Today was jam packed with all the fun things. We started out the day by waking up to two nasty seagulls who were not going to let us sleep for anything. It was kind of funny to wake up as everyone else did in the room and instantly yell at the birds to be quiet.
After breakfast we went on our final outer reef snorkel trip. WHICH WAS GREAT. Ben took us out today and as we were leaving Holly dared him to "give us his worst". Which he did, which was sweet. Basically a roller coaster ride complete with drops from great heights. We went pretty far away from the island which we haven't done before. Today we also saw a greater variety in coral coloring. I haven't seen very many vibrant corals, but today I saw them! Pat also joined us on the trip which was fun.
After the snorkel trip we had a bit of free time before lunch. Lunch was good, and after that we finished the project preparation.
We finished around 4pm and the last evening snorkel was right at 4:20PM, so most of us went on that. The sunset was really pretty this evening.
After the evening snorkel we had dinner, then straight to presentations and the "heronies" which is an awards ceremony. Edd and Trisha came up with clever awards for each of us. It was very sweet. Mine was "the Queen and David Bowie Award for Staying Cool Under Pressure". What a lovely award!
Right now we are all busy packing for tomorrow. We have an early breakfast, then have to check out our gear and load luggage...then get to the dock in time to catch the ferry back to Brisbane.
This trip has been fun, we have all had a good time and it has been a good group who meshed quite well if you ask me.
Most of our time today was spent finishing our project report and creating the presentation on the data and findings of epaulette sharks. We will be presenting tomorrow after dinner. The presentations have to be twelve minutes long and each person in the group has to speak. Chase and I shouldn't have a problem, our data is pretty straight forward.
Chase and I decided to take a break from the writing this afternoon before lunch and then again in the evening before dinner. The sun was out today, it was hard to be inside the lab. We did both get to read a bit in our books which was nice. Most of us brought books to read while on the island, and it has been fun seeing everyone reading when we have free time. That is something I don't see too much anymore these days.
Tomorrow we have our final day on the island (I am not counting Sunday because we will be cleaning and packing up until we have to leave the island at 10:00 AM Australia time) and we will be going to the outer reef once more. So the schedule for tomorrow is looking to be quite full again. We have breakfast at 7:30AM, then are meeting at the boat harbor at 9:00AM to go to the outer reef. After that I think we have some free time to finish things up for the presentation, then lunch...then more time to practice our presentation...then dinner and then the presentations. It should be a good day.
Pat made us pasta for dinner and a lovely dessert, so we are all walking around in a food coma.
As you can tell by the title every bit of clothing I packed with me smells like the sea. And it isn't the lovely sea scented candle smell you can buy either. This is real field work stuff dudes.
The winds were quite high today as predicted. Chase and I had a riot of a time trying to collect data in the ocean today. By that I mean it wasn't a total riot, but it certainly was interesting. We haven't looked at the footage from today yet, but I think I got footage of a cowhead stingray up close and personal. Meaning...I didn't even see the dude until he swam up and away in front of me.
The rain hit us again today, this time more powerful than before. I think Heron Island got its fair share of rain for the year today alone. It is really fun listening to the raindrops pound on the tin roofs of the buildings here.
I have saved the best news for last....Pat made MASHED POTATOES! I am a happy camper.
Tomorrow Chase and I have to analyze all of the video footage from yesterday and today and get the presentation and report done. It should be a pretty busy day for us, which is good.
We have our last outer reef trip scheduled for Saturday...the weather is supposed to be nice so hopefully all goes well so we can fit another snorkel in.
We experienced our first downpour on the island today..which was kind of a bummer because the sun was never able to break through the clouds. Luckily, it didn't really affect anything we had planned. The winds were quite high, which created large waves and a strong surface current. Chase and I went out to the study sight around 1pm and snorkeled around. We didn't see any epaulette sharks during the first trip to the site. It was a bit of a struggle trying to swim in the ocean with the wind picking up the current. I am sure we looked like fools trying to navigate around. The epaulette's probably enjoyed it even though we didn't see any of them.
We had a couple of hours of free time before we had planned to go back out to the study sight and I decided to go through some of the footage that we had taken during the snorkel. No epaulette sharks on video but lots of rays.
We went out to the study site at North Beach again at 4:30pm just as it was starting to pour. We weren't too sad because we knew we would get wet in the ocean. The wind had died down a bit which was great for us, however the current was still stronger than we like it. We stayed out longer this second time and saw more critters in the water. We tallied fifteen epaulette sharks. Chase got a good video of a guitar shark as we were out there, and we saw a few small black tip sharks and flying fish as well.
