Photos by Richard Barnden.
Richard Barnden specialises in spawning aggregations and black water night diving in Palau. He has to date the most individual catalog of spawning aggregations on the planet. He spent more than six years researching the camouflaged grouper and was the pioneer diver along with Paul Collins to crack the spawning time of this species in Palau. In 2012 he co-founded Unique Dive Expeditions along with Paul Collins which was the first of its kind educational diving product targeting spawning aggregations and tailored dive expeditions around lunar phases. He most recently pioneered open ocean black water night diving in Palau.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
Born in 1978 he grew up in south east England where he was always drawn to the ocean. In 2003 he set out for an adventure in Fiji that would change his life forever. Spending the next six months learning to dive and learning how to identify fish species Richard worked for a non profit organization setting up marine protected area’s around one of the northern Fijian Islands. That would later be the building blocks for his future diving and underwater photography career.
After building up enough dives to do his divemaster and later instructors Richard set sail for the Great Barrier Reef, Australia where he worked for one year as a PADI dive Instructor. His passion however was in underwater photography and in 2005 Richard started work in Palau on a liveaboard as a photo and Video Pro.
THE BIRTH OF UNIQUE DIVE EXPEDITIONS
After five years of filming and guiding Palau’s dive sites, he started to notice pattern’s emerging in his log books and stock photography catalog’s. Fish kept appearing in larger than normal school’s at certain dive sites around certain moon cycles and seasons. These he would later learn are spawning aggregations and he soon became fascinated with understanding their regularities. Richard became obsessed with finding any scientific or documented material he could get his hands on in an attempt to learn more. One book which became the bible to him of spawning information was Words of The Lagoon by Dr Johannoson a pioneering scientist in the late 70's. Dr Johannsen came to Palau and worked with local fishermen to understand spawning aggregations, something that might take a lifetime to learn without their local knowledge.and later go on to establishing Bull's (Closing fishing seasons) during spawning times to protect these vunerable events. Years went by reading more information and piece by piece Richard eventually started building a library of his own formulas.
In 2012 Richard and Paul Collins co-founded a brand new product called Unique Dive Expeditions, operated by one of the most popular dive shops in Palau, Sam’s Tours. These expeditions are based around the moon’s lunar cycles throughout the year to witness some of mother natures little secrets........ ....................spawning aggregations by day ..............................and .........................blackwater by night.
BLACKWATER NIGHT DIVING
In an effort to understand the first stages of fish life, Richard and Paul started to pioneer blackwater diving in Palau. A dive style originated around ten years ago in Hawaii. By driving ten miles offshore, hanging lights down at 15m at night and drifting in the middle of the Pacific Ocean to witness the nightly biomass migration. The biggest migration of animals on the planet. Richard has cataloged creatures divers rarely get to witness. In 2015 while on a blackwater dive he was able to photograph something he has been longing to see, a pelagic octopus called a paper nautilus (Argonauta sp), a first in Palau waters.
Richard has spent the last few years diving at sun rise and drifting in the middle of the pacific ocean at night to photograph and document some of these little known about events. While not spending time underwater Richard likes to write about what he has learnt and been able to witness. He has published articles for Asian Diver magazine, Scuba Diver, Diver Training, Tauchen, Alert Diver, Submerge and Dive Photo Guide.
Most recently he has started entering underwater photography competitions. In 2016 his first year of entering he was able to get three places in all of his entered competitions
Richard has also worked with numerous production companies including ABC (Australia), Brazil TV, and most recently BBC (NHU) - Shark.