I went on the morning snorkel before breakfast and have officially seen all three species of sea turtle that live in the Great Barrier Reef (green, loggerhead, and hawksbill).
We had one last group snorkel after breakfast. We went around in front of the resort where we haven't snorkeled at all. It was pretty cool, with lots of coral, no turtles though. It was a little bit hard because the water wasn't deep, so you had to be really careful when pulling your head out of the water. My partner and I may have swam in circles a few times because we couldn't frequently check the direction we were going. We saw some Valentinni's puffer fish which I hadn't seen before.
We had lunch after the snorkel and played cards until our presentations. The presentations were good and I thought people had really interesting research ideas. Edd and Trisha also handed out awards for the trip. I got the "Just Keep Swimming" or Most Improved in the Water. I guess the research against the current and during windy weather conditions made me determined.
We ate eggs, spinach, and mushrooms for breakfast. We had these fantastic turkey sandwiches for lunch and steak and potatoes for dinner. We had apricot and coconut cake which may be my new favorite flavor combo. I may also go through muffin withdrawal because Pat makes muffins everyday as a snack.
We went to see our last sunset. It's been pretty stormy the last few days, but I still enjoy the sunsets.
I am really grateful I got to go on this trip. It was incredible and it's definitely something I am glad I was a part of. Thank you to Edd and Trisha for making it all happen! Thank you to my support system for helping me participate in this amazing experience.
I am not enthused about the scent of the majority of the clothes or the amount of hours until I sleep in a bed after tonight. It was all worth it though.
Nora, Brynn, Hailey, and I walked around the whole island today. I made it to day 10, but I finally tripped. Luckily my foot was the only thing that got wet and my book survived unscathed. Definitely one of my more graceful trips.
Hailey and I finished our report and presentation. I did some reading and soaking up the island and the views. It's hard to believe we only have one full day left. Tomorrow is our presentations and some last minute snorkels. We went to watch another cloudy sunset and take group photos.
We had an egg muffin thing with breakfast beans and lentils. For lunch we had pasta with garlic bread. For dinner we had chicken curry and rice. I think it may have been the first time I've had curry and it did not disappoint. Dessert was way good and I can't really describe it. It was kind of like pudding, whipped cream, and cake. We also had these apricot and coconut muffins that were so great.
We've played lots of card games after dinner and blogging. It's been really fun to get to know everyone and laugh our heads off.
I went on the morning snorkel today which was worth the 5:50am alarm because we saw a turtle. We went over by the shipwreck and picked up Nora's phone which fell out of her pocket on the dock last night.
Hailey and I went out at high tide to collect our data. Edd came with us because the current was really rough and there was a ton of wind. It was hard work to stay stationary while filming the fish around the patch reefs. It was hard work, but we got good data which is great. I saw a clownfish for the first time in the GBR. I saw it while recording one of our videos, so here's a picture. After collecting our data, we worked on data entry and our report.
I finished Night by Elie Wiesel. Sad, but a very good book. I still need to power through 101 Famous Poems, not to be confused with 101 Quality Poems.
We ate omelets for breakfast, quesadillas for lunch, and roast and potatoes for dinner, with some mandarin orange cake with caramel sauce. Good stuff.
Today was a pretty relaxed day.
Our data has to be collected during high tide, but my partner went scuba diving during high tide, so we focused on reading studies and prepping our presentation and paper today.
I've been reading to try and get caught up on my 2019 reading challenge. We also played a couple games of cards before and after lunch. I also went on a walk on the beach with Nora and found some plastic for a trash challenge we are doing as a class.
Today we had English muffins with eggs and bacon for breakfast. We had burritos for lunch and it was fantastic. Burritos are great. Tonight we had pasta and frozen mousse with a coconut muffin. Definitely one of my favorite desserts.
The sunset was great tonight and I saw the sliver of the moon for probably the first time since I've been on Heron. It's been really fun to watch the sunset almost every night while on the island.
Today got off to a bit of a rough start. We headed out to do a coral health lab, but after 5 people were in the water and everyone else was in the process, we saw a shark. Not just any shark, a tiger shark. We actually just learned about these last night in our megafauna lecture. Edd told us in the lecture that if we ever saw one to exit the water quickly and calmly. He also said they had never seen one on Heron Island.
I only saw the shadow of the shark, but Edd realized what it was and promptly screamed his head off. Trisha and the 2 pairs of students were able to safely exit the water and the shark swam off. Tiger sharks are aggressive and willing to eat basically anything, so we quickly abandoned the lab. Instead we had a lecture about the threats to coral reefs.
I was very much reminded of a certain scene in Hunt for the Wilderpeople.
