Very New Pacificklaus News

I just moved to a new dive shop! It’s Savedra in Moalboal, in the south-west of Cebu, Philippines. I will be teaching underwater photography & marine biology workshops, and in the near future technical diving courses. I’ll also be starting to assist teaching new scuba instructors – it’s a whole new set of challenges and opportunities here!

Come visit me! The diving here is superb, with a fantastic wall and a stationary school of sardines right in front of the dive shop.

Fukushima , a real hero, and autobiographical notes

A good friend of mine pointed out this article to me; it’s really worth reading:

The impacts of the Great East Japan Earthquake on people living in the Tohoku and Kanto districts and on Japanese society in general were, in many ways, beyond description. The earthquake and the accompanying tsunami destroyed many cities along the east coast of the Tohoku and Kanto districts. However, an additional long-lasting disaster was the nuclear pollution caused by the collapse of the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant (NPP). This event was the second worst nuclear accident in the world, next to the Chernobyl accident. At the time of the collapse of the Fukushima Dai-ichi NPP, Japanese government and TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) could not evacuate people efficiently from the area around the NPP, in part because they did not want to release information on the disaster. From the outset, it appeared that the Japanese government and TEPCO were making every conceivable effort to save the nuclear industry (but not to help people living in Fukushima and vicinity) and to minimize the financial damage and negative publicity resulting from this accident. To achieve their goals, the authorities concealed information that would have put them in a worse position if it had been released. This governmental behavior is not unexpected; similar behavior was seen in the former Soviet Union at the Chernobyl accident. more

Seriously, read it! The author then described his own efforts to use the wing formation in butterflies as a bioessay to determine the radiation load from the Fukushima accident, and how he was bullied before, during and after that research by radical conformists and government apologists into abandoning this research.

I myself was in Japan during that nuclear accident. Fortunately I was on the other end of the country, so the brunt of the radiation missed me, but I could clearly feel the social repercussions. At the time I was employed at a research institute which was an odd effort at establishing an international institution: it was more Japanese than its top-level administrators wanted to admit, but had more foreigners than most Japanese researchers were comfortable with; It combined Western careerism with Japanese hierarchies and buerocrazy. Unsurprisingly, the community in the institute eagerly adopted the party line when it come to talking about Fukujima.

As Dr. Otaki points out, the official government line was that nothing much happened, there is nothing to see here, and to please just keep doing what you are doing. Any opinion expressed over lunch or at a faculty function that yes, a burning nuclear power plant is a big deal (!!!), would be met with hectic counter-arguments and angry looks. Interestingly, some of my fellow foreigners who really, really wanted to fit in were the most eager to defend the idea that releasing large amounts of radioactive substances into the Pacific ocean is not big deal. “This is an over-reaction of the foreign press” is a phrase I heard quite often. Not a radiation disaster, but talking about it was supposedly the problem. With the zeal of true converts, they brushed aside any criticism of the handling of the disaster. They would glee about any minor factual errors in the foreign media coverage while accepting the Japanese government’s press releases as facts. All critical thinking supposedly acquired during a European or North American high school curriculum evaporated in the burning desire to be a good foreigner.

Facebook was quite a new medium for me at that time, and I had to purge a number of Facebook-”friends” to avoid an irritating steady stream of affirmations how great Japan and TEPCO were doing in the face of the disaster and how biased those nasty foreign experts were who thought this might be a pretty dangerous situation after all.

To quote my mate and fellow gaijin David “You could really see who is an idiot during this affair”. This was an odd time to live in Japan. A nation already tightly bound by a single shared ethnicity moved even closer together. Yes, that caused unselfish acts of help in the areas affected by the catastrophe. But it also led to a boost of ugly racism. Newspapers printed wholly invented stories of foreign crime gangs. A new racial slur was also coined: “flyjin”. That’s a “gaijin”, an already somewhat derogatory term for a foreigner, who decided to fly out of Japan after Fukujima, instead of staying on and showing solidarity to the Japanese people (a solidarity presumably caused by being routinely ostracized?).

