ABOUT

Avid outdoorsman and underwater photographer, Barry Brown has spent the last 12 years documenting life above and below water in Curacao, Netherlands Antilles. He is currently working with the Smithsonian Institution documenting new Caribbean deep-water species and building a one of a kind database. His underwater images can regularly be seen in Sport Diver, Scuba Diver and on the Ikelite website. His image of a "Collage of Corals" seen under blue-light at night recently placed in the TOP 10 images for the 2014 NANPA (North American Nature Photographers Association) photo contest.

General

Archive for the ‘Islands + Topside Attractions’

Jul 13, 17     Comments Off on The Rare Blue Beads of St. Eustatius, Slave Beads, Rare Beads


Hi friends, while in St. Eustatius a while back shooting photos for the Smithsonian Institution I discovered a story of the islands history that few know involving these elusive five-sided, very hard to find blue beads once worn by slaves. My little adventure began onboard the Chapman research vessel with the arrival of some local divers all having at least one big blue bead hanging proudly from their necks. We immediately asked “what’s the story with your beads”? They then told us a story similar to the below article I found in Sport Diver that went something like this…

St. Eustatius or Statia once known as the trading center of the world, used to attract thousands of merchant ships to it’s shores each year. In the 17th and 18th centuries Dutch merchants brought unique pentagonal blue glass beads from Amsterdam to Statia’s marketplace. These blue beads were used to acquire slaves from western Africa who then later used the blue beads as currency on the island, and even sometimes to buy their freedom.

Strangely enough, these same blue beads now beckon divers, not to Statia’s markets but to its surrounding waters. Legend has it that after emancipation slaves threw their blue beads into the sea to celebrate their freedom. Another theory says a ship carrying beads sank or was sunk by the slaves sending the precious blue beads to their watery grave. Divers say that at the blue bead dive site (hole), one doesn’t find a bead but instead it finds or chooses you and once found you belong to Statia and are destined to return again and again.

Over the next few weeks I ended up getting off the ship and going to shore in hopes of finding one of these precious blue beads washed ashore, as we were told this is how many are found. I walked and walked the volcanic sandy beaches and even did some snorkeling in the shallows but never found one, most likely because most of them are found after a storm with big waves, and all we had was calm water the whole time. There is a dive spot called the “blue bead hole”, but I never got out there; they claim this was where a ship went down and many beads were lost. As I walked around town I started noticing many of the locals had a blue bead around their necks that they had found, and I managed to get some of the above shots on my walk. The last photo shows a collection of ancient glass beads that can be seen in the local museum but are different than the ever sought after five-sided blue-beads that everyone is hunting for. For those of you treasure hunters, if you thought hunting for gold was addictive spend a few days looking for these amazing beads, it will drive you crazy!

I do have a four page article that really explains these beads even more. If anyone is interested, just let me know, and I will send it to you.

Have a great day…

Barry

 

Jun 21, 17     Comments Off on Valley of the Sponges Dive Site, St. Eustatius

Good morning, I’m finally getting around to actual dive photos I took on my last trip to the Caribbean, here’s a little window into a dive-site called “Valley of the Sponges”. The morning we did this dive a small boat came from shore over to our ship and picked me and two other Smithsonian friends up and off we went for a three hour, two tank dive. Because St. Eustatius is one big volcano we had to go almost two miles offshore to get to this dive-site, it’s for sure the furthest I have ever been from any given shore. I remember we were already soaked before we even got to the drop-site because of high winds, big waves and a tiny boat, good thing I had already put on my wetsuit. Once we arrived we wasted no time getting in, especially after that crazy ride, we all knew it would be nice and calm underwater and raced to jump in. I had two science people with and they both took off in different directions in search of something different and I went in search of beautiful reef scenes. These kind of dive trips are hard for me because I know I will most likely not be back and I try as hard as I can to cover as much reef as possible in a one hour time period. On my way down from the boat I can usually see my first objects to shoot and from there I race around like a crazy person trying to take as many photos as I can in this short period of time, it actually should be an Olympic event. This particular dive-site was littered with my favorite giant red barrel sponges and they were in every shape and color, I was honestly going crazy trying to figure out how can I shoot them all! I did end up with a great collection of photos, one of my favorites is the top one with the corals growing inside the barrel sponge, this would be a rare sight in Curacao but here I found this fairly common, maybe they know they are more protected in there?? Any ways, if you are visiting the island of St. Eustatius have your dive operator take you here, it’s truly a unique dive-site with lots of sponges, sea-fans and barracuda’s.

