Today was the final fiull day of the class. It was a good day. I woke up to go for a walk but it was raining so I decided that I would rather not get soaked and cold this morning so I went back to sleep. I got up for brekky and after that, we had a group snorkel session as our last one. We went out and swam pretty far into the lagoon and saw some cool things. I saw some more moon wrasses, one of my favorites, some of them were pretty big. I saw a GIANT green sea turtle, he was so big I thought he was a loggerhead at first. I saw a giant clam that was also humongous and colorful. I think the best part of the snorkel was seeing an octopus hiding in the coral. We don't get many octopus here at Heron Island so this was a treat. He seemed pretty big but it was hard to tell because only his eyes were sticking out and the rest of his body was hidden inside the coral.
After the snorkel, we had lunch and then some free time to prepare for presenting our research. We presented all of our projects and it was pretty neat. Lots of cool stuff was shared. My project was on rays and we found that rays like to hang out in lagoons at high tide because the waves get softened up by the coral and don't mess with the rays as they rest. Throughout the class, we have had a challenge to either collect the most pieces of plastic or the heaviest plastic and the winners of each category would recieve a sweet Heron Island Thermos. After presenting, it was revealed who the winners were. I had the heaviest piece of plastic so I ended up with one of the prizes! I like the thermos alot, it will be a great, useful souviner. Edd and Trisha also handed out some awards for certain categories, such as sleeping beauty and aquaman (bet you can't guess how you earned those awards). I got the Bartholomew Marion Quint award (captain from Jaws) for always being the one staring at the ocean with a far away stare. Spot on as I usually stared out at the ocean and went for long walks by myself to the ocean.
We tried to watch the sunset as a group one last time but the storm clouds blocked any possible sunset from happening. That's fine, we had absolutely amazing sunsets when we arrived. Dinner was amazing. We had steak and potatoes as our final dinner on the island. The meals this trip have been outstanding and I will miss having every meal made for me that I could go to town on. The night passed quietly for me as I just enjoyed being here and reading, relaxing and remembering my time. I won't ever forget this trip and I am glad I went.
Today was pretty relaxed. Woke up at 6 for a different reason today, the low tide happened at 530 so Cat and I went for an observation period early instead of late so we could work on our report for our project. After our observation period, we walked towards the resort and I found another sea star that was drying up on a rock. I picked it up and gently threw it into the ocean since I caught flak for tossing the last one I found. A little down the beach, there were a ton of young seagulls gathered together (refer to picture). They were standing there, silent and menacing. It was weird so we just walked past. We went back to the station and relaxed until our next observation period at high tide. After that and lunch, Cat and I finished up our report and got our presentation all ready to go. We had a lot of time until dinner so I went for a walk because why not. On my walk I saw a baby black tip reef shark really close to the shore. It was really young, less than 2 months old. He was swimming super close to the shore line and he kept rolling with the waves as they crashed onto the shore. It was pretty fun watching him go.
Before dinner, everybody gathered together for photos. We took a lot of photos, I have selected just a few of them below. The sunset was a bust since it has been super cloudy all day. Dinner was rice and curry and I decided now was the time to eat to gain real weight. I had three plates and ate until my stomach hurt, then I had desert. The desert was amazing so I kept shoving it down. I powered through the best kind of pain until the food was all gone. I haven't hurt this way in a long time but I don't regret any of it.
I went for my morning walk and holy crap, the wind was absolutely howling. All day and night today, the wind was going crazy. After breakfast, Cat and I went for our high tide field observation and we didn't even swim because it was all white caps and 2 meter high waves. We just observed from the shore and we actually saw 21 shovel nose rays. Not a bad observation period but the wind was crazy. For those of you who don't know, wet suits are super tight so they are hard to get on and off. Today when I was getting out of my wet suit, one of those thoughts that shouldn't be said out loud but gets out happened. I said as I finally got my suit off, "Ah! My nuts are free!" Cat was laughing pretty hard. Lunch happened some time later and I didn't do much after. I took a nap on a couch in the library and then Cat and I went for our low tide observation. We didn't see anything. Today was pretty relaxed. I am totally fine with just chilling on a remote tropical island off the coast of Australia. Sweet gig.
