Thursday, February 19, 2009

John's Geek


Punion anyone?

Remember John the Renaissance Man?
When I blogged about him last year, I mentioned his very own first disciple Rob Whitton, "a young, smart, promising computer whiz".
As in "Computer Geek", a largely harmless and often endearing subspecies of Homo nerdicus, or Common Nerd.

But that was last year.
Before I found out that he hangs around with these guys!

Warning: absolutely shocking content!!!




You had been warned!All I can say is that Tourette's is hardly conducive to ever attaining the required Gravitas of a "serious scientist doing serious science, seriously" - John (one of the above perpetrators) being the one notable exception.
So far
, that is - as long as he doesn't start rebreather diving in his speedos like that other guy!
Rob has just left after two weeks of Ichthyological rummaging and now I know better: far from being harmless, the man is lethal! And I'm not only referring to his deadly dabbling with (as in "rebooting of") my wireless router and aircon!

Turns out that before professional Geekdom, Rob used to be an Officer (but I bet: not a Gentleman!) in the Army Rangers!
Correct me if I'm wrong - but the way I understand it, those are NOT the surgical guys, as in Special Forces and the like! These are the guys who Rain down Punion, as in indiscriminate and wide-spread punishment and destruction!
And an anonymous rewiever (yes this post has been subjected to peer review!) informs me that "Rob is also a combat Frisbee player! Whatever that means, and I’m not sure, it would seem to combine antithetical geek and ranger qualities into a sort of Ninja Nerd, no?"
As I said: Lethal!!!

Case in point, the Punion he and John have wreaked among the Eviota poplulation of Shark Reef and of the "Best Muck Dive in the South Pacific", i.e. a desolate piece of rubbly (or was it "rubbishy"?) aquatic real estate in front of Lalati!
Yes you guessed it, Jack is revising the Genus and needs specimen! Dunno who Jack is? Read this : if there ever was Da Man, this would be him! And he's the nicest, most generous and funniest guy on top of that!

Back to the serious stuff.
10 days of digging around have resulted in a whopping 53 additional species that are shortly going to populate the ever-expanding Shark Reef Fish List. Yes, that would be approx. 430 species on a small patch reef in Fiji! And counting!
And this despite the fact that precious time was regularly wasted on filming our Shark feeding spectacle (Chondrichthyans?? Anathema!! You just wait til I tell Jack...!!), and despite the fact that all planned Rotenone stations were quickly disposed of by our ever-greedy Giant Trevally who absconded with the plastic bags!

The Geek of course failed miserably.
He would regularly come back empty-handed, preferring to indulge in the collection of pretty (as opposed to "useful") images rather than bagging his daily quota of specimens. This on top of his ignominious failure to reach the boat when dropped on the corner of the reef that prompted a heroic rescue mission by his sensei.

But to his credit, whenever faced with the risk of terminal excomunication, he would miraculously throw a Hail Mary and come up with some spectacular result.
Like when he managed to use a jeweler's loupe and one of my spaghetti containers (hence gifted to science) in order to photograph the above, and possibly undescribed (ever seen an esca like this?) tiny fella. Yes that is sand and that's a dime - click on the pics and be amazed!
Or by coming up with some whopping range extension or in my case, by showing me how to save flash files to disk.

Meaning that I shall -grudgingly- welcome him back next year.

Because Shark Reef is far from having been exhausted.

The Eastern side is largely unexplored and being more exposed to the current, it constitutes a different habitat featuring different corals and thus very possibly more of the species that are frequent in current-swept Beqa Lagoon but that we have so far failed to see in the Reserve.
Also, the deeper reaches have likely so far produced below their potential due to a combination of short bottom times and inquisitive macro Elasmobranchs. We shall address that by using rebreathers and an escort of fearless indigenous bodyguards.

And lastly, we shall try to finally collect the Holotypes of those likely new shrimp Gobies that we failed to bag last year, by devising a new, Trevally-proof technique - as in deploying cutting-edge implements like empty jars of Vlasic's Original kosher Pickles, at least as groundbreaking an approach to Taxonomic Research as the aforementioned spaghetti containers!

All-in-all, much to look forward to!

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