Today we ate frittata and breakfast beans. We had quinoa burgers for lunch. For dinner we had couscous with chicken. We had apple and orange caramel cake for dessert.
We got to go to the outer reef again today. I love that place. I saw at least three turtles. I took out a GoPro again and got a pretty good turtle video. I am still hoping one of the disposable pictures turns out because that's the closest I've been to a turtle so far. When we were switching locations today, we saw a ray jump out of the water. It went really high and was really awesome. It's happened a couple times since we've been on the island, but I've only heard the splash. Today was the first time I actually saw it happen.
Tomorrow is the official start of our group research projects. Hailey and I are researching how coral health influences fish abundance. After three days of research, we will be doing presentations about our projects.
Today was the day of our fish ID test. We had to be able to identify various fish, corals, invertebrates, sharks, and rays by a photo, then pick their scientific name from a word bank, and have their common name memorized. There were a total of 73 organisms, but only 70 were on the test.
We were only required to name half of the fish. However, if we got named every organism correctly, we would get extra credit. So naturally, I went big. I can't go home until Sunday.
There were a few organisms I wasn't totally sure on, but I went with my gut. It paid off and I got 100%.
We ate pancakes for breakfast. For lunch we had pizza which reminded me of the frozen cauliflower pizza from Costco. For dinner we had pork with rice and this really good gravy. For dessert we had banana bread with a sort of custard.
After our ID test and lunch, we went on our second outer reef trip. The outer reef is probably my favorite part of Heron Island. There is so much to see and I feel a lot less nervous about being too close to coral. I also felt like I was able to identify a bunch of fish today, thanks to all my ID studying. I really like the threadfin butterflyfish and blue blotch butterflyfish.
When my dad and I were at the Australia zoo, we saw this photo taken by Robert Irwin. My dad told me he wanted me to take a similar picture while on this trip. I took out my underwater disposable camera on today's trip. Hopefully some of the pictures will turn out. We saw a bunch of turtles today and one swam even closer than the last outer reef trip. I could practically reach out and touch the turtle. Trisha said that I would be sick of sea turtles by the end of this trip, but I don't think I will. They are so cool and cute and I love seeing them. It never gets old to watch one swim past you.
After we got back form the outer reef, we showered and some of us played a couple rounds of a card game called Coup before dinner. Dad and I played it when we went to Tacoma in May. Then we had a megafauna lecture and played a few more rounds of Coup while writing our blogs.
It was a bit of a rough morning.
I woke up to my least favorite sleeping sound - complete silence. After attempting to go back to sleep, I looked at my phone and saw that it was 5:43am. So I decided it was worth it to get out of bed and turn on one of the fans for some white noise.
After breakfast, we started out with the high tide part of the fish lab which involved swimming to a rocky point and then climbing over the point to nearby patch reefs. I was not warned that this would be a near death experience. Apparently I should have stressed to Edd and Trisha that my coordination in these types of scenarios is basically negative two. It is nearly impossible to climb over rocks while wearing flippers and I have plenty of scrapes to prove it. For the lab, we laid out 30m transect lines and then swam following the line while filming the fish with a GoPro. We came back to the lab and watched the videos and counted fish. Getting out of the rocky point was as hard as getting in. I had to take off my flippers and then climb over some rocks, but the water was too shallow to stand. So, I was sitting, trying to take off my flippers, while the waves were pushing me against the rocks. Hence, some cuts.
Honestly, Australia is not good for my skin. I got a million bug bites in Sydney and Brisbane, scraped my leg on some coral at Lady Musgraves, and now have a large variety of cuts and scrapes.
We ate sweet potato with egg for breakfast, chicken salad baguettes for lunch, and some potato, beef mushroom casserole with apple tarts for dinner.
After lunch, we did the low tide part of the fish lab and then wrote our reports. I've been doing lots of studying for the fish ID test tomorrow morning and I'll do some more after I finish up this blog post. I'm excited to get the test over and done with so that free time can feel more free.
After breakfast my partner and I finished up our write up from the invertebrate lab yesterday. We had a lecture about fish before lunch.
For breakfast we had breakfast sandwich type things. For lunch we had these burrito type things but the tortilla was a puff pastry. For dinner we had a pasta dish which was really great. When my dad and I tried some Australian pasta sauce while in Sydney it wasn't very good, but the sauce today was great. For dessert we had mousse with cake which was pretty good.
