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  • Literary Salvage

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    Literary Salvage
    dumpster diving
    Image by Robert Burdock
    So there I was walking through an up-market residential area with my family yesterday, when we happened upon a skip (dumpster) at the side of the kerb. Glancing in as we passed, I was stopped in my tracks when I spotted among the builder’s rubble and various other household ‘junk’, these two volumes looking forlorn and abandoned.

    Shock quickly gave way to thoughts of liberation and I side-stepped towards the skip. After digging them out and brushing off the brick dust, I noted that aside from a very slight amount of rain damage the books were in perfect condition. I had an interest in both titles (what’s the chances of that?) so I decided that I would indeed liberate them.

    Walking away with bookish salvage in hand my daughter was mortified that I would do such a thing, and she ordered me through snarling teeth to put the books back. I resisted! I explained to her that I was doing nothing wrong, and if anyone should be ashamed then it should be those who threw the books away in the first place. For dramatic effect I even stated that what those people did was only one step away from Nazi book burning :o).

    So two books rescued from premature burial, and although I don’t make a habit of diving into skips on a daily basis, it’s something I’d do it again tomorrow if it meant saving decent works of literature from such an unimaginable fate.

    Blurry Fish and Barrel Sponges
    dumpster diving
    Image by Boogies with Fish…
    Sometime I like amuse myself by going back through my accumulation of thousands of underwater images to find the ones which I first rejected as real.  Usually this rejection has to do with some technical fault such as bad focus (usually an image-killer), impossibly filthy water (sometimes fixable by laboriously removing the spots) or motion blur. Of the faults, motion blur is the easiest to turn into an artistic image. It sometimes generates a very interesting image. Here is a Many-Spotted Sweetlips (Plectorhinchus chaetodonoides)  which I tried to capture with a shap shot at Magic Passage:

    The attempt, as you can see, failed miserably. Both the fish and the background are blurred. Nevertheless, a tiny, nagging tickle in the back of my skull kept mumbling, "Play with it, idiot." I always pay attention to these messages from my id. As you can see, with a little work, the wasted pixels redeem themselves. A mistake becomes art. I don’t know if I’d want to hang it on the wall, but it provided me with a few minutes of not  thinking about computer networks. That’s a blessing.

    Here is another one that I saved from the bit dumpster. The Silver Sweetlips (Diagramma pictum),  one of my favourites, hangs out in mobs at Magic Passage. You can find many more images of them here on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi by putting "pictum" in the search box. Is is a very beautiful fish: You can see in the shot above that the background is relatively unblurred (relatively, as I say) but the fish was moving quite smartly. This transforms the beautiful yellow spots of the sub-adult into concentric yellow arcs which give the image the impression of some kind of weird fingerprint. Fingerprint? Okay, let me reboot . . . nope, still reminds me of a fingerprint. What can I say?

    At any rate, a strange piece of chintzy art is better than wasted pixels. I might actually hang this one. No, wait. I’m far too lazy.

    Here’s a shot of the Silver Sweetlips sub-adults hanging in the current. These are very chilled-out fish:

    They gang up like sulky teenagers on the corner by the liquor store, waiting for some sucker to buy them a bottle. I’m sure that if there were an equivalent of Mary Jane for fish, this mob would be toking up.

    I did mention something about Barrel Sponges.

    Here are two Barrel Sponges (Xestospongia testudinaria)  at Magic Passage, right in the area of the highest currents:
    When Barrel Sponges get really big, they are very heavy and present a huge surface area upon which a strong current can push. It’s not surprising that they occasionally get knocked over. Here you can see one that is hanging on and one that has been toppled. Not to worry, the severely tilded sponge can continue to grow. When knocked down like this, the sponge continues to try to grow up towards the light, so some of the ones which have been over on their side for a long time have very peculiar shapes.

    I’ll wrap up with the anemone with one little anemonefish guarding it:
    I have one hour left to load the boat and get to the pick-up point for our regular Saturday dive. I’m outta here.

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