Our last full day on the island was extremely bittersweet. It was very sad to think that our time here has come to an end but we absolutely made the most out of our last day. We started off with an early breakfast and then a trip out to the outer reef for a snorkel. We took lots of videos as the colors of the corals there were absolutely astounding. When we got back to shore my group and I began rehearsing for our final presentation of our research project later that day. We finished tweaking our project around noon and after lunch I headed out to a short hiking path on the island to take some more photos of the island and the many birds that inhabit it. When I got back we headed out snorkeling for the last time and I made a promise that I wouldn’t get out of the water until I had hit the trifecta of seeing a turtle, stingray, and a shark. I was very lucky at the last moment to have a huge black tip reef shark zoom past me in the shallow waters to complete my goal. We headed in for dinner and afterwards presented our research to the group. We had a very sarcastic award ceremony put on by our professors after the presentation called the heronees, very similar to Dunder Miflins Dundees. The award I received was the chippendale award for the man who is most likely to be found with his shirt off, and I’m not even mad. We then ended the night watching that stars and enjoying our last night on the beach.
Today myself and three other students set out on a morning swim where we encountered my first eel of the trip! Waking up early and immediately jumping into cold water is actually a very refreshing start to the day and has helped me be more productive throughout the day. We then had breakfast and began writing up our research reports and final presentation of said research. Our presentation is coming along nicely and we're excited to share what we've learned with the class. After lunch a group of students went out to the beach to film a short promotional video for the class so catch me on IMDB within the year. I took a short walk out to the dock again and although i was raving about how many sharks I saw yesterday, it didn't compare to the TWENTY THREE sharks I saw farting around (@ Ed) the jetty today.
We then met up again as a group and went our for an evening snorkel as the sun was setting. As I was swimming around I decided to search under a ledge on a patch of coral to see if something was sleeping under there. As i had done this many times before to no avail I was not being cautious and swam right underneath the coral only to come face to face with a massive white tip reef shark. I immediately backed out and went and told the other students to have a look but we ended up annoying him and he swam away. We came back to the station and had dinner and then I went on my nightly beach walk before going to bed.
Today was arguably the most chill day that I've had so far. I went on an extremely cold morning swim and saw everything that youd expect on a morning swim at the Great Barrier Reef: turtles, sting rays, black tip reef sharks, a wobbygong shark, a guitar shark, pufferfish, trumpetfish, parrotfish, and a whole lot more animals that you wouldnt know or care if I named. After breakfast my group began to analyse several hours worth of footage that we obtained yesterday and that basically took us the whole day. We took several breaks, one of which we walked down to the dock and saw twelve, yes twelve, black tip reef sharks waiting for the tide to come down so that they could gain access to the sheltered lagoon. It was incredibly windy today and started storming in the evening. After dinner we had an incredibly informative Q&A with our professors basically answering any questions we had about getting started with and pursuing a career in research. Since the weather was terrible and it was getting late, a group of us students decided to play a couple quick card games and headed to bed. Heres to better weather tomorrow!
Today again got off to a lazy start with an 8:30 AM breakfast. We had a big day planned of collecting data for our research project so I was glad to get a few extra hours of sleep. The topic my group and I have decided upon is to determine the correlation between fish size and how far away they travel away from patch reefs at high tide. The reason for this is to hopefully better understand predator prey interactions as the primary reason for fish not venturing far away from their home is because of the threat of being eaten. After an informative lecture of the threats facing the Great Barrier Reef, my group and I gathered up all the gear we would need for the project and set out to research beach. We used four transect lines and four gopro cameras to film different patch reefs and capture the fish as they moved around them. As we were setting up, a massive black tip reef shark came to investigate what we were up to and we ended up seeing him multiple times throughout the day. We finally collected all the data we needed and headed back for the lab. After lunch we began the tedious process of watching through hours of film, categorizing and recording the sizes of lots of different fish. We still have plenty more footage to go through so that should keep us busy for the next couple days. We joined the rest of the group for dinner and decided to call it a day on our research project.
