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, 2016
Jul 28, 16 Comments Off on Pufferfish, Cute Reef Fish, Balloon fish
Good morning all, I’m taking off to Miami tomorrow morning for 5 days so you may or may not hear from me for a few days, it all depends on the time I have.
Our night dive was cancelled last night due to yours truly loosing his keys meaning I couldn’t get into the Substation to get my gear and believe it or not I still haven’t found them??
I did jump in the water 1st thing this morning to photograph the small but nice brain corals that we have growing in just a few feet of water in our lagoon on the side of the walls. I did this in case the water warms up and the corals start to bleach, then I can show you a before and after photo. I did see a few very small corals starting to bleach due to the warmer waters in the basin, I will be keeping a very close eye on them. As I was searching I found one of our resident balloon fish hiding in the rocks in his or her little “cave of solitude” watching the world pass by and I of course couldn’t resist taking a photo of that cute face.
Have a great weekend if I don’t talk to you sooner…
Jul 27, 16 Comments Off on Scuba Diver Photographing a Mini-Submersible
Good morning all, I had a request for a photo of myself taking a photo of the submersible and it just so happens I have one. Last month when the Sirenas Group was here collecting sponges for medical research they had a videographer with them that snapped this cool shot of me doing what I do almost daily. My job here at Substation is to photograph clients/tourists/researchers underwater in the submersible as they pass by to greater depths, my photo-shoot usually takes about 5 minutes or less AND, it’s completely painless!
I’m doing a long overdo blue-light night dive tonight with my friend Jonathan, our goal is to shoot the endangered Staghorns and Elkhorns, wish us luck!
I had a great MTB ride last night, it was crazy hot but fun!!
Jul 26, 16 Comments Off on Cleaning Sea Plastic/Trash from Protected Mangroves
Good morning friends, I have an update on my “mangrove clean-up experiment” for you all today starting with the original trashed mangrove photo I posted a few weeks ago! So what I did was go back out to Saint Joris bay after taking the top photo and cleaned up all the trash from that particular area and took a second photo showing what a difference just one hour of work can do. This was accomplished with the help of my friend Jonathan who bagged while I tossed it all out into the open. The third photo shows what we took out in just one hour or less, so those who say “why bother” well, I have no good answer for you! The fourth photo is our buddy Mark from the World famous Dive Bus Hut who is always there to lend a hand and is no stranger to picking up trash. Those six green bags sat out there along the road for over a week and not one person (not even the surfers) cared enough to pick them up and toss them out, what does this say for the hope of cleaning up the planet?? Aimee and I always say, “if everyone were to just pick up a little something each day we could get this problem under control”!
Lots going on, have a wonderful day!
Jul 25, 16 Comments Off on Substation Iguana, Green Iguana Curacao
Good morning friends, we ended up having to work saturday so my weekend , what there was left of it flew by! I did get in a short bike ride yesterday to Saint Joris and back and while out there I noticed right away that no-one has picked up the trash we bagged a week ago? I have to say, that blows me away!! I even had a big note on it (just 6 bags) saying “PLEASE, we picked this up, can you haul it away??” I guess the answer is NO! It’s really come down to laziness or just plain ignorance here in Curacao, I would have at least expected the wind surfers to grab them but apparently they love living in filth as well?? So Mark from the World famous Dive Bus Hut said he would take me out there this week in his truck to get it, what a great guy, I will keep you posted.
I have a new shot of our resident green iguana for you all today that I shot while he was out getting a bath in a recent rain shower, he truly loved it! Each morning I bring him a mango or banana and he races over for breakfast, I have to say he’s pretty cool! During the day I keep an eye on him as he tends to walk in the resort areas where we don’t want him to go. I usually will run out to the beach and persuade him to turn around and remind him where his home is, he’s usually not real happy about it.
I’m off to the sea…
Jul 22, 16 Comments Off on NEW Species of Scorpionfish named after ME!
