This morning began with a martial arts class taught by one of the trip facilitators, Kyle. I had never done martial arts before, but it was more challenging than I had expected. There was a lot of stretching involved. We also learned one of the forms, however, the ocean view from the top of the kitchen was really distracting. For breakfast, grits and eggs were served along with some delicious mango. The best mangoes I have ever had were eaten in the Bahamas, including this mornings. We rushed to get ready for some patch reef surveys once breakfast was over and headed out right on time, for a change.
The patch reefs were quite far out, and both teams went. My team was in charge of identifying the fish and the other group was in the charge of reef measurements and such. The first patch reef, Jellyfish (we named it), had some really cool Atlantic Spadefish at it. This reef also housed an adult stoplight parrotfish, the first adult of my specialized type I have seen thus far. As we were wrapping up the reef survey, I realized a group of us were staring and pointing off into the distance. Someone had spotted two 5 foot barracudas. I tried to get closer to get a good picture, and usually barracudas are curious and don't mind, but they swam away. Many people are scared of barracudas but I find them quite fascinating. Sometimes I feel I am too trusting of the animals I am swimming with. At the next patch reef, which we named Hammerhead, I saw large schools of parrot fish. It was refreshing to see and be able to identify so many of the species I was familiar with. Also on that reef I spotted a ray, but a smaller one, compared to the other rays I have seen on the trip. I was once again so tired from the surveys I drifted in and out of sleep on the way back to campus.
For lunch, tacos were served. The tacos were really good, full of fresh vegetables grown on campus. During lunch I got Molly out in the game Assassin. Right after I got her out, I got Betsy out as well. Both were killed since they didn't rub their hands together before eating. As of now, Alison, Winston, and I are the only ones left in the game. Tomorrow will determine who the true champion is, hopefully. Once lunch was finished, packing and cleaning time came. My job was the sweep out the common area. This task took longer than expected, as a lot of sand is brought in from the outside. I also entered in my data from the reef surveys. My group was tasked with going back to Page Creek to retrieve the seine net left there from a few days before. The hike to the creek is long to begin with, and doing it twice back to back was even tougher. This made me realize how challenging it can be to be a field researcher, but I like physical challenges. The walk brought us closer together as a group as we joked around with one another about different things on the trip. When we got back to the boathouse, we rinsed the saltwater off the net and layed it out to dry.
Our reward for cleaning all afternoon was going to a 10 foot cliff to jump off of into the ocean. I have always wanted to go cliff jumping, and the Bahamas was a perfect place to do it. As I flew through the air, I plugged my nose tight, making sure no saltwater would enter. I hit the water with my legs curled up, as instructed, to not hurt myself. Climbing out was a challenge, as urchins were below us, and the death rocks appeared, hindering our ability to exit easily. The waves crashing in between the rocks, also threw our bodies, if we weren't holding on tight enough. I jumped continuously, trying to get cool pictures and having a blast. The jumps didn't last long, as we had a dinner to get to.
We rushed back to campus, showered, and headed into Deep Creek to eat at a local restaurant. I ordered fried fish, rice, and macaroni and cheese. The meal took a really long time to cook, which left us with a lot of time to talk and reflect on our awesome trip. The food ended up being delicious, one of the best meals we had on the trip. During dinner, certificates were passed out, as awards for funny things we were known for throughout the trip. I got the "eye on time" award, since I wore a watch and kept time a majority of the trip. I found this kind of funny considering at home I never wear a watch. While in town we also stopped to get some ice cream. Once we returned back to campus, our group had to reroll the seine net, which was quite exhausting and my arms hurt a lot from carrying it. We then had a bonfire in the sand. This was really cool, as the warm air of the bonfire kept the bugs away and one could hear the ocean crashing upon the shore in the distance. The whole situation was really relaxing and soothing, giving us time to think of what an awesome trip we had.
Upon coming inside, we went through logistics of tomorrow for flights, exchanged contact information to stay in touch, and went over the positives and negatives of the trip. Tomorrow, I am faced with leaving this beautiful place I have called home for the past week, a place with so many good memories and learning experiences that will stay with me forever.
Highlight: jumping off of a 10 foot cliff into the ocean and completing our fish surveys
*Please Note: 20 of my best pictures taken on the trip will be posted within the next week.