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 July, 2014
Jul 30, 14 Comments Off on Baby Green Iguana, Iguana iguana, Curacao Reptiles
Hello friends, it’s time for yet another late blog from a tiny island in the Caribbean called Curacao. Today was again fast paced and disappeared right before my very eyes! We started out the morning by taking three paying customers down to 1000 feet in our little state of the art, 2.5 million dollar submersible. This tour is available on a daily basis for just $650 clams per person and includes an underwater photo shoot from yours truly, all photos on a sleek Substation hard-drive and a t-shirt. So while the submersible is under the sea exploring we have a Boston whaler following on top and taking life support readings via underwater coms every 15 minutes. There are no ropes or cables tied to the sub, we pretty much just know where the sub is at all times because of the sub pilot telling us the vicinity they are in, it’s a fairly easy reef to memorize. Rob was driving the boat today and in the four years we have been doing this he and other pilots have found some crazy stuff floating at sea. Remember months ago when I told you all about the dog that was way out at sea and friends rescued it?? Yeah that was super crazy! Well today believe it or not Rob found a beautiful baby iguana (above) lost at sea and was some how still able to keep afloat?? Ok, yes it’s true, the green iguana is a wonderful swimmer. It holds its legs close beside it and uses its tail to propel itself through the water and can stay underwater comfortably for up to 30 minutes but honestly I still can’t believe it?? The boat is always a longs ways out to sea so how in the heck did that poor little thing get all the way out there and manage not to drown in the big waves and not get eaten or ran over by a boat or jet-ski?? It’s really a miracle! Rob quickly took him and placed him in one of my black plastic diving boxes and filled it with drinking water and fresh plants to eat and to our surprise he’s doing great! Baby iguanas feed on leaves, flowers and insects and spend their days hiding in the brush from prey. Look how they are the same color as the foliage, honestly that is amazing! If you take your eyes off him for just a moment you will never find him again, they are the hands down masters of camouflage! I left at 5:00 I took him out the box and placed him in his new home as you see above and he loved it!
The Green, or common, iguanas are among the largest lizards in the Americas, averaging around 6.5 feet (2 meters) long and weighing about 11 pounds (5 kilograms).
They are also among the most popular reptile pets in the United States, despite being quite difficult to care for properly. In fact, most captive iguanas die within the first year, and many are either turned loose by their owners or given to reptile rescue groups.
The green iguana’s extensive range comprises the rain forests of northern Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean Islands, and southern Brazil. They spend most of their lives in the canopy, descending only infrequently to mate, lay eggs, or change trees.
Primarily herbivores, iguanas are active during the day, feeding on leaves, flowers, and fruit. They generally live near water and are excellent swimmers. If threatened, they will leap from a branch, often from great heights, and escape with a splash to the water below. They are also tough enough to land on solid ground from as high as 40 feet (12 meters) and survive.
Iguanas’ stout build gives them a clumsy look, but they are fast and agile on land. They have strong jaws with razor-sharp teeth and sharp tails, which make up half their body length and can be used as whips to drive off predators. They can also detach their tails if caught and will grow another without permanent damage.
Other members of the iguana family include the Fiji Island banded iguana, the desert iguana, and the GalÃ¡pagos Islands marine iguana. Their appearance, behavior, and endangered status vary from species to species.
Have a wonderful evening all!!!
Jul 29, 14 Comments Off on Night Diving Photos, Night Diving with a GoPro
Hello friends, Mr. late again! I more or less took the past few days off to get some of the projects started that I have written down at home on an erasable board which many of you would call the dreaded “honey do list”! My current list reads, build a bird house for the parakeet, fix the car, photos for Ikelite, plastic Christmas trees (don’t ask), work on Peru photos, send my D-800 to the States for repair, get a bunch of stuff listed on Ebay, help Stijn build a home for his baby turtles, more blue-light night diving photos, the daily blog and on and on, you get the picture right?? I bought a ton of wood this weekend for the new bird sanctuary and today got it all framed out, just need to cover it in wire mesh and make a door, will send you a photo when finished. I just got back from a fast paced 16 mile single-track ride through the wilds of Curacao which took an hour and ten minutes. Today like almost every day it was 90+ degrees with 40mph winds, talk about riding in extreme weather! I’m home now relaxing in the air-co with my poor broken dog while Aimee took our other dog Indi out for an evening hike with a friend.
This evenings photo is another from our night dive a few weeks ago with our friend Tessa who was filming with our newest toy from Ikelite. On this dive, near the end we ran into a spectacular, glowing Honeycomb Cowfish, Acanthostracion polygonia also known as Trunkfish and Honeycomb trunkfish. Other common names include baiacu-de-chifre (Portuguese), botelia (Spanish), coffre polygone (French), cofre (Spanish), peixe-cofre (Portuguese), peixe-vaca (Portuguese), torito (Spanish), torito hexagonal (Spanish), and torito panal (Spanish).