Good morning, or should I say GREAT morning, I got a fish named after me today!! Is that super cool or what?? For years I have been photographing all the new finds made by the Smithsonian, many I have posted for you all to see. Most of the fish and creatures that come up from the deep are new species meaning yours truly was the 1st to take their photos, it’s a honor beyond belief! Below is one of the many press releases that came out today, read on….
LIVE SPECIMEN OF THE NEW SCORPIONFISH (SCORPAENODES BARRYBROWNI)
Discovered by scientists using the manned submersible Curasub in the deep-reef waters of the Caribbean island of Curaçao, a new scorpionfish species is the latest one captured with the help of the sub’s two robotic arms.
Found by Dr. Carole C. Baldwin, lead scientist of the Smithsonian’s Deep Reef Observation Project (DROP) and based at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, Ms. Diane Pitassy, also affiliated with the Smithsonian in Washington, and Dr. Ross Robertson, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama, the new species is described in the open access journal ZooKeys. In their paper, the authors also discuss the depth distributions and relationships of western Atlantic members of its genus.
The new scorpionfish is distinguished from other similar scorpionfishes by a number of physical traits, including its distinctive bright orange-red colors, more elongated fin rays, and DNA. Inhabiting depths between 95 m and 160 m, it is also the deepest-living member of its genus in the western Atlantic Ocean.
The new scorpionfish is officially called Scorpaenodes barrybrowni in honor of Substation Curaçao and freelance photographer Barry Brown, who “has patiently, diligently, and expertly taken photographs of hundreds of fishes and invertebrates captured alive by DROP Investigators,” explain the authors. “He has generously shared his photographs, and they have enhanced numerous scientific and educational publications. It is an honor to recognize Barry Brown’s contributions to science through his photography.”
“Fish specimens that are brought up from deep reefs only occasionally surface alive,” explains Baldwin. When DROP scientists return to the surface in the Curasub with a living fish, Barry races it to his aquarium and begins to work his photographic magic.”
The new fish already has a common name as well. For the public, it will be known as the Stellate Scorpionfish, deriving from its star-shaped yellowish spots and the radiating pigment markings accentuating its eyes.
The manned submersible Curasub reaches depths up to 300 m and is used by DROP and other marine scientists to search for tropical marine fishes and invertebrates, while conventional SCUBA divers are unable to reach deeper than 30 – 50 metres below the water surface.
“The 50-300 m tropical ocean zone is poorly studied – too deep for conventional SCUBA and too shallow to be of much interest to really deep-diving submersibles,” notes Baldwin. “The Curasub is providing scientists with the technology needed to remedy this gap in our knowledge of Caribbean reef biodiversity.”
The sub relies on two hydraulic arms, one equipped with a suction hose, and the other designed to immobilize the fish with an anaesthetizing chemical. Once anesthetized, the individuals are collected with the suction hose, which empties into a vented plexiglass cylinder attached to the outside of the sub.
In January, the team of Drs. Luke Tornabene, Robertson and Baldwin discovered the Godzilla goby. About a year ago, Baldwin and Robertson stumbled upon another new goby species, which amazed the scientists with its love for the depths so much that they named it after the Curasub. In 2013, the authors recognized the DROP research program in the name of a beautiful new species of small blenny fish, Haptoclinus dropi.
“Stay tuned for more new discoveries,” suggests Baldwin. “We have only scratched the surface of our understanding of the biodiversity of tropical deep reefs.”
I have a photo-shoot on the beach in an hour, lots to prepare for!!
Have a great day!
Jul 21, 16 Comments Off on New Healthy Staghorn Corals, Endangered Coral
Good morning friends, while out searching the reefs last week I encountered a new area full of endangered Staghorn corals and they are beautiful! I ended up finding around 30 little patches or colonies and they are all looking great, this is a super endangered coral!
The dominant mode of reproduction for staghorn corals is asexual, with new colonies forming when branches break off a colony and reattach to the substrate. This life history trait allows rapid population recovery from physical disturbances such as storms. However, it makes recovery from disease or bleaching episodes (where entire colonies or even entire stands are killed) very difficult.