I, as a foreign dude who does not give much of a shit what people say, and with no work related to the power plant accident clearly felt the social pressure about Fukujima. For Dr. Otaki to withstand that pressure and to establish his radiation bioessay research program in the face of this pressure tells me that he must truly have balls of steel.

Dr. Otakis are rare in the world. Yes, I have met some other principled people. But a lot of humans are morally no more than a feather detached from just below a chicken’s ass, blowing in the wind of societal trends. That’s especially true when their social and professional status is beyond what it should be, based on their intelligence and character. The truly accomplished and brilliant people in high-up-positions whom I have met were often very nice and considerate; it’s those who have undeservedly made it uphill who think they have much to loose by standing up for what’s right.

Dr. Otaki rightfully points out that science should be driven, at least partly, by “social demands for knowledge” sensu lato. I have not only seen a lack of interest in working for the common good, but also an eagerness to do outright evil things in return for money for their labs. Developing hardware and software to help the military kill people more effectively with drones? What a great idea, if it makes the research funding flow! I’ve seen such eagerness in the US and in Australia. My objections to such questionable research goals were usually brushed aside; not taking advantage of a source of funding was outside the limited mental scope of these scientists.

I have never for a second believed the defeated “culture wars” notion that scientific truth is a purely subjective, social construct. Properly done science leads us closer to understanding reality. But why people do science, and what science they do is very much a cultural issue. For Japanese scientists, as a community, to critically question their government’s “information” about a nuclear accident would take a societal change in Japan which makes critical thinking a virtue. For Western scientists to not do everything and anything for funding and to reject money from morally questionable sources would need Western society to defeat the ugly materialism which has taken a hold of it.

Guest Post: Thailand: A Divers Paradise

This is a first: a guest post on Pacificklaus.com! Thanks to Oscar Waterworth (oscar.waterworth@gmail.com) for contributing!

Diving in Thailand: How is that? In the few days I spent in Thailand, the country struck me as a place of magnificent temples, amazing food (if you like it spicy!), and gorgeous women. I didn’t make it underwater, though. Is it worth diving there? I have heard mixed reviews. But Oscar definitely thinks so!

Thailand is definitely one of the “must dive” destinations. It is good for both beginners and advanced divers, and in its depths you can see lots of tropical fishes, reef dwelers and underwater Kodak-moments. Peak of Thailand’s diving season is from November to April, but the season itself lasts whole year round. Depending on the month you can see different kinds of sea creatures. Best time to see whale-sharks for example is from February to May, when there’s a higher concentration of plankton. Although Thailand has an all-year-round diving season it largely depends on surface conditions, and from May to October, there’s a lot of rain on the West coast. Another important parameter when it comes to diving in Thailand is the plankton density, which drastically increases in May, this reduces the visibility, but at the same time it brings the biggest plankton-eating sea creatures out on the open. These are some of the best places to dive in Thailand.

Similian Islands

This is one of the most popular diving destinations in the country and there are many liveboards to rent. These islands are located in Andaman Sea, inside the protected national park area. Here, divers can watch some of the most beautiful tropical species including: black tip reef sharks, moray eels, snappers, barracudas, triggerfish, surgeonfish, leopard sharks and many more. On the Eastern side of the islands there are several coral reefs, while elsewhere you can find solid granite boulders laying on the sandy sea floor. Another popular diving spot is the Elephant Head Rock, which has a lot of holes where turtles, reef sharks and groupers are usually hiding.

by Boris Bialek, CC via Flickr

Hin Daeng and Hin Muang

If you are looking for manta rays and whale-sharks these two underwater rocks are the best places to be. Accept these two species you can also find plenty other reef fish hiding inside the colorful soft corals. Here you can also spot barracudas, reef sharks, trevallies and many other fishes. Hin Muang rock is a little bit more difficult to dive, since it increases the current speed over the upper surface. Hin Daeng on the other hand is easier and it features some of the brightest red soft corals and a lot of action that goes around them.