Off to start the day..

Barry

Oct 4, 16     Comments Off on Bonaire License Plate, Divers Paradise Plate

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Good morning friends, I know long time right?? There is so much going on these days that I hardly have time to write. Today we have these freak “surge waves” coming in from the south-west causing complete destruction up and down the coast! These are most likely from hurricane Matthew because storms like that are the only things strong enough to produce these wild waves we are getting today. The waves have been so big and so strong that they are now eroding every beach away from here to the west-end of the island, I even heard reports of huge 20 foot waves that have been hitting the cliffs and wiping out homes??  

I had a request for a Bonaire license plate which I shot a few months ago when Aimee and I went over there for a few days. I tried to do some research on what the pictures are and couldn’t find anything on the web BUT I can help with a few or at least guess. From left to right, limestone cliff covered in local cactus and plants, Iconic building that is on the waterfront downtown, a famous lighthouse on the southern tip of the island, a flamingoo and last I think mangroves, that’s my guess. Bonaire is listed and known as “Divers Paradise” why you ask?? Because you can rent a truck, load it with tanks and drive and dive just about anywhere on the island, it’s about as easy as it gets.

Sorry so short, all is well….

Barry

Sep 20, 16     Comments Off on Message in a Bottle Floating in the Carribean Sea

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Good morning from Curacao. Many have asked me over the years if I have ever found a real message in a bottle and I tell them, YES, just once. Some of you out there who save these blogs will recall the year and date but at this very moment I for sure can’t remember. I found my real “message in a bottle” at Saint Joris while collecting driftwood and I still remember the day I found it and that mysterious feeling of not knowing what would be written inside. Turns out it was a note written by a Dutch couple onboard the Insulinde traveling back from Klein Curacao and they thought that their “message in a bottle” would at that time travel the seven seas. Little did they know that the Curacao currents would carry that bottle straight back to Curacao and into Saint Joris bay and then be found by me just a few weeks after tossing it overboard.

Here is the short video we shot this weekend that I told you about on friday, it’s called the “Secret Trail” and it’s one of our most technical trails we have on the island. The goal with this trail or challenge is to not set your feet down or touch anything, I had a good run but Hans had a little trouble.

Have a great day out there…

Barry

Sep 19, 16     Comments Off on Coastal Clean-Up Day September 16th, 17th & 18th

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Good morning friends, another weekend has passed leaving me again wiped out and wondering why I try to do so much on my precious days off?? Saturday morning I left at 6:30 and took Indi and Joy (Inca has sore feet) to Boca Tabla East at Koral Tabac and we cleaned trash for “Coastal Clean-up Day” which is a nationwide event, except in Curacao…. I picked this spot because I ride by here so much on my mountain bike and I get sick of looking at all the trash, it’s really a major mess! During my collection I found thousands of plastic soda caps which as you can imagine takes longer to pick because of their size. I also found some dead baby sea-turtles that were just born and must have come ashore in the sargassum and got smashed on the rocks and all the driftwood, it’s no wonder so few turtles survive especially around here where there are only a few beaches. Because of the heat here we had to leave by 8:30 because it’s just too hot for the dogs and both of ours are black. Once home and getting the dogs to bed, I raced water and food out to our birds and iguana’s in the desert and then took my bike into the shop for new tires. After that I spent the rest of the day painting an apartment next door to ours trying to make some extra $ to help get us out of here in the coming months. 