The weather is supposed to be just as bad if not worse tomorrow and pretty much every day until Saturday. Tomorrow we will finish up our data collection and then we will have Friday to get our presentation and paper together for Saturday.
I didn't take any of the pictures that are below today, but wanted to show you more pictures of the island.
Today was pretty nice, it was windy as all get out. But that didn't deter us from trying to soak up some rays of sun. This involved myself, Holly, Rachel and Logan attempting to lay on the beach with the oh-so-subtle pelting of sand grains to keep us company. Safe to say we are nice and exfoliated now.
Chase and I set out to find some Epaulette's after lunch. We got "suited an booted" and headed out to North Beach. We wanted to study an area with lots of coral patches as we hypothesize that with the increase in the presence of coral the Epaulette abundance will also increase. The waves in the water today were quite rough, so snorkeling turned out to be a bit of an issue. Finally we decided that trying to swim against the current looking for Epaulette sharks was a complete waste and flipped ourselves around and floated at the surface and let the current push us along as we examined the sea floor. This was all fun and games until we decided to get out of the water and head back to the station. Getting out of the water with fins on is a rather interesting game, the fins usually win. I was at the point where I had to get out of the water as it was too shallow to snorkel, so I stood up and began walking backwards awkwardly. Out of nowhere Chase yells to me that there is a giant cowhead stingray right to the side of me, so I dipped my face in the water to check it out and low and behold there was not one but two giant cowhead stingrays lounging in the sand maybe an inch from each of my feet. This was a little unnerving to me to look into the water and have two sets of large eyes staring right back. Safe to say we kept our faces in the water as long as we could. Chase saw one Epaulette before we even got into the water, and we didn't see any while we were snorkeling around.
The scuba crew didn't come back to the station until a little after four, so after the adventure Chase and I had in the ocean we had a few more hours of free time. The buildings on the station block the wind for the most part, so I decided to sit outside in the sun for a while as it was a lot nicer at the station than it was on the beach. This was nice and warm and everything was grand until I became a show and tell exhibit for a group of tourists staying at the resort that were being given a tour of the station. There I sat on my little towel in my swimsuit looking like a drowned rat with a bunch of camera lenses pointed in my direction.
I will be signing autographs the next few days until we leave if you want to get in line.
To help you get an idea of the demographic for tourists on the island think about residents of a nursing home taking an extravagant vacation to an Island in the middle of nowhere but envision the folks to be rather spry for their age. Or maybe they just look spry because they can afford good skin care products. Either way, there you have it.
I don't know that I have talked about the seagulls here yet, but they are loud and weird and extremely aggressive. As I was sitting outside being a tourist attraction I watched the birds snatch an entire muffin and a slice of pizza from members of the group. They have a freaky sixth sense of anyone coming out of the cafeteria. They will get you in seconds if you bring food out of the building. They also do this weird thing with their necks that I wish I could explain. I guess it must be them trying to assert some type of area dominance to the other birds but it really looks like they have some sort of extender that they can use on command. Basically they walk around like angry speed-walking soccer moms who are late for carpool and then forget that they were also supposed to bring juice boxes so they make a mad run to the store only to find out that the juice is sold out. Lengthy description but you get it. Like a California Gull on steroids.
The sun begins to set around here at 4:45pm-ish. Chase and I headed back out to North Beach to do the second part of our data collection...seeing how many Epaulette's we can observe at night. This time the tide was a lot lower so we just waded around in the water trying to count and film the sharks as we saw them. The thing about sharks is, that they can sense where you are in the water before you even catch a glimpse of them. So, this makes it pretty hard to catch them doing normal fishy things. Usually when you do see them the sound of you walking in the water towards them is enough to convince them they should leave. We counted 10 sharks in about a half hour of observing the water so we are pretty confident that North Beach will be a good observation area to estimate the abundance of Epaulette's at two times each day.
After our second field survey for the day we were left with about an hour before dinner. I went into the bathroom to wash the sea water from my legs. I stumbled upon a shear water bird that wandered into the bathroom and couldn't figure out how to get out. There isn't much that freaks me out more than a bird that is trapped in a place it shouldn't be. At home we sometimes have birds that get stuck in our garage if we leave the doors open long enough..unfortunately though here on the island I can't just yell for my dad to come get it out. I tried everything I could to get the little dude to come out from the stall to no avail. I had to then go gather recruits..which apparently Susie is some bird whisperer. The little dude was safe and sound once she came into the picture.