by Edward Faulkner, CC via Flickr

Koh Lipe

At Koh Lipe and its twelve surrounding islands you can find several reefs with both soft and hard corals. These reefs are inhabited with lots of fish species, some of them are: angel fish, surgeon fish, butterfly fish, batfish, parrot fish etc. If you enjoyed Finding Nemo, you will be happy to hear that near these reefs you can find a lot of clown fishes as well. From bigger species there are: barracudas, trevalliers and fusiliers. Next door to all these fish species you can find lots of reef dwellers like seahorses, cuttlefish and crabs and some bigger sea creatures like sharks, turtles and devil and mango rays. All this maritime life combined with stunning island flora makes Ko Lipe diving experience on of the best in the whole of South East Asia.

Richelieu Rock

This site is very attractive for scuba divers, especially because it is relatively close to some of the most popular tourist spots in Thailand like Phuket and Khao Lak. From fish species here you can see barracuda, trevally, and there are also some groupers and snappers. This rock is covered with colorful red soft corals, with lot of small holes and caves that are full of life and host many reef dweller species. This is also one of the best places to see whale-sharks since the sea around the Richelieu Rock is very nutrient and in the plankton season here you can see a lot of these stunning creatures.

Thailand is definitely one of the best places to dive on the planet. Accept all the tropical maritime life and colorful coral reef, this country also offers great value for money when it comes to organized liveboard dives. All this makes divers come back to the “Land of Smiles” every year, so they can explore these magnificent waters a little bit more.

by Ryan Lackey, CC via Flickr

Filipine Armed Forces to Expand Tactical use of Karaoke

In a move certain to make military history, General (3 ½ star) Simon Ramirez III of the Filipine Armed Forces today announced that the country’s military will expand the tactical use of karaoke. The general outlined the general situation leading to the investment into this rather unusual weapon.

“We don’t have the billions of dollars like Russia, China and, foremost, the US to build gigantic militaries with bad ass rockets and nuclear arse-nals capable of destroying most of the biosphere. In fact, these nations don’t have the money either, but they just steal it from their people. Our people here are too poor to steal that kind of money from.”

But, so general Ramirez, the FAF have a sleeve up the ace: tactical karaoke.
“In a nation excelling at loud public singing, we plan to take advantage of this capability”
“If the invaders can’t sleep at night due to the singing all around them, they can’t fight the next day. It’s as simple as that.”

The next stage of the Tactical Karaoke Expansion Plan (TKEP) will be to install more karaoke bases near tactically important locations like industrial installations, government buildings, barracks, and karaoke parlors.

When Pacificklaus Media contacted Jon Bon Jovi, whose music will make up a significant part of the defensive initiative, the artist was sympathetic. “The Philippines have in the past suffered from several murderous foreign invasions” Bon Jovi said on the phone from his New Jersey home “I wish this island nation all the success in the future in dealing with foreign military aggression, be it with machine guns or late-night performances of ‘Livin’ on a prayer’ “.

Whom Are You Doing

It is fun to observe the cultural peculiarities of the countries of the world, and to learn about the languages people speak. I think of myself as an ambitious amateur anthropologist and a cunning linguist. One aspect I find quite interesting is how people talk about their family and sex lifes in different countries.

If you know me you’ll know that I spent a few years in Japan. I didn’t leave as a fan of the country, but it was certainly an interesting time. In many ways, Japan is on one end of the axes of possible societal ways of doing things: chaotic/organized, relaxed/neurotic, late/on time, open/private Japan is always on the latter end of these axes. The Philippines, where I am living now, is typically on the other end. This makes for interesting contrasts.

