Sunday, June 20, 2010

A 4-dive day in the Bahamas

Roger Williams University Students Leland and Val report:
Our first full day on the boat began with the loud clinging of the breakfast bell. As with all the food here, it was amazing. A mixture of our great chef being on a boat with the ocean air can make any meal awesome. Right after breakfast we jumped in for our first dive of the day (of course waiting the 30 minutes, making every good mother proud). We circled a patch reef, seeing huge schools of all kinds of fish, ranging from chromis to jacks and areas on the bottom were covered with Caesar grunts. This was our first opportunity to put our fish identification knowledge to the real test underwater, where we couldn't bring field guides or our notes with us. (Click here to learn about our first above-water test in the Bahamas.) It was an extremely rewarding dive to be able to successfully identify most of the fish we saw on the reef.

Mata with his hat

The highest adventure of the day came with the second dive of the day. It started harmlessly running a transect in a site called "Deep Sea Gardens," which ranged in depth between 50 and 60 feet deep. I, Leland, was about half way along and in swooped a remora. (See video of a beautiful remora shot by an Aquarium diver during a previous trip to the Bahamas!) I quickly became aware of this as my hair was ripped out of my head as my dive buddy yanked it back to show me the circling creature. Its friend came to join it and that's when the trouble really began. The transect line and measuring pole were quickly abandoned as the other pole was used to fend off our unwanted guests. I was subsequently used as a shield as we worked our way upward. They circled in and in, closer and closer, seemingly unphased as they were hit by the pole. Air was quickly being drawn down as breaths became quicker and closer together. A third one joined in the fun and the safety stop could not end fast enough. A quick swim to the back of the boat got us away from them for good. Although ending lower on air then we probably should have, the dive ended with everyone safe and Randi was nice enough to go pick up the discarded gear.

The EVIL Remora

I, Valerie, also saw my first wild lionfish, which was highly exciting, as I’d heard about them and seen them in aquariums and seemed to be the only person who hadn’t seen one yet. This dive was also interesting because we, along with Randi, determined that a type of algae (which we have tentatively identified as Microdictyon marinum), seems to be the dominant algal cover on the reefs.

Lionfish at Deep Sea Gardens

Microdictyon marinum

The third dive of the day was a shallow dive. This was my, Leland, first sighting of Andy’s infamous shrimp. One cluster of tube sponges I found had shrimp in 5 of the 6 tubes in the cluster. They did not come all the way up to the top, but they did dance angrily at me from inside the sponge. I also came across a lobster who came shooting out of his hole to make sure I knew he was not happy about me being there. I, Valerie, also got to see my first spiny lobster.

Sponge with Andy's shrimp

Spiny Lobster

We then took the boat to the beach, or as close as you can get a sail boat to shore. Everyone was glad to set foot on land again, after many of our first times being on a boat for over 24 hours. We swam in and toured an old abandoned lighthouse, at our own risk. The paths were covered in hermit crabs and geckos making the walk that much more exciting. Back on the beach we searched for some shells in the shallow water, finding a few sea stars which Mata put all over his body. The swim back to the boat was longer than the swim in as we had to carry our treasures we had dug up in the sand.

The lighthouse was literally falling apart!

Dinner was again amazing and it was for the first time my job to do clean up. It is a very small kitchen for two people to fit in, but the dishes got cleaned up until it was time for the fourth and final dive, THE NIGHT DIVE! We went in larger groups, staying together using the colors of the glow sticks on our tanks to determine who was in our group. It was eerie and amazing all at once to dive at night. The best spot of the night was under a rock overhang was a turtle chilling right in front of a Nassau grouper. Also spotted were a slipper lobster and a couple spotted moray eels.

Trying to identify the fish we had seen aboard The Pirate's Lady

Overall, everyone is enjoying their time on the boat. Although very busy and tired most of the day, we are learning a lot and honing our diving skills all at once. And who could ask for a better place to take a class and get college credit than the Bahamas?

-Leland and Val

1 comment:

  1. Any idea which species of remora that was? He certainly looks evil LOL