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 the ‘Sponges’

Nov 10, 16     Comments Off on Texture/ New Growth on a Giant, Deep Vase Sponge



Nov 9, 16     Comments Off on Double Giant Vase Sponges, Deep Reef Scenes


Nov 9, 16     Comments Off on Giant Vase Sponge with Lionfish, Deep Reef Scene


May 27, 16     Comments Off on Sponge Face, Faces in Nature, Natural Faces

Sponge Face

Hey gang, we are getting a tiny bit of rain for the first time in months this morning and I pray it continues, you can’t believe how dry it is here!! 

I went on yet another dive in search of lionfish yesterday and again came back with zero photos?? I did find my giant hermit crab and he was only a few meters away from where I had left him the day before, I guess he loves our mucky sand.. My find of the day other than finding the crab again was this fun sponge face that was filled with little gobies (small fish), look close and you can see them. The sponge is called a purple tube sponge Aplysina lacunosa and can grow to be many feet tall, it’s truly one of the top most decorative sponges on the reef.

I have to be underwater in a few minutes, still lots to do!!!

Have a wonderful day.


May 11, 16     Comments Off on Sponge Faces, Faces in Nature, Abstract Face


Hi gang, I’ve been underwater most of the day trying to find a cooperative lionfish and so far I have had zero luck. On my first dive I was down at 90 feet where I had seen one yesterday and out of the blue my camera started leaking from an old O-ring forcing me to get out very quickly! On the second dive I found five lionfish but couldn’t get one of them to look into the camera for the shot I needed so I settled on a sponge with a face as my photo of the day. This is the second time I have found this species of sponge with a face and believe it or not they are hard to find. On my third dive I again got down to 100 feet to start the lionfish hunting and again had two new problems with the camera. The first problem was the strobes were not firing and second I had a new leak and my leak detector was going crazy! Most folks including the magazines I sell to have no idea the effort and frustrations involved with underwater photography, some times like today I get out of the water and want to cry! I did end up with some nice profile lionfish shots but what I wanted was a head on shot, I’ll get it but it may take some time…

We have overcast skies keeping the temperatures down but still no rain??

Have a wonderful day!


Feb 2, 16     Comments Off on Unusual Orange Sponge, Myripristis jacobus

Soldierfish above orange sponge. Myripristis jacobus. Curacao, Netherlands Antilles. Unaltered/Uncontrolled Digital Photo (vertical) N/A

Good morning friends, we are up at o-dark thirty trying to get ready for yet another very busy day.. Aimee and I leave for Washington this Sunday and I will try to post while I am at the Smithsonian so just hang in there if you don’t hear from us for awhile. Today we have two sub dives, the first starting at 9:00. I’m going to have my young intern shoot a go-pro movie of me photographing the sub today and I will try and post that as soon as I can.

I have a KILLER, ultra unusual orange sponge for you all today that we found years ago growing in a small cave. To this date this is the only one of these we have ever seen and we visit it on almost every dive. You can kind of get an idea of the size of the sponge by the little seven inch Cardinalfish above who we think has adopted the sponge and the cave as his own.

Sorry so short, I have to run..


Jan 5, 16     Comments Off on Caribbean Vase Sponge, Callyspongia vaginalis


Good afternoon, I’m home sick as a dog with some freek cold that literally came out of no where!!??? It started yesterday as a slight persistent cough and then turned into a full blown cold, talk about unexpected fun! 

So since I’m home I decided to do a major update to my Mac Book Pro and downloaded the new OS X El Capitan and Office 2016 which took around four and a half hours! While that was working I managed to wash the car and change out some burnt out bulbs which I had to do because our car is getting it’s annual island inspection tomorrow morning, we are not sure it will pass.

I have a beautiful “as good as they get” Callyspongia vaginalis, Vase Sponge for you all this afternoon that I found on Klein Curacao earlier this year. These sponges like so many of the other varieties are teaming with life. They usually have shrimps, brittle stars and tiny fish inside and little crabs and zoanthids on the outside, you just have to slow down and look…

Back to bed…


Dec 29, 15     Comments Off on Giant Barrel Sponges, Xestospongia muta


Good morning from rainy overcast Curacao!

