buffet! We once watched as a brown pelican dove into the sea and came up with a long trumpetfish. Then once he got it back to shore he wasn’t quite sure what to do with it?? It took him forever to figure out how to eat the thing but unbelievably he choked it down, it was quite the site to behold!

Tonight Aimee and I are doing Blue-Light-Dive and I have spent hours already this morning getting the camera set up and ready. Blue light diving is where you wear a pair of yellow glasses over your mask and look for stuff on the reef that fluoresces, with a blue light, it’s super cool and so much fun, hopefully I will have something to send to you tomorrow!

Sorry so short, lots to do, Barry

Nov 19, 13     Comments Off on Ranella olearium, Deep Water Mollusk, Sea Shells

Good morning friends, sorry again for the lateness of the hour!! I have a cool new shell for you all today that we found with the “Curasub Submersible” at around 800 feet! We’ve done almost 1000 dives into the Caribbean darkness and in all that time we never found one of these so we thought because we hadn’t ever seen one that it must be rare and very valuable, boy were we ever wrong! Doing a little research this morning I found it for sale on a few different sites for as low as $12???? Yeah not so funny after spending four days carefully cleaning it with a toothbrush! But with that said, it is still beautiful and I thought you might be interested in seeing it. This one here measure about 7 inches in length and the largest recorded one was 8.6 inches so if you have one that is larger you have a winner and it’s probably worth more than $12!!!

Ranella olearium (Linnaeus, 1758), is a species that has a global distribution in the tropics and has previously been reported from Colombia and now Curacao. It’s common name, “the wandering triton” or “the little frog triton”, is a species of large sea snail, a marine gastropod mollusc in the family Ranellidae, the tritons.

A Mollusk is an animal belonging to the phylum Mollusca, a major division of invertebrates (animals without backbones). Examples of mollusks are oysters, mussels, squids, octopuses, and snails; there are about 80,000 species. Mollusks are popularly called shellfish, but this term also applies to lobsters, crabs, and prawns, members of another phylum. Most of the shells found along the seashore, however, are those of mollusks. The scientific study of mollusks is called malacology.

Most mollusks have a univalve (one-piece) or bivalve (two-piece) shell, but in some species the shell is poorly developed or missing. A typical mollusk has a soft, jointless body. The lower portion of the body typically forms a muscular foot, which is used for creeping or burrowing; the upper portion of the body is covered by a layer of skin called the mantle. Under the mantle there is a space called the mantle cavity, which contains respiratory organs. In addition, the mantle itself functions as a respiratory organ. A typical mollusk also has a heart; a liver; kidneys, sex glands; interconnected nerves; and, a radula, a rasping tongue used to shred food and draw it into the mouth.

Mollusks reproduce sexually. In some species, eggs are fertilized within the female and live young are born. In most species, however, eggs are released from the female’s body before fertilization.

I hope all is well out there, if there is something you would like to see from under the Curacao sea all you have to do is ask!!

Have a wonderful day friends, Barry

Nov 18, 13     Comments Off on Snappers, Mahogany and Schoolmaster Snappers
Nov 15, 13     Comments Off on Peppermint Bass, Liopropoma rubre, Sea Basses

Good morning friends, I apologize for the NO Blog yesterday but I was swamped with trying to submit 800 plus new photos into the US Copyright Office which is a major undertaking and I’m still working on it! So on Wednesday I briefly mentioned that I had spotted a Peppermint Bass out on the reef and more than one reader wrote me asking if I had gotten a photo!?? Well on the day I had seen him which was at around 75 feet I DID NOT get a photo because he would not come out from his secret cave hidden deep in the reef. So like a good photographer I went back down yesterday just for you and waited and waited for him to come out and say hi. Finally just as I was running out of time and air, he did a quick “swim-by” and I swear if I would have not been ready I would have missed it!! I tell you what, this is a beautiful little sea-bass but they are so scared of divers and probably their own shadows! This is a very common fish on the reef but because they usually see a diver coming before we see them they are rarely seen! This little treasure was around 3 inches in length and live in depths from 10 to 140 feet.

Often called basses, these members of the sea bass family are generally more colorful than groupers. most are small, two to four inches, with the exception of Mutton Hamlet, Creolefish and Sand perch, which grow to nearly a foot. All are stocky like groupers, but tend to be more cylindrical and elongate. Sea basses are fundamentally bottom-oriented crustacean-feeders, except the Creolefish that pluck tiny zooplankton from open water high above the reef. Generally, the basses distinct color and markings make them easy to identify to species.

