Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Crescent Octopus

Last weekend I found this unusual little octopus in a cavern at Honaunau. I was photographing a Sculptured Slipper Lobster when I noticed the "background" moving. It turned out to be a seldom-seen Crescent Octopus (Octopus hawaiiensis) and a first sighting for me.

Photo Copyright 2011 by Barry Fackler

This is a small octopus with a body smaller than a ping-pong ball and the tips of the tentacles all appear to be curled. Its movements appeared somewhat jerky compared to those of the common Day Octopus (Octopus cyanea).

Photo Copyright 2011 by Barry Fackler

It was a nice discovery in a little nook in the reef that was packed with invertebrates. In addition to this octo and the slipper lobster, there was also a large Flameback Shrimp just outside these frames.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tinker's Butterflyfish

 A friend of mine asked me to send her some photos I had of a Tinker's Butterflyfish (Chaetodon tinkeri) and I figured that, while I had them out, I should post them. They're not of the greatest quality because they were taken on slide film years ago, made into prints, and then scanned into the computer.

Photo Copyright 2011 by Barry Fackler

These were taken during a boat dive off of Old Airport Beach. The fish guide books say these occur mostly at depths of 150' or more but this pair was at around 70'. They are considered a rare sight due to over-collection for the aquarium trade as well as their preference for deep water.

Photo Copyright 2011 by Barry Fackler"

This was the only instance where Betty and I have seen this particular species. Other divers at Honaunau have reported seeing them there, but at crazy depths beyond recreational SCUBA range. I don't want to see them that bad.

Photo Copyright 2011 by Barry Fackler

They are pretty little fish with an unusual and bold black/white diagonal and bright gold accents. I hope to see more of them again one day!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Recent Favorite

I've been blogging recently about the regular sightings of rays and sharks in Honaunau Bay over the last few months and sharing some of my photos with you. A couple of weekends ago, I had the privilege to swim alongside one of the Spotted Eagle Rays (Aetobatus narinari) for around two minutes, taking pictures the whole time. It was an exhilarating experience and I got a bunch of photos I liked. One really stood out and rather than show you a bunch of the photos, I thought I'd just post my favorite:

Photo Copyright 2011 by Barry Fackler

I know it's just an amateur photo taken with a point-and-shoot but it's special to me to have the sunlight streaming down on this great creature with its "wings" spread wide. I hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Gold Lace Nudibranch Photos

Photo Copyright 2011 by Barry Fackler

A couple of weekends ago, I was fortunate enough to happen upon this beautiful Gold Lace Nudibranch (Halgerda terramtuentis) while poking around in the tight confines of a swim-through. Usually I have a hard time spotting nudis because they are so small and not particularly common.

Photo Copyright 2011 by Barry Fackler

I like these photos because the creature shows up so nicely against the backdrop of bright red encrusting sponge (Clathria sp.). Nudibranchs feed on sponges like these and incorporate sponge toxins into their own tissues, making them poisonous to would-be predators. Some authorities believe that the bright colors and patterns of nudibranchs are a signal that they are poisonous.

Photo Copyright 2011 by Barry Fackler

The term nudibranch comes from the Latin for naked gills. The bushy black-spotted projection on its back are the gills. The paired, black-spotted "horns" are sensory organs known as rhinophores.

Photo Copyright 2011 by Barry Fackler

Nudibranchs are the marine equivalent of terrestrial slugs but much nicer to look at.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Whitetip Reef Sharks Abounding

Photo Copyright 2011 by Barry Fackler

Since around March, there has been an uptick in the presence of Whitetip Reef Sharks   (Triaenodon obesus) residing just south of the Two-Step at Honaunau Bay. During the daylight hours they have been residing under ledges or in pukas to rest, occasionally venturing out to give snorkeling tourists a possibly unwelcome thrill. There are at least two of them as I saw a pair together. All the ones I have seen have been female.

Photo Copyright 2011 by Barry Fackler

The shark in the first two photos is small, around 3' in length. Betty found it in a sand-bottomed  puka at around 20' depth. This one was quite confident in the security his shelter gave her and sat still for photographs which I greatly appreciated.