On Sunday I went on a fun three hour mountain bike ride with my neighbor Hans and I did shoot a short video clip of us riding the “Secret Trail” which I am trying to upload into Youtube as I type and will send you a link once it’s posted.

Hopa all is well out there, I have to run.

Barry

Sep 6, 16     Comments Off on Sea-Glass, Beach Glass, Caribbean Sea Glass

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Good morning friends, I have a Caribbean sea-glass photo for you all today that we shot in Bonaire last week on our two day mini-vacation. Sea glass is a unique thing, it first went from being discarded trash thrown into the sea or on the beach and then “presto” many, many years later it’s now a collected treasure, I wish all trash could be reused like this. If your in Bonaire and looking for sea-glass check out the beaches on Klein Bonaire, you will have to take a water taxi to get there and keep in mind its HOT so take plenty to drink. Klein Bonaire also has very little to no shade so take hats and sunscreen, if you wanting to walk around the whole island that will take around two hours. 

Not a lot going on these days, we kind of lost our winds and it’s trying to rain, very strange time of year. They are still predicting warmer seas for this area some time this month which could cause coral bleaching, I am watching…

I hope you all are well out there, keep in touch.

Barry

 

 

Sep 5, 16     Comments Off on Donkey Sanctuary Bonaire, Animal Rescue Bonaire

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Good morning all, as most of you know Aimee and I took off to Bonaire last week for the worlds fasted mini-vacation/business trip which mainly involved me taking photos on the beach all day. We were only there for two days and on the last day we passed by the Bonaire Donkey Sanctuary and of course we had to stop! For most people when you say Bonaire they think of trouble free diving, kite surfing or flamingos but for the most part are unaware of the donkey sanctuary. 

As the story goes, In 1993 Marina Melis (top photo) and her husband Ed Koopman, both from Holland established a donkey sanctuary on Bonaire for sick, wounded and orphaned donkeys. This wonderful sanctuary not only provides help to donkeys in distress, but strives to offer a protected life to all the donkeys on Bonaire. They also distribute information among the local community, schools and tourists, helping to raise awareness and understanding. Hundreds (600 to date) have found shelter here, they are provided food and water and medical care if needed. The sanctuary is located on route to Lac Bay and opens at 10:00 every day seven days a week. Donkeys have been living on this tropical island for hundreds of years originally brought over by Spanish to use for hard labor. 

Finding a long-term solution for the feral donkeys on Bonaire, and in other places with similar challenges, is complex. For the past 21 years, the Donkey Sanctuary Bonaire has been responding to nearly all donkey emergencies on the island and taking care of its sick, injured and orphaned donkeys. However, a sanctuary is only one aspect of feral donkey management. Part of The Donkey Sanctuary’s new strategy is to learn from good practice in the management of feral donkey populations and it is by helping to share this information, along with open discussions with residents, locals vets and representatives of the Bonaire Government, that the long-term welfare of Bonaire’s donkeys will be safeguarded.

Aimee and I had a total blast here as you can see from the above photos starting with a visit to see a new born (photo #2) that was so cute and playful. Aimee instantly fell in love with this little one and asked me countless times if we could take a donkey home?? We had a great intern from Holland that gave us the grand tour showing us not only the new born but also some of the sad cases like photo #3 showing what happens when a donkey and a speeding car collide… Photo #4 shows the name collars for the original donkeys many years ago, Aimee’s name is one of them, I didn’t see mine. The remaining photos I shot during our one hour drive around the 165 acre loop, it was super fun. Aimee bought carrots and fed them to all who came to our window “which was a lot”, we needed more carrots! You can also buy a bale of hale and sit on your tailgate and feed and drive, it’s a great way to get closer to them. During the driving tour you can stop anywhere and go hiking, the donkeys will follow you and almost all of them let us pet them, such fun creatures! Before we left we stopped into the gift shop and filled out papers to “adopt a donkey”, it sure goes to a great cause…

Here’s the link, check out the adoption page.

www.donkeysanctuary.org 

Have a wonderful day..