Honeycomb cowfish live in the clear waters of coral reef habitats at depths of 10-262 feet (3-80 m).
The triangular body is nearly enclosed in a “carapace” consisting of thickened hexagonal scale plates that are firmly attached to each other with the exception of the cheeks to allow for respiration movements. There are openings in the carapace for the mouth, eyes, gills, fins, and the flexible caudal peduncle. There is one pair of scales in front of the eyes. The terminal mouth is small with fleshy lips and the gill openings are short with slits located in front of the bases of the pectoral fins. There are no pelvic fins and the caudal fin is distinctly rounded.
The background color of the honeycomb cowfish ranges from gray to bluish and greenish or to yellowish and brown. This fish like so many other fish can change or flash it’s colors in a matter of seconds, it’s something you have to see to believe! The carapace of this fish is covered in bold pattern of hexagonal scutes having pale borders surrounding a dark hexagonal ring which in turn surrounds the pale center of the scute. Toward the dorsal edge of the carapace, these dark hexagons tend to become open and irregular. The dark rings become irregular, forming a reticulate pattern on the cheeks. In larger specimens, the hexagon pattern on the body develops dark stripes within the dark hexagons.
The teeth of the honeycomb cowfish are moderate and conical in shape with usually less than 15 teeth in each jaw.
The maximum length of the honeycomb cowfish is 19.7 inches (50.0 cm) total length although it more commonly reaches lengths of 9.8 inches (25.0 cm).
The honeycomb cowfish feeds on marine invertebrates including shrimp, tunicates, and sponges.
Very little is known about reproduction within the family Ostraciidae. However, it has been observed that this species forms social harems consisting of one male along with only two females.
Larger fish are potential predators of the honeycomb cowfish, however it may be undesirable as a prey item due to its protective external armor, the carapace.
Dinner is calling, have a great evening!
Jul 28, 14 Comments Off on Diving the Superior Producer Wreck in Curacao
Good afternoon friends, I apologize for the late posting but this Caribbean boy has been really busy these past few days! On the home front I’m building a big bird cage for our poor little parakeet that was hit by a car a few weeks ago, we don’t think he will be flying any time soon but then again you never know. I spent the weekend mountain biking and working on maintaing the trails, a job that honestly never seems to end!! Our Dalmatian Inca is still unable to walk after having rocks thrown at her by a local Curacao guy out on the trails I built?? I guess next I will be posting signs that say, “if you don’t like dogs, stay off the trails”! Yes, still major upset! The island is getting small amounts of scattered rain which has helped immensely and we are so thankful for every drop that falls! We continue to take large amounts of food and water out to the desert each day for the birds and iguanas in an effort to do something to help our wild friends. Since our battery was stollen out of the car a week ago I have been trying to figure out how to secure the hood or the battery to make it more difficult to steal. Well tonight, Dutch (owner/creator/boss) of the Sea aquarium and my co-worker Bruce took matters into their own hands and drilled a hole through the top of the hood and welded a big hitch lock in place!!! So now the hood will not open without a key, it may not look pretty but it will work!!
This morning Mark, from the World famous “The Dive Bus” (link on the left side of my home page) called and asked if I wanted to go with him to the Superior Producer (big sunken ship) for a morning dive and I of course said yes!! Mark is friends with some of the top tech guys and gals at GoPro and they had just sent him a new box of goodies to take out to the water to test and play with, again, it’s not what you know it’s who you know!! Word! I quickly assembled my Ikelite D-800 setup with double DS-160 strobes and the Ikelite/GoPro tray with 2-Vega video lights (seen above in Marks hands) and rushed to get down to the Dive Bus. We quickly loaded up his truck joined by two other friends and took off to the dive site which is located on the West side of the Mega Pier. Once parked we all kept busy setting up our own gear and within minutes we were on our way to the water. I wish you could have seen Mark, he looked like a human GoPro Christmas tree!!! He had one attached to his chest, one on a cool extendable GoPro pole with tripod (for selfies), and two dangling from his BC for backup and topside shots, GoPro would have been proud! The visibility was pretty great today which makes this particular dive that much better. To make a long story short the four of us had a total blast! We filmed our two friends exploring the wreck and I shot some photos of Mark. I mainly used my Ikelite/GoPro setup with a red filter over the lens which we found out doesn’t work that great below 75 feet but it’s amazing from 0-75. The Ikelite Vegas (strobes) are so powerful they lit up everything and lasted well over an hour, if you don’t have these yet, put them on the list, it’s a must have for a GoPro or any DSLR with video capabilities. Ikelite link again is on the front of my home page. I wish I could tell you about all the cool things I saw on the dive but all I saw was Mark through my little “live view” screen on the GoPro, a small price to pay for a killer clip of adventure one can watch over and over and share with the World. We did encounter some current today, something this dive site is well known for but we managed to kick our way right through it. We are planning another trip there soon and I will try to post a video clip for you all to see just what your missing out on!