Sexual reproduction is via broadcast spawning of gametes into the water column once each year in August or September. Individual colonies are both male and female (simultaneous hermaphrodites) and will release millions of gametes. The coral larvae (planula) live in the plankton for several days until finding a suitable area to settle; unfortunately, very few larvae survive to settle and metamorphose into new colonies. The preponderance of asexual reproduction in this species raises the possibility that genetic diversity in the remnant populations may be very low. These uncertainties as to recruitment/recovery potential and genetic status are the bases for increased demographic concerns for this species.
Since 1980, populations have collapsed throughout their range from disease outbreaks (primarily White band disease), with losses compounded locally by hurricanes, increased predation, bleaching, and other factors. This species is also particularly susceptible to damage from sedimentation and sensitive to temperature and salinity variation. Populations have declined by up to 98% throughout the range, and localized extirpations have occurred.
Jul 20, 16 Comments Off on Juvenile Bluehead Wrasses (Thalassoma bifasciatum)
Good morning friends, one of the coolest things we see on the reef each year is a new explosion of bright yellow colored fish called Bluehead Wrasse, these are juveniles. To see this in person is a sight to behold and it’s one of the coolest things we have ever seen, I did shoot some video and will try to get that posted for you as well. During all my dives last week these little fish would surround me in great numbers creating a yellow wall of color in front of whatever I was trying to photograph and at times I just gave trying to shoot the corals.
The bluehead wrasse or blue-headed wrasse (Thalassoma bifasciatum) is a species of saltwater fish in the wrasse family (Labridae) of order Perciformes native to the coral reefs of the tropical waters of the western Atlantic Ocean. Individuals are small (less than 110 mm standard length) and rarely live longer than two years. They form large schools over the reef and are important cleaner fish in the reefs they inhabit.
Young/small females and males have yellow upper bodies and white lower bodies, often with green or black lateral stripes and occasionally dark vertical bars. This coloration is known as the initial phase. They can rapidly alter the presence or intensity of their yellow color, stripes, and bars, and these color changes appear to correspond to behavioral changes. Large females and some males can permanently change coloration and/or sex and enter the terminal phase coloration, which has a blue head, black and white bars behind the head, and a green body. This color phase gives the species its name. Terminal phase males are larger (70 to 80 mm) than the initial phase males (60 mm).
The bluehead wrasse forages for zooplankton, mollusks, and other small crustaceans, as well as parasites on other fish. Initial phase males eat primarily zooplankton from currents, and females and initial phase males have certain hunting times during the day.
We have a busy day on tap with a submersible dive at 11:00 and a rare night dive starting at 7:00 tonight.
Have a wonderful day…
Jul 18, 16 Comments Off on Removing Deadly Gill Nets from a Live Coral Reef
Good morning faithful readers of the blog, how was your Monday??? Mine started out normal and quiet until my friend Jonathan Klarich walked in and and asked if I had seen the new gill net that was at 100 feet out in front of the Sea Aquarium? I looked at him with a blank expression and said “what are you talking about”?? He said there was a dropped or abandoned gill net at 100 feet for the past few days and asked if I wanted to help get rid of it, my answer was… yes of course. Upon hearing that John set out to organize a major “gill net retrieval dive” which included calling in the Dutch Coast Guard and a bunch of our top divers from the Sea Aquarium. We all met at around 10:30 and by 11:15 once the Coast Guard showed up we jumped in and headed out equipped with knifes and mesh bags, I of course had just the camera. John led the way straight down to 100 feet, it was a quick decent with no time to enjoy the surroundings, we were on a mission with the Coast Guard waiting above us in their boat. The Coast Guard was there just for support, here in Curacao you don’t remove a net of any kind without going through the proper channels first. When I first saw the net glooming in the distance covered in dead fish I felt overwhelmed with what a major task this was as it was much larger than I had imagined! I immediately started shooting and the boys went to work slicing and dicing (bottom photo) as fast as they could and then trying their hardest to get that nasty net into those small mesh bags (middle photo), this was no easy task but to my surprise they got it done! Because of the deep depth the net was at we all ended up having to decompress a bit longer, this means we stop at 60, 30 and 15 feet for around five minutes each, it’s better to be safe than sorry. I ended up being the first one to the surface thus getting to shoot the top photo of the boys bringing up the bags and bags of net and lead weights and giving it all to the Coast Guard, a job well done and this section of the reef is once again safe for all sea creatures.
