Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Belize 2013 | Close Encounters

New England Aquarium coral biologist Randi Rotjan, PhD, and aquarists Peter Gawne and Joe Masi have recently traveled to Belize to monitor coral health near Carrie Bow Cay. Tune in here for updates about their research and animal encounters, and see pictures from previous expeditions herehere and here

Today's post comes from Peter Gawne.

It has been an interesting week picking up where Randi and Joe left off.  Jay, Manda, and I have started wrapping up field transects, lionfish lab work and helping with filming wherever possible. [A BBC film crew was on the island to study hermit crab vacancy chains. Here's a guest post from the personal blog of cinematographer John Brown.]

Hermit crabs on Carrie Bow Cay | Photo: John Brown via

A goliath grouper holds in a deep overhang.

The transects in the field are going very well, although strong winds and rain are threatening to keep us shore-bound. When we are able to get underwater, we are seeing some fish that we rarely see on transects. Goliath groupers, midnight parrotfish and yellow-cheek wrasses have been some of the highlights.

A hawksbill turtles eyes the camera.

We’ve been seeing some rather large turtles with some frequency while diving. It should come as no surprise that turtles are in the area, as it is the time of year for turtles to haul up on the beach and lay their eggs. Amidst the recent stormy weather we were visited by a nesting turtle in the middle of the night. She came ashore, leaving tracks to show where she had excavated a nest in the sand. Belize Fisheries will come over to the island to assess the condition of the nest, if weather allows.

This large loggerhead turtle seemed especially interested in our party of divers.

When we encounter sea turtles underwater, they are often shy and reluctant to allow a close approach.  The turtles around Carrie Bow seem to be unusually curious during this trip, often approaching within arm’s reach. We have been really fortunate to have had some really close encounters with some rather large loggerhead and hawksbill sea turtles.

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