This blog is not going to be one that is as detailed by every minute of the day. I want to write at the time and people here at Heron as a whole. Time to give my appreciation:
*Zach- This guy is one of a kind. He knows how to make a crowd laugh no matter what the circumstances. Being roommates with him my entire time is Sydney was one hell of a great time! A guy who I hope is never a stranger!
*Russ- Oh man, talk about someone who knows how to party. This dude can melt the heart with a Celine Dion serenade, and always knows the best way to wake people up in the morning, Shakira on full blast!
*Clark- Never a dull conversation. When times are quiet, Clark knows how to spark up a conversation that will have people bent over laughing! A great time with this guy on the trip.
*Kenen- Talk about a natural in the water. Snorkeling with this guy was like watching a seal in its natural habitat, gliding through the water. So elegant..
*Sam- One of those guys who does not say much, but when he does, no one can keep the tears of laughter out of there eyes. Just a naturally well-spoken guy all around who has one liners on tap!
*Cat- She is a badass. Not only would she bare knuckle box a bear, but she actually took a break from one of her naps, and then came back haha! She always makes sure everyone is doing okay and knows how to work smarter not harder.
*Jeni- Another badass. One of those people who you never know what they are thinking, but will jump at any opportunity to have fun! She is a good and honest soul who you can never call a bluff on.
*Hailey- One of the most lively people on the trip for sure. Always a contagious laugh with her. She may not like many of us due to how much we all mess with her (jk), but she is a funny and all around great person to keep around. One of my voice impression supporters, I'm here for it.
*Katie- Do not let the smile fool you, she is a silent killer... Just kidding haha. It was a highlight for anybody to get Katie to laugh because her reactions were always priceless and the laugh was contagious!!
*Janna- Someone who did not open up much, but never had anything bad to say about anyone! Always super nice, friendly, and conquered fears head on.
*Nora- A true conversation starter. Talking about when meals would be silent and you would hear, "So what is your favorite cheese?" Out of the blue. Always a wildcard that turns out fun.
*Brynn- She has been a soldier through all the stuff we have thrown at her this trip haha! She has been with Zach, Russ, and I since we got to AUS and has always joked and laughed with us no matter what. One of those people you feel like you have been friends with your whole life. Another one of my impression supporters.
*Pat (of course)- this man, this man... I do not know how I am going to go back and not have his glorious food. Everything he cooked was nothing slighter than perfection. We will all miss you more than you know Pat!
This trip was all around amazing. I still cannot believe that I had the opportunity to do this and was actually able to! I have made the most of every second of this trip, and really do not want to leave:( I wish I could do a whole semester on this island. It is small enough to feel isolated, but big enough to have an awesome community on it. The Great Barrier Reef exceeded all of my expectations and I will never take it for granted. From the people, to the wildlife, the research, Edd/Trisha, and especially to my new friends, I will never forget this paradise.
Another separate shout out to Grace. I have always dreamed of coming to this amazing country, and none of this would have been possible without her. She showed me this program back in the fall and I jumped right on it without knowing anything about it. Thank you so much Grace!
Today was a great last day on the island. I got in the water twice and delivered an exquisite presentation on invertebrate abundance in relation to coral health. The night is finishing off with games of Paranoia, and it only makes leaving here tomorrow harder. Luckily I have another day or two with some of these guys/gals. To those reading, do not be a stranger in the fall!
Heron Island Squad 2019, for the rest of my life. One love!
Well today was humdinger of a hoot and a holler. The day started at 4am when Clark and I woke up to the sound of rain pouring down onto the island. We became a little skeptical on if the morning swim was still on. I went out to the usual meeting spot and asked Edd what the plan was, and he told me that he would go check the water visibility and come back. In the meantime I went back and told the guys that it was worth getting ready just in case we were going to send it. Edd came back with the news that it was just clear enough to go out. Suited and booted, us bros went out to the jetti. BOYS TRIP! It was pretty murky all the way through, but we did manage to spot all three species of turtle and some pretty big grouper.
After the snorkel and a nice boiling shower (not by choice, the water here is bipolar), it was time for breakfast. Our dearest Pat made us what is best described as egg muffins and beans with lentil. Chef Gordon Ramsey himself would have tasted it and said, "It's f****** fantastic." Once brekie (as Edd calls it) was down and digested, it was onto our final projects. I did manage to put down two muffins before getting back to work. I was hungry sooo...
Russ, Zach, and I finished up most of our project by lunch, and that's pretty much it for this part of the blog.