Here’s a small bio from John and some of the things he’s working on…
Have a wonderful day out there…
Jul 17, 16 Comments Off on Damselfish, Clown Wrasse, Small Aggressive Reef Fish
Good morning friends, meet frick and frack. Most of you know how much time I spend underwater with my camera; most days I have to battle crazy currents, fight surge from the passing waves and try not to get stung by jellyfish or bitten by numerous sea creatures, not to mention the always glooming threat of my camera flooding!! So with all that going on I still have to deal with these two characters on every single dive, meet Mr. Threespot Damselfish (top) and Mr. Clown Wrasse (below) two of the most aggressive or just plain anoying little reef fish you will ever meet! I did four dives last week and from start to finish the beautiful Clown Wrasse followed me everywhere and annoyed me non-stop! What he does is swim straight up to my mask and parks there, staring straight into my eyes, he’s either the most brave fish on the reef or he can see his reflection?? He also will nibble on my ears, mask straps, fingers and any open cut I have and let me tell you, it hurts. I usually have a hard time concentrating when he is around, I know he’s going to bite something and knowing that makes me cringe! On my last dive I tried to out swim him and loose him but no matter where I went he or one of his faithful relatives was there to make sure I was well attended, it’s like trying to swat a mosquito and they are just to fast! What I finally ended up doing was turning the tables on him and chasing him for a change but I think he loved the attention and posed beautiful for all the photos, what a little clown!
The other fish, the Threespot Damselfish won’t follow you around but if you pass to close to his or her territory they will for sure bite you and chase you off, they are just plain mean! I have observed these four inch damselfish chase much larger fish away from their territory, you honestly can’t believe how aggressive they can be, I will shoot a video this week to show you. These are also the same damselfish causing all the problems with the corals killing sections and making something called “coral gardens” you can put “coral garden” in my search box and read what they do, they are bad little fish!!
Great news, Curacao is getting rain and the desert is starting to green up again, what a wonderful sight. I did a four hour mountain bike ride yesterday and found it tough to get anywhere due to all the standing mud puddles. I did stop at Saint Joris along the way and cleaned up trash out of the mangroves, I just need to go pack now and pick up all the bags.
Have a wonderful monday!!
Jul 15, 16 Comments Off on Pillar Corals, Coral Reef Scene, Coral Reef Photo
Good morning readers, it’s almost weekend time!
Today I have an insane colony of Pillar Corals for your viewing pleasure that I shoot on yesterdays dive. The conditions yesterday were close to perfect which is so import for those of use taking expensive electronics underwater and hoping to capture something beautiful. When I saw this from a distance it was like the heavens opened up and guided me to it and once there it was glowing with an almost spiritual light, it was really one of those dives I will never forget! Not sure if you can tell from the small photo but there are fish everywhere, this is what a healthy coral reef should look like, all I can say is “Wowzers”!
Pillar coral forms an encrusted base from which grow vertical cylindrical, round-ended columns. This coral can grow to a height of 3 m (10 ft) with pillars more than 10 cm (4 in) wide but is usually much smaller than this. The corallites from which the polyps protrude are smaller than 1 cm (0.4 in) in diameter and arranged in shallow meandering valleys with low ridges in between. The skeleton of the coral is not usually visible because the polyps are typically extended during the daytime, unlike most other coral species. The mass of undulating tentacles gives the coral a furry appearance. This coral is usually some shade of beige or brown.
Pillar coral is a zooxanthellate species, with symbiotic dinoflagellate algae living within the tissues. In sunlight these undergo photosynthesis and most of the organic compounds they produce are transferred to their host, while they make use of the coral’s nitrogenous wastes. These algae give the coral its brownish color and restrict it to living in shallow water into which the sunlight can penetrate.