Photo Copyright 2011 by Barry Fackler

A couple weeks later I was in shallow water by myself and decided to check out a ledge where I had seen a turtle resting on an earlier dive. Turtles often stake out sheltered areas to rest in and return to them regularly. On this day, I turned the corner to find the six-foot shark pictured above where I expected the turtle to be. She quickly roused and came in my direction. In the midst of being startled I took this picture which is blurry due to me recoiling in shock as I tripped the shutter.

Photo Copyright 2011 by Barry Fackler

The big gal swam around me for awhile, clearly displeased at my presence. While I didn't check my gauge, depth had to be around 10-12'. You can see the play of sunlight on the fish as well as the surrounding reef which generally occurs only near the surface.

Photo Copyright 2011 by Barry Fackler

One last shot. Notice how ragged the tip of her dorsal fin is. She's been around the block a few times!

Day Tube Anemone

The Day Tube Anemone (Cerianthus sp.) is a creature that looks plant-like but is, in fact, an animal. It lives within a long slimy tube that it forms from adhesive threads that it secretes. The tube is a very tough, durable structure that is open at both ends and is situated vertically in the substrate. The tentacles of the creature protrude from the upper end of the tube while the rest of the creature lives in and under the tube.

Photo Copyright 2011 by Barry Fackler

This particular species lives in deep water. This individual is at 117' depth in Honaunau Bay. Some types of tube anemones have survived in aquariums for over a hundred years. This one has been around ever since I started diving Honaunau around 12 years ago.

Photo Copyright 2011 by Barry Fackler

Among anemones, the tube anemones are unique in having two sets of tentacles. Short, oral tentacles surround the mouth while longer food-gathering tentacles are along the periphery. There may be several hundred tentacles in all. The two tentacle varieties can be distinguished in the photo above.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Aetobatus narinari at Honaunau

Photo Copyright 2011 by Barry Fackler

For months I have been following the progress of a young Spotted Eagle Ray (Aetobatus narinari) which has made Honaunau Bay its home. However, while taking these photographs, I saw another ray of similar size nearby. The presence of two rays instead of one certainly accounts for the frequency of sightings which have become almost routine for SCUBA and freedivers in the bay.

Photo Copyright 2011 by Barry Fackler

All these photos are of the same individual, the other ray staying out of range. This oneis growing up nicely but still not full-sized.

Photo Copyright 2011 by Barry Fackler

As graceful as the fish are when swimming, they still have to eat. And when they do, it's anything but graceful, diving headfirst into the sand and creating a dust storm as they search for mollusks and crustaceans.

The Manta's Shadow, Part III: The Douglas F4D Skyray

I've always loved airplanes. My dad was a mechanic at an Air Force Base, I lived near two active bases in my life and my step-son is a Sergeant in the USAF. Fish and airplanes have some things in common. Fins, for one. But, also, they are (usually) streamlined and come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors.

As a boy, I used to build plastic airplane kits and one of my favorites was the Skyray. It was sleek and fast and unusual in that it had no horizontal tail surfaces like most planes. The wings were broad, rounded and sharply swept giving it the shape of a certain marine animal known and loved along the Kona Coast. Quoting Wikipedia: "The design was named for its resemblance to the Manta ray fish".

Whether the aircraft designers used the shape of the manta for inspiration is not known but probably unlikely. However, the appearance and name of the plane reinforced the manta's place in the public psyche. Notably, it was the first carrier-based aircraft to hold the world's absolute speed record (752.943 mph) and the first naval fighter that could exceed Mach 1 in level flight. The plane also set a time-to-altitude record flying from a standing start to 49,221 feet in 2 minutes and 36 seconds all while flying at a 70 degree pitch angle which is incredibly  steep.

New Links

Recently, two organizations have approached me asking if they could use my photographs on their sites. Both are not-for-profit, conservation/educational entities and I was happy to help and, frankly, quite flattered by the nice treatment they gave to my material.

I have added links to both their sites. The first is a Polish site, Nyskie Towarzystwo Ochrony Zweirzat used a few of my moray eel photos for an article. The site has a built-in translator for those of you not fluent in Polish. The name of the organization in English is Animal Protection Society Nyskie and they are involved in animal rescue work.

The second site is MarineBio which is building an ambitious marine species database. The link leads to their site but they also publish a very interesting blog. The organization looks fascinating and makes me wish I could go back in time and follow that career in marine biology I dreamed about when I was a kid watching Jacques Cousteau on TV.