Barry

Sep 2, 16     Comments Off on Pokemon Sign in CURACAO, Don’t Pokemon!!

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Good morning friends, we are back from our three day mini-vacation to Bonaire, it was fun while it lasted! On our way to the airport in Curacao last tuesday we passed this “DON’T POKEMON and DRIVE” sign and I had to stop to take a photo! I’m pretty much lost for words on this, have we taken a giant leap backwards in human evolution?? I thought Pokemon was a child’s game and now we are telling grown adults to not Pokemon and drive?? Someone out there please help me with this one….

Our Bonaire trip was filled with ups and downs starting with Insel Air being our first down. We got to the airport two hours early and just before boarding for our 15 minute flight to Bonaire they changed our departure time to another two hours, so we sat there for over four hours, I guess we should have just gone with Divi-Divi or rented a kayak? We stayed at Ocean Breeze apartments right across from the airport and it was great, it had all the comforts of home and more. We spent most of wednesday photographing sea-glass on the beach at our favorite dive site called Invisibles, it was such a beautiful place to hang out. On thursday we finished up on photos at the same place and then spent the rest of the afternoon at the Bonaire Donkey Sanctuary, I will post photos and a story tomorrow of that adventure. Our trip went fast, we found out Bonaire has become very expensive to do anything except for the Donkey place that was only $7, next time we will eat all our meals at home.

Hope all is well out there, tons to do!!

Have a great weekend.

Barry

May 4, 16     Comments Off on Sint Willibrordus Roman Catholic Church, Curacao

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Good morning from the driest place in the Caribbean. This is our second week of overcast skies with zero rain, it’s honestly one of the most discouraging things we have encountered here. 

I have a new Willibrordus church photo for you all today that we stopped at and photographed this weekend on our fun one day tour of the island. In the 12 years we have been here I think this has been repainted 2 or 3 times and each time the paint seems to get a little brighter, maybe so folks can see it from the moon?? Sint Willibrordus Roman Catholic church was built between 1884 and 1888 in the Neo-Gothic architectural style common for churches built in that period. The design being an input of architect E.K.Margrij, it was constructed by the builder-priest V.Jansen. It was common for priests to be engaged in building activities in those days. The church was the second to be built on the site. The first one was erected in 1849 by the community. Under the inspiring leadership of Monsignor Niewindt, bishop and missionary, who worked from 1824 until 1860 on the island, small parishes were set up throughout the island with a small school and a church. These structures quite often were not more than shelters. Sint Willibrord village was among the first parishes to be founded by the Roman Catholic mission. The church was renovated with the support of the Curaçao Monuments Foundation in 1999.

Got in a nice little bike ride last night, it was mega windy and super dry but was still fun to be out there.

Have a great day.

Barry

May 3, 16     Comments Off on Boca Tabla Curacao, Boca Pistol, Shete Boka

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Good morning friends, sorry for the lack of attention to the posts lately but your’s truly has been very busy. On Friday we ended having three submersible runs meaning I was also in the water for three dives, I was worn out come 5:00. On Saturday I first went to work on my new mountain bike trail for awhile but that came to an abrupt stop due to an enormous bee-hive right in the middle of the path, not sure how I will deal with that yet?? Then I rushed to meet two friends that were only here for a day and took them on an all day tour of the island starting at Boca Tabla and ending up at Porto Mari for an afternoon of snorkeling and fun in the sun. On Sunday, I first did a 25 mile mountain bike ride consisting of three complete loops around the salt pond, talk about tiring! After that I again rushed home and drove all the way out to one of the remote beaches at San Juan for Stijn’s 19th birthday party. His mom rented a private beach for him and the whole family, I took out dive gear and took him for a fun underwater adventure while lunch was cooking on the grill. I had some of the most amazing chicken that was sautéed in peanut butter, smoked barbecue sauce and soy sauce, it was amazing… I think we got home at around 6:30 and I was in bed by 7:00, that was the end of three very long but fun days!