Pillar coral is a slow-growing, long-lived species. A number of columns grow up from a basal plate; if the whole colony is dislodged and topples over, new cylindrical pillars can grow vertically from the fallen coral. Some specimens have been found where this has happened more than once, and the history of the colony can be deduced from its shape. If a pillar gets detached and becomes lodged in a suitable position, it can continue to live, sending up new pillars from the base and other parts of the column.
Each pillar coral clonal colony is either male or female. Sexual reproduction takes place with gametes being released into the water column where fertilisation takes place. The larvae that hatch out of the eggs are planktonic and drift with the currents before settling on the seabed to found new colonies.
I was out trying to get some new shots of our pet iguana but he is getting more and more shy, I guess that’s a good thing, it may keep him alive longer.
Have a wonderful weekend…
Jul 14, 16 Comments Off on Micro-Plastics, Microplastics, Ocean Microplastics
Good morning, good news, we got rain!! It started at around 4:15 and went for close to an hour, it was fantastic, a big thanks to the man upstairs!
I have something for you that is really causing quite a stir in the world right now, it’s called Microplastics! I found this mess on the shores of Saint Joris bay and it would take a miracle to clean it all up as it is so small! We are going there this weekend to try to get some of it off the shore and do some mangrove clean-up as well, contact me if you want to help. For those of you new to the word “micro plastic” here is a little information for you…
Microplastics are small plastic particles in the environment that are generally smaller than 1 mm (0.039 in) down to the micrometer range. They can come from a variety of sources, including cosmetics, clothing, and industrial processes. Two classifications of microplastics currently exist: primary microplastics are manufactured and are a direct result of human material and product use, and secondary microplastics are microscopic plastic fragments derived from the breakdown of larger plastic debris like the macroscopic parts that make up the bulk of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Both types are recognized to persist in the environment at high levels, particularly in aquatic and marine ecosystems. Because plastics do not break down for many years, they can be ingested and incorporated into and accumulated in the bodies and tissues of many organisms. The entire cycle and movement of microplastics in the environment is not yet known, but research is currently underway to investigate this issue.
Microplastics often become embedded in animals’ tissue through ingestion or respiration. Various fish species, such as deposit-feeding lugworms (Arenicola marina), have been shown to have microplastics embedded in their gastrointestinal tracts. Many crustaceans, like the shore crab Carcinus maenas have been seen to integrate microplastics into both their respiratory and digestive tracts.
Additionally, bottom feeders like benthic sea cucumbers, who are non-selective scavengers that feed on debris on the ocean floor, ingest large amounts of sediment. It has been shown that four species of sea cucumber (Thyonella gemmate, Holothuria floridana, H. grisea and Cucumaria frondosa) ingested between 2- and 20-fold more PVC fragments and between 2- and 138-fold more nylon line fragments (as much as 517 fibers per organism) based on plastic to sand grain ratios from each sediment treatment. These results suggest that individuals may be selectively ingesting plastic particles. Since this suggestion opposes the previously determined indiscriminate feeding strategy of sea cucumbers, this trend may be something which could potentially occur in all non-selective feeders when presented with microplastics.
Not only fish and free-living organisms can ingest microplastics. Scleractinian corals, which are primary reef-builders, have been shown to ingest microplastics under laboratory conditions. While the effects of ingestion on these corals has not been studied, corals can easily become stressed and bleach. It was also noted that microplastics were present stuck to the exterior of the corals after exposure in the laboratory. The adherence to the outside of corals can potentially be harmful, because corals cannot handle sediment or any particulate matter on their exterior and slough it off by secreting mucus, and they expend a large amount of energy in the process and increasing the chances of mortality.