Cat and I wrote some stuff for our research paper, prepared a PowerPoint for presenting our research on Saturday, and chilled. I forgot to mention some small details from the past few days so I will do that here since the post would be super short.
Yesterday, I found a blue sea star out of the water because the tide had gone so low. I said out loud, "wake up!" and threw it back in the ocean. I'm a real marine biologist now. When we saw the tiger shark on Tuesday, I was fine getting back in the water after it left and said, "I don't care, I'm going back out there, I will make love to that shark if I have to."
Sometimes I just say things without thinking. Usually it makes people laugh which is bad positive reinforcement but I sound very silly. At dinner today, Trisha and Edd were worried because, "where are we going to find another lunatic like Sam?" Good to know I am loved.
Today was a nice relaxed day. I went for my usual morning walk at sunrise and no death events occurred so I counted it as a good walk. I had breakfast and then went for my first observation snorkel for my project. I swam for 30 min looking for rays and didn't see any. This was probably due to the wind blowing like crazy and trying to swim in the strong current made me flail a lot and make a lot of noise which scared any local rays away. On a positive note, I walked the beach and recorded the rays I saw, which was a few so my project isn't a bust.
Lunch happened and then me and my partner wrote some stuff for our report on our project. We went out for a low tide observation of rays and didn't find any at all. There is a lagoon that surrounds Heron Island and the low tide made the entire lagoon have about 2 feet of water for a long ways out. This probably means all the rays go away because the water is so low, or at least it makes me feel better believing that when we don't see any rays.
Most of the rest of the day was spent enjoying the island since we are given all of the day to work on our projects. My group will be continuing to observe tomorrow and Friday (one day ahead from the states over here) so the next few days should be some observing and relaxing on this beautiful island. Yesterday there was seagull chilling in the water dunking his head and it was pretty funny. I forgot about to write about it yesterday but remembered because I took a video of it. The sunset was pretty sweet this night. Since the tide was so low, there was a bunch of pools and the sunset reflected off of them. It was amazing. Dinner happened and the rest of the night was spent relaxing on a cool little island off the coast of Australia.
Bonus: Pat, our incredible cook, is the guy smiling at the sunset
I wake up at 6 pretty naturally now. Today was quite the day. I went on a walk right as the sun rose over the island. It was super windy and I could barely look ahead so it was quite a surprise when I saw something moving in the sand. I got close and noticed it was a baby turtle making its way from where it hatched to the ocean. The birds were circling above and waiting for their chance to swoop down and eat the baby. I stuck around until the turtle made it to the ocean. I had hoped that would be enough to prevent a premature death, but the seagulls were persistent and grabbed the little guy while he was out swimming. Sad start to the day. I found some what I thought were deflated ping pong balls along the shore but apparently they were actually old turtle eggs. We had breakfast and then we had a lab where we observe coral to see if they are dying or being bleached.
We went out and along the way, there was a baby bird with broken legs stuck in a hole. We are not allowed to interfere with the animal life so we had to let him be. Another dead animal for the day. We got to the beach where we were going to be observing coral and right as people started snorkeling out, a tiger shark showed up. Tiger sharks are very aggressive so we all freaked out and got out of the water. In case you care, if you see a tiger shark you should calmly move as fast as possible to get out of the water. The appearance of the tiger shark made our professors quite concerned for our safety so we decided not to do the lab today. We went to lunch and then went to the outer reef. It was amazing out there. The water was clear and warm and we snorkeled for about 2 hours. We saw lots of fish, like tons of fish. We saw a bunch of turtles, a black tip reef shark, and a bunch of spotted eagle rays. While on the boat back to the island, we saw a spotted eagle ray do a giant leap out of the water. It got like 3 feet of air. It was so cool.
For some reason it was unnaturally cold today even though there was no clouds and the sun was shining. Just one of those days the sun decides to not do anything. After the snorkel, I showered and got bundled up in clothes and then I got with my partner to propose our project for the next few days. It got approved! Our project is to observe rays out in Shark Bay on the East side of the island and see what they are doing over the next three days. Should be a fun project especially since we both love rays and we want to know more about them. The sunset was very nice tonight since there was no clouds. The stars were also amazing. Heron is quite something and I am very grateful and happy to be here. Again, thank you mom and dad for getting me on this trip.