Shete Boka National Park was definately one of the highlights of our trip. It is a series of 4 main inlets on the rocky north side of the island where powerful waves crash against the shore. There are hiking trails connecting each of the Bokas, but they are also accessible by car. Boka Tabla is located near the park entrance and has a sea cave where you can see waves rolling in. Be careful the steps are slippery. Our favorite sight was Boka Pistol (above). Its name comes from the sound the waves make when they crash into the rocks spraying water everywhere. The photos above show the sequence of how a wave rolls in, hits this unique rock and shoot water high in the air, it like Old Faithful except created from waves. This park is a must see. Admission is around $5 per person or 10naf.

I have to get ready to get underwater.

Have a wonderful day…

Barry

Nov 23, 15     Comments Off on 2015 Curacao Xtreme Duo Mountain Bike Race

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Good morning friends, I’m about as wiped out as a human can be today after competing in the Curacao Xtreme Mountain Bike Race yesterday. This is a 40 mile, four hour race through the wilds of Curacao starting and ending at Blue Bay Resort. My next door neighbor who is an active NAVY guy (he’s in crazy great shape) called me Saturday afternoon and said “I’m signing us up for the Xtreme”! My response was, “I’m really not in shape for that race but I guess it’s worth a try”. This is a team event, the race started at 7:00 in the morning after an all night downpour creating the most unimaginable mud and sections miles long with nothing but deep muddy water, I was crying for my mommy most of the way! Some of you may remember that Dorian and I won this race two years ago and I think we would have won again this year if my buddy Hans would not have had two flats and we didn’t spend so much time trying to get the mud off the bikes. Most of the Caribbean islands now have an Xtreme race of their own, it has become very popular, we had riders from so many different islands there yesterday. Once home I spent at least 30 minutes spraying the bike down and washing my gear, what a mega mess, I really could have done without all that mud…

Lots to do, I hope you all had a great weekend.

Barry

Nov 18, 15     Comments Off on Message in a Bottle Photo, Floating Glass Bottle

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Good afternoon, I’m busy today getting photos sent out to different magazines like Sport Diver and Scuba Diver for upcoming issues and finding photos many times can be quite a task! Many have asked me about buying photos that they have seen here on the blog and if it was possible?? Yes is the answer, they make killer Christmas gifts and can be signed digitally before you print… You can either go to www.wildhorizons.com , www.drkphoto.com , www.gettyimages.com/curacao underwater , www.danitadelimont.com or contact me directly. If your visiting the drkphoto site or danitadelimont type in Barry Brown or Barry B Brown in the search box. 

I had another request for a different view of the “message in a bottle” photo that I took a few weeks ago at Klein Curacao. From this angle your looking south and you get a pretty good view of the insane beautiful white sand that this little island is so famous for. The sand on this island is so pure and soft, it’s like walking on a puffy cloud. Combine that with the sound of the gentle waves, crystal clear water, a cool breeze and the sound of laughing gulls overhead, I think this is heaven!

Later…

Barry

Nov 10, 15     Comments Off on East Side of Klein Curacao, Lori Lang Photos

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Good morning all, yes I know, the blogs are getting weaker and weaker and less and less, but I just don’t have much time as of late. I had a busy weekend and yesterday here at Substation we had three paid customer dives meaning yours truly was in the water and running around like a crazy person all day, zero time for cyber-talk.

