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 April, 2014
Apr 15, 14 Comments Off on Parrotfish Teeth, Fish Teeth, Parrotfish Beak
Hey gang, sorry so late today, I had to go get my new island ID card called a sedula this morning and that took longer than expected. We used to have to get these cards every year but now that we have been here so long we only need to renew them now every 3 years.
Our island remains locked in wind and no rain, it is soooo dry!! Because of these conditions we continue to take water out to the desert for the birds each morning and by late afternoon it’s usually gone! We have a big black backpack that holds around 4-half gallon jugs plus we hand carry another a larger 2-gallon jug plus seed and fill our three bird baths. Yes, you could say it’s a lot of work but the reward is high, the birds and animals are loving it! Other folks are starting to bring scraps of vegetables or fruits and or friend Bill is now helping us out with the seed, it’s great to be able to do something!
I also bring home any hermit crabs I find with bad shells and offer them a new home of their choice once back at the house. This is easily done by placing them in with an assortment of empty shells and usually within minutes they will leave the old nasty one and upgrade into a better model. Hey crabs are smart, if they have the opportunity to move into a better home they sure will! So then after a night of food and water, we take them back out to where we found them and let them go, except now they have a better home to carry.
Our four baby Red Footed tortoises spent their first night outside in their new turtle habitat and I have to say, I worried about them all night. In the morning I rushed outside, lifted the roof area and found them all buried in the dirt inside one of the two caves, so all is good.
We will be very busy this week getting last minute stuff done for our trip to Peru which is now just under a week away. I went and bought all kinds of toys like Hot wheels, puzzles, necklaces and fun socks for us to give to the kids, it will be Christmas in April!
I had a request for a photo showing the beak of a parrotfish and found this one that I took a few days ago.
Have a great rest of the day!!
Apr 14, 14 Comments Off on Illegal Fish Nets, Reef Damage from Fishing Nets
Good morning friends, how was your weekend?? Short?? Mine just vanished again like a cruel magic trick, I’m sitting here now wondering where it went? Saturday morning I took off on my now weekly four hour mountain bike ride which starts here at the Sea Aquarium, goes to the airport, up the coast to Playa Ascension, across to Porto Mari, Bullenbaai, Vaersenbaai, Blue Bay and back home along the coast, it’s around 45-50 miles! The trip itself is a blast to Ascension but then once you turn and have to ride the whole way back into hurricane force winds it gets the mind asking why are we doing this?? Then after the ride and quickly walking the dogs, I raced over to work and met our friend Emma. We quickly grabbed our dive gear and a camera and took off to Directors Bay to save the reef from a sunken fish net! On Friday I got a note sent out by the World famous Dive Bus Hut saying an illegal gill net had been spotted stuck to the reef at Directors Bay and could anyone help remove it?? The net was at least 30 feet long and completely wrapped around all the corals and sponges, it was a major mess! There were fish and creatures trapped as well struggling to get loose but the more they fought the more they became entangled! Emma immediately started cutting the net free using a little pair of scissors which turned out to be our best cutting tool. We had serrated diving knifes but there was so much to be cut that the knife only seemed to do more damage so we just stuck with using the scissors instead. Emma spotted a baby slipper lobster (photo 3) completely entangled in the net so I put the camera down and first cut him out of the net. I then had to flip him over on his back (holding him in my hand) and slowly cut away the hundreds of fine little strings that were wrapped all over his body, he was super entangled! I think I ended up spending almost 10 minutes just getting this guy free of the terrible string and finally I swam him back down to reef and let him go. We then started to find more and more live and dead creatures, some we saved some had been there to long. These gill nets have been outlawed from Curacao as of this year but no one seems to be able to control it so it’s up to us divers to police our own waters and report illegal activity. I must say Emma was amazing, she cut that net away like a pro and was so careful to not do anymore damage and in the end used even less air then me, that alone is saying a lot! It got to a point where her and I worked together, the clock was really ticking, she cut and I stuffed the net into our blue mesh bag and unbelievably we got it all! There is still a ton of fishing string there at Directors Bay, I strongly urge any and all local divers to get over there and do your thing that stuff could easily snare a turtle, nurse shark of sting ray.