This is nowhere more evident then in how people talk about their relationship status. In Japan, that was considered very privileged information. I remember one instance when one of my few Japanese friends let me in on the secret that a boring secretary and a soul-less grad student were a couple. Two boring people fucking. It did not seem very exciting news to me, but it was clear from my friend’s demeanor that she was telling me something she thought to be spicy. People in Japan would hide their relationship status often even from their own parents. My girlfriend of 2 years never introduced me to her mom & dad, and made sure they visited our house only when I was traveling for work. I wonder what she told them why she, as an unemployed waitress, was living in such a nice residence? I assume she didn’t mention a (foreign!) boyfriend – living together while unmarried is still shameful in the land of the plastic smiles.

In contrast, in the Philippines I have the following, or a very similar conversation a few times a week, either in English or Visayan:

A tricylce driver or a fruit sales lady whom I had just met minutes earlier asks me:
You have Filipina wife?
Instead of how are you doing? the initial question is whom are you doing?
I then either tell the truth
Not now, previously I had one
or say something semi-funny along the lines of
Not now, but I am holding try outs for one!
Or
One on each island (there are 7107 islands in the Republic of the Philippines)

The conversation then usually goes to the question why I don’t have one right now, and why I don’t have any kids (I know of), and how many kids the tricylce driver/fruit sales lady has (usually many). They give me good tips on how to find a new wife, and recommend that I have a couple of kids, too. I enjoy these chats. People here are pretty witty and funny.

Before … still like the picture, hehe.

According to the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis, a language reflects the thinking of its speakers. Accordingly, Visayan distinguishes bata (a child, young person) and anak (my/your child). There are also countless words for younger brother, respected older sister, ect. The vocabulary for family relations is more developed than in English or German, since that’s what people talk about a lot (we have more words for beers though).

What makes different cultures so different in how openly they talk about relationships and family? Why did these things diverge so much between two archipelagos on the same side of the Pacific? I don’t know. Is it a historical accident? A consequence of the economics and politics of the place? We can only speculate.

Sensational discovery of unknown letters of composer Prokofiev

June 12th, Moscow/Moalboal. In a sensational discovery new personal letters of the legendary late Russian composer Sergei Sergejewitsch Prokofiev were found in a corner of the archive of the Moscow Institute of Music, the institution which Prokofiev had left his archives to. The letters give us a fascinating insight into the motivations and values of the great composer, and shed new light on some of his most famous works.

Prokofiev seemed to have significantly modified “Romeo and Juliet”, the ballet considered to be his greatest masterwork, based on economic pressures. In a letter to his agent Prijnew, the composer wrote that the “Dance of the Knights” was originally meant as an homage to schooling sardines. The fascinating group dynamic of schooling fish is what inspired him to write this piece.

“Поток в поведении стайных рыб является то, что композитор музыки может только надеяться, чтобы воспроизвести(“The flow in the behavior of schooling fish is what the composer of music can only hope to reproduce”) the great master wrote. However, there was no money in animal group dynamics, and so much commercial potential in romantic ballet that Prokofiev changed the context of the music he wrote. He was obviously very irate by this change he felt he had to make, as the harsh language he used indicates: “Пошел романтический балет!» (“Fuck romantic ballet!”).

Here you can see the “composer’s cut”, Prokofiev’s brilliant piece of music together with footage of a massive school of sardines:

Sergei would have been so happy to see this! This was shot in Moalboal, right in front of Savedra – the dive shop I’ll be working with starting July! You can see these sardines just 50 meters from the door of our dive shop, and I’ll play Prokofiev for you after the dive if you like. Because, Пошел романтический балет!

Manila

So on my way home from Sabang I spent a day in Manila going to a photography event which was cool and hanging out with one of my local friends, which was a lot of fun.

Positive things about Manila: Good dining and partying in hip bars and restaurants in fancy malls, lots of pretty women in hot hot hot clothes.

Negatives: absurdly congested traffic. The Great Massive LA Traffic Jam is mainly due to absurd numbers of cars in an otherwise well designed freeway system. The everlasting depressing Manila traffic jam is rather due to a moderately high number of cars in a city not designed for massive car traffic.