Still lots to do, see you tomorrow……..
Jul 24, 14 Comments Off on Blue-Light Photos, Blue-Light Photography
Good morning friends, I’m trying hard to wake up this morning after a late night out playing under the sea. I always try to do night dives later in the evening as you will see way more stuff the longer you wait. Last night I entered the watery darkness at 8:30 and didn’t get out till quarter till 10:00 and yes, I was a bit frozen! I have started a new weekly routine and that is to start doing one blue-light/fluorescent dive a week and it’s looking like wednesdays are going to be that day. For those of you new to the blog blue-light diving is where you use a yellow filter over your camera lens and place blue-filters over your flash strobes, this combination produces wild fluorescent colors that you will never see with normal white light. Also while searching for my subjects (that’s the fun part) I use a powerful blue search light and I wear a pair of yellow glasses over my mask.
Last night I found so many cool things like the beautiful little star coral (top photo) with it’s delicate flower looking polyps, the glowing orange bacteria/algae (photo 2), the cool piece of sheet coral (photo 3), a super cool cup corallimorph (photo 4), a weird seaweed of some kind (photo 5) and last but not least, a buried lizardfish with only his head showing. For you divers who have not done this your missing out, it is a real treat and fun for the whole family!
Fluorescence is the name for the absorption of light at one wavelength and its re-emission at another wavelength. What that boils down to is that some things will glow when you shine the right light on them. The â€˜right light’ can be different for different targets. We are most used to seeing fluorescence produced by ultraviolet light, often called â€œblack lightâ€ because we humans can’t see it. So I recently purchased these new lights from Night Sea WWW.NIGHTSEA.COM called; specially filtered blue lights, because the blue has proved to be better at making most things underwater fluoresce. Fluorescence is kind of magical, especially at night and underwater. You point one light at a target and a totally different color comes out. One of the characteristics of fluorescence is the intense, highly saturated colors. We are used to seeing things illuminated by white light, which contains all the colors of the spectrum. When something fluoresces it usually emits only a narrow range of colors, making it appear like a pure color. There are fluorescent items around you all the time. Highlighter pens, orange traffic cones and safety vests, and bright plastics for children’s toys are just a few examples of the way fluorescence is used. The fluorescence of these products is what makes them appear especially bright.
Have a great day all and thanks for all the notes of encouragement!
Jul 23, 14 Comments Off on Swimming with a School of Baby Reef Squids
Hi friends, yes, more squids!!!! Aimee stopped by this morning and joined me for a fun dive with the baby Caribbean Reef Squids which are still hanging out in our little secluded bay. Aimee took the Ikelite/GoPro setup to shoot some video and I took the Nikon D-800 SLR setup to take photos of her shooting video. We decided to leave the Ikelite Vegas (video strobes) on the dock as the sun was shining and we were only in 5 to 10 feet of water, meaning we had plenty of natural night. The squids are getting very used to me and the big camera and the continuous flash doesn’t seem to bother them. During our fun little photo shoot the squids swam right up to my camera, I think they could see their reflections in my wide angle dome. I’m pretty amazed at how fast these guys are growing, they must be catching live fish all day long! I’m not sure if you can see it or not but behind Aimee there is a large school of small bait fish, these are what they love to eat and seem to have no problems with catching them.
Not much else going on, the bird and turtles are doing well, Inca is still not able to walk from the rock that was thrown at her and I am getting in a bunch of mountain biking. The island is still getting small isolated showers and many areas have greened up a bit, we could still use more!
That’s about it, have a great day out there!
Jul 22, 14 Comments Off on Finger Corals, Artificial Coral Reefs, Stony Corals
Pencil Coral 1
Pencil Coral 2
Pencil Coral 3
Pencil Coral 4
Pencil Coral 5
Pencil Coral 6
Good afternoon all, I had a ton of requests asking to see my “tire coral” project that I have been blogging about these past few weeks so today I finally went down and got some explanation type photos. Ok first off this is Yellow Pencil Coral, Madracis mirabilis and it’s one of the most fragile of all the stony corals. It can be found in shades of light yellow, cream or pale brown. Yellow Pencil corals have branching colonies and the corallites are widely separated, sometimes angular in outline with a solid conical columella. Usually ten septa are present and these are fused with the columella. The coenosteum has fine spinules which sometimes form a ridge between corallites. Tentacles are extended day and night giving them a constant “fuzzy look” and will quickly retract if disturbed.
