Lost photo: Longing for emerald islands

Andamans on my mind

Not sure I ever posted this shot.

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My latest scheming (in Thailand)

At present, I’m in Thailand and trying to stay disconnected. Something about good food, diving and adventures makes that easier.

But here’s an update on my latest plans. A friend recently deemed me “a bum with an agenda.” Read below; the label fits.

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Unexplored Andamans: A scientist’s playground

Click a photo for a larger view

More often thought of as paradise for beach bums and scuba divers, the Andaman Islands are also a scientist’s playground, an alluring cache of uncharted island biodiversity. The archipelago lies about 1,200 kilometers from India in the middle of the Bay of Bengal.

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Shy little bastard. Come out and play.

Not very funny for a clownfish.

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Anemones are wicked photogenic

The home of yet another cheeky little clownfish

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Beautiful but excruciating

A prowling Common Lionfish

The visibility was lacking, but I caught this lionfish out stalking. They are solitary, predatory fish that aren’t common but usually can be spotted resting on or against the reef once or twice on a dive.

The fish has a wide of array of spined fins which deliver a powerful and horribly painful toxin, like all members of their family, Scorpaenidae. It’s not deadly but the pain can last for hours, according to divers who have been unfortunate enough to brush up against a lionfish.

During the day, they often park themselves motionless. When swimming in the open, they usually move slowly and deliberately, sometimes hovering (as above) in odd positions.

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Cheeky little clownfish

North Indian anemonefish

Many people assume all clownfish are created equal. But not everyone looks like Nemo.

They’re all part of the subfamily of anemonefish with a generally shared common characteristic: aggressive defense of whatever sea anemone they live around. This one was photographed at Havelock’s Anemone Reef.

Most divers love to play a bit with the clownfish which, if antagonized, will bite a finger or “attack” a dive mask. Note: I have not angered one enough to be bitten. I play nice with others.

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Batfish! Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na, batfish!

Hello, Andaman batfish.

These often can be found prowling alongside divers at sites throughout the Havelock area. This one was spotted at at Aquarium, a popular beginner site.

Most fish are generally indifferent or even scared of scuba divers; we’re big, noisy, bubble-making monsters. But batfish generally seem more intrigued and will follow divers for spells at a time.

On this particular day, I had accompanied dive instructor Elin Lindqvist, as she taught a group of students in their PADI Open Water course. The fish came along, too.

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The sea is a lovely, cruel mistress

A fetish to the sea goddess

A fetish to the sea goddess

On December 26, 2004, a tsunami wiped out a swath of fishermen’s homes on the beach near Hut Bay on Little Andaman island.

Five years later, I went there to see what, if anything, was left.

The fishermen and their familes have moved inland, afraid of the sea. The beach is scattered with garbage and little else.

A small temple was rebuilt near the beach, and fishermen worship there and at fetishes along the sandy spit for good luck as they head for their daily catch. Hanging from the fetish: bangles, earrings, hair and a comb.

The sea goddess is still worshipped because they know no other way. She is wonderful and terrible all at once, one fishermen said.

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Who needs baseball?

If I start a cricket team, the mascot will be the Cubs

If I start a cricket team, the mascot will be the Cubs

Indian men play cricket everywhere. Here, they’re doing six-a-side on the uneven ground once home to a fishing shantytown  on Little Andaman that was wiped out by the 2004 tsunami.

Locals haven’t rebuilt there; they say it’s unlucky; they say they’re afraid of the ocean.

But men will play cricket there, no problem.

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