Odd: Gigantic women and mega chicken. There are these gigantic advertizing boards in Manila. I have not seen them this size anywhere else. They mainly advertize for beauty products and chicken dinners. Hence you can see these girls with their faces 12 meters across and grilled chickens 14 meters long. Such a chicken would weigh tons, if that was a 1:1 reproduction of the photograph. I know of course it’s not, but my visual system does not: That makes these giant women and mega chicken so impressive: In the first moment you actually think you’ve seen a giant. There is also a huge poster of Filipino boxing superstar Manny Pacqiao. Supersized Manny, no more welterweight but supergiantextraweight. That surely would give Mayweather another reason to run away!

IMG_20150527_175238

Fear and Loathing in Sabang

I’m in a small beach town in-between rocky cliffs on the northern shore of the Philippine island of Mindoro. All available space – about a kilometer – along the seaside is used up by two or three-level resorts, restaurants and bars. This is the most easily navigable place I have ever seen: every hotel, dive shop and culinary establishment has their name painted on the front in large letters visible to arriving visitors. When the boat I took across from Batangas approached Mindoro, I comprehended within ten seconds where the hotel I booked was, and where I’d have to walk to the good food and party places I had read about.

There are maybe 50 diving and passenger bankas in the bay, anchoring just beyond the algae covered rocks which are exposed at low tide. The space behind the first level of buildings is a labyrinth of narrow alleys leading between high-end dive shops, not-so-high-end-looking dive shops, sary-sary style convenience stores and the smokey back-rooms of restaurants. The goods and services here are advertized in English, Korean and Chinese.

Within an hour of stepping off the boat I was offered – several times – certainly-fake Viagra and weed overpriced by a factor of 20. I had not seen as many Germanic mullets since Vienna in 1989, when I had one myself. And there is also a sizable population of plus-sized Arabic boys in town. On the other end of the scale of human beauty, Filipina lovelies play billiard in a beachside-pub, clad in shorts made from slightly more cloth than would be needed for a single glove for my big weightlifter hand. In case you haven’t seen anybody play billiard lately: you occasionally have to lean forward over the table to reach the balls. Nice.

I’m in Sabang Beach, Puerto Galera. This place won’t win the must-see stylish-travel award from Sophisticated Yuppy-Couple Traveler Magazine. But I like it. And I haven’t even started to explore the diving, which is supposed to be ultra-high-biodiversity, high-current. My kind of diving!

The only thing so far which is irritating me is that many of the souvenir stands sell these beautiful large marine shells, which should be attached to beautiful large marine mollusks crawling on the ocean floor, and not sitting in a booth next to the sidewalk, dead. There have been very noteworthy successes in marine conservation in the Philippines in the last decades, but there is still some way to go in other areas!

SabangThere are more Arabic tourists in this part of the Philippines than in the Visayas further south – I guess Puerto Galera is easier to reach via a flight to Manila and a relatively short transfer. Some of these guys are slim and stylishly dressed, with hip hats almost like out of a 60s blackspoitation movie. They seem to be having a good time in groups, sometimes spontaneously starting to sing and cheer.

The stylish Arabs mix with the aforementioned super-fatties: What are these guys doing here? Are they sex tourists? Can you even get it up when you are 80+ kgs overweight? Even with chemical aid, wouldn’t the effort of a sex act bring them to the edge of cardiac arrest? And if that happens, how do you fit such a humongous fatty on the stretcher of a Filipino ambulance?

Keyword fat: There is good food in Sabang. The many Koreans who come here seem to like to eat food like at home. The Germans and Aussies have similar tendencies. But, I’m not judging anyone for eating kimtchi at home in Seoul and on vacation, Wurst in München and in the Philippines, or beef pies down under and in Mindro. No, I am not making fun of such culinary conservatism, especially because I love Korean food, and I can get it in Sabang thanks to the home-sick-ish Korean dining preferences. The spicyness you get in a good Korean seafood soup is, in my opinion, unlike all other types of spicyness. And I always enjoy the array of starters you get in Korean places – very interesting vegetables amongst them. The German places also serve good food. The waitresses even know how to properly pour wheat beer in one place! You know, by tilting the glass, pouring slowly, and shaking out the last bit of yeast at the end. Good job by the restaurant owners for teaching her this crucial cultural skill!