On Sunday morning Emma went with me on a fun trip up the coast to a place called Plastic Bay. This is on the North side of the island behind the last windmill and is very rough and windy country! We ended up climbing down the cliffs and did some searching for driftwood and washed up treasures. We found countless large Portuguese Man of Wars (highly toxic siphonophores) tossed ashore and did our best to avoid them. I had originally wanted to photograph these little trees that grow flat on the ground due to the high winds but they seem to be dormant now because of the lack of rain, will go back in the rainy season. Once back home I spent the whole rest of the day re-building my outside turtle area. I completely ripped it apart, I made a bigger pool, better caves and more walking room and this morning was the first morning for them to be in it, will go home and check on them soon!
Have a great day all, I have to go!!
Dry, windy Curacao regards, Barry
Apr 11, 14 Comments Off on Peacock Flounder, Bothus Lunatus, Flounders
Good morning friends, it’s finally Friday!! Aimee and I have been super busy getting stuff ready for our Peru trip which is now less than 2 weeks away! We are having friends stay at the house who will look after the dogs and turtles and continue to put water out for the birds in the desert on a daily basis as the island is dry beyond belief!! The wind is blowing so hard these days making the diving and mountain biking not so fun, I really wish it would calm down a bit!
This is one of our large resident Peacock Flounders laying on a giant boulder right out in front of our little submersible lagoon. I always get a kick out of watching other divers or friends swim right over him and they never see it laying there, he is the king of camouflage! I have noticed that over time this flounder has gotten very used to me swimming over him and now instead of swimming off he will just lay there with his body still and only his eyes moving, each in different directions!! This flounder is around 18 inches in length and can change colors in the blink of an eye, talk about a fantastic animal!!
The peacock flounder is also called flowery flounder because it is covered in superficially flower-like bluish spots. As suggested by the family name, lefteye flounders have both eyes on top of the left hand side of their heads. The eyes are raised up on short stumps like radar dishes, and can move in any direction independent of each other. That feature provides flounders with a wide range of view. One eye can look forward while the other looks backward at the same time. The baby flounders have one eye on each side of their bodies like ordinary fish, and swim like other fishes do, but later on, as they are becoming adult, the right eye moves to the left side, and flounders start to swim sideways, which gives them the ability to settle down flat on the bottom. The maximum length of this flounder is about 45 centimetres (18 in).
Peacock flounders are mostly found in shallow water on sandy bottoms. Sometimes they rest over piles of dead corals or bare rock. They may be found as deep as 150 meters (490 ft).
As most flounders, the peacock flounder is mainly nocturnal,but is sometimes also active during the day. It hunts for small fishes, crabs and shrimps.
Like all flounders, peacock flounders are masters of camouflage. They use cryptic coloration to avoid being detected by both prey and predators. Whenever possible rather than swim they crawl on their fins along the bottom while constantly changing colors and patterns. In a study, peacock flounders demonstrated the ability to change colors in just eight seconds. They were even able to match the pattern of a checkerboard they were placed on. The changing of the colors is an extremely complex and not well understood process. It involves the flounder’s vision and hormones. The flounders match the colors of the surface by releasing different pigments to the surface of the skin cells while leaving some of the cells white by suppressing those pigments. If one of the flounder’s eyes is damaged or covered by sand, the flounders have difficulties in matching their colors to their surroundings. Whenever hunting or hiding from predators, the flounders bury themselves into the sand leaving only the eyes protruding.
I’m off on a 4-hour mountain bike ride in the morning and pray the winds chill out a bit or my 4 hour ride may turn into 5! Have a great weekend!!
