Monday, June 2, 2014

Belize: The Journey to Carrie Bow Cay

Aquarium coral biologist Randi Rotjan, PhD, is in Belize studying changes in the reefs off Carrie Bow Cay alongside diver Sarah Taylor and aquarist Pete Gawne, also from the Aquarium. Over the next couple weeks, she'll be posting from the tropics, sharing pictures and stories from this familiar spot. Learn about previous expeditions in 201320122011 and 2010.

Today's post comes from expedition rookie Sarah Taylor.

This is my first time joining the Caribbean Coral Reef Ecosystems project in Belize. I’m really excited to help out and have been learning about stony corals in preparation for the trip. The departure date has come up fast. I leave my house at 4:30 am to meet Randi and Pete, the two New England Aquarium staff who started the reef monitoring program, at Logan airport. We fly to Miami and meet up with two staff members from the Smithsonian Institution, Scott and Zach. My first impression is that they are both super nice. We’ll see how long that lasts with all of us living on a tiny island together for over a week. (Spoiler alert: Everyone on the island IS super nice. All the time.)

Photo via:
All five of us fly to Belize City and land at the tiny airport. We clear customs and head out to the tarmac to meet our even tinier plane. It’s one of those small island hoppers. As we all pile in (and by “all” I mean the five of us plus two others), my fellow passengers encourage me to sit next to the pilot.

Really? I can do that?

So I climb in between the seats to the front of the plane and ask the Captain, “Do you need a co-pilot?” and he says, “Sure, climb in.” He then shows me how to fasten the seatbelt over my shoulders and around my waist (kind of like how my little boy’s highchair works) and he starts the plane. The propeller spins around and we begin moving towards the runway. The plane bumps along and all of sudden we’re speeding up and into the air. I feel a rush of adrenaline. I’ve been in small planes before but have always looked out the side. It somehow feels really different to be staring straight ahead. We start to head into a big, white cloud and it’s a crazy feeling to be slowly engulfed by complete whiteness. I want to grab the dashboard and scream “WEEEEE!” but I think I’d probably scare the pilot and that’s not the best idea. The thought makes me laugh though.

Photo: John Brown | BBC

Soon the plane tilts towards the small airstrip of Dangriga airport. We land and get all of our baggage off the plane (which is a lot for five people since we’re bringing a good deal of equipment and diving gear). We take a short walk to the dock where we board the “big” boat (which is probably the same size as the airplane we were just on). We motor for an hour and finally reach Carrie Bow Cay where the real adventures will begin.

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