Anyway, give the sites a look! You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Dendrodoris rubra

I found this attractive nudibranch in a small cave at Honaunau Bay which I poke into often. This critter was around 2.5 to 3 inches in length which is pretty large for a Hawaiian nudibranch. It was also pretty active, sliding along the cave floor at a pretty good clip for a slug. This is the first one I have ever seen although the guide books don't indicate that it is uncommon.

All photos Copyright 2011 by Barry Fackler

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Dwarf Moray

The Dwarf Moray (Gymnothorax meleatremus) is, surprisingly, the smallest species of moray eel, seldom exceeding a foot in length. It is sometimes referred to as a Pencil Moray because of its size and yellow color.

I found this one at the entrance to a lava tube. When I first saw it, the Dwarf was sharing a hole in the wall with a juvenile Whitemouth Moray. When I started taking photos, the Whitemouth swam off but the Dwarf stood its ground. Pugnacious beyond its size, it even took a couple of lunges at one of my strobes.

All Photos Copyright 2011 by Barry Fackler

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Barred Conger Eel

Last month I got to observe a seldom-seen Barred Conger Eel while diving at about 93 feet deep in Honaunau Bay. Betty and I used to see one at this same locale several years ago, back in my pre-digital photography days. . I don't know if this is the same individual or not. According to Hoover's The Ultimate Guide to Hawaiian Reef Fishes "If you find one (Barred Conger), congratulate yourself-few divers have ever seen this animal". So, I consider myself fairly lucky. Here are three photos of the creature.

All Photos Copyright 2011 by Barry Fackler

Friday, August 12, 2011

Commerson's Frogfish, juvenile

I've been seeing this juvenile Commerson's Frogfish for the last three weekends now. It's a pretty big juvenile (about five inches long) and I suspect it will be losing its bright yellow coloration and gaining less conspicuous camouflage. It has been very cooperative for photographs and stays in the same general area.

All Photographs are Copyrighted 2011 by Barry Fackler

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Baby Eagle Ray at Honaunau

Photo Copyright 2011 by Barry Fackler

These are some recent photos of a juvenile Spotted Eagle Ray (Aetobatus narinari) that has been frequenting Honaunau Bay for the last several weeks. This first photo was taken late last month when I was on a solo dive.

Photo Copyright 2011 by Barry Fackler

Betty and I saw it again two weeks ago. We were on our second dive of the day when we saw it out in the distance. We were pre-occupied with looking for the male Whitley's Boxfish we had seen in the area on our earlier dive. As a result we mostly ignored the ray. A few minutes later it came up right alongside us and started digging in the sand for food.

Photo Copyright 2011 by Barry Fackler

The ray stayed nearby for around two minutes before winging away. It was a pleasant little encounter affording us a nice look and the "baby".

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Rare Sighting!

Photo Copyright 2011 by Barry Fackler

 Last weekend Betty and I were diving at Honaunau when we happened upon a male 
Whitley's Boxfish. These are seldom seen in Hawai'i although the females are quite common.

Photo Copyright 2011 by Barry Fackler

According to the book The Ultimate Guide to Hawaiian Reef Fishes, the large, blue males are most abundant in the Marquesa Islands. Females of this species are golden brown with cream-colored markings and have none of the vibrant blue coloration of the males.

We found this fish on a small coral head on the sand bottom beyond the reef drop-off at a depth of around 80'. We returned to the coral head on our next dive but he was gone. I made another dive to the coral head this past weekend but, again, no male Whitley's was there. This is only the third instance in eleven years and around 1200 dives on the Big Island that I have seen a male Whitley's Boxfish.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Manta's Shadow: Part II The War of the Worlds

 Aloha, and welcome to the second installment in a series of posts that examine the influence of manta ray shape, design or function in science and culture.

The image of a manta ray evokes a variety of responses from people. Many SCUBA divers appreciate the graceful fluidity of its movements as it seems to soar through the water. Technically inclined persons can admire the manta's hydrodynamic efficiency with a shape that minimizes turbulence and drag. To others, a manta seems to embody the mysterious and sinister, a dark and almost mythological creature of dread.

Today's subject is the 1953 film The War of the Worlds. This movie, an adaptation of the H.G. Wells classic novel, is considered a sci-fi classic and introduced what were (at the time) ground-breaking special effects. A central component of these effects were the Martian war machines designed by artistic director Albert Nozaki. In updating the story for a modern audience, Nozaki discarded Wells' mechanical tripods and re-imagined them as sleek, stealthy and sinister appearing...