So what’s going on is, the delicate pencil corals are being ripped out of their colonies by these terrible little Bicolor Damselfish, Stegastes partitus, photo #2 and #4. Yes these little fish build homes down inside the corals!! In order to get inside the corals they need to first build an entrance if you will by grabbing pieces of live coral (with their mouths) and pulling it out!! Yeah that sounds impossible right?? Well today I took the pieces of live coral from around the hole in photo #4 and placed them back inside the hole to try and fix the damage these fish had already done. Within seconds four little damselfish with anger in their eyes swam over and tossed all the pieces back out, I see I will have to get this on video as well so you can see this for yourself! So all the pieces they rip out I am now taking over to my tire in photo #6. Photo #3 shows what healthy pencil coral should look like but the second a damselfish decides he wants to move in it will look like photo #2, here you can even see him coming out. See the piece of tossed out coral in photo #2, well it’s pieces like that I am gathering to put in tires, at least they will be safe in there. The top photo shows a larger area that has been wiped out, there are 20-30 little fish living around this mess and tossed out corals are everywhere! If the corals land into sand they will die, if they lay on top of the corals the corals under them will die. Photo #5 shows tossed out corals that I picked up months ago from either on top of the corals or in the sand and I placed them into holes on the reef, as you can see these are doing very well. So your thinking why don’t I just continue to place the tossed out corals into the reef instead of using a tire?? Well, I have run out of rocks to put them onto, and I can’t lay them on anything that is alive!! I am open to any ideas you all have out there, I will try anything to help corals! The corals in the tires are doing very well, they have been out there for weeks now and I haven’t seen any problems yet. Besides the crazy coral killing fish, the corals are also under attack by boat anchors and all kinds of different diseases, you would’t believe some of the stuff I’ve seen underwater. I can’t even count the number of photo dives that have been aborted due to finding a newly destroyed colony of pencil coral! I usually will just put the camera down and one by one start turning the flipped corals over and finding new homes for them, this can eat up an hour dive real quick!
Lots to do, I have to go!
Jul 21, 14 Comments Off on Baby Caribbean Reef Squids Video, Teuthoidea
Good morning friends, how was your weekend???? I did a hard 45 mile mountain bike ride on saturday and spent the rest of the day recovering and sunday worked on a multitude of weird jobs. Saturday afternoon Aimee and I took off to Saint Joris Bay for a wonderful late afternoon walk with the dogs and to do a bit of trail work. Upon our return we all climbed into the car and with a turn of the key realized our battery had just been stolen! Talk about a feeling of overwhelming helplessness! Unfortunately this is a very common practice here in Curacao and it’s partially my own fault for #1 not locking the car and #2 not having anything locking the battery into the car, it was there for the taking! The crime rate here has gone through the roof over the past few years and it seems to be getting worse and worse. So what do you do when you find yourself vulnerable and trapped without a car and darkness is falling?? Yep, you call your friends at the World famous Dive Bus Hut (Mark and Suzi) and beg them for help! I love having friends that just say….”where are you and we will be there in a few minutes”, talk about the most calming words a person can say in a time of need!! So after talking to Mark we pushed the car out of the area it was at and got it more out in the open for our safety and so Mark could easily find us. Within 15 minutes our rescue vehicle had arrived and to our complete surprise they brought with them a spare battery which worked perfectly! We didn’t even think of having someone bring out a battery, we just figured we could get someone to pull the car back to our house, talk about your smart fellers (not fart smellers Mark!) So once again driving back home with a bad situation made good we both said and acknowledged how great it is to have good friends, thanks again guys, ribs next week!!
I have another fun squid video for you all day, these are my 35 or so baby Caribbean reef squids that are living in our tiny bay, they are super cool!! These squids range in size from one to six inches with the majority being around three inches in length. As you can see they are super calm and a complete joy to be around, it’s like swimming with aliens!
I have to run, making a battery holder for the new battery with a lock on it!
Jul 18, 14 Comments Off on Pederson Cleaner Shrimp with Eggs, Crustaceans
Good morning friends, it’s finally friday!!! Yesterday was busy around here. I did two dives, one for fun (playing with the baby squids) and one filming and photographing the submersible for a Dutch television program. One the first fun dive I found this very pregnant Pederson Cleaner Shrimp with a stomach FULL of Eggs, talk about cool! I’m sorry the photo is so small because the detail in the eggs is really amazing! The little momma shrimp never moved the whole time I was photographing her, she was completely fearless. I see these little (one inch) shrimps on every single dive I do and usually find time to stop and observe or watch as they jump onto a parked fish for a good cleaning.
Ancylomenes pedersoni/Periclimenes pedersoni sometimes known as Pederson’s shrimp, is a species of cleaner shrimp. Ancylomenes pedersoni is found in the Caribbean Sea, often associated with a sea anemone, at depths of 1 to 15 metres (3 to 49 ft).
Pederson’s shrimp is a small transparent shrimp with bluish and violet markings on the body and long white antennae and within its range is unlikely to be confused with other species.