The last couple days I have been bugging my professor Ed to take me out on a night snorkel because its something that Ive always wanted to do. Tonight he informed me that he had charged up the necessary dive lights to undergo the snorkel and told me to be suited up by 8 PM, well after the sun had gone down. The two of us set out and it was better than I couldve imagined it. Its seriously an unparalleled experience floating out to sea with the only visibility coming from one beam of light. It was honestly a pretty scary experience but we were able to see two MASSIVE loggerhead turtles, a wobbygong shark, and a squid that played around with us for a bit.
Today got off to a very relaxing start as the only thing on schedule for today was a lecture and a dive in the afternoon for those of us who are certified. I had breakfast and afterwards had an awesome lecture on the megafauna of the Great Barrier Reef. Since weve been doing a lot of work in the water (the majority of the time while wearing a wetsuit) I am still disappointingly white, so a couple of us headed down to the beach to get our tan on. It was super nice to be able to sit back and relax after several days of going non stop. We headed back for lunch and afterwards I watched several dive refresher videos on youtube since i havent dived in several years and then headed out for our dive with the resort on the island. Although we have been snorkeling nonstop for the last couple days I was still incredibly excited to have the opportunity to dive as it adds a whole other element to the underwater experience. We saw several things including vibrant coral and anenomes, a wobbygong shark, and a manta ray (although this was spotted on the boat ride back). After the dive me and my group partners headed out into the water to test our planned methods for our research project and everything seems to be in order. After dinner I was able to take another stroll to the beach where I stayed until well into the night watching shooting stars. Excited for another day of our research project tomorrow! Its super late but I promise Ill have more details shortly.
We got another early start today as we had to be down at the beach at the start of low tide. The lab we completed today was comparing fish abundance at high tide compared to low tide so after finishing the low tide section we came back to the station for lunch. After lunch we headed back out to complete the high tide section of the lab and after me and my partner (Teal) had finished we continued to snorkel for quite a while after the rest of the group went in. Im super glad we did because we found an anemone which was home to several barrier reef anemonefish (basically nemo) and there was a baby one who couldnt have been more than a centimeter long. Easily the highlight of the trip so far was getting to see that. After getting back and showering we went back to the lab to analyze the videos we had taken and we completed our lab reports. After dinner we had our pre proposals due for our unique group research projects but ill have more on that later. I took another lap around the island tonight and the stars were once again breathtaking. When we got back, i took a group of friends back into the lab and set up my all time favorite movie, The Shawshank Redemption, on the projector. Surprisingly, most of them hadnt seen it before so i was glad to give them that experience. Anyways, heres some pictures from today.
full photo credits to Bean for this one ^^^
I woke up at 6:00 AM this morning to participate in our morning swim but apparently I was the only one that got up besides Ed, our professor, which was fine because we were able to get out to the reef quickly and head further out due to there not being too many people to account for. After breakfast we had a species ID quiz that we have been studying for for the past several weeks and that took until about lunchtime. My snorkeling experience has been greatly enhanced by the fact that I can now see different fish and marine animals in the water and can identify them within seconds. After lunch we had our second dive out to the outer reef which again was amazing and i was able to get several good videos with the lab gopros. We then came back and had a lecture on the history and diversity of fish in coral reefs. I opted out of the afternoon snorkel and instead went out to the dock to watch the animals and was fortunate enough to see huge black tip reef shark playing around in the jetty. Once the sun went down we had dinner and I again took a lap around the island to watch the stars and the many nocturnal animals that were in the lagoon. We've just been told that on tuesday those of us who are dive certified will be able to head out on a resort dive trip to the outer reef which i am super stoked about. Unfortunately I am not able to upload videos to the blog so here is a few pictures from today.