I woke up at 6 today. Getting better at sleeping in. I went for a walk around the island and found a brick in the sand. I don't know any myths about finding bricks in the sand but I should look them up because I may have just set something in motion without knowing it. On my walk I also saw an eagle ray jump in the air! They look hilarious flapping in the air as they jump. We had breakfast and then an ID test for fish, corals, etc. I had a 50.5/51 because I said Sea Cucumber instead of Giant Sea Cucumber. Not bad considering my bad memory. We had lunch and then we went to the outer reef for some snorkel sessions.
The outer reef was very cool. Lots of fish and turtles and I even saw a white tip reef shark go right past a turtle. I can't seem to post videos but I did happen to catch that moment with the turtle and white tip. Ask me to see it when you see me next! I think my wet suit is one size too small because it keeps exchanging water and not holding onto it so I get cold quick. I don't think a smaller wet suit would be tall enough for me anyways so I am just screwed, yay tall and skinny!
Today the rain and clouds stopped and it was clear with lots of sunshine. It really helped my cold get better with the sunshine and brought my spirits up. The stars last night were amazing and I saw 2 shooting stars and a satellite. I am sure they will be even better tonight with the clouds all gone.
The date tag is actually United States time, it is the 2nd of June as I write this, not the 1st. Anyways, I am slowly dying from this cold. I am so congested. I found out two other guys also have colds so we have been quarantined from everybody else. We call ourselves the leper squad due to being segregated for our horrible diseases. We all joke that we will get everybody else sick and cough at people. Making fun of a dire situation.
I woke up at 6 today, woo! Getting that extra sleep. We had breakfast at 7 today rather than our normal 730 because we had a lab today where we go out during high tide then low tide, high tide occurred around 8 today. Our lab was looking at fish abundances, so we go out and set out a measuring tape and then record all the fish we see along that tape. We analyze the video of the fish and mark what fish we see. Luckily, we only had to swim during the high tide and we could walk the area during low tide so I didn't completely freeze and feel like crap from my cold.
I went to the harbor to watch the sunset (refer to the pics) and there was a giant ship that contained a ScUber. Apparently, it is a ship that has a submarine the people can uber with (get a ride in) from around the reef. It cost like $3,000. I wish I had crazy money to just ride a submarine to my next destination, forget the ferry.
Today I woke up at 5 again. Something must really be wrong with me. Maybe it's this cold I've come down with. I'm trying my best to fight it so that I can be at full strength for the class and enjoying the island. I went to the library after I woke up and read for a bit because the sun wasn't even close to coming up. Once the light started coming down, I went for a walk along the beach. We have a challenge to pick up trash and plastic since our cook, Pat, does it in his free time. Since it was early morning, I had first picks of trash and I found some rope and bottle caps to add to the pile of plastic and trash. I made it to Shark Bay on the opposite side of the island and saw some stingrays chilling in the bay. I love stingrays and they will come up again in a bit. On my way back to the station, I saw 18 guitar sharks chilling together (refer to picture of just a few of them). That was pretty cool, I have never seen so many sharks hanging out together.
We had breakfast and then a lecture about fish and then tea time. Tea time is great, I can't find a better reason to stop everything and make some tea and eat a muffin as a morning break. Lunch came around and after lunch we went for a snorkel in the outer reefs. It is a lot deeper and there are tons of fish out there. It was amazing to see so many fish and so many different kinds of fish. You can't breathe through your nose while snorkeling so it kind of sucked having my mask fill up with snot so I stopped snorkeling early and hung out at the boat. I really enjoy being on a boat and feeling the waves move you back and forth, it reminds me of boating with my family on lakes. Good memories and times.
After the snorkel, it started to rain. What kind of tropical paradise is this? Anyways, the rain only stuck around for a bit so working on research in the lab made the rain no problem. We have to do a project we design so research and creation of that has begun. I am working with cat and we both love rays so we decided to do something with them. We settled on looking at the abundance and type of rays in Shark bay at different tide stages. This would help us understand the behavior of rays and when they like to come close to the shore to chill and when they like to go out into the deeper parts of the ocean and feed.