Check out these monster sized Giant Barrel Sponges, Xestospongia muta that we found at 70 feet on our drift dive from the Sea Aquarium house reef to the Substation house reef. The barrel sponge at the top is the largest at around six feet tall with a good two and half foot wide opening, these are truly exceptional specimens! As we passed we watched a single Foureye Butterflyfish swim in and out of the bottom sponge pecking at small amounts of algae from around the inside of the sponge without a care in the world. 

The giant barrel sponge (Xestospongia muta) is the largest species of sponge found growing on Caribbean coral reefs. It is common at depths greater than 10 metres (33 ft) down to 120 metres (390 ft) and can reach a diameter of 1.8 metres (6 feet). It is typically brownish-red to brownish-gray in color, with a hard or stony texture. The giant barrel sponge has been called the “redwood of the reef ” because of its size and estimated lifespan of hundreds to a thousand or more years. It is perhaps the best-studied species of sponge in the sea; a population on Conch Reef, in the Florida Keys, has been monitored and studied since 1997.

The giant barrel sponge is variable in form. Typically it is barrel-shaped, with a cone-shaped cavity at the apex known as the osculum. However, some individuals within the same population may be low and squat or relatively tall and thin. Similarly, the surface can range from smooth to rough, rugged, and irregular, sometimes with buttresses. In shallow water the color is brownish-red to brownish-gray, but at greater depths and in caves and under-hangs, or when the sponge is undergoing cyclic bleaching events, the sponge is pinkish or white.

The giant barrel sponge is a filter feeder. Water is continually pumped into the sides of the sponge, through the sponge body. and out the osculum at the top of the sponge. Small pores in the sponge body are connected to channels lined by collar cells, each with a flagellum, and the beating of these flagellae draws water through the channels. Incoming particles, particularly microscopic bacteria and prochlorophytes, are phagocytosed by the collar cells. Sponges like X. muta also absorb dissolved organic compounds directly from the seawater as part of their diet.

The giant barrel sponge is probably dioecious, and spawns its eggs or sperm directly into the water column. Clouds of sperm from males are emitted from the osculum, while females produce flocculent masses of eggs that are slightly negatively buoyant. Spawning can occur at any time of the year, and occurs patchily on the reef, but usually with many individuals participating at the same time. Fertilization occurs in the water column. Resulting sponge larvae disperse with ocean currents, but there is some genetic differentiation among populations from Florida, the Bahamas and Belize. 

Growth models for X. muta have been formulated from digital photographs of the same sponges over a period of 4.5 years. Sponge growth rates ranged from over 400% per year to only 2% per year. The largest sponges on Conch Reef, about the size of a oil barrel, were estimated to be about 130 years old. The largest individual for which a photograph was available (now dead) was estimated to be 2300 years old. By using the growth model, the age of an individual X. muta can be estimated from the osculum diameter and the base circumference.

Did another night dive last night with Karen and Alan and I have two sub dives today with our submersible, I am definitely feeling tired today!!

See you soon…….


Nov 17, 15     Comments Off on Stove-Pipe Sponge Re-Growth/New Growth




Good morning from Curacao… So what are we looking at today you ask?? Well, let me tell you, this is really cool. Many have asked me “if a sponge falls over on the reef, will it continue to grow”?? Good question. The answer is yes and no. If the sponge breaks and falls onto an area where it doesn’t move and has some kind of substrate to grab onto, new growth can begin. But if a sponge or coral breaks and falls into pure sand and is moving around it will not be able to re-grow and will die. Here you see a fallen section of a Stove-Pipe sponge (Aplysina archeri) in purple and the new growth climbing up a Row Pore Rope sponge. The rope sponge is acting like an underwater trellis of sorts supporting the weight of the new stove-pipe by allowing it to not only cover it in sections but letting it fuse onto the rope sponge, that’s just way cool!! I’m guessing that once the stove-pipe grows bigger and really gets a good hold on the reef that the rope sponge will be majorly fused to the side and the two will become one cool looking sponge. It’s hard to see in the photo but these sponges are home to little gobies, crabs, shrimps and brittle stars, in fact the harder you look the more things you will see, I would love to see this again in a few years..

I have to be underwater in a few minutes, I have to go.