A few weeks ago our friend Lori Lang was here from Rapid City South Dakota and because she was only here for a few days we did our best to pack in as much fun as we could in a very short period of time! One of the places we took her was to our little island of Klein Curacao which is an all day trip leaving on the Mermaid ship early in the morning, all day on the island and returning late in the afternoon. The trip on the Mermaid takes around an hour and a half and once ashore they feed you breakfast and give you a quick briefing. After that your on your own to explore, dive, snorkel, eat or just lay in the sun, it’s your personal little island for the whole day. The 1st thing we did was to take a long hike to the south end of the island in search of beach treasures and photos, remember the cool crab skeletons I posted last week?? Those were just one of the cool things we found. The above photo was taken on the east side of the island, there are many small shipwrecks and one really big one which is a giant cargo ship that smashed into shore many years ago during a storm. Lori was a perfect model, she even found that cool washed ashore sea-fan on top of the boat, talk about a perfect setting for a photo-shoot!! For those of you who have been to the island you remember all the washed ashore trash on the east side right?? Well, good news, the Mermaid crew and many volunteers recently cleaned this side of the island and it looks a thousand times better, there is still trash but nothing like it was…. The downside to the clean-up is they took all the driftwood, I didn’t find anything worth taking home and there used to be piles of it?? This is also the side of the island where sea turtles come every year to lay eggs so at least now they will really have a great spot with no trash and more exposed sand.

Thanks again Lori for coming all this way down to spend some time with us, there’s nothing more we love than having visitors!! Lori is co-owner of Dark Canyon Coffee in Rapid City, this is the home of our favorite coffee called “Highlander Grogg”, I highly advise you to order some for Christmas or any other time of the year!! Here is the link again…..

htttps://www.darkcanyon-coffee.com/shop/flavored-coffees/highlander-grogg

Have a wonderful day all…

Barry

 

 

Nov 2, 15     Comments Off on Message in a Bottle Photo Image, Old Bottles

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Good morning friends, I am back… So since last wednesday through saturday our friend Lori Lang flew down for a much needed vacation all the way from Rapid City, SD. Lori is one of the owners of Dark Canyon Coffee home of the World famous “Highlander Groog”, it’s our hands down most favorite liquid item on the planet!! If your looking for a holiday gift or just something to make your life better, this is it, here’s the link to their site…

www.darkcanyon-coffee.com

We had a great time to say the least taking Lori around to as many places as we could in her three short days. We spent wednesday snorkeling, hiking and playing with dolphins, thursday going downtown and exploring Punda and more dolphin activities and all day friday on the remote island of Klein Curacao aboard the Mermaid. I took the above photo at Klein Curacao early in the morning. As far back as I can remember I have heard songs, seen movies and read about the mysterious “message in a bottle” and this is more or less what you would expect to find if you found one of your own. During our years here I have found a few different bottles with messages in them, most tossed overboard from the Mermaid and instead of circling the globe they found their way right back to Curacao and they never leave an address to contact them that the bottle was found.

Check out this story of a 100 year old message in a bottle found last year…

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2014/04/08/300634990/100-year-old-message-in-a-bottle-plucked-from-baltic-sea

Our november rains have slowly started, we have had a nice little rain for the past few days which is helping me water all my baby yucca plants that I have put in over the past weeks.

Have a great day…

Barry

 

 

 

 

Jun 19, 15     Comments Off on Polar Beer Photo with Palm Trees, Curacao

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Good afternoon all, I had a bunch of folks asking about beer on Curacao and found a little information just for you. Our top selling beer is Polar Beer (made in Venezuela), it’s kind of like the Budweiser of Curacao. Then we have Amstel Bright (seen here inside the bucket) which tastes almost exactly like the the Mexican Corona, and of course the most famous beer is Heineken being that this is a Dutch island. We also have a multitude of beers from Belgium and Germany that have double or triple the alcohol that will for sure have you wondering where you left your car the night before. Many of the local canned beers are sold in tiny little cans, about half the size of a regular beer, we have no idea why this is?? There is a beer called BRION that says “Curacao Beer” on the label but is brewed in Barbados, not sure anything is actually brewed here on the island. 

Have a wonderful weekend all, see you monday……

Barry

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