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Today I woke up and again opted out of the morning swim because we had a trip planned to the outer reef directly after breakfast. The outer reef was immensely more diverse than in the lagoon and we saw a black tip reef shark swim right under us! We swam around and explored for several hours before returning for lunch. Pat gave us a little taste of home with a cajun spiced soup and garlic tacos. After lunch we set out to shark bay to inspect the health of the corals there and inputted what we found into an online database called CoralWatch which helps to keep scientists worldwide up to date on the status of coral reef health throughout the globe. It felt good to be a part of something so helpful and widespread. We came back to the station and had some free time which I spent reading and snacking on some afternoon tea (which is an excuse for British and Australian people to snack between lunch and dinner and not feel guilty about it). We then headed out for a final swim of the day where there was plenty more turtles, sharks, and rays to be seen. After the sun went down we headed back to the beach to stargaze as it was a new moon so there was absolutely no light in the sky impeding our view. There are no words in the world to describe just how amazing it is to be able to see the milky way galaxy in all its glory. Never in my life have I been in a place where the stars shine so bright, and so naturally i spent hours laying on my back attempting to take it all in. I took a lap around the island and as i looked out into the shallow waters i spotted several families of guitar sharks (which i had never seen before) a pack of around 16 stingrays, and I was even lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a squid darting around in the water. As i sit here writing this blog i am again reminded just how lucky I am to have this opportunity to be in a place so remote and extraordinary as this. I dont have access to the gopro footage i filmed today at the moment but I will upload them tomorrow.
I slept through my alarms this morning and missed the morning swim where there was apparently plenty of turtles and rays to be spotted. Probably for the best though because I have developed several large blisters on my feet because of my fins so im sure they appreciated the rest. The lab that we completed today was to determine the abundance of invertebrates in the sediment surrounding patch reefs. The work was very fun but also extremely tiring so the work in the lab that followed was welcomed. We brought back our sediment samples and combed through them to find the many organisms that lived there. We then compiled our data with the group and completed our lab reports. Before dinner we put on our water shoes and waded out into the low tide to see the exposed coral up close. There were also mini sharks swimming around in the same lagoon as us which was exciting. After dinner we had a lecture on the history and mechanics of coral reefs which was very informative. Around 8:30 I headed out solo once again to a serene spot on the beach to watch the stars and listen to the waves. Since the sun sets so early here everyone goes to bed relatively early so when I got back at 9:15 most of the group was already asleep. Tomorrow we head out to the outer reef to hopefully spot some sharks and possibly some manta rays. Here are a few pictures I captured today.
Our second day on the Island commenced with a very cold 6:30 AM swim to the boat wreck near the island. There was plenty to be seen although the water was a little choppy and the visibility wasn't quite as good as it could have been. Once back and (semi) dry we had a lovely breakfast of egg and spinach tacos completed with yogurt, toast and fresh fruit. After breakfast, we had some difficulties getting the projector to work for a lecture so we got an early start on our field work for the day. We paired up, grabbed our gear and headed for the beach. The lab we were conducting was designed so that we find the relative abundances of biotic and abiotic components of the seafloor as you move further away from a reef. We did this by laying transit lines (long measuring tapes) and placing a quadrat (plastic square with an internal grid) at different places along the line. This was to determine the relative densities of things such as coral, rocks, algae and sand. We then had lunch and went to the lab to analyze our data. After several hours we finished our lab reports and were able to head out for one last snorkel before sunset where we saw a massive loggerhead turtle along with some more rays. Disappointingly, I still have yet to see a sizable shark but we're headed to shark bay tomorrow so Ill be angry if it doesn't live up to its name. We had nothing scheduled after dinner so i set out on my own to the beach where I sat and watched the stars for about an hour. It was unsettling seeing a whole new set of stars and constellations but luckily i was able to pinpoint the southern cross which gave me a feeling of familiarity. It always amazes me how much more of the sky you can see once you get away from civilization and light pollution. Anyways, I didn't get too many pictures today but did run into a massive spider so viewer discretion advised.