In-between the anchored dive boats in the bay float two neon-lit floating bars. I had the extraordinary pleasure to head out to one of these bars in the company of two lovely Filipina ladies – deep dark eyes you would probably give at least your left arm for type-of-lovely. The taxi boat to get to these bars has a big fancy orange neon light on top and a chubby dude with no shirt as the boatman. The ocean at that time of the night was perfectly flat and the bar’s light’s reflections in the water looked psychedelically spectacular.

This being the off-season, the weren’t that many people in the bar but those surely knew how to rock. The music in the place fit my tastes veeery well. When we arrived Ozzy’s “Mister Crowley” was playing at full volume. What a classic and what a monument to the historic Alistair Crowley! They also played lots of electronica, AC/DC and Rammstein. The German owner and I both knew the lyrics by heart and we barked them into the hot & humid tropical night. I also think I somehow succeeded in translating these pretty heavily cynical and sexually charged Rammstein lyrics for my new Filipina friends, despite my increasingly illuminated state of mind.

The memory of the rest of the evening faded in laughter, San Miguel Lights and shots. I also learned something: a middle-aged Korean dude shaking all he has to the music in front of a few Filipina chicks is not necessarily ridiculous, if he dances with enough self-confidence and has real genuine fun. I saw the same dude the next morning on the beach-walk, wearing the same shirt as the night before. He must have passed out in his party clothes and waken up with too much of the munchies to bother changing. It does not matter what age you are and if you have a good-boy salaryman-haircut: if you party that hard you have my respect.

If Sabang did not exist someone would have to invent it. Someone with a slight lack of good taste but an extraordinarily well developed sense of fun. I’d definitely apply for that inventor’s job!

So people, now get back to your office job, followed by watching TV on the couch. And check back for more reporting on the underwater world and the nightlife of the Philippines next week!

Anilao is Awesome

Sometimes when I am in the middle of something I get a bit tunnel-visioned. I am having a good time, yes, but my perspective is sometimes a tad narrowed. “Am I gonna be able to have a nap before the next dive?” “Where are my sunglasses, damnit?” “Should I ask for a second helping of ice cream?” These are the questions which sometimes occupy my mind. Yes, during the actual dives I am very enthusiastic about the marine life in front of my mask, but before and after I sometimes get distracted by everyday trivialities more than I would like to. Only after the end of the experience do I then realize just how extraordinary and special it was what I just saw and experienced.

My month of diving in Anilao with the Aiyanar Beach & Dive Resort was one such amazing experience which only now sinks in with its full weight. There was some spectacular natural history going on underwater!

HAWKFISH LUNCH

I saw a hawkfish hunt a shrimp in a black coral. That particular black coral was full of these half-thumb-sized, frail translucent shrimp. Very hard to see at the reduced light levels at 30 meters, and probably even more so when you only have the much smaller eyes of a 10 cm long fish to look for them. Still, the hawkfish got a shrimp, but then it immediately had to defend it against a hungry wrasse of about the same size. It then darted over to a cup-sponge next door and started chewing the shrimp which was much more than bite-sized for that fish.

A gazelle captured by a cheetah which then has to defend it against a pack of hyenas in the African savannah? The hawkfish, shrimp & wrasse episode was at least as exciting and all involved animals were way more pretty than those hyenas which somewhat look like Filipino street dogs anyway.

MIDWATER MATING

I saw rare and incredibly beautiful flasher masses wrasses mating in mid-water over an incredibly beautiful sun-drenched coral-covered reef wall. The males were each defending a territory and did impressive mating dances with widely spread fins when we encountered them. Very hard to photograph.