Have a great day out there, 


Sep 9, 15     Comments Off on Purple Stove Pipe Sponge, Coral Reef Scene


Good morning all, so guess what we got rain!! And not just a little sprinkle but an all out tropical downpour that left everyone scratching their heads asking “where did that come from”?? Yesterday morning after walking the dogs we jumped in the car and it wouldn’t start, for those of you who know this feeling, it’s awful! Before panic could take over I popped the hood and tapped on the starter with our tire jack and believe it or not that did the trick and off we went back home. So on the way to work I dropped the car off to our homeless auto mechanic that lives in a non-running falling apart car and just left it there, he was still asleep and I didn’t want to bother him. I had my bike in the back of the car and rode to work from there. About an hour later I get a call saying “have you looked outside lately, there is a huge storm coming”! Panic immediately set in as I knew I left the dogs outside and I had to get home and save them before I did anything else! No sooner had I got home the rain started and as quick as I could I got the dogs inside and out of the rain. Then it hit me that when I dropped the car off I left the windows open and my mechanic was still asleep! So just as the rain was starting I took off on the bike at full speed but within 20 seconds I was completely soaked to the bone and could hardly see the road in front of me, it was raining so hard! Then to make matters worse I got a flat tire and I was still a quarter of a mile away, talk about a crazy morning! As the air was draining from the tire I pedaled faster and made it to my car but by this time it was too late, the inside of the car looked like the side of a tropical waterfall, the only thing missing was the plants! I rolled up the windows and walked the bike a few blocks away (in the rain) to the World famous Dive Bus Hut and managed to get a ride back to the aquarium via an American tourist who had rented a big jeep, what a morning! Our car did get fixed later in the day, it was the starter and we found out water had been leaking into it from a radiator hose. 

I have a beautiful purple stove pipe sponge for you all today which is just one of hundreds I saw in Klein Curacao last week, I can hardly wait to get back there and go diving….

We have a submersible dive at 11:15 today, I need to get ready for that.

Have a wonderful day.


Sep 1, 15     Comments Off on Sponge Face, Faces in Nature, Natural Faces


Good morning friends, I found a beautiful Azure Vase Sponge on the island of Klein Curacao that reminded me of the Cookie Monster, one of Sesame Streets all time greatest characters. As many of you already know, I love finding faces in nature, especially if they are underwater! Aimee and I have searched for years for fun faces but they are very hard to find making the quest that much more difficult. A few years back I had a photo assignment involving faces around the home and ended up selling a picture of a shoe that looked like a face to National Geographic Kids magazine, do any of you remember that one?? I am still looking for these types of photos so if you find something around the house, please let me know.

We have a lot going on today, I have to get ready to splash…


Aug 5, 15     Comments Off on Underwater Tires, Tires Used for Sponge Habitats


Good morning friends, first off, does anyone know how I can waterproof my little hand cast?? I need a cool homemade design of sorts as there is nothing available for sale here on the island, please let me know.

Next someone was asking about discarded tires which we call “tire coral” which are found at just about every dive site on the island. The question was.. “does stuff like sponges and corals grow on tires” and the answer is YES!! For the most part we never remove old tires from the sea as they are now home to so many different creatures! For instance as you see above, this tire has around five different types of sponges growing on it and what you can’t see is all the beautiful little solitary fish that live inside it and all the cool creatures like crabs and shrimps that live under it, these things do make great little habitats. With that said no one should start tossing more tires into the sea but most of the ones that are here now are being occupied. This tire was found under the town pier in Bonaire last year along with countless others. As I searched with flashlight in hand I noticed some even had eels and octopus inside and many are occupied by the beautiful batwing crabs that I love so much not to mention dozens of species of shells. One thing I am doing more now is picking up glass bottles, those are just death traps for little hermits, once they get in they can’t get back out!

Have a great day…


Jul 21, 15     Comments Off on Brown Tube Sponge, Agelas conifera, Sponges


Good morning all, I have a common Curacao reef scene for you today consisting of a wild looking colony of brown tube sponges, Agelas conifera and a little sea bass hiding amongst them. 

Sponges are animals of the phylum Porifera (/pɒˈrɪfÉ™rÉ™/; meaning “pore bearer”). They are multicellular organisms that have bodies full of pores and channels allowing water to circulate through them, consisting of jelly-like mesohyl sandwiched between two thin layers of cells. Sponges have unspecialized cells that can transform into other types and that often migrate between the main cell layers and the mesohyl in the process. Sponges do not have nervous, digestive or circulatory systems. Instead, most rely on maintaining a constant water flow through their bodies to obtain food and oxygen and to remove wastes.