Pederson’s shrimp lives in association with a sea anemone, either Bartholomea annulata or Condylactis gigantea, living among the tentacles with impunity. Before it can do this it needs to acclimatise itself to the anemone by progressively pressing its body and appendages against the tentacles for increasing periods of time. After this it is able to move between the tentacles without getting stung but if it is separated from its host for a few days, it will need to repeat the immunizing procedure. Up to 26 shrimps have been found associated with one sea anemone but more usually there is just one or two. The shrimp offers cleansing services to passing fish and attracts their attention by lashing its antennae about. Fish visiting the cleaning station will remain stationary while their external parasites are removed and eaten by the shrimp, which even cleans inside the gill covers and the mouth. If a neon goby sets up a cleaning station nearby, the shrimp will clean the client fish at the same time as the goby does. Researchers have shown that fish recognise the sea anemone Bartholomea annulata as being a place at which the shrimps’ services are likely to be available. The larger the sea anemone, the more likely fish are to visit it.
I’m off to the sea to shoot some video of the baby squids, have a great weekend!
Jul 17, 14 Comments Off on Blue-Light Diving, Blue-Light Underwater Photos
Good morning from Curacao! Once again we got a little rain this morning which as many of you now know, that’s a big deal! Our little island was severely suffering from a 6 month drought but is now slowly starting to green up again and we love it!!
So yesterday I ended up doing three dives again, one before 9:30am, one at noon and one starting at 8:00 last night. I had spent much of the afternoon preparing for my night dive which involves setting up the camera with blue-filters over the strobes and a yellow filter over the lens to capture fluorescence on the reef at night. This new kind of night diving is called “blue-light diving” and it’s a total blast! I wear a yellow pair of flat glasses over my mask and carry a powerful handheld blue-light that I use to search for my subjects. Once I locate a selected specimen I turn on my three Ikelite DS-160 strobes that have blue-glass filters over each one and the camera has a screw-on yellow filter over the lens so anything I shoot will be in fluorescence. The color I see the most is green but I do find orange, yellow, red, blue, and pink as well. If you look at the bottom photo this is a little three inch Maze coral, Meandrina meandrites with a tiny glowing red fish laying right in the middle, I never even saw him until I got back and looked at the photos. The top photo is the same coral but during the day, I just went down and shot that about an hour ago just so you can see the difference in the two under two different kinds of light, natural and man-made. During the dive last night I found so many beautiful corals that were fluorescing and found it difficult to pick a favorite, I guess I just need to go back down and do it again! I did see tons of lionfish as well last night, for sure the most I have ever seen and NO they do not fluoresce.
Fluorescence as you may or may not know is the emission of light by a substance that has absorbed light or other electromagnetic radiation. It also occurs when molecules are excited to higher electronic states by energetic electron bombardment. For example, in the natural aurora, high-altitude nuclear explosions, and rocket-borne electron gun experiments. In most cases, the emitted light has a longer wavelength, and therefore lower energy, than the absorbed radiation. However, when the absorbed electromagnetic radiation is intense, it is possible for one electron to absorb two photons; this two-photon absorption can lead to emission of radiation having a shorter wavelength than the absorbed radiation. The emitted radiation may also be of the same wavelength as the absorbed radiation, termed “resonance fluorescence”.
The most striking examples of fluorescence occur when the absorbed radiation is in the ultraviolet region of the spectrum, and thus invisible to the human eye, and the emitted light is in the visible region.
Fluorescence has many practical applications, including mineralogy, gemology, chemical sensors (fluorescence spectroscopy), fluorescent labeling, dyes, biological detectors, and, most commonly, fluorescent lamps.
Lots to do, have a wonderful day!
Jul 16, 14 Comments Off on Baby Caribbean Reef Squids, Sepioteuthis sepioidea
Good morning friends, I jumped in the water early this morning with camera in hand and photographed our school of baby Caribbean Reef Squids that have been living here since they were born. The squids range in size from around three to six inches and I counted around 35 of them. The squids seem very relaxed and they let me get very close and at times they were hovering around me and the camera, it was fantastic! Although the photo is small you can still see all their crazy iridescent colors which they have the ability to change in the blink of an eye, truly one of the hands down coolest creatures in the sea! I have found out that photographing these animals can be very difficult because of their eyes, too much light and it ruins the eyes and too little and the body is too dark, this was hot at 160-F13 making the squids colors perfect with no over-exposed eyes.
The Caribbean reef squid (Sepioteuthis sepioidea), also known as just the Reef Squid, is a small (20 cm) torpedo-shaped squid with fins that extend nearly the entire length of the body and undulate rapidly as it swims. The squid has recently become notable when it was discovered that it could fly out of the water; a discovery which finally led to identification of six species of flying squid.
