Thursday, 29 April 2010

A brief detour from the reef

Just taking a little break from the tour of the museum to discuss my foray into the world of local politics.  I've just returned from a "hustings" with our four local candidates.  This isn't intended to be a political blog, but given the somewhat small turnout and the gravity of the topics under discussion I felt I needed to make a few comments on what I saw.

My main interest in attending was to see first hand our local MP, one Philip Davies (Con) who up to now I had heard little about, but was now regularly sending me flyers in which he made his fight against "political correctness" one of his main campaign planks.  Now, I can see why some people might think there is a bit too much political correctness, but its an odd thing to put in big letters on your campaign literature... and to be honest, in the part of the world where I come from, when a candidate talks loudly about political correctness he isn't advocating Chubby Brown play the Apollo... its a code word for the sort of soft racism that will let a black man sit at the front of the bus, so long as he doesn't have any asparations to drive it.  I was half expecting a posher version of Nick Griffin to be honest, and was somewhat pleasantly surprised to find that he didn't meet my initial expectation, but I have to say he reminded me very strongly of the American style right-wing rebel... a british John McCain if you will.

Now a bit of rebellion is a good thing - there are far too many yes-men elected to public office - but its only good being a rebel if you actually know what your talking about.  No real surprise, but Philip doesn't believe in global warming and even cited the East Anglia stolen emails as evidence, as though that was some silver bullet, clearly unaware of how East Anglia had been exonerated  from any wrong doing.  He was also a big fan of nuclear power, while at the same time he kept going on about the high cost of green technologies.... except aren't nuclear power plants very expensive to build, expensive to run, and even expensive to decommission? A glance at wikipedia (yes, I know...) indicated that the cost per reactor could vary between 100 million to 500 million euros or more.

Overall not a good sign from our local MP... its a short distance from rebel-without-a-cause to rebel-without-a-clue.

As for the other candidates...

John Harris (Lib Dem) came off as an academic... seemed to know his stuff, but his presentation skills could use some polish. I like that he is a biology teacher though... the more people in parliament with a grounding in science the better.

Kevin Warnes (Green) was much more polished, also a teacher, and has a PhD in political science... also seemed to know his stuff, and admitted that he is prepared to listen to the experts.  (though couldn't we get a few actual experts into the house, once in a while?)

Susan Hinchcliffe (Labour) came off well, but I can't help thinking she is pretty naive about her own party.  I think the funniest moment for me was when she mentioned the Freedom of Information Act as one of the good things Labour has done.  Now, I briefly worked in the civil service and one of the first things I was taught was all about avoiding FOI requests by not keeping records, self-censoring emails, selective minuting , and when all else fails, delay tactics. I'd be curious to see how aware she is of the inner workings of her own government, but then at the civil service we were quite good at hiding what we were really up to.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Also not a butterflyfish

No, this is a Moorish Idol (Zanclus cornutus) but you could be easily forgiven for this mistake.  It very closely resembles the Schooling Bannerfish (Heniochus diphreutes), the main difference being that Bannerfish are not as yellow and do not have as large and prominant black stripe behind the head. 

I followed this fast moving fellow hoping to get a nice side view, had to settle for just glimpses from above.

Monday, 26 April 2010

They come in pairs

Its not unusual to see pairs of fish swimming on the reef - in this case what I thought at first glance to be two damselfish turned out to be a pair of two-barred rabbitfish. Its interesting how they stayed together, despite being pursued by a giant potential predator (me). Not the first time that I saw paired fish moving together rather than splitting off in different directions.

Pairing behavior is better studied in some species of damselfish, where monogamous pairs of individuals will stay in close proximity on the reef, maintaining a territory and reacting antagonistically to any intruding fish from the same species. The pair of Blackback Butterflyfish (Chaetodon melannotus) I observed below seemed to be a pair, but later I saw a third Blackback come and join them without any conflict.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Giant clams

One of the most fascinating creatures of the reef were the giant clams (Tridacna sp., Family Tridacnidae), which could be found both as large "free-standing" individuals or as smaller clams embedded in the coral. Amazingly, it used to be thought that divers could get themselves "trapped" by these clams, but when put to the test, I found that they closed slowly, and never completely.

Tridacna gigas, the classic Giant Clam, at Michaelmas cove, off of Cairns.

Tridacna gigas again, this time with the mantle retracted. Interestingly, these clams get about 70% of their energy from photosynthesis, due to symbiotic algae in the mantle.

This one is Tridacna crocea, a smaller species (this individual is about 10cm long) almost always found embedded in coral up to the margins. These were quite common in large coral heads, but easily overlooked if you weren't keeping an eye open.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Hermit crab

What I first took to be an empty shell soon turned out to be occupied. Its not clear from the video, but this hermit crab is quite large - the shell is about the same dimensions as the palm of my hand.

This movie was taken at Trinity Beach, north of Cairns.

Green sea turtle

This fellow, a green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) was seen off of Michaelmas reef, off the coast from Cairns. It was surprising how calm he was, considering that several divers suddenly appeared out of no-where and started chasing him with cameras.