Today unfortunately was our last day on Heron, but as they say everything great must come to an end. And boy was it great. Today’s morning swim to the outer reef is probably a top moment in my life. Just saying. I think I really understand why it’s one of the natural wonders of the world. The views were insane. Our boat driver Ben made the trip out to our dive spot worth our whole tuition. It was quite fun. I didn’t know you could catch that much air in an inflatable boat! We presented our research projects tonight and had a wonderful last supper cooked by our very own Pat. The sunset on the night snorkel was stellar. As per usual. I’m definitely going to miss everything about this perfect little island and all of the wonderful people who have filled it for the last two weeks!
On our evening swim we watched the sunset through the wholes of the shipwreck windows in the water with turtles under or flippers. There are so many turtles at here Heron, I found a baby turtle shell on the beach today no baby though unfortunately. We learned that baby sea turtles hang on to drift wood that takes them out to the middle of the ocean where they are safer from predators and feed on the algae that grows on the wood and little jellys in the water. It was getting pretty dark and we swam down to a little coral cave and found a sleepy white tip shark lurking.
Today we finished writing our final paper and put together our presentation for our research project. We swam out into some choppy water in the afternoon I made friends with a moray eel. I love snapping in front of the small christmas tree worms and watching them retract into their holes.
Sting rays are my favorite. The other night we saw a group of 16 of them swimming together on the shore. I'm pretty sure they're under water birds. All sunshine today and warm water, so great! This trip is going by too quickly!
Yup, I saw 13 black tip reef sharks and 1 wobbegong today and not one of them bit me! Its been dumping rain here the last two days on Heron, which kinda makes ocean research a little bit difficult. We didn't drown but I did drink 5 gallons of sea water. Today was a productive day of working on our group project. We analysed all of our data and started to put together our presentation.
Also a bird pooped on me today. I'm starting to think that they might be out to get me. We watched the craziest swarm of thousands of birds dance around the sky this evening over the ocean. It was probably one of the coolest things I've seen. So I guess I can forgive them for now.
On our morning swim this morning I did a cool spin move when I jumped off the dock. I think I only impressed the fish. Parrot fish are my favorite because they are so colorful and have gnarly beaks that they use to chomp the coral. Also I think something weird may have stung my leg. It's been kinda numb and tingly all day. No worries though I'm still kickin and ready to jump in tomorrow morning at 6am!
Today we had our lecture on threats to the reef. I don't think one person can fully comprehend the immense impact that humans have on every part of our world. It's like everyone doesn't think about the consequences of any of their actions. I think its hard to be conscious of everyone of your decisions, so most people fall into the default options that are presented easily before them. But we have now realized that those easy choices can not be sustained. In 35 years if we continue on our current path all coral reefs will be dead. Coral reefs are not only a major habitat for a large amount of biodiversity, but they also help with nutrient cycling and so much more important ecosystem services.
Here are 3 ways that you can help to save this beautiful reef and all of the wonderful creatures that I've been able to spend so much time with:
1. Become plastic free.
-The amount of plastic we have found here on the shores of Heron Island alone astounds me. Our chef Pat goes around the island every day collecting trash and has found up to 45lbs of trash and plastic on our small island.
2. Bike more often.
-Not only is biking a healthier alternative to driving, that your body will thank you for later, but it reduces the amount of CO2 that you contribute to our atmosphere. The same atmosphere that we share with our oceans. The continual increase in CO2 has lead to extreme ocean acidification. When CO2 diffuses into oceans it creates carbonic acid and decreases the pH of the ocean. This has immensely harmful effects on ocean ecosystems and the organisms that live within them.
3. Don't eat fish. (or meat)
- I know to some this sounds like an extreme lifestyle change to make, but in reality our oceans are being ridiculously over fished. This over exploitation of resources is not sustainable, due to the size of our population. We our depleting our resource reservoirs quicker than they can be replenished. Eating more a more plant based diet can dramatically help reduce your impact, and is a lot easier to do than it seems.
I personally have loved this amazing once in a lifetime opportunity to come and experience the Great Barrier Reef, one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. I only hope that one day my grandchildren can do the same. I guess the choice that is ours.
...by a seagull. That guy swooped straight from the roof to the top of my head, knocked the sunglasses off my face, scratched me a little and stole my muffin. Yeah I was pretty upset at him. I saw that little crumb-beaked fella later and flipped him off, that made me feel better.
Today I caught some rays. Not sting rays, just sun rays and it was wonderful! We had our lecture on megfauna this morning and learned about all the beasties we've been swimming with. We started on our group research projects today. My group is researching if the size of fish is a determinant factor for how far that fish will swim away from a patch reef during high tide. For this we swim out to a patch reef and set out our transect line and a gopro, record the site for 30 mins and analyse the data among other things.
There are really cool bioluminescent algae that wash up on the shore at night here. Imagine water-fireflies… but its algae. They glow in the dark these little blue lights, and rival the milky way that is just as spectacular.
I also found the most adorable anemone today filled with, yeah you guessed it Nemo and his Dad. So cool. Also we got clean, unsandy sheets today! I am so stoked to go to sleep!
Hello people reading my blog! Today I had a staring contest with a fish. It didn't last long. Fishes don't blink. I learned that today! Also I kinda feel like it could read my mind... not yet scientifically proven, maybe I'll figure that out tomorrow.
Today we studied fish abundances in the lagoon during high and low tides. We completed one part in the morning just after breakfast doing a reef walk. We filmed 20m with the gopro measured on a transect line. We did the same thing snorkeling after lunch during high tide and analysed the footy in the lab. We found that fish, especially fish of the Pomacentridae family, are most abundant in the lagoon during high tide due to high rates of predation during the low tide.