The title of today's post comes from the constant food I have been eating. Pat makes giant meals and I constantly gorge on as much as I can each meal. I don't have a weight scale, but I think I am finally getting somewhere on the cold protection.
I guess I don't have to put the date because this site auto puts it there. Kind of messes up my blog mojo because that isn't how I imagine it in my mind. "The day is the 31st of May, 2019. I fought the waves of Poseidon as the winds blew hard from the North. Many were lost."
Whatever. Today, I woke up at 5 am naturally (for those of you who know me, this isn't right. I sleep until the sun has been up for a while). I feel like I have lost my childhood since I can't sleep in now. I got up and walked in the pitch black to the kitchen and made some tea and grabbed a muffin. I sat and drank tea until 6 am when Edd, the professor, came walking down the dirt path. From now on, morning snorkels will be taking place at 6:15 am and are optional. The snorkel is what I was waiting for but I didn't know if it would happen since there was a raging wind coming in and visibility in the ocean would be nothing. Edd decided we should try anyways and we went for a snorkel. The visibility was absolute trash, so we got out of the ocean after 15 minutes because the waves were white topping. Grand start to the day.
Breakfast was good of course and then we had lecture. Today we had a lab where we took sediment cores from the ocean floor. The wind was still going strong so coring was easy as pie. I lied, the wind made everything nice and cold but since the depth we were at wasn't too deep, it wasn't too bad. We analyzed the samples at the lab which brought back memories because we were sorting bugs in the sediment cores. My job in college for nearly two years was sorting bugs and it got pretty boring looking through a microscope. Lunch happened and then it was back to microscope work. Did some statistics, wrote a report, and then went for a near-night snorkel. Again, it was freezing but this time the visibility was good. I saw some baby black tipped reef sharks and a large black tipped reef shark. One of my favorites was also up and about, the moon wrasses. I saw a sailfin tang which is pretty cool to see in the water, they are so thin and tall. A green turtle decided to come near us and come up to the surface to see what was going on. Great snorkel session tonight.
I was snorkeling while the sunset happened so I missed it but I caught all the nice colors and dying light as I walked back into camp. Late last night I went star gazing because there is no light pollution and I am in the southern hemisphere so it is a whole different sky. I could see the end of the Milky Way spiral and tons of stars, it was amazing. Some of the pictures for today were from last night since I went to bed right after. The red light pic is from us being on the pier and seeing a loggerhead turtle. These things are gigantic and we didn't want to blind him so we only used red light. It gets so dark at night since there is no lights that you can only see your outline when your eyes fully adjust. The good side of that is that the stars are delightful.
I might go on more walks and less snorkels to really get that island life feel, especially since I am so skinny and freeze in the water. Pat's cooking is helping me gain the girth I need to survive but it won't be quick enough so save my butt from the cold waters. Heron really is something you can only experience by doing and it is amazing. I love it here and I am thankful for my parents and their support and helping me go on this trip. Love you mom and dad.
30th of May. Today I did a snorkel session at the rise of the sun, which is 6:15 am here. It was surprisingly warm in the water and there was a ton of things to see. The harbor is place where lots of fish like to hang out but we obviously can't snorkel the harbor while ships are going in and out so we can only go in before 8 am and after 5 pm. We did our morning snorkel in the harbor and saw tons of cow head stingrays, parrot fish, and even some black tipped reef sharks. I also saw an eagle ray off in the distance but it was much faster than me so it disappeared into the haze of the ocean. If you look up a picture of Heron Island, you will most likely see that there is a shipwreck in the harbor. This ship is pretty easy to swim into and check out so I did this morning. Unfortunately, there wasn't anything super cool hiding in there. There was a ton of green turtles everywhere, I saw close to 20 myself. I also saw a wobbegong under a shelf which we had to dive down to see. Check them out, they are pretty cool. It was a good snorkel session this morning.