We had pasta for lunch that hit the spawt... I spelled spot wrong because that is how tasty is was. Lunch was pretty quick and then it was onto some downtime since we finished our project early. I then ate two more muffins because I was hungry still. Zach and I walked around the island picking up plastic to add for the Plastic Challenge. The Plastic Challenge is: the two people who collect the most plastic out of the sea/beach/island gets a really nice Heron Island water bottle. Once we got bored, it was still a lot of downtime. Russ, Zach, and I headed out to the jetti to chill out over the water and take glam shots. Hailey later joined us and we all chilled for about an hour.
At 4:30pm, Edd wanted to get group photos of everyone on the trip. We took a bunch of class photos on the beach and dock. It was a good time with some good laughs! By the time dinner rolled around, it was already getting dark. It seems to be the norm around here that we all cry of laughter at least once a day at some meal (mostly dinner). Dinner tonight was some crazy good yellow chicken curry with rice, it was coitus... Pat brought out was literally called, "Orange caramel chocolate smash." It smashed. Hailey ended up laughing so hard at one point that she (even though she denies it) lasered whipped cream out of her nose. Classic.
The day has now come to a close. Zach, Russ, Brynn, Hailey, Catie, and I are all vibing with some good jams outside while writing these blogs. Tomorrow is the last full day here on Heron Island:( Got to make that last day count!!! I am still hungry...
p.s. there are quite a few pics
Okay so not much happened over the course of the day. I woke up at 7:30am and went to breakfast at 8am. Immediately after breakfast it was straight into the lab. Zach, Russ, and I were analyzing our sediment core samples until lunch at noon. Spending that much time looking into a microscope will do the eyes dirty. I was relieved when lunch time came around because it was a chance for us 3 guys to give our eyes a break and be able to step away from the lab. However, as soon as lunch was over it was straight back in the lab until 4:30pm. Another four hours of looking through a microscope trying to pick out invertebrates from sediment. We, the 3 bros, then sat down outside at a table with Katie and Hailey and began writing our lab report.
At five we all went down to the dock to watch the sunset like we do every night. There really was no sunset because the clouds decided to be testy and cover the whole sky. On top of that it was windy like a sports arena... get it? all those fans... ha. Despite the clouds and wind, Russ and I decided to deliver a lovely serenade of Celine Dion's My Heart Will Go On. And yes, it was on key.
Dinner tonight was a melt in your mouth pot roast with tasty potatoes, vegetables, and a mandarin cake for dessert. Everyone was pretty zonked at dinner, but it is only 7pm. So now we're just writing blogs and pretty soon it will be back to writing the report. Go team
Today was a beautiful and windy day here at Heron. A bunch of people chose to go scuba diving in the morning so no one went on the snorkel. It was nice to sleep in a little bit, given the fact that I was starting to catch a cold. Breakfast was at 7:30am and the scuba trip was scheduled at 9am. I was excited to have a couple hours of free time while most people went out on the dive. I am not scuba certified and there was no way I was coughing up 350 dollars for a discovery dive, even though it would be awesome to scuba dive. I asked Edd earlier in the day what the best way to run around the island is, since I have seen him do it. Once the scuba trip set out, I threw on my running shoes and headed out to the jetti.
I figured that after eating all the delicious food Pat makes for us, it was time to try and burn some of it off. I also just wanted to be able to say to people that I have ran on an island in the middle of the ocean.. hehe.. It was pretty windy on the west side of the island which was a bit annoying, but once I came around the bend onto the North Beach it was beautiful. The sun had cleared away from the clouds and the strong winds had ceased. I made it all the way around, and then turned back for another lap. The feeling of running on the sand and looking out to see nothing but water was a humbling and peaceful experience. In total it was just over 2 miles, not too bad.
I still had about an hour until the scuba trip got back. I came to the island saying that any free time I had, I would go plant my ass on a beach and not worry about a thing. That is exactly what I did. I walked out to the North Beach where there was no wind and unobstructed sun light. I laid on the beach for an hour with the sound of the waves running up onto the shore putting me to sleep. I returned to the research station at 10:30 and had morning tea that Pat had set out. Luckily the tea has been helping me fight off this cold that is trying to sneak up on me like a hamstring cramp.
Lunch was at noon and it was a meal full of laughs and delicious burritos. Although our lectures and labs are technically completed for the class, we still have research projects and a final report due. My group (Zach, Russ, and I) are researching if there is difference in the number of invertebrates surrounding different types of coral and coral health. We needed to wait until low tide in order to collect our sediment core samples, so we killed time by playing card games with some others. Once low tide hit Zach and I set out to the Research Beach and started collecting samples. Russ went on the afternoon dive and actually got to see a massive Manta Ray!! Everybody was jealous...