Apr 10, 14 Comments Off on Swimming with Dolphins, Snorkelling with Dolphins
Hello everyone, Aimee here today! This is a fun photo from my world- my underwater dolphin world that is! You have heard me brag on her before, and I will brag on her once again, this is me taking a fun snorkel with my BFF Alita. Alita just turned two years old on March 12 and she is sure becoming such a fun little thing. She loves to play and snorkel and just hang out with you. As usual, momma Ritina is close by (that’s her just above me). Alita loves to look and echolocate for fish just under the sand, play with seaweed and her favorite game is to have me push her around by her tail. She will slowly swim by and stop, almost placing her tail in my outstretched hands, I push as long as my legs will keep kicking, then push her off. She then flips around and rushes back, once again slowing down and putting her tail in my hands. It just makes me laugh and laugh. Seriously, how fun is that?
We are often busy at work, but as often as possible I take advantage of these special moments to just play and hang out with the dolphins. It is an important part of our bonding and relationship. Just as you may take care of your dog, cat or horse; many times it is our relationship and trust with our animal companions that allows us to train difficult cooperation behaviors such as line-ups for ultrasounds, measurements and voluntary blood draws. This time also lets us learn each other’s body language. Each species has different body language, and the more time you spend with each other, the better you can communicate. Training with any animal, dolphin or dog, means there is two-way communication. You have to listen and pay attention to your animal, help them to understand and want to do what you want them to do. As we always say “set them up for success”! If you think training is all about what you can teach your subject, you are missing half the facts and all of the fun.
Well, take care. I think I will just sit here a bit and remember this fun day.
Aimee and Alita
Apr 9, 14 Comments Off on Touch-Me-Not-Sponge, Neofibularia nolitangere
Good morning friends, we have a busy day on tap here at Substation Curacao, I think we are doing three hour and a half dives. For those of you wanting to tune in, try our LIVE underwater web cam located at 50 feet on our house reef at www.seesubmarine.com you might get lucky and see us.
I had a question regarding poisonous sponges and to my knowledge this touch-me-not-sponge, Neofibularia nolitangere (above) is about the worst we have to offer in the Caribbean. This is one of the hands down largest Touch-Me Not’s I have ever seen, it was close to 2-meters in width and about the same in height, that’s double the normal size! It has a central cavity or atrium with thick walls. It takes various forms in different areas of the Caribbean. In the Bahamas it usually occurs as a number of rounded lobes with a cup-shaped depression or cloaca on the apex of each. In these are several openings called osculi that slope diagonally to join the atrium and out of which water is propelled. Sometimes the sponge is encrusting, forming a shallow layer of tissue growing across the substrate. In other locations it grows as several concentric mounds with smaller cloacal openings or as large vase-type structures, single or in groups, sometimes fused together laterally. The general colour is deep brown or dark red. The inside surfaces of the cloaca are rougher than the outer surface of the sponge which is smooth but not shiny. The consistency of this sponge is compressible, fragile and crumbly, but handling it is unwise as it causes a smarting sensation and numbness of the skin. Repeated exposure to it can cause a more severe allergic reaction.
If you look down inside the sponge you will see thousands of Parasitic polychaete worms, Haplosyllis spongicola, which look like small white shapes protruding from the inner cloaca walls. There may be tens of thousands of worms living in an individual sponge and they are sometimes so abundant that they make up five percent of its weight. Several species of fish are associated with this sponge. These include the gobies Elacatinus horsti and Elacatinus chancei which live inside its apertures and largely feed on the worm.
Have a great day out there!!
Apr 8, 14 Comments Off on Playa Kanoa Curacao, Girl Surfing at Playa Kanoa
Good morning friends, by request this morning I have a shot of our friend Emma with her surfboard at Playa Kanoa. Emma is here for 12 weeks volunteering over at Dolphin Academy and working with our Sea Lions. When she’s not busy with the animals I have been using her as a model either diving with Ikelite equipment of as you see here posing at the ocean.