After the snorkel, we had breakfast and then a lecture on corals. You would think corals are semi-easy to learn about but there is actually a lot of different types of coral and the history on corals is interesting. The coral we know today is actually only 100 million years old and before that, coral was different species entirely. The lecture ended about a hour before lunch so I decided to see how long it took to walk around the entire island. I grabbed a class mate and we set out. It took about 45 minutes to go around the whole island at a slow pace. There is a nice resort at one end of the island which we are forbidden to enter because we are dirty students that probably smell horrible since we are wet most of the day from swimming and snorkeling. To walk around the island, you have to pass this resort so instead we have to take a bit of a shortcut behind the resort once you reach a certain point that takes you back to the research station.
Lunch was great, Pat is an awesome cook. Our first lab happened after lunch and we did some surveying of the surrounding coral and cover types in the lagoon where Heron island sits. Luckily, we didn't have to get completely immersed so it was easy to see what kind of cover there was and record it for analysis later.
Cat makes fun of me for always looking like I don't want to take a selfie and she is right.
For those of you coming from my blog about my time in Sydney, welcome. To those who know nothing about it, it might be worth a read: https://sites.google.com/view/sams-blog-for-australia/home
29th of May. Today I traveled from Gladstone to Heron Island. The ferry was about two hours long and it was really calm waters, which I have heard is unusual. I was kind of hoping to see someone vom just to be like, "yeah, I don't get sea sick, I don't even take Dramamine!" Anyways, the ferry was smooth and we arrived at Heron Island without anybody getting sick. First impressions of Heron, seems really big at first and then as you walk around a couple times, it feels just right. When I say just right, I mean it isn't too big of an island that you get lost but it isn't too small where you can go tip to tip in five minutes so it gets boring. There are tons of birds, all over the place. This has lead to the title of today's post. The birds non-stop yell, no joke it will become a way of life and it will be weird when I leave Heron to not be constantly hearing it.
We got settled in our rooms which are bunk style like the hostels but they gave us four rooms, two for the ladies and two for the guys. As a group of 13 students, this isn't horrible but the rooms are pretty dang big. Like 8 beds big. I guess four of the guys really want to hear each other snore and took one room so me and another guy took the other room. I am pretty down for two guys having a huge room and six other beds to pile our stuff on so I didn't complain. After unpacking, we met as a class for lunch and then after lunch I went on a walk with a classmate along the beach. We happened to see some chitons and some guitar sharks which are pretty bizarre. The walk ended when we had to return to the research station for a lecture on safety and rules around the island. We decided during the lecture that we wanted to get right into the ocean and do a snorkel session. We got our gear (including wet suits, it does get a bit chilly in the water even though we have a giant lagoon), buddied up, and got snorkeling. There are tons of fish. So many different kinds of fish! My highlights during this snorkel were two eels and a moon wrasse (look them up, they are sweet). There are over 50 species of fish and coral all around Heron so I won't name everything, but I will be naming some of my top picks that you can look up and be like, "oh yeah, bet that is cool in the water." Some other things to name that are swimming around out there are parrot fish, whitetail dascyllus, long finned goby, spanish flag snappers, and of course turtles! There are three kinds around Heron Island. There are the green turtles, the hawksbill, and the loggerhead. While on the dock, I also saw a black tipped reef shark and a spotted eagle ray.
The day wound down by watching the sunset off the deck and dinner. Since Heron Island is in the tropics, the sun moves a bit quicker and the sunset from the sun touching the horizon to gone happened in a couple of minutes. Some of you may be like, "doesn't that always happen?" No, it doesn't. Watch the sunset and you will be like, "wow, it takes its sweet time going down." After the sunset, there was a bit of resting before heading to dinner which our local chef, Pat, is amazing at making. That concludes my first day on Heron and I honestly think I will enjoy being on the island more than in the water. Seeing all I can (birds, land features, and things on the beach) and wandering around is one of my favorite things to do. I love looking out over the water and seeing all sorts of stuff and the fish being natural out in the water. Don't get me wrong, snorkeling is cool but I am more of a breathe air instead of salt water kind of guy and inhaling salt water comes with every snorkel session.
I am the guy whose name is on the top there. I am a student who graduated with a BA from USU this year and finally gave in to Dr. Atwood's pestering to go on her Heron Island Class for coral reefs. People often call me really sassy and unhappy. What they don't know is that my resting face is angry, but I am usually pretty happy.