What a day.
This morning I could hear the wind blowing through the trees, but being the noob I am, I didn't think about what that meant for the morning snorkel, so I got all suited up and got in the water only to find that I couldn't see anything. So I spent the rest of the day in the wind with a wet wet-suit. Luckily for our lab today we were taking sediment cores at low tide. We were studying the change in invertebrate density with distance from reef patches. It's an interesting concept. I've spent so much time studying patches themselves and the theory of island bio-geography that actually focusing on the areas around the islands was a whole new idea. I was surprised by the results, which was cool, that hasn't happened in a long time. Common sense would make you believe that more invertebrates would be further away from the reef patches, since fish, their natural predators, tend to stay closer to reef patches, but that was only true for arthropods. Mollusks are more common closer to the reef patches. My personal theory for this is that mollusks are protected by their shells, so face less threat from fish, and are slower/more bulky, and need protection from the current. But then again, I know very little about marine biology.
I don't have the motivation to write very much today, so until tomorrow!
I thought waking up at five in the morning would be difficult, but because my body is still on Utah time, I was awake at two in the morning and ready to go. The birds on the island never completely shut up, but they do get quieter at night, making sleeping much easier. The golden silk orb weaver spider outside of our room, Peter, hasn't moved since yesterday, which is a comforting thought as the idea of a spider that large inside the dorm makes me uncomfortable.
The group of us went for a morning snorkel under the jetty, making our way to the shipwreck. The entire bottom of the harbor was completely covered in cow-headed stingrays. It was amazing but also terrifying to see them so close up, especially when they would decide to come up and swim past you.
Then there was breakfast. I don't think I mentioned him before, but on the island we have a cook named Pat who is amazing. The only thing I look forward to as much as seeing the reef is Pat's meals. Every meal is different, and every meal is good. He also serves morning and afternoon tea, which is new but definitely enjoyable. The seagulls love his cooking too and have managed to steal from one girl already. One seagull distracted her while the other pulled a muffin from her hand.
On a walk with a few of the other students we found Shark Beach, which is exactly what it sounds like. The stingrays and sharks congregate in the shallow water. Along with the countless stingrays we saw well over 20 guitar sharks, of various sizes, and a few small black tip sharks. I wish I had pictures but I don't have a GoPro. Luckily tomorrow I can borrow one from the class, and I can post pictures then.
I was able to take hold of a once in a lifetime opportunity. I say this because everyone told me it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I'm a fairly boring person by nature. I think that fast food tastes just as good as a two hundred dollar meal. I get the same amount of enjoyment at beating a video game as climbing a mountain, etc. So when one of the professors at the college of natural resources at my school walked into the class and told us about this once in a lifetime opportunity to do research on Heron Island, I thought it was a cool thing I would never do. I mentioned it to my roommates. they nodded and said it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. On one of the TV screens in the college foyer a video was playing of someone on Heron Island. They said it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. The next time I visited my parents I mentioned this cool thing I would never do to them.
They said it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Right now I'm standing on this island, taking hold of this once in a lifetime opportunity, and I can't quite believe I'm here to be honest.
Heron Island is a two hour ferry ride from Gladstone in Queensland. Like most of the islands in the great barrier reef, the island is surround by a massive shelf which contains a lagoon full of hundreds of species. On the ride in we(my university group) saw a spotted eagle ray gliding thought the water among the black sea cucumbers, which litter the sandy spots between corals. On this shipwreck we saw brown footed boobies sunning themselves. There are plenty of birds on the island to ensure there's never a moment of silence.
Later, after a fantastic sunset, we saw a ray jump from the water. No one is really sure why Ray's jump like that, but it was really cool. The ray was followed by a black-tip reef shark swimming under the jetty and several sea turtles chilling in the water.
It's only been less than a day. I'm excited to see what happens tomorrow.