GOBY DEMISE

Then I saw a shrimp goby – a rather rare one, of the species Cryptocentrus caeruleopunctatus – in his hole with his symbiotic shrimp. The shrimp digs a hole, and the goby acts as a watchman. If danger approaches, the goby retreats into the burrow, and the shrimp notices that and also stays inside. That on its own is not such a rare natural history event, it can easily be observed by an attentive diver in the sand next to most coral reefs in the Indopacific, especially in low-current areas. This is a relatively rare shrimp goby, though, and I really enjoyed finding one.

Last ever picture of this goby before its demise.

But what I saw then was quite stunning: A medium-sized wrasse had followed me around. When I took a picture of the shrimp-goby, it must have realized that I was looking at something. I surely think that the wrasse does not understand what a camera is and what taking a picture entails. But it probably has some understanding of looking at things. Any vertebrate has eyes on the front of the head, and pointing that head somewhere usually means looking at something there. Looking is such a universal act that the wrasse most likely realized that I was looking at something – something edible?

When I took the picture of the shrimp goby, I spooked it and it retreated into its burrow. It usually takes a minute or two for the goby to come back out. The wrasse was willing to wait. Did it know that a circular hole in the coral rubble likely is a goby burrow? Wrasses and gobies have been living in the same reef ecosystems for millions of years, so that’s certainly possible. Hence, the wrasse patiently looked down onto the burrow, hovering and hovering … until the goby came out, then it quickly struck, and enjoyed its snack. A few seconds later, in mid-water, pieces of coral rubble were dripping from the successful hunters mouth.

Gony eater waiting for his lunch to appear. Note the goby burrow on the bottom right.

If you think that fishes are stupid, then you are stupid or you have never been underwater!

CONVICTS

On the dive site “Sombrero” I saw juvenile convict fish streaming in and out of the burrow which an adult convict fish had dug. The adult, much much bigger then the juveniles, and do not leave the burrow, ever. They look like sluggish eels, and emerge every minute or so, sometimes dumping sand or rubble out of the burrow.

It seems that there is a division of labor going on, with the adult fish digging the burrow and the juveniles foraging for food, which they then regurgitate into the adult’s mouth. This is a remarkable interaction between animals of different generations, possibly a rudimentary form of eusociality.

BIG SCHOOL

Off “Devil’s Rock” I saw one of the biggest school of fishes, ever. These were long-jaw mackerels, each about 30 cm long, and the whole school the size of a basketball court. This was a spectacle: one gigantic silvery beast racing through the ocean at high speed. These fishes swim with a wide open mouth to filter plankton, and they alternate between such filtering swims and bursts of even faster swimming with their mouths closed. It would have been hopeless trying to chase them, but even trying to cut in front of them for a good wide angle shot took a lot of hard swimming, much more than you’d normally like to do during a dive, when you’d want to conserve air. My efforts kinda worked, but not quite the way I hoped they would. I like to be very self-critical when it comes to my photographs.

All of that happened in 30 to 35 meters: Children, don’t try this at home! Or if your pool at home is not that deep, also don’t try it underwater in the Philippines. Such stunts use a lot of air and if you don’t have very good breathing discipline and constant awareness of the pressure in your tank you might all of a sudden find yourself with too little breathing gas, too deep!

To really consciously see these things, a lot of good things have to come together:

INTERESTING STUFF

Jim Richardson of National Geographic fame said “If you want to be a better photographer, stand in front of more interesting stuff.” A very good statement! There is a lot of really really interesting stuff underwater in Anilao. Some of the pieces of action I saw are rare events, and only spending a lot of time underwater, with open eyes, gave me the chance to witness them.

BUOYANCY

However, I don’t stand in front of interesting stuff as Jim suggests, but I hover. Any good underwater photographer needs really good buoyancy and fining skills. If you can’t stay in place, rather motionless, and swim without making a big sand cloud, you will end of scaring all the little animals which you could otherwise have the chance to observe doing their natural behaviors.

