Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Belize Expedition: Current Affairs

Belize Expedition, 2011

Even on a tiny island in the middle of the barrier reef, we manage to get some world news (mostly by radio). We know that there is a small chance of thunderstorms here. We know the major goings-on in Belize City. And yes, we know about Bin Laden.

But to be honest, the current affairs impacting our lives at the moment are the winds, the tides, and (as titled), the currents. We have been blessed with sun and wind, but are currently experiencing the joys and challenges of diving in extremely rough surge, unpredictable (and sometimes S-T-R-O-N-G) currents, and major surface chop, marked by numerous white-caps. Working in an ever-shifting ocean landscape is all part of the fun, but it's also a serious reminder that the ocean dictates the schedule--not us.

Gorgonian corals bending in the current on the Outer Ridge.

People often have an overly romantic view of marine science: living on a small tropical island, diving on coral reefs, etc. But the reality is that yes, it's beautiful, but we do this because it's a means to an end, an access point to the ecosystem we are trying to study. Even when conditions are rough, we're working in the water (within safety limits, of course). The sunshine is beautiful. But it also means no rain, which is problematic for washing and bathing (though our drinking water is brought in from the mainland). This is typically not a huge problem; normally we gather more than enough freshwater from roof-collected rain water, and even now we are easily able to budget water appropriately. Still, the realities of island living are worth a mention because they determine our daily routine, and we rarely think about these things at home.

Windy palm trees with white-capped seas along the forereef.

Another major difference here (versus at home) is the the lack of news. Being in remote places "off the grid" and then suddenly hearing major news from the outside world is always a jarring experience. Though our work is complex and engaging, here, our day-to-day existence depends on tides. Water. Food. Currents. Daylight. And everything else just seems ..... far away.

Frigate birds soaring above in the wind

Wishing you all sunny skies and fair seas,

Randi, Pete, and Jay


  1. Very good points, life has its challenges no matter where you live. Did you hear about the record tornadoes in the Midwest, the major floods in the South and the record attendance during vacation week at NEAQ!?

  2. Your work, far away as it is, is equally as important as the top news story. Keep an eye on our oceans, please. Politician's aren't always good at doing that.

  3. Stay Safe! I love the blog posts because it keeps us in the 'current affairs' of your research. Keep up the great work!

  4. Hello Professor Rotjan, Your expedition seems exciting. The island looks serene and beautiful. I'm sure that looks can be deceiving as aquatic biospheres acn be very busy communities. You see! I'm learning. Cindy Ford NEU

  5. hi professor,
    i love the posts in your blog, the scene of the island is marvelous,you have done a great work
    every one would love to watch your blog, you have done a great work.

  6. Hello Professor
    i love the posts in your blog, the island is marvelous, everyone would love to watch your site
    you had done a great job, keep it up.