Just look at the thing! Even as a little kid watching this on Saturday Night at the Movies I could tell these were manta rays transformed into really cool-looking alien craft. For die-hard sci-fi purists, note that in the photo above, the faint green columns of "sparks" under the craft. Nozaki, faithful to the novel, had his machines walking on "tripods" of force rather than mechanical legs.

The Internet Movie Data Base states in its "Trivia" for War of the Worlds "Albert Nozaki based his designs of the Martian machines on the shape and movement of manta rays". While the shape may have sprung from an appreciation of aerodynamics, it is probably just as likely that the form was chosen because it evoked feelings of fear, foreboding and the unknown. To quote the website Roger's Rocketships "Their appearance was halfway between the current mysterious Flying Saucers that everyone was talking about and manta rays. Neither association was good. Flying saucers frightened people and manta rays were something people avoided because of their sting. And well they should!"

Divers out there will immediately protest that mantas have no stinger, but that's not the point (ha!). Even today, the majority of people think manta ray and stingray are synonymous. All the more so in the pre-Animal Planet early 1950's. Roger's observations accurately reflect the conventional wisdom  of the time as well as the film-maker's intentions. In the 50's mantas were scary.

The down-turned wing-tips add to the manta-like appearance as does the central green light positioned where a manta's mouth would be. Disrupting the manta-effect is the long "gooseneck" projection from whence came the "death ray" which reduced anything it touched to cinders (a stinger, if you like).

If you enjoy sci-fi (as I do) check out Roger's website at www.rogersrockets.com. He has a lot of info on spacecraft from classic science fiction films and you can even purchase schematics of the Martian war machine.

Mr. Nozaki's imaginary craft continues on even today. Sci-fi fans purchase and build models of what they like to call "manta ships" from that long-ago movie. And you can count on other sci-fi references coming up in future posts on The Manta's Shadow.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Manta's Shadow: Part I The Chevrolet Manta Ray

I have been out of the water for almost a month due to a busy schedule, holidays, travel, some minor health issues and now, big surf.
During this period I've been spending time on the internet and I've discovered that the topic "Manta Ray" triggers search engine responses to all sorts of things that have nothing to do with the actual Manta birostris. Indeed, Kona's foremost fish has been the inspiration for numerous technological, architectural, cultural and media manifestations. So today I am going to start a "blog within a blog" I'm calling The Manta's Shadow to highlight some of the interesting creations out there that have some basis, however tenuous, in some aspect of manta ray characteristics.

 We'll start things with a look at the 1969 Chevrolet Manta Ray concept car.  In the early sixties, Chevrolet decided to radically redesign the popular Corvette sports car, changing it from a very compact roadster into a testosterone-oozing muscle car of ludicrous horsepower.

The resulting stable of Corvette variants were named after cartilaginous fishes. First came the Stingray, which was extremely popular, being one of the first "fastback" cars and boasting such features as hidden headlights and spoilers. Next came an elongated version called the Mako Shark. This was ultimately followed by the Manta Ray pictured here.

As far as I can tell, the Manta Ray was a one-of-a-kind prototype and certainly was not mass-produced. Otherwise, the parking lots of Kona dive shops would be jammed with vintage Chevys. The 60's were a time of animal-centric muscle car names like Mustang, Cougar, Firebird, Barracuda(!) and Thunderbird. Except for their logos, perhaps, these cars had no design features that actually alluded to their namesake creatures. Not so the Manta Ray. The flattened hood gives it a dorso-ventrally compressed appearance and just ahead of the front wheel wells are five little gill slits (which I take to be non-functional "air scoops"). If you are familiar with other Corvettes you'll see that the tail  (rear deck) of the Manta Ray is significantly longer than any variant before or since. Topping it all off is an awesome two-tone paint scheme that sure looks like the countershaded camouflage of the Great Winged Ones.

At the very least, a very cool car seemingly inspired by a very cool marine creature. Just by way of "full disclosure" I'm not an enthusiast of any one make of car and the only Chevy I've ever owned was a Vega which was one of the worst models ever.

One more pic of the Chevrolet Manta Ray before I close this post.

Awesome logo on the steering wheel, huh? Ah, what could have been!