The Caribbean reef squid is found throughout the Caribbean Sea as well as off the coast of Florida, commonly in small schools of 4-30 in the shallows associated with reefs. The habitat of the Reef Squid changes according to the squid’s stage of life and size. New hatchlings tend to reside close to the shore in areas from 0.2″1 meters below the surface on or under vegetation. Young small squid typically congregate in shallow turtle grass near islands and remain several centimeters to two meters from the surface to avoid bird predators. Adults venture out into open water and can be found in depths up to 100 m. When mating, adults are found near coral reefs in depths of 1.5“8 m. The Caribbean reef squid is the only squid species commonly sighted by divers over inshore reefs in the Florida, Bahamas and Caribbean region.
This species, like most squid, is a voracious eater and typically consumes 30-60% of its body weight daily. Prey is caught using the club-like end of the long tentacles which are then pulled towards the mouth supported by the shorter arms. Like other cephalopods, it has a strong beak which it uses to cut the prey into parts so that the raspy tongue, or radula, can be used to further process the food. It consumes small fish, other molluscs, and crustaceans.
Caribbean reef squid have been shown to communicate using a variety of color, shape, and texture changes. Squid are capable of rapid changes in skin color and pattern through nervous control of chromatophores. In addition to camouflage and appearing larger in the face of a threat, squids use color, patterns, and flashing to communicate with one another in various courtship rituals. Caribbean reef squid can send one message via color patterns to a squid on their right, while they send another message to a squid on their left.
Like other cephalopods, the Caribbean reef squid, is semelparous, dying after reproducing. Females lay their eggs then die immediately after. The males, however, can fertilize many females in a short period of time before they die. Females lay the eggs in well-protected areas scattered around the reefs. After competing with 2-5 other males, the largest male approaches the female and gently strokes her with his tentacles. At first she may indicate her alarm by flashing a distinct pattern, but the male soon calms her by blowing water at her and jetting gently away. He returns repeatedly until the female accepts him, however the pair may continue this dance or courting for up to an hour. The male then attaches a sticky packet of sperm to the female’s body. As he reaches out with the sperm packet, he displays a pulsating pattern. The female places the packet in her seminal receptacle, finds appropriate places to lay her eggs in small clusters, and then dies.
We have a submersible dive in a few minutes, I have to go!
Jul 15, 14 Comments Off on Stove-Pipe Sponges, Aplysina archeri, Sponges
Good morning from cloudy Curacao. I just got out from my first dive of the day and discovered we have around 25 baby/juvenile Caribbean reef squids living under our floating submersible platform, how cool is that?? I want to go back out immediately and do photos and video but the water is not so clear today due to high winds which in turn causes rough stirred up seas. I did swim down to around 60 feet and finish up my little yellow pencil coral experiment that I’m doing with used car tires. There are so many broken pencil corals on our reef mostly due to an overwhelming “infishtation” (my own word) of little black damselfish! What they do is tear out a hole or section in the delicate pencil corals and make themselves a home down deep in the coral, it’s really a mess! And because all the big reef fish predators are gone from overfishing the damselfish numbers have increased 1000 fold! I’m placing all the broken pencil corals in the tire so they at least can stand upright and hopefully have a chance at growing, I guess we will see. As I left the tire filled with corals I watched as a big damselfish came out of hiding and already started pecking at my poor corals, I tell you those little fish are downright monsters!!
I have a super beautiful cluster of multi-colored Stove-Pipe Sponges, Aplysina archeri for your viewing pleasure today. This cluster was discovered by our friends Sal and Patty while diving at 1000 steps in Bonaire a few years back. I remember he had sent me a photo he took because he knows I love sponges and that was enough to get me packed and on my way to Bonaire.
Aplysina archeri (also known as stove-pipe sponge because of its shape) is a species of tube sponge that has long tube-like structures of cylindrical shape. Many tubes are attached to one particular part of the organism. A single tube can grow up to 5 feet high and 3 inches thick. These sponges mostly live in the Atlantic Ocean: the Caribbean, Bahamas, Florida, and Bonaire. They are filter feeders; they eat food such as plankton or suspended detritus as it passes them. Very little is known about their behavioral patterns except for their feeding ecology and reproductive biology. Tubes occur in varying colors including lavender, gray and brown. They reproduce both by asexual and sexual reproduction. When they release their sperms, the sperms float in water and eventually land somewhere where they begin to reproduce cells and grow. These sponges take hundreds of years to grow and never stop growing until they die. Snails are among their natural predators. The dense population of these sponges is going down because of toxic dumps and oil spills.
Have a great day, I’m off to play with the squids….
Oh yeah, Inca is doing better after her shot yesterday!