Playa Kanoa is a beach on the Caribbean island of Curaao, located to the north of Willemstad. It is one of the few areas on the northside of the island suitable for surfing. There’s also a very small sandy beach, a little snack (bar), and a little fisherman’s village which can be seen here in the distance. Besides being one of the top places to go surfing it is also a great spot for diving but be warned, this is a rough area and even diving can be dangerous and the current can be crazy! If you drive past Kanoa you will see the giant windmills ahead in the distance. There is a dirt road that will take you past these giants and many miles along the coast ending at Saint Joris Bay. There are also some beautiful caves, great mountain biking trails, beach combing, bird watching, hiking and kite and wind surfing areas all around this area!
The downside to going to Kanoa is all the trash you will see on the road leading to the coast! Three are many different ways to access this remote area and they all involve seeing large amounts of dumped trash along side the roads but don’t let that stop you from exploring these wonderful areas.
We have a Brazilian film crew here this morning filming a soap series for their local television station. I will be joining them shooting photos and video on the outside.
Have a wonderful day!!
Apr 7, 14 Comments Off on Coronaster briareus, Deep Sea Creatures, Sea Stars
Good morning friends, did you have a nice weekend out there?? Sorry about the no blog on Friday but I was swamped with diving and working on a multitude of tasks including photographing this new echinoid you see above. My weekend was like always, busy and fun and honestly I did so much I can hardly recall it all now! To top my weekend off I did a fun photo-shoot with our little supermodel Emma at Playa Kanoa last night. We took a surfboard and did all kinds of fun surfing type photos and other than the crazy wind everything was perfect.
Our new find above was discovered at around 850 feet right here in front of the Substation. This delicate sea star is called, Coronaster briareus and it’s clinging to an old discarded slit-shell. It’s approximately 6″ in diameter, and can grow to almost 12â€ in diameter. This is one of the fastest moving sea stars and can defend itself by allowing its legs to fall off, but can later regenerate any lost limbs! Look closely at leg #11 located at the top in the 1:00 position, here you can see a leg that is currently being regenerated. If any of you real experts out there have any other info on this creature or I have mislabeled something, please let me know and I will update the post.
I want to give you all a big heads up, I’m taking off soon to Peru for three weeks to explore and take zillions of photos! I won’t be able to blog during this time mainly because I won’t have time and we are not taking a computer. If any of you know of a spot we have to see please again let me know!!
Sorry so short, Mondays are CRAZY!!
Apr 3, 14 Comments Off on Giant Green Moray Eel, Gymnothorax funebris
Good morning guys and gals, we are super busy here at Substation Curacao today and I just finished my first of two dives. On my way back I ran into our little 6-foot long green buddy (above) and it kind of caught me off guard! This giant lives here in our little lagoon but I rarely see him out swimming during the day like he was here, maybe he was coming back from a long night out on the reef, who knows!! I got off a few shots and then he took off down into the darkness of the reef.
Moray eels are cosmopolitan eels of the family Muraenidae. The approximately 200 species in 15 genera are almost exclusively marine, but several species are regularly seen in brackish water, and a few, for example the freshwater moray (Gymnothorax polyuranodon), can sometimes be found in fresh water. With a maximum length of 11.5 cm (4.5 in), the smallest moray is likely Snyder’s moray (Anarchias leucurus),while the longest species, the slender giant moray (Strophidon sathete) reaches up to 4 m (13 ft). The largest in terms of total mass is the giant moray (Gymnothorax javanicus), which reaches 3 m (9.8 ft) in length and 30 kg (66 lb) in weight.
Reef-associated roving coralgroupers (Plectropomus pessuliferus) have been observed to recruit morays to join them in hunting for food. The invitation to hunt is initiated by head-shaking. The rationale for this joining of forces is the ability of morays to enter narrow crevices and flush prey from niches not accessible to groupers. This is the only known instance of interspecies cooperative hunting among fish. Cooperation on other levels, such as at cleaning stations, is well-known.
