Tuesday, August 30, 2011

To Blog or Not to Blog

Greetings Fellow Divers,

Maurine and I have been wondering about blogging. We know some of you seem to really enjoy reading about what we’ve been doing. But a blog is not nearly as timely as a posting on Facebook, so we are questioning the value of continuing the blogging process. To us, the value of the blog is that it allows us to write in greater detail about our wanderings. If you like the blog let us know and we will continue the process. Otherwise, check us out on FB, where we post much more often. On FB search for Burt Jones or Secret Sea Visions. And, do let us know what you prefer, bits and pieces on FB or the longer blog approach.

It has been four months since our last blog post so I will bring you up to date. We spent the first five days of August sleeping on the floor of a Chinese print shop in a not so lovely Jakarta neighborhood. Printing a book is exciting, but the presses seldom stop, and having press checks every two hours, 24/7, is very fatiguing. Thankfully, that ordeal is over and a couple of days ago we received the first bound copies of Diving Indonesia’s Bird’s Head Seascape. It looks super and we can’t wait for you all to see it. As luck would have it, we began printing on the first day of Ramadan, the fasting month for observant Muslims. It was poor timing on our part, but the printer worked with us and got the job done. The book will be available at all Periplus bookstores in Bali and Jakarta as soon as Ramadan is over.

I haven’t mentioned that we are very proud of the fact that every marine life image in the new guidebook is new; no underwater photos from our previous book, Diving Indonesia’s Raja Ampat, are included in the new guide. We have been fortunate to have dived in the Bird’s Head so often and have so many wonderful images of the area that we could do another book and still not repeat ourselves! We listened to your suggestions; the new guide has much improved dive site maps and is easier to read. Enjoy and let us know your comments.

We are now in the midst of the tedious process of organizing the shipping of some of the book stock to the USA. Before 9/11 this was a simple endeavor, but times have changed. Or hadn’t you noticed? To give you an example, the pallet of books has to have it’s own “documented” security clearance. Finding a US certified inspector in Jakarta, despite it being a city of 17 million +, is not exactly a matter of looking them up in the Yellow Pages. Fortunately our Singapore agent has found the ways and means to get this done. But talk about jumping through hoops. There are at least 20 different forms that have to be in place before the books can be shipped. But that’s not really the issue. All those forms are so the books will clear US Customs upon arrival. If all the documentation is not in order US Customs will not accept the shipment. They don’t ship it back either, they just destroy it. And, for their trouble, we would be fined $5000. Yikes! Please keep your fingers crossed.

If we indeed have all our paperwork in order, the books should be in the states by late October. It will “officially” debut at DEMA in early November but it will be available on our website, from our US distributor, New World Publications (www.fishid.com) and on Amazon as soon as they clear customs. We will post an announcement on the website and FB as soon as they are arrive.

Have we been diving lately? NO. Are we ready to go diving? YES. I’m going out on Pindito in early September, but Maurine won’t get wet until our next Secret Sea trip in late September.

That doesn’t mean we haven’t been photographing, though. Bali is a treasure trove of accessible exotic subjects. We recently spent a few days in Ubud, where a royal cremation took place. What a spectacle! The cremation tower, used to transport the corpse from the royal palace to the Puri Dalem (Temple for the Dead) where it is cremated, was easily five stories high. It takes over a 100 men to carry it. The bull, the final vessel for the body, was huge as well, about twice the size of the largest real life bull you will ever see. I staked out a spot to photograph the scene at the death temple at 11:30 AM. There were already at least a 1000 people there who arrived before me. I found a good vantage point, however, but it meant sitting in the hot sun while fighting the mounting throngs to maintain my view corridor. The crowd grew to easily over 10,000, but I’m not good at estimating numbers and it could have been much larger. The tower and bull, to which the body is transferred at the temple prior to being set on fire, didn’t arrive until 3 PM. Finally at around 6 PM the bull, now containing the corpse, was ignited. It was a long, hot day to say the least. I must have drunk 10 liters of water and still felt dehydrated, not to mention sunburned to a crisp.

Prior to the cremation we photographed the Bali Kite Festival. Kites are flown to honor the gods. I’m sure the gods were duly impressed. These aren’t your typical diamond-shaped, Walmart variety, kites by the way. These things are colossal. Some of them are over 100 feet long! I will post a few images on the website and on FB of all these happenings soon. Of course, even if there is not an event of epic proportions taking place there is always something interesting to photograph in Bali. We’ve been visiting beautiful, off the beaten path, temples, which despite Bali’s overloaded tourist scene, are never crowded. Also jukungs, the native Balinese-style outrigger fishing vessels, with their big eyes and wildly painted hulls, make good subject matter.

Back to diving. For those of you interested in liveaboards, we just had lunch on Damai 2. We’ve been watching it being “finished out” for the last couple of months, but hadn’t seen it in the last few weeks. We could tell it was going to be something special, but were unprepared for the grace and beauty of this ship. It is completely over the top luxurious! If I had to choose one word to describe it, that word would be magnificent. This boat is going to raise the bar and every other operator is going to be jealous. We can’t wait for our first charter on September 30th.

In the meantime we are working on a Bird’s Head Seascape slideshow/movie to accompany the book, which will be posted on our website and on You Tube. If you haven’t seen the show we produced for the first book go to our home page and click on the movie (left hand column). The software program we are using to create the program is giving us fits, but the real problem is culling the photos for the show. Unfortunately some of our favorites images from the new book won’t make it. Don’t worry though, since vertical images don’t work well in the slideshow many “landscape” formatted images that didn’t make the book either will be included in the movie.

Best Fishes,
Burt and Maurine