After the bird incident it was dinner time. Pat fixed us some fancy food which we happily ate and then a few of us sat down to play cards. We played a few rounds of a game I don't know how to spell and then a few more of BS.
Tomorrow the winds are rumored to be higher than today which will be interesting. Tomorrow is also our last lecture. After that we are just solely working in our project groups until Saturday.
Anyway, all in all a good day.
I've said it before, but I am going to say it again..time is a very strange thing here. It seems to pass by at a rapid pace or not at all. We are getting into the home stretch of the final week here. Today we figured out our final project groups and topics. I will be working with Chase and we are going to monitor Epaulette shark abundance at two different times of day. We are going to scout out areas tomorrow to determine which location of the beach that we have research permits to that we will conduct our experiment at. Epaulette sharks are really interesting creatures, worth a quick read on google. They use their fins to "walk" in low tides. Also they are just cute.
We have the next four days to knock out the research and Saturday we are presenting our findings. Tomorrow is a "cruisey" day as Edd says...which means we have three-ish hours of free time after lunch to do whatever the heck we want. There is a small group of people that are going with the resort to do a scuba dive on the reef tomorrow which is why we have a larger block of free time. I'm sure we will find something to do. The winds are supposed to be a bit high here tomorrow..not sure how that will affect things.
We also visited the research station gift shop this afternoon where I was able to pick up an incredibly soft hoodie which I will wear until the end of time. Quality purchase if you ask me.
I didn't go on the evening snorkel tonight, but I did get some great Polaroids of the sunset which will be fun to show off once I get back.
That's all for today!
Today was Susie's birthday, and our chef Pat baked a special birthday cake for her which we all got to enjoy by default. It was delicious.
We also had the Fish ID test, which went well for all of us. After the test a few of us sat around and played cards. Which, as you all know I am terrible at. I managed to lose by at least 15 points in each round of golf. Sometimes I even surprise myself with my rotten luck at card games.
After the card game we took a celebratory trip to the outer reef. Edd and Trisha have been letting a few of us use a GoPro each day as we snorkel...I was pretty excited to have one today. I had a lovely vision of me being able to show off incredible footage to family and friends after the trip. Unfortunately, I have been made to realize that the quality of my filming is extremely lacking. I was able to upload all of the footage to my computer though in hopes that at a future date I can find something redeeming in them.
I was able to walk around the beach at different times and snap some pictures to show you what things are like here around the dock. To me, the views around the island peak during the time that the sun is setting. A group of us watched the sun set this evening from the end of the boardwalk, it was a fun experience to watch the animals pass by underneath us and get a larger view of what is going on in the water.
Tomorrow we have a busy day scheduled. We also begin our project proposals, which will be us working in small groups to conduct an experiment about things here on the island. We have a few guidelines that we have to follow as we have been given a permit that allows us to do certain things but restricts other things. I can't remember the specifics at the moment. But tomorrow I will have a better idea.
The only thing this island really needs is a big fluffy dog that avoids the beasties in the water. That would be a complete dream.
Group shot taken at Sharks Bay in Heron Island. From left to right - (top row) Riley, Susie, Edd, Rachel, Logan, Teal, Serafin, Carly, Bean and Chase (bottom row) Trisha, me, Holly and Josh.
Today we went on our first trip to the outer reef. We got loaded into a boat and rode around to the back of the island to visit an area called "Blue Pools". I was having some flashbacks in my mind as we journeyed to the outer reef of a snorkeling trip when I was younger where we were dropped in the middle of the ocean in super rough water which was a bit of an awful experience. This was all put to rest when we got into the water which was crystal clear and unbelievably calm. I have been trying to formulate words that are descriptive enough to tell you about what I saw today.
I hope you all have studied up on your Finding Nemo scenes and quotes. There are a few scenes in the movie that pan the open ocean. There is a dim sort of light that streams through the water which is exactly what is depicted in the movie. That is real life stuff. The further we snorkeled the more I found myself singing the "Let's Name the Zones" song that Mr. Ray sings as he is taking Nemo and classmates to school.
There were a lot of "firsts" today..I saw my first unicorn fish and spotted eagle ray (Mr. Ray in Finding Nemo) which moved through the water at a rapid pace that was unnerving for something its size. Seeing the ray in person was an incredible experience. It is crazy to think about being in the water at the same times as something so large and beautiful.
Snorkeling three times a day is rather tiring, there is a reason you have to pass a swim test in order to be officially accepted to this course. As busy as our schedule is, I walk around thinking to myself how I want everyone I care about to be able to see the same things that I am seeing each time we get into the water.