Carole Baldwin of the Smithsonian was telling me that these fish have been labeled as Basslets for a long time but are in fact Bass, so it’s Golden Bass and Peppermint Bass not Basslets.

Have a wonderful weekend all, I will be working on building my new mountain bike trail and doing some long rides!

See ya, Barry

Nov 13, 13     Comments Off on Free Swimming Caribbean Reef Octopus at Night

Hi gang, I know I’m late again, what can I say?? The first thing I did this morning was to setup my camera and take off the sea for an hour and a half dive, what a great way to start the day. My goal for the dive was mainly to test my newly fixed camera housing that had a broken electrical connection last week but thanks to Bruce (one of our sub pilots) it’s working again like a charm. Bruce is our “Master of everything” around here!! He not only pilots the sub, he fixes and repairs any and everything on it, runs the crane, does electrical repairs for me all the time, he’s a crazy great diver, and on and on!! So while on my dive this morning I spotted a Peppermint Basslet at 75 feet and once he saw me he went into hiding somewhere deep in the reef and I never saw him again! Peppermint Bass are very common here in Curacao but they are very wary of divers, you would have to hide and wait and most likely spend your whole dive in one spot if you wanted to see one. I was really looking for something different to photograph and to send to you all today but I pretty much came back with what I call, NOI (nothing of Interest), finding something new down there is getting harder and harder.

Your photo above is from a few weeks ago on one of our photo dives for Ikelite. This is a free swimming Caribbean Reef Octopus that had launched himself from the top of a large coral head out into the darkness in search of food. I think it’s safe to say that any time we see an octopus whether at night or during the day it’s complete excitement!! And then if you have one free swimming right next to you or in front of you the entertainment level goes up a notch or two! I honestly could spend a whole dive just hanging out and watching these guys, I mean heck they can change colors in the blink of eye, squeeze their bodies into any hole, they are the best hunters on the reef and as the photo shows above they can swim! Long live the octopus and please stop eating them!

Well, off to the sea again, have a great day!


Nov 12, 13     Comments Off on Lipogramma (Lipogramma species), Deep Water Fish

Good morning friends, I have two small but very beautiful fish for your viewing pleasure today that were found by the Smithsonian in the 600 to 800 foot range right out in front of the Curacao Sea Aquarium. This is a new species of Lipogramma which is currently being described and worked on by Carole Baldwin of the Smithsonain. The top photo is an intermediate or young Lipogramma (less than an inch) and the bottom photo shows the same fish in it’s terminal phase (about two and a half inches) and for once the older fish becomes more beautiful with age, normally it’s the juveniles that are so colorful! This is one of the hands down most docile fish I have ever seen, other than a scorpionfish, these fish don’t move around much and seem to just love to be parked and perched. As I learn more I will pass it on to you all out there in cyberspace so stay tuned for more.

I just got out of the water photographing the submersible and had a great dive, the water was super clear and the school of bonnetmouths had me completely surrounded!

Sorry so short, have a wonderful day!


Nov 10, 13     Comments Off on Live and Dead Endangered Elkhorn Coral Colonies

Good morning from wet Curacao, it looks like our rainy season has arrived and is here to stay! So how was your weekend out there?? Mine was consumed with building my new mountain bike trail around the salt pond area in Jan Theil and I can proudly say I got a lot done! Now that the rains have started our ponds will quickly rise which means many of the trails we ride weekly will soon be underwater. So what I have been trying to do for years is put in a trail above the water line that will keep us all out exercising even if the floods come! The hardest part of this project is getting through the brush here, it’s about as unforgiving as it gets because everything has thorns!! When I walked into work this morning everyone asked if I was attacked by a wild cat because of the insane amount of cuts and scratches on my body, and you can bet I’m not looking forward to getting into the salt water today!

Here’s a crazy story for you all today, a friend of ours was sailing along the coast on their way back from Klein Curacao, about a mile offshore and they came across a swimming dog???? Can you believe it??? They quickly pulled the dog in and from what I last heard he is doing very well, one of our dolphin trainers adopted it!! We all are guessing it fell off some boat but who knows, talk about something you would never think of seeing out in the ocean!!