It can take at least 14 days for the microplastics to pass from the animal (as compared to a normal digestion periods of 2 days), but enmeshment of the particles in animals’ gills can cause a prolonged presence. When these microplastic-laden animals are consumed by predators, the microplastics are then incorporated into the bodies of higher trophic-level feeders. For example, scientists have reported plastic accumulation in the stomachs of lantern fish which are small filter feeders and are the main prey for commercial fish like tuna and swordfish. Furthermore, small animals are at risk of reduced food intake due to false satiation and resulting starvation or other physical harm from the microplastics. Thus, the known effects of microplastics on marine organisms after ingestion are threefold:
physical blockage or damage of feeding appendages or digestive tract,
Busy day ahead, headed out to shoot some more beautiful corals!
Jul 13, 16 Comments Off on Coral Reef Photo, Live, Healthy Corals, Soft Corals
Hey gang, I have a BEAUTIFUL coral reef scene for you all today that I took in around 25 feet of water in front of the Sea Aquarium or Shipwreck Point as it’s known around here. This is a mixture of soft and hard corals with the centerpiece being the soft coral gorgonian surrounded by the orange fire corals on the right and massive colonies of starlet corals on the left and in the middle. This is a great example of what a healthy coral reef should like and I pray it stays this way even though scientists are predicting warmer seas here later in the year which could end up bleaching everything.
Lots to as usual.
Jul 12, 16 Comments Off on Curacao Corals, Healthy Corals, Living Corals
Good morning all, I had a fabulous dive out in front of the Sea Aquarium yesterday and for once the seas had calmed down and the visibility was insane! My mission was to photograph as many healthy corals as I possible could in one dive using my trusty 16mm lens. The reason for this out of the blue dive was there are predictions that Curacao like other countries this year will experience warmer seas than normal creating another round of “possible” coral bleaching. So just in case this horrible event is headed our way I wanted to shoot as many live corals as I could before they become bleached later in the year, kind of a before and after scenario if you will. After an hour and a half I ended up shooting around 200 photos and was very impressed by the shape of the reef and how great the corals are looking, I pray we don’t get hit with another round of warm water like we had a few years back, that was horrible!
How are things going out there?? I haven’t heard from many of you in a long time, guessing it’s just summer keeping you all busy!
Have a great day!
Jul 11, 16 Comments Off on Trashed Mangroves at Saint Joris Bay, Curacao
Good morning all, what a weekend! Aimee and I have been at Saint Joris Bay pretty much non-stop the whole weekend collecting small pieces of driftwood, photographing trash and playing with the dogs. Because of some weird, super powerful surge or mini tsunami that recently flushed out the mangroves at Saint Joris, the trash and driftwood is everywhere! Aimee and I are collecting the nice round small pieces of driftwood for use in upcoming driftwood projects like hanging mobiles and other art projects, they are just too cool to not pick up. As you can see from the photo above Curacao, like just about every other place on the planet has a real trash problem and most is in the form of plastic! I plan on going back to this exact spot and doing a clean-up so stay tuned for an “after” photo. Yesterday I left the house at 3:00 on my bike (it was so hot) and rode to Saint Joris and took this photo and many others, it was a bike ride with a mission. Aimee and I also found a place with so much micro-plastic, I took a bag of it home and did some photos, will send one of those to you as well.
So what did you all do this weekend??
I have to get ready for a dive, have a great day.
Jul 8, 16 Comments Off on Two Banded Butterflyfish in a Vase Sponge, Curacao
Hey gang, we had a super busy day at Substation with two runs and we had some of the worst current I have been in making the day even more exhausting!
I have two Banded Butterflyfish for you this afternoon that I found deep down inside a vase sponge at around 50 feet. These small six to seven inch butterflyfish are usually always found in pairs and are some of the most photographed reef fish we have as they are so easy to approach.
The Banded Butterflyfish is a small-bodied fish that lives on coral reefs of the western Atlantic Ocean. Like all butterflyfishes, the Banded Butterflyfish has a discus body and a very small mouth, perfect for biting its preferred prey – small worms and live, soft tissue of reef-building corals. This species gets its common name from the series of dark, vertical bars (or bands) that help to provide it with camouflage. One of the bands always covers the eye, hiding it from potential predators and preventing predators from being able to easily determine which end of the body is the head and which end is the tail. Thanks to Oceana.org for that beautiful piece of text.
Have a great weekend all…