Jul 14, 14 Comments Off on Night-Diving in Curacao, Giant Porcupinefish
Good morning from Curacao! Good news, we got more rain and our bone dry island is starting to turn green again, I can’t tell you how happy I am! The downside to the rain was getting stuck in it for two hours on Saturday while cycling around the island. I finally talked two friends into joining me on my long weekend bike ride and within minutes of starting it stated to rain! Yeah not fun! For awhile we had it at our backs but once we turned into the wind at Porto Mari it was rain and wind straight into the face, I was riding with one eye closed and squinting the whole way. The other crazy thing was all the poor iguana’s that come out of the desert to lay on the road during a downpour, they desperately need the water but have no idea that they are now in the direct path of passing cars! All three of us were doing our best to chase them off the road and back into the desert or at least out of the middle of the road but I am sure that was a loosing battle! We watched in horror as one big iguana ran directly into the path of a speeding pickup, running directly under it and somehow managed to NOT get hit??? I don’t think I have ever seen such a lucky animal! Others were not as lucky. Many of them I had to grab by the tails and toss them into the brush, they would not get out of the road for anything! We arrived at of final destination completely soaked to the bone and covered in mud meaning I spent a good part of the morning cleaning the bike and my gear after.
On Sunday I picked up Stijn and we took off out to the salt ponds to work on our new free-ride course which is a long ways from being done! We did carry out a 12 foot plank that will be used as a bridge to ride up but we need to take out more wood first. Inca (my Dalmatian) is still unable to walk from the incident on thursday with the local man throwing rocks at her, I think Aimee will try to get her to the vet today. I did end up taking our other dog Indi with us and she had a great time. Our wild parakeet that got hit by a car is still doing well, his bandages on the wing were taken off but nstill not sure if he will be able to fly again or not but we sure hope so!
I have another fun night-diving photo for you of our friend Tessa shooting video of a giant porcupinefish that we found hanging out at around 45 feet. These fish are so much fun to hang out with and observe. They have tons of character as you can see from the fun expression of his face and they just always seem so relaxed. You can see Tessa is using the brand new, state of the art Ikelite/GoPro setup. This unit is super lightweight and complete joy to use! We are finding out that for night diving one of the Ikelite Vega video lights is plenty but during the day two still work best.
Porcupine fish are part of a family of fish that are called Diodontidae, and are quite often more commonly called the puffer-fish, or the blow fish. They are not in reality puffer-fish, but are related to them. The Porcupine fish sports on its body a wide array of spines that stand erect when the fish inflates and are very often mistaken for puffer-fish. The Porcupine fish has the unique ability of being a fish that can blow up their bodies, or inflate them. They do this by swallowing air or water and will become literally as rounds as a basket ball. The porcupine fish can enlarge himself almost double the size that he was. Scientists think this is another method of self defense for the porcupine fish. He does this to lower the predators who can prey on him to about half what they normally would be if he did not have this ability. His second and probably best defense is that he bears many rows of very sharp spines, and when the porcupine fish blows himself up to full volume, they become erect, and stand straight up and out. Some species of Porcupine fish also bear a venom, or poison that is emitted from the spines. They have what is called a Tetrodoxin within the skin as well as or in addition to in their intestines which means you take your life into your own hands if you want to eat one and preparation should only be done by an expert. As a result of their great methods of self defense the porcupine fish has very few predators that will take them for food. Adult porcupine fish are sometimes a meal for larger fish such as the shark and the Orca, or whale, although this is only rare in occurrence. The younger or juvenile porcupine fish may sometimes be taken and eaten by larger tuna or by dolphins.
Have a great day!
Jul 11, 14 Comments Off on Brain Coral Man, Symmetrical Brain Coral
Good morning boys and girls, how is the World treating you all this fine day. I’m kind of shocked at how fast this week went by and how little I seem to have gotten done?? We had an incident on the trails yesterday with a local man throwing rocks at our dogs! One of the rocks hit my poor Dalmatian in the leg and then fell on her foot so now she is unable to walk on that foot, it’s swollen and painful, talk about being pissed off! The locals here in Curacao hate dogs beyond belief and carry sticks as a 1st defense or if no stick is to be found rocks are the next defense. Before the man could launch his 3rd stone at the dogs I charged him and tackled him to the ground which resulted in a fun fist fight with both of us taking a few blows! I finally got him calmed down and told him the dogs are friendly and will not attack you but he was completely engulfed in fear and just couldn’t relax! I finally had to hold the dogs off to the side of the trail and let the guy pass, this is not the first time this has happened and it won’t be the last. The funny thing is while in Peru the homeless dogs live in harmony with the people, there’s no one carrying sticks and living in fear, talk about your different cultures!
I have a fun macro shot of a section of Brain Coral for you all today in the shape of a person. Please tell me you can see it and that I’m not loosing my mind! We are always on the lookout for odd looking shapes, faces or designs in nature when out on the reef and this is a perfect example.
Symmetrical Brain Coral, Diploria strigosa, the symmetrical brain coral, is a colonial species of stony coral in the family Faviidae. It occurs on reefs in shallow water in the West Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. It grows slowly and lives to a great age.