Sponges are similar to other animals in that they are multicellular, heterotrophic, lack cell walls and produce sperm cells. Unlike other animals, they lack true tissues and organs, and have no body symmetry. The shapes of their bodies are adapted for maximal efficiency of water flow through the central cavity, where it deposits nutrients, and leaves through a hole called the osculum. Many sponges have internal skeletons of spongin and/or spicules of calcium carbonate or silicon dioxide. All sponges are sessile aquatic animals. Although there are freshwater species, the great majority are marine (salt water) species, ranging from tidal zones to depths exceeding 8,800 m (5.5 mi).

While most of the approximately 5,000″ 10,000 known species feed on bacteria and other food particles in the water, some host photosynthesizing micro-organisms as endosymbionts and these alliances often produce more food and oxygen than they consume. A few species of sponge that live in food-poor environments have become carnivores that prey mainly on small crustaceans.

So good news, IT RAINED!! yeah, that’s super wonderful news! The downside is, when it started yesterday I jumped on my bike and was racing home in the rain to get the dogs inside and crashed on the road! Because of all the oil on the roads and the long period of no rain the pavement become like ice after the 1st rain, I knew this and was being careful but still took a hard spill! I was going around one of our round-a-bouts and the bike slipped out from under me sending me on a fast 25 foot eat the pavement adventure ending with the bike and I both slamming into a rock wall! I have yet another swollen knee and cuts all over, it’s like I heal from one crash and then I get another??

I am off to the sea to photograph the sub…

Later, Barry

Jul 10, 15     Comments Off on Rope Sponge, Coral Reef Sponge Photos


Hi gang, remember me??? Geez since last wednesday we have been going a million miles an hour leaving me zero time for the blog. Last wednesday we had relatives arrive on one of the big cruise ships and spent the whole day playing with them. We first took them for a fun dive on the Sea Aquarium house reef, then Aimee took them to meet the dolphins followed by a fun night out at a favorite restaurant and finally returning them back to their ship by 9:00. Thursday the 9th was my birthday so I took the day off and spent it with Aimee and the hounds. One of the fun things I wanted to do on my b-day was to go dig bottles at an old 1900’s bottle dump that I had found years ago but never to took the time to really check it out. We got there at around 12:00 and immediately started digging and within a few minutes I had unearthed two whole bottles and tons of broken ones. As I was digging I uncovered two sleeping hermit crabs, one was about the size of a golf ball and the other quite a bit smaller. I had to move them in order to continue my digging so. as I picked up the large one he bit me and not just a baby bite, he took the whole tip of my finger off! I can’t even begin to tell you how bad that hurt and how bad it was bleeding, we now had to leave because we had no band-aids or medical stuff of any kind, so much for that adventure and so much for trying to save hermit crabs! The rest of the day was spent complaining about how bad my finger was throbbing and how shocked we are that these little crabs have such powerful pinchers, I won’t be playing with them anymore! Around 4:00 I took off on my weekly 25 mile ride and at 7:00 we took off to a super fun birthday party at the fort in Outrabanda across the water from downtown Curacao (Punda). Friday was back to work but busy with a Brazilian film crew all day again no time to blog. Tomorrow monday, we have more students coming from Bonaire (12 of them ) to ride in the submersible, I will have to do at least 3 dives, that will be a long day!!

Hope all is well out there.


Mar 4, 15     Comments Off on Red-Orange Branching Sponge, Ptilocaulis sp.


Good morning friends, I have a very hard to find, rarely ever seen, Red-Orange Branching Sponge, Ptilocaulis sp. In the 11 years I have been here I have only ever found five different specimens at five different dive sites and believe it or not they are all still there! For those few Caribbean sponge lovers it’s one of the coolest sponges we have, it’s got this crazy rough texture and brilliant red-orange coloring, what more could you ask for?? The surface is covered with conical projections, or spicules. Ptilocaulis is a genus of demosponges. The species within this genus are usually red or orange. They are often called tree sponges, as they grow many branches from a single stem resmebleing trees. They can grow to large size. Also the similarity in appearance between three species, Ptilocaulis gracilis. P. walpersi, and P. spiculifera requires microscopic examination for positive identification. These sponges are usually only 8-15 inches in height and can be found in the 40-80 foot range, with that said all of the ones I have found were much shallower in the 20-35 foot zone.

We are finally getting a little rain, my complaining seems to have helped! 

We just had a big school of wild dolphins go by, that’s always cool to see!

Have a great day…




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