I think I have such skills. I think of myself as the inverse Michael Phelps: really good at swimming very slowly.

MARINE BIO SMARTS

Then, without the marine biology knowledge to realize what’s happening I would have understood little of what I witnessed underwater last month in Anilao. Without good knowledge of the shrimp – goby symbiosis, I would not have understood why that wrasse was looking at this strange hole in the sand.

And what were these convict fish doing? Am I seeing just a hole with some small fish entering? Or is this a unique event very meaningful for the understanding of fish reproduction? Only someone who has talked to the right people and read (and written, as I might add without false modesty!) the right scientific literature will understand that it’s the latter.

All these wonderful things do not come together often. I realize how fantastic my experiences were. Thanks to all who made them happen, from Aiyanar owner Tessa to the dive guides, the guys in the dive shop and the boat crews for getting me to these places!

SO?

One thing I have been thinking about is that for some of these events, video would have been a better medium to document them than still photography. I took some good shots, but some of the dynamics of the wildlife behavior I witnessed would have been inherently captured better on video. What would be a good video system, somewhat affordable, to start with on a high level?

First Dive Computer to Integrate Sexual Activity into Deco Models

May 18th, 2015 – Super Action Labs in Puerto Galera, Mindoro Oriental, Philippines have today announced the release of their ground-breaking new dive computer, the Super Action Lab “Awesome 1”.

The Awesome 1 is the first dive computer which integrates sexual activity into deco models. Besides the customary calculation of the no-fly time after dives (provided by virtually all current dive computer models) the Awesome 1 will also calculate the no-fuck time.

When talking to Pacificklaus media this Monday, Super Action Lab founder and chief developer Dr. Igor Brevzisky explained the workings of the new and improved algorithm in the Awesome 1. Sitting in a Puerto Galera cafe with a view of the hills of Batangas on the horizon, Igor said that it has long been known that vigorous exercise after diving can be harmful. The increased blood flow can transport bigger nitrogen bubbles (dissolved in the body during the dive) to places where they can do more damage, and lead to decompression accidents. A wait of several hours is necessary before any type of intensive physical exertion.

With his charming thick Russian accent, Igor said that while “everyone can wait before lift weight or ride bicycle” in contrast it’s “hard for guy to wait for pussy”. Vigorous sex can be as physically demanding as a kickboxing match and more so than standing next to the leg press in the gym, and deco accidents due to bedroom-athletics are not unheard of. “Especially in Philippines, with superlative diving and many many sexy ladies, big problem” said Igor. This is where the Awesome 1 comes in: it calculates how long a prudent diver should abstain from sex after a dive, the no-fuck time:

awesome1But this is not all. While two hours after a dive sex in a position which entails a moderate level of effort might be ok, other positions could still lead to a decompression accident. “Cowgirl position good, woman does work” in Igor’s words. The information which kind of sex is already advisable post-dive is shown on the display of the Awesome 1 in the form of color-coded pictograms:

awesome2The Awesome 1 also has a female mode, which can easily be set in the computer’s menu, accessible with two large contact buttons on the device’s right side. In this mode the no-fuck time remains the same, but the allowed positions are reversed, prohibiting positions which are more work for the penetratee for longer durations after the dives.

This will come in handy for many female divers in the Caribbean, where the local boys are known to be such great conversationalists with impeccable manners that many ladies jump into bed with them right after their dives. Generally, Dr. Brevzisky hopes, the Awesome 1 will further improve diving safety for the fun-loving modern traveler. “We are excited about computer like diver coming ashore seeing little brown girlfriend” the innovator told Pacificklaus media.

Besides the calculation of the no-fuck time the Awesome 1 can also accommodate nitrox up to 50%, and has a USB connection to directly post dives on Facebook via an app provided by Super Action Labs. The computer will be available through international distributors starting July at a retail price of 530$.