We went on an evening swim and saw some cool nudibranchs, which I believe are basically the closest things to aliens. They are weird little sea slugs (google them). Pat made us burritos for lunch, I love burritos. I've decided its okay to live in a sandy wet suit if it means you get to poke weird things in the ocean all day and do cool experiments. I quite enjoy Heron Island!
Today was quite nice, it started with some hearty blueberry pancakes from our good chef Pat. We took our species ID test today which went splendidly! Proud to say that I now know the common and scientific names of a good 50+ species in the reef here at Heron.
We took a celebratory swim on the outer reef after the test, which was phenomenal. Falling backwards out of the boat all flippered up doesn't get old! The visibility was great today and the reef looked spectacular. The current on the other hand was a bit more tricky to navigate... we had to give 110% on our swim out, but it was 115% worth it. The reef here is so colorful and full of such great diversity. We saw a ton of turtles, one swam straight up to my face and almost kissed me!
We had our lecture today on reef fish and learned many interesting things about the incredible little guys that we've been able to spend so much time with! We watched the sunset from the dock and spotted some sharks from above. I swam up on a decent sized black tip reef shark this afternoon and it was something! We had a surprise party for Susie's birthday today and Pat made us cake! He's great. I lost in some phase 10. Also we learned to “Live life how Bean eats breakfast!” and that you can never be too “knackered” for another swim!
Today we dove the outer reef and it was insane. Imagine huge canyons made of layers of thick colorful coral. Hundreds of fish darting in and out of its shelter. I think I could have spent the next week here just floating over that one beautiful spot and have been perfectly content. I don't really understand all of the weird species in the ocean, or how their purpose in this world came to be, but I do appreciate their intricate complexity and it amazes me to witness it up close.
Later we did a citizen science survey out in Shark Bay measuring the colors of the coral to help input data into a database about the amount of coral bleaching that is happening in the reef. After that we went on our evening swim at sunset and saw tons of turtles and rays.. and boobies (a type of bird here at Heron Island) hanging out on the ship wreck.
Ed lectured on the different invertebrate phyla today which just increased my curiosity about how much we as humans still don't know. The stars were ridiculous tonight, after dinner before the moon rose over the sea we stared into a million stars, in the whole milky way. While sitting on the beach we watched an adorable baby bird commit suicide as it was learning to fly and headed straight out to sea with a quiet splash, and then some struggle and then silence. Ecosystems are a funny thing. The bird probably fed a hungry baby shark but me being a ridiculous human wanted to interfere with the circle of nature as per usual. I did not, but I thought about the amount of small things we do change and the cascading effect that has on our planet.
Such a great day filled with lots of laughs, loved it all!
Waking up isn't so hard when the first thing on your agenda is swimming with the fishes. This mornings swim was marvelous. It was a little bit hard to see through all of the jelly's and I did learn that they aren't all friendly... but its okay they I'll forgive them tomorrow. Today I saw an octopus, a black tip reef shark, a wobbegong shark, some loggerheads and green sea turtles, a bunch of rays and so many cool fish. Me and Holly swam inside a school of fish and it seemed like they had no problem with it.
Later in the day we had our sediment coring lab and took sediment samples around patch reefs. Free diving and collecting an accurate sample with a strong current was a little tougher than I expected, but nonetheless we got them! We picked through them back at the lab and identified the macro invertebrates to analyze their distribution throughout patch reefs.
The birds here are funny and sometimes they scare you a little. I only walked through 1 spider web today so that’s a plus! We went reef walking at low tide at sunset which was wonderful! Its like snorkeling but you can breath air. We saw epileptic sharks and crabs and everything else. After dinner we had our lecture on coral, which was insane because I don’t think that I ever understood that the Great Berrier Reef is the largest living structure on earth! Coral is my new favorite animal.
Tomorrow we are going on a trip to the outter reef, which on Finding Nemo is when everything got interesting... so I’m expecting the same.
...Is something I did this morning at 6:30 am. It was sooooooooooo cool, and a little gross but mostly cool. Today was insane. We jumped in the ocean right as the sun started to rise over the island and swam out to the ship wreak. I watched a green sea turtle swallow up one of the cute jelly's and snapped a couple of selfies with a few of the giant clams.
Today was pretty much eat, swim, eat, swim, eat, swim. Which is exactly how I prefer my days to be! We got to study different types of benthic substrate cover in the reef crest and lagoon. We set out a transect line and used a quadrat to measure the amount of benthic cover types on the sea floor and did a bunch of other sciency stuff, along with standard devations and bar graphs. Learned a lot, and wrote an A+ worthy paper... right Trisha? ;) Also learned that the reef likes to bite you more than the animals do, it took a little go at my knee, I narrowly got away with my life.
We jumped back in the water one more time at sunset to look for some sharkies. We only saw one baby one, but the sunset was off the chain. The sky went so pink and then purple and it was like everywhere I looked was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. There were tons of fish swiming below me and then when I looked up out of the water it only got better. We swam up on a huge loggerhead sea turtle which was the size of a smart car. Just kidding. It was really big though!
Today we also found a one legged grasshopper and named him Lil Sebastan (pictured below). We kept him around for a while. We also poked a large spider with a stick... not so scientific...(also pictured below). And Pat, our incredible chef made us some bomb veggies and cake for dinner tonight. Can't wait for tomorrow and many more days of sliding on sandy wet suits!