07 July 2007

Then and Now

Crew: Myself, Angel, Caryn, Eric, Boon Hui, Reuben (not the reuben in picture below), Cikgu, Eng (Instructor), Bala and Jessie (Captain)
Dive Site: Brunei Patches
Viz: Good
Max Depth: 11m
Dive Time: 1hr 30m

They say, in photography, the golden hour is the first and last hour of sun during a day... when everything takes on a different kind of hue and light, the dreamy dose of ROMANTIC from mother nature that makes you wanna dance, makes you love life that much more, makes you wanna kiss, sometimes it even makes unattractive kerbaus look pretty cool.. like my shot of Reuben last year.

Among other things, it makes me want to meet the freaks down under that comes alive when the sun goes down.

By the time we descend to Brunei Patch, the sea was already pitch black. Most people would squirm at the idea of being in a body of dark waters surrounded by not-so-neighbourly creatures. I was once one of those people. Before and until I did my 1st night dive.. 1 year, 2 months, and 1 day ago. On the 25th of May 2006. The day i got my underwater housing too!
I wrote: "It was a mixed emotion of excitement and fear. I had no idea what to expect and the boat ride seems like forever. When i first got in the water, my gut cringed, both my feet curled up and thinking aloud "Reuben, hurry the hell up!" I was SCARED ".

But my fear soon subsides as i got closer to the bottom. I was more curious and intrigued than anything.

And I dont know what kind of luck we had, we saw the unforgettable Spanish Dancer... one of the largest of all nudibranchs. You can pretty much guess it, the name came from their immaculate resemblance to the beautiful, swirling skirts of Spanish dancers. You'll be surprised to know that they have inspired various shawl designs in the USA. This is the beginning of my obsession with nudibranchs.

At that time, i only had eyes for bigger things. I was shooting at everything and anything that moves. I was still unfamiliar with the world down under, unfamiliar with fish names, spent most of my surface interval time discussing with the rest what we just saw. At that time, i didnt know small is beautiful.

Equipped with a simple digital camera, i thought my adventures had just begun.
I seek for knowledge. I seek to tell stories. I seek to share the secrets of the underwater world with you. Together with my dive buddies. We dive for leisure, we dive to refresh, we dive for many reasons but most of us dive to witness the behaviours of these creatures first hand.

Instead of shooting at anything and everything, i save time by picking my subjects carefully. This, however, is compensated by the amount of time i spend waiting for my subject to "display" i.e. to yawn, to hunt, to feed, to mate, to sleep...

.Meet the beautiful parrotfish that exhibits 3 unique adaptations.
This is not a very good shot of a sleeping parrotfish nestled in a crevice. Yeap, they sleep with their eyes open. This shot is poor because the focus is directed to the parrotfish's sleeping bag; the white spotty bits that's actually a film of mucus. They have an unusual habit of spitting and spinning sticky mucus forming a cocoon around their bodies before they sleep, and apparently it stinks. No, i did not remove my mask to take a whiff. It is believed that the cocoon helps to protect them from predators such as moral eels, that cant see in the dark but sniffs like a dog, by masking their scent. It takes them roughly 30 mins to make their sleeping bag and another 30mins to eat their way out of bed.

When i first learned about this fish, i was somewhat amazed by their mouth/beak that resembles the bill of a parrot. I 've seen them bite off a whole chunk of a coral, do their thing and then spit it out. They have teeths in their throat to chew up the corals! eek *Gulp* Then i found out they dont actually eat corals but the algae on it. BUT they are destroying reefs at the same time, aint it?? For years, scientists believed parrotfish were responsible for coral damage. But studies proved them wrong, and proved me wrong; when parrotfish are prevented from feeding along an area of the reef, the coral is "smothered" to death by the growth of algal mats.

What they damage, they nourish in return. The ground up coral that they eat is then excreted as fine white sand in and around the coral reef ecosystems. Now it's starting to make sense. I've seen them spit white sandy bits from their behind. And they are capable of creating one ton of sand a year.

That's not exactly mind-boggling. What is, is that they change sex throughout their lifecycle. eek In response to fluctuations in population density. Singapore, what are you waiting for? Apparently, they have 2 reproductive strategy.
: They are all born female and later change into males (supermales), or
B: Begin life as males (primary males)
It is thought that A is the better way to go. Starting out as a female and then changing sex later in their life is very advantageous. "The females have no trouble finding mates at whatever size, while the males are much more reproductively successful as larger individuals. This lets the fish have a very successful life. They can reproduce as females when they are younger, and then when they grow to a large enough size to compete as males they change sex and reproduce as supermales." That's a mouthful.

We can actually distinguish them based on their colours; primary males and females are often dull reds, grays, browns, and blacks, whereas supermales are bright green, yellow, blue, and red.

I really enjoyed this dive 'cept for the throwing up bit. Thank god i could cower in the dark without any one noticing my less than glamourous acts. Muuhuuhuu.


.The funny side of Sandman.

.Furry-faced goby!.

Now, our surface interval is spent discussing the next dive destination. Lembeh... Maratua... Micronesia... Maldives... anyone?

Camera's back in town with new lens. Culprit: Sandy bits. Opps...


BKiD on July 11, 2007 at 12:48 PM said...

Fantastic pics on yr site LM! I'm hooked!

Lee on July 11, 2007 at 1:57 PM said...

Thanks bkid!! :)

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