Today we went to the outer reef which was really fun. All 15 of us squeezed onto a little boat that was really more of a raft than a boat. We had to flip ourselves out of the boat which actually wasn't as fun as it looks. We got dropped off at two different places and floated with the current while we snorkeled and saw lots of cool fish. I saw some parrotfish a couple days ago, but today I saw a bunch that were different colors. I saw a purple one and some black ones, they are really cool fish. I saw two black tip reef sharks, but missed the white tip.
I checked out one of the class GoPros and took a couple videos while we were on the outer reef today. Downloading the videos was a hot mess. My computer is really great except for anytime you want to attach another device to the computer. You have to posses like 85 dongles to use all the common devices (HDMI, USB, SD card, etc.). Luckily, Cat was willing to transfer the videos to a flash drive for me. Otherwise, I would have been at the lab all night waiting for the videos to download.
A turtle swam super close to me in the outer reef and I was a little too overjoyed to start filming, so I only got a little clip. I obviously need to work on my camera skills. I tried uploading the video here to no avail, so just imagine a poorly filmed video of a turtle swimming away.
This link might work.
The windy weather kind of messed up plans for today which was lame. We were supposed to go out and take some videos of fish for a lab, but there wasn't enough visibility for that.
We had an invertebrate lecture after breakfast and then changed and got paired off for our lab. We did a lab taking sediment samples near patch reefs. It was super windy and even though the water was only about knee deep, it was difficult. We had to shove a large syringe into the ground and then dig out the sample without letting the sediment come out. I had a really hard time staying stationary while collecting my sample, so I was basically floating around while trying to get the syringe deep enough into the ocean floor.
After we collected our samples we had to analyze them with a microscope and look for annelids, mollusks, and arthropods. It was kind of tedious work and took a long time. Once we had all the data, we started working on our reports. I feel like my Excel skills have improved a little, but still need some work.
We ate some quinoa the other day that reminded me a little bit of ham fried rice and I could just really go for some Chinese right now. We had these coconut banana muffins today that were really good. My favorite thing we ate today was the chocolate mousse with berries. Pat is really nice and overly cautious with any ingredients he is wary of. Outside of my home, my eating experience is never like that. So having Pat be so careful is like a breath of fresh air. I really really appreciate it.
I felt like I tossed and turned a lot last night and I felt like I was yawning all the time. Hopefully I'll sleep better tonight because I am super tired.
Also it's been 3 days since I've seen a dog and I really don't like that. Dogs are all around great animals that don't poop on you or sting you or harpoon you with little needles. I miss those fluffy dudes.
Blog writing makes me think of the movie Julie and Julia, which just makes me hungry, which makes me wish I had another of those coconut muffins. It's a real "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" situation.
My least favorite part of today was when a bird popped on my head and my NASA shirt. It could have been worse, but it was still gross. They had the same kind of bird (Noddy Tern) on Lady Musgraves and our guide told everyone to close their mouths. So I'll choose bird poop on my shirt instead of in my mouth every time.
My favorite part of today was the early morning snorkel. We went out to the boat harbor and around a shipwreck where we saw all kinds of cool stuff like cow head rays, green sea turtles, black tip reef sharks. It's significantly more intimidating to be in the water with sharks and rays than it is to see them while you're on land or in an aquarium. I was swimming over a cow head ray at it started to swim towards me and I started to panic a little. It was still really awesome, but a little scary. Towards the end of the snorkel, a black tip reef shark came really close to me with some remora hitching a ride. I don't know if it was trying to ditch the fish, but it started swimming in this weird way and then left. It's a terrifyingly exhilarating experience and I can't decide if it's scarier to swim by a ray that could sting you dead or approach a kangaroo that could just knock your lights out.
Today we had eggs, bacon, and toast with lots of great fruit. There were some apple and brown sugar muffins for a morning snack, good, but not coconut muffin good. For lunch we had nachos. For dinner we had a chicken dish with quinoa. For dessert we had some kind of orange roll or something, automatically getting dessert is pretty great.
In the afternoon we got to do a lab about benthic cover, so I've officially done some scientific research that doesn't involve handling snakes, snapping turtles, or seed beetles. We went out 30 meters in the water and used a quadrat to measure the percentages of rock, sediment, coral, and algae on the ocean floor every 10 meters. During the lab, Trisha showed us an epaulette shark that she found while walking around the reef. They have these fins that allow them to sort of walk, which is super interesting.
Before dinner, we headed down to the boat jetty to watch the sunset. There was a ton of animals hanging out in the harbor like tiny black tip reef sharks, cow head rays, and I even got a picture of a turtle coming up for air. So cute! I also saw a spotted eagle ray, but have yet to see one jump out of the water.
side note: Mom, you were right about the little girl in Logan and her dirtbag uncle. Honestly can't even believe these people sometimes.