Here are two photos of Elkhorn coral for you all today that I found on my last trip to East point. The top photo shows a beautiful healthy colony and the bottom photo shows a dead colony flipped upside down during one of the many storms we have had here. If you look carefully at the top photo you will see the reef floor is completely littered with dead Elkhorn skeletons!! Crazy huh?? These beautiful corals are so fragile and can only survive in shallow water which means they get a lot of abuse! Storms are the main cause of breakage and coral death here in the Caribbean but they also have to survive dropping boat anchors, fishing line, divers and snorkelers, runoff from topside pollutants, drastic water temperature changes which cause coral bleaching and small coral predators like coral eating snails and different algae’s, it’s no wonder this stuff is on the endangered list! Many times after a big storm we see the broken Elkhorn pieces/arms laying on the reef, if these pieces get wedged into the reef just right and they don’t move around from the passing waves/surge overhead they will start to regrow again and believe it or not this happens pretty fast. The only positive thing to come from these big broken pieces that don’t survive is they will now become home to so many different species of invertebrates and small fish, it’s like a coral condominium with so many places to hide. When I first found the upside down colony (bottom photo) I swam in close and looked inside and saw it was filled with all kinds of medium sized fish, I mean what a perfect home!

Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) is considered to be one of the most important reef-building corals in the Caribbean. This species is structurally complex with many large branches. The coral structure closely resembles that of elk antlers. These branches create habitats for many other reef species, such as lobsters, parrot-fish, snapper shrimps and other reef fish. Elkhorn coral colonies are incredibly fast-growing, with an average growth rate of 5 to 10 cm (2.0 to 3.9 in) per year and can eventually grow up to 3.7 m (12 ft) in diameter. The color of this coral species ranges from brown to a yellowish-brown as a result of the symbiotic zooxanthellae living inside the tissue of this coral species. Zooxanthellae are a type of algae which photosynthesize to provide the coral with nutrients. The zooxanthellae are also capable of removing waste products from the coral. Historically, the majority of elkhorn coral reproduction has occurred asexually; this occurs when a branch of the coral breaks off and attaches to the substrate, forming a new colony, known as fragmentation. The degree to which local stands reproduce by fragmentation varies across the Caribbean, but on average, 50% of colonies are the result of fragmentation rather than sexual reproduction. Sexual reproduction occurs once a year in August or September when coral colonies release millions of gametes by broadcast spawning.

As many of you know in 2004, the Center for Biological Diversity requested the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) place all Elkhorn Coral (Acropora Palmata) on the Endangered Species list. In 2005, NMFS decided that Elkhorn coral qualified as an Endangered Species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. On May 4, 2006 Elkhorn coral and Staghorncoral (Acropora Cervicornis) were officially placed on the Endangered Species List.

Busy day ahead, keep your eyes on www.seesubmarine.com and you might see us today!!

See you tomorrow, Barry

Nov 8, 13     Comments Off on LIVE Underwater Video Camera, Substation Curacao

Good morning friends, running late because of multiple dives this morning photographing the submersible but I did manage to get this shot for one of my viewers who asked about our live underwater video camera. As many of you already know we have a LIVE web camera that is always on at around 50 feet right out in front of the Substation. The address is; www.seesubmarine.com and for those of you who don’t remember we have a one hour delay set up so what your seeing was taken an hour ago. There’s a big school of Bonnetmouths or Bogas out there right now and have been here for longer than I can remember, these are the fish in the photo above the camera. I get a lot of questions asking “how we keep the camera clean” and like I tell everyone, it’s not easy! Since I am out on the reef so much I keep a small brush and knife with me at all times to keep the algae and encrusting creatures away but man does that stuff grow fast! We currently have a very territorial damselfish that has adopted the camera and thinks it for him, if you watch you will see him racing around and chasing everything that comes near away, even me! We just had 4 divers go by a few minutes ago and they all stopped and waved or did something crazy in front of the lens, it’s always entertaining! The cameras electronics are fed from the Substation and go all the way down to the camera inside a long green garden hose, it’s not the most beautiful looking setup but it does seem to do the job!!

Boy did this day go by fast!! The submersible just returned with a new white sea-urchin that we have never seen so I need to go take photos.

Have a wonderful weekend all, Barry



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