This morning began quite early. I was planning on getting up to do yoga with the Island School students. As it turned out, the students were going on a long swim so the few of us who woke up had to wait for the younger children to get up to go do yoga with. I found it interesting how the Island School students sang the Bahamian national anthem each morning by the flag. The students become totally immersed in the culture here for a semester. I really wish I had know about such a program going through high school so I would have been able to take advantage of it. While listening to their daily announcements, we heard how a pig slaughtering was going on that morning and all of the students were encouraged to attend. Once the younger children came we took our towels up onto the kitchen roof to do our yoga. The instructor was the program's director for the Island School. The whole situation was quite surreal considering the sun was rising in the distance over the ocean and we relaxed our bodies into a peaceful state. During yoga I found it funny, as a child mentioned a gunshot and the instructor just said, "Oh. That's the pig." This morning I had breakfast crew. We had grits again for breakfast so I didn't eat much. I began bleaching dishes but got vetoed to clean up the tables since I was the only one who knew how to do that. We were in a rush to make it to the dock on time to go on our first real research survey.
After running around the cabin trying to collect all my gear I headed to the dock and loaded my stuff onto the boat. With Annabelle and my team, we headed out to Reef 70. Reef 70 was about 20 minutes from shore, which is substantially further than normal. Once we dropped the anchor, we went out to the reef. The current was almost nonexistent and the reef was the most beautiful we have seen yet this far. Rays were swimming along the bottom. Huge angel and trigger fish swam below. The view was breathtaking. When gathering data, we circled the reef and dove down. After seeing over 50 juvenile parrotfish and writing them down, I headed back to the ship with Allison to measure the depth of where we were. Since we were so far from the shore, the wind was really strong and swung our boat a lot in the water. Alison and I sat on the boat for a while waiting for the others as they did their measurements. While waiting we did some tests in the water for temperature and current flow. Soon, everyone came back and we discussed the fish we saw. It's interesting how Annabelle counted all the fish, just to make sure we got everything. I feel like she doesn't quite trust all of us with such important research. (But I wouldn't trust a bunch of teenagers either.) As we waited and talked on the boat about the research, I became nauseous. I have this problem with sea sickness that is incredibly hard for me to get over. I try to deny it, but the sickness always prevails. Just in the nick of time, we started our boat ride back to shore. I was so exhausted and tired I dozed off along the way, with the breeze at my neck.
A delicious lunch of bake potatoes was served today. The potatoes were obviously fresh. Lots of vegetarian meals are also served here which is nice, considering I know I am surrounded by a lot of people who have similar beliefs as myself. After lunch team 1 headed to the mangroves in Deep Creek. On the way, we stopped at the local store we went to a few days earlier. I decided to keep it simple and get a caffeinated drink to keep me awake during the afternoon work. When driving into the forest to reach the mangroves, Annabelle warned us about poison oak. This scares me a lot because then I think everything I am touching has the poisonous oils on it. After we drove through the jungle and parked, we hiked through some more jungle to reach the mangroves. I realized that islands aren't what everyone makes them to be. Of course there is sand and really pretty beaches, but there actually is a lot of forestry and dense areas of vegetation.
The whole trip changed when we started hiking through the actual mangroves for a location to set our 30 meter transects. As I placed my foot down on what I thought was sand, it would sink incredibly deep and turn slippery. Not only were my feet sinking, but the water was so murky from the people walking before me, I couldn't see where I was placing my feet. I could have been stepping on sharks and rays for all I knew. Once a few people were sent to close locations, the others of us put on our masks and snorkels so we wouldn't have to walk in the creepy and mysterious waters anymore. When I started swimming in the shallow water, however, stinging pierced my body. I couldn't figure out what it was for the longest time until I realized I was swimming over caseopeas. We kept up the trek and of course I was sent to set up the transect the furthest away. When doing my actual survey, I had to crawl over roots. The worst part was, there weren't very many fish even in the area I was surveying. Although, I probably have had scarier moments, this moment was really scary when I thought about it. I was floating in shallow water where dangerous prey live, by myself (as I couldn't see anyone when I stood up), in practically the middle of nowhere. It was freaky. On top of it all, I had problems with my measuring tape. Eventually I swam to some nearby transects and collected data from there, as well, and swam back to shore. This literally took over a half an hour. Although this experience was difficult and like a science boot camp (like Janneke said), I became enlightened into the world of marine biologists. Not all of their jobs are fun and games, but the grunt work has to be done as well.
We arrived at camp later than expected, but I still took a shower before dinner because my hair was matted together. Last summer my hair did okay in the salt water, but this summer my hair can barely stand it. At dinner we had a really good pasta. Either I am getting hungrier, or the food is getting better, probably a combination of both. The group then went to a presentation on bone fish. I guess I never really knew what bone fish were and why it is important to conserve them, so I found this interesting. In a quick summary, bonefish make up a large sum of Bahamian economy due to the fishing tourists they bring. Tourists do not know how to properly fish the bonefish, though, and now the populations are decreasing rapidly. Through education, this can change. The presenter mentioned another thing about Bimini Bay. This is exactly what I learned about last summer. Everything keeps getting more and more interconnected. Once the presentation was over, we headed to the commons and played some more Kemps and went over our plan for the fun day tomorrow. Annabelle brought over some ice which was like heaven to all of us, who have lived off of warm water for the past week. Even though my legs continue to look like I have chicken pox from the bug bites, I am finally adjusting to this type of lifestyle.
Highlight: seeing rays and huge angelfish out at the reef