I am looking forward to the upcoming days where we have more free time to explore the island..I haven't been able to take many pictures yet.
Tomorrow we have our ID test after breakfast, and then after that we are planning to go on a celebratory outer reef trip. I am not sure where this one will be, but if all goes well the conditions should be just as lovely as they were today.
SO. Let's cut to the chase. During the early morning swim this AM we swam through a thick field of jellies and a good portion of the group that went out got stung. The sting felt like a bee sting and went away after a while. Nobody panic, everything is just fine!
Today we went out to Sharks Bay and took sediment core samples from various locations of reef patches. The process seemed rather easy when we had it explained to us, it was a bit of a shock to discover how difficult it actually was. I worked with Holly today during this lab, which was lovely. Holly is great at free diving and I am rather weak in this area, so she was able to pick up my slack. We chose to sample a reef patch that was closer to shore. The current was pretty strong during this time, we would swim up to one measured distance and then get ready to move to the next when we found out that we had been pushed 10-20 feet from our transect line.
Instead of going out for an evening snorkel we went on a reef walk. When the tide is out a large portion of corals are somewhat exposed in water that is just right to wade through. We watched the sun set as we examined the corals. The sun sets at around 6PM and then things get DARK. We have had a rather full schedule the past few days and the sun setting usually has us heading to bed early.
Pat served us ice cream for dinner tonight. It was fantastic.
This is a photo that Edd took from this mornings swim
Time is a really weird thing here, I have been consistently waking up at 4 AM which if I am calculating the time difference is noon, a day behind, back at home. So, I guess my body is just wanting an afternoon snack about that time. Silly little thing.
Today started out bright and squirrely at 6:00 in the blessed AM. We all went on a snorkel induction in the Harbor and got out into the water at 6:30 AM. It was quite windy as we were in the water which created rather large waves. I should preface the rest of the story by telling you that snorkeling has made me rather anxious in the past. So..I did what everyone always tells you to do when it comes to facing fears, which is to just get out there and do it. It was a great first swim, I didn't have any problems other than getting some water up my snorkel once. We saw a large range of fish species and encountered our first turtle. Which, if I am not mistaken was a Green Turtle. I thought about hitching a ride with him like Nemo did but decided to let him off easy this time.
After the morning swim we had a large breakfast which gave us plenty of energy to keep adventuring. We had planned to have a lecture after lunch, but one of the cables that is required to run the projector and the lecture equipment properly was damaged (darn it) and Edd and Trisha moved things around and had us embark on our first field experiment. We donned our wet suits and fins again and headed out to research beach with a 15 meter transect line, a half meter quadrat, a GoPro camera, and a waterproof slate and pencil. I was partnered with Riley for this project, and we hypothesized that the percent coverage of coral would decrease as we increased in distance from the reef crest. We were heading out to the area we wanted to start surveying when we realized that our transect line was missing, so we switched gears for a bit and with Trisha's help were able to recover the line. While most of the time I would call this a mistake, it turned out to be a pretty neat experience. I saw my first Parrot Fish, which if you don't know what this is I highly encourage you to pop that dude into Google. The Parrot Fish is a very pretty fish that is a lot larger than I thought it would be.
After we finished the field work we came back to the station to strip out of the wet suits and break for lunch. The lunch discussion was practically non-existent as we were all quite hungry. After lunch we headed back into the lab as we now needed to analyze the data that we collected earlier in the field. We were able to get all of the information into excel, graph it for substrate averages, and standard errors. The substrates that we were examining the presence of were: Algae, Coral, Bare Sand, Bare Rock and CCA. I would tell you what CCA was if I could remember. We concluded that our hypothesis was wrong for the presence of coral but entirely right for the presence of bare rock, which significantly increased with distance from the reef crest. After we got all of the data imputed and formulated we were then given the task of writing a lab report for the field day. We finished the report and Edd told us that if we wanted to join him for a short night swim to catch the sunset we should head back to the showers to gather our gear which we had hung to dry a few hours prior. A good portion of the group went out for the swim, this is where I was able to see two more turtles today. One of which was a massive Loggerhead Turtle, it passed by in what seemed like slow-motion.
After the third snorkel of the day we got cleaned up and ready for dinner. Pat went all out tonight and fixed us a lovely roast with potatoes. That dude, we love him. It has been an action packed day for us, good thing we have Pat to keep us living after spending a lot of time in the water.
A few basic things you should know about me: 1. I really like my Chacos, doggos, and fish friends. (not to eat them of course).