Morays are frequently thought of as particularly vicious or ill-tempered animals. In truth, morays hide from humans in crevices and would rather flee than fight. They are shy and secretive, and attack humans only in self defense or mistaken identity. Most attacks stem from disruption of a moray’s burrow (to which they do react strongly), but an increasing number also occur during hand feeding of morays by divers, an activity often used by dive companies to attract tourists. Morays have poor vision and rely mostly on their acute sense of smell, making distinguishing between fingers and held food difficult; numerous divers have lost fingers while attempting hand feedings, so the hand feeding of moray eels has been banned in some locations, including the Great Barrier Reef. The moray’s rear-hooked teeth and primitive but strong bite mechanism also makes bites on humans more severe, as the eel cannot release its grip, even in death, and must be manually pried off. While the majority are not believed to be venomous, circumstantial evidence suggests a few species may be.
Eels that have eaten certain types of toxic algae, or more frequently that have eaten fish that have eaten some of these algae, can cause ciguatera fish poisoning if eaten. The evolutionary advantages created by their elongated bodies are unknown.
Back to the water, see you soon!!
Apr 2, 14 Comments Off on Canthigaster jamestyleri, Pufferfishes, Goldface Toby
Good morning from Curacao!! I have another super cool little fish for you today that sadly no diver will ever get to see!!! This is called a Goldface Toby or Canthigaster jamestyleri and is in the family of Pufferfish. It looks so much like a Sharpnose Puffer doesn’t it??? This little half inch treasure was observed by the Smithsonian inside the safety of the “Curasub” submersible at depths ranging from 235-488 feet, that’s quite a range! The distinctive features include; pale yellow to yellow with blue markings on tail, unlike the Sharpnose Puffer who is distinguished by dark boarders on the tail. It also has shades of brown on back with numerous dark blue markings (absent on Sharpnose Puffer). The upper snout is olive-brown with areas of yellow-gold undercolor running from mouth to around eyes which are covered with numerous bright blue markings. White lower body with numerous blue spots and line markings on base of tail. These fish inhabit deep rocky outcroppings and hard bottoms with stands of gorgonia. Also FYI, Jim Tyler, for whom this fish was named. is an ichthyologist/paleobiologist who works for the Smithsonian.
In my search for information on this fish I found that most of the so called “Goldfaced Tobies” on Google are actually Sharpnose Puffers, you can just look at the tails. Also my older addition of “REEF FISH” 3rd addition has the Goldface Toby on page 383 but it’s been removed from the newer versions, I guess they are starting to phase out fish that divers will never see??
Well gang, enjoy the little fish, I have to get moving!
Have a wonderful day!!
Apr 1, 14 Comments Off on Banded Clinging Crab, Mithrax cinctimanus, Crabs
Hi friends, I have an algae covered Banded Clinging Crab, Mithrax cinctimanus for your viewing pleasure today. This is a small crab less than an inch that is for the most part difficult to spot as they spend their lives hiding under the arms and in association with anemones, especially the giant anemone, Condylactis gigantea. They are very shy and will usually retreat into the protection of the anemones tentacles or under the anemone when approached. This one here I kind of snuck up on and cleverly waited for the anemones tentacles to move and then snap a photo. I have learned from trial and error that one usually only gets one shot and then he will slide down farther into the anemone, so make that first shot count. The crab itself is smooth and has blunt-tipped claws with dark reddish brown markings and covered with rounded nodules and hairy legs. This little sweetheart also goes by the name “Anemone Crab” and can be found between 10-45 feet. After shooting the photo I watched from a distance and he came back out of hiding and went right back to picking food off the wall and eating, such a cool little crab!
I did one dive yesterday with my macro lens but because of the cold water I found it hard to focus (no pun intended) on the job at hand!
After work I went back out to the trail I am building and got in yet another hour of swinging a pick, I can hardly wait till this is finished!
Have a great day all.