The symmetrical brain coral forms smooth flat plates or massive hemispherical domes up to 1.8 metres (5 ft 11 in) in diameter. The surface is covered with interlinking convoluted valleys in which the polyps sit in cup-shaped depressions known as corallites. Each of these has a number of radially arranged ridges known as septae which continue outside the corallite as costae and link with those of neighbouring corallites. The ridges separating the valleys are smoothly rounded and do not usually have a groove running along their apex as does the rather similar grooved brain coral (Diploria labyrinthiformis). The coral has symbiotic dinoflagellate alga called zooxanthella in its tissues and it is these which give the coral its color of yellowish or greenish brown, or occasionally blue-grey. The valleys are often a paler or contrasting color.
The symmetrical brain coral grows very slowly adding about 1 centimetre (0.39 in) to its diameter in a year. This means that a large specimen over a metre (yard) across is at least a century old. In the day time the polyps retract inside their corallites but at night they extend their ring of tentacles and feed on zooplankton. The coral also benefits from the photosynthetic products produced by the zooxanthellae.
Off to take Inca to the vet for her foot, have a great weekend!
Jul 9, 14 Comments Off on Underwater Photographers Camera Gear During Travel
Good morning all, we have a busy day on tap here at Substation Curacao and I have to be underwater taking photos in about 30 minutes so I have to make this short.
My photo today is for a friend who asked.. “what do you usually have to carry with you when you fly to Bonaire to take underwater photos?” I found this older photo last night and in general this is my mess of equipment needed for any given photo trip. This is all Ikelite equipment which includes the housing, two strobes, four rechargeable batteries, duel flash cord, assorted arms to attach the strobes to, a multitude of ports and chargers and all kinds of spare o-rings and silicon. For the camera gear I have the camera, at least five different lens which include the 10.5mm, 16mm, 28-70mm, 60mm and 105mm plus extra camera batteries, a +4 diopter for the 28-70 and more chargers and SD and CF cards. In this photo I was using a stand alone storage device to download my photos onto once shot but now I just carry my laptop or just carry plenty of SD and CF cards. Of course I have to pay for overweight charges every time I fly (both ways) which is usually an extra $150-$200 that’s the down side! Once I have everything laid out like you see here I set up the camera, pick a lens for the dive and head out to have fun! Many times I can do two dives on a single charge with the strobes but normally I will just take the other two batteries and have them waiting in the car. Also I can change to a different lens once back to car very easily and have been know to do this on countless occasions. After any given dive I have to fully rinse this setup with freshwater so what I do now is carry a black tub (that my dive gear fits in) and use this as a portable rinse tank, as many of you know salt is a killer! After the daily dives once back to our room, I clean and recharge everything and get it all ready to go underwater again, as you can imagine this can keep a person very busy!
Have to go, see you soon,
Jul 9, 14 Comments Off on Highhat Drum, Pareques acuminatus, Juvenile Highhat
Hi everyone, no I did not fall off the face of the Earth, I am just having one of those weeks!! Yesterday, tuesday I did 4 dives and went straight home to bed, no bike riding! On one of my dives monday I discovered that one of my big finger coral colonies had fallen over due to an infestation of damselfish and lack of support. So yesterday I brought in loads of giant stones from the desert weighing 50-100lbs and took them one by one out to the reef to act as a new barrier so the rest of the corals will stay put. Moving giant stones underwater is a kind of art. Once the stones are underwater, you have to first put a sling around each one and then attach the sling to a rope that is connected to a big white bucket. Then I fill the bucket with air from my tank and “presto” the air in the bucket lifts the stone and off we go! So this is what I did for an hour and a half yesterday, back and forth to 50 feet and back taking stone after stone out to it’s new home. Not only do these rocks aid in holding up my corals they will now be homes to hundreds of little creatures and fish. In fact yesterday no sooner had I put a stone in place and a little yellow damselfish moved right in and staked his claim, talk about brave!
Today I took the day off to spend with Aimee and celebrate my birthday. I left the house at 6:30m and rode my bike over to the north coast (takes about an hour) where I met Aimee and the dogs. We then did a fun ride towards Playa Kanoa stopping at our favorite little beach to let the dogs swim and for us to do some beach collecting. After returning the girls back to the car I rode back home which took another hour, so I got in a good 3 hour ride. I believe we are going out diving later this afternoon to work on our brain coral project and to check on my finger corals, so much to do, so little time!
I have a fairly rare fish that we don’t see too often here in Curacao. This a baby/juvenile Highhat Drum, Pareques acuminatus and let me tell you these little fish are a joy to watch.
The name “Drum” was given to these, and several other similar species, because drum fish can make a low resonance noise similar to the beating of a drum. Highhat drums are found on coral reefs in the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, Florida and the Bahamas. They can be found at all recreational depths. They swim alone, usually under cover of a ledge, coral, or the opening of small caves. For this reason, you will need to get low to find them.
Highhat drum are nocturnal, so it’s possible to find them out feeding during a night dive.
Well gang, lots to do, have a great day!!