After collecting our samples and getting cleaned up, we met Russ in the lab and started going through our samples with microscopes. As we do every night, everyone walked out to the jetti to watch the sunset. It was beautiful as always seeing the sun dip below the horizon over the ocean. Dinner was ready for us at 6pm and nobody was upset with Pat's choice. A nice phat pot of lasagna. I put down three whole plates and slammed the dessert down as well. We started to play the game F*** Marry Kill towards the end of dinner. It was quite the show given some of the choices we had to make. There was a point where Russ and I were debating on one of the choices and had people in tears from laughing... It was a great night.
The night came to a close with more time spent sifting through our sediment samples, writing this blog, and now about to go look at the stars from the dock. Russ, Zach, Hailey and I have discovered that laying down on the dock is the best way to look because 1) it is comfy 2) doesn't strain the neck , and 3) it blocks the howling winds !!! We do not have too much time left here at Heron, so now it is more important then ever to make the most of our time here :)
Okay I'm tired goodnight
Okay there is a lot to cover on the blog today, because there was quite a series of event that unfolded.
First off, Russ and I were the only ones to join Edd on the morning snorkel. We walked through the howling winds and cool air out to the jetti. After making the mistake yesterday to not wear socks with my fins for the outer reef snorkel, my toes were beaten and bloody. I planned to double up on socks to protect the blisters and cuts, but managed to forget them back at the research station... Instead of running back and delaying the swim, I sucked it up and strapped myself in. We dove into the water and meandered our way out to the shipwreck. Along the way we saw huge guitar sharks, a couple larger Spotted Eagle Rays, turtles (as usual), and a very odd shark known as the Wobbegong. I managed to make it through the snorkel and took a nice hot shower after. Breakfast was a stupendous egg frittata and breakfast beans made by the hands of Pat himself. I really wish I had not forgotten my socks on the morning swim because they were once again beaten and bloody, and we had two more snorkel trips planned for the day.
Now this is where it gets very interesting. We were conducting a coral health lab today, measuring the health of the coral based on the brightest and darkest shades of color that each coral possessed. I was about waist deep into the water, about to dive in, when everyone on the beach spotted a large dark figure approaching Trisha in the water. Thinking it was a lemon shark, and it only being about 8 feet away, I was about to throw myself into the water to see it, not the case... Coming right at the feet of Trisha was a 10-11 foot Tiger shark. The general rue for Tiger sharks is get out of the water as quickly and calmly as possible. As soon as Trisha noticed it, the beast turned out to the lagoon, directly at Zach and Hailey who had already swam out to the reef patches. For the next thirty seconds, the only words coming out of anyone's mouth was, "TIGER SHARK!! GET OUT OF THE WATER!!!!" Zach took off in a full stride toward the shore leaving Hailey in the dust behind him, but he was nice and stopped for a second to check for her. But it is every man for himself in this case, which was clear when people yelled, "DON'T F****** LOOK BACK!!" They both made it back to shore, and everybody with a little shaken and excited at the same time.
The lab continued on after about ten minutes of waiting for Tiger to clear the area. My partner Kennan and I had only gotten through two coral patches before Edd told us it was too sketchy to be out, and that we were finishing up early. We came back, cleaned up, and went into a lecture instead. The lecture concluded at noon, and we went straight into lunch. Pat cooks a mean quinoa burger, let me tell ya. The plan after lunch was to have our final boat trip to the outer reef :(. Suited and booted, we all hopped on the boat and embarked. I did not realize sitting on the back side of the boat meant getting sprayed with salt water the entire time... oh well \_('_')_/
We went to a spot on the reef we had never been to before, an area called Blue Pools. Basically there are the openings in the reef wall the leads back into these beautiful pools of vibrant coral and marine life. It was truly incredible. I chose to not take a GoPro with me on the final swim because I did not want to be distracted from what was right in front of me. I wanted to see everything for the last time with my own eyes without trying to focus on a camera. Although there is one point that I wish I had a camera. Trisha and I dove down to the bottom of a massive coral structure and found the biggest turtle both of us had ever seen. It was a HUGE Loggerhead that was nestled down, with a couple remora hanging on to its back. Edd reckoned the shell was about four to five feet long. The head of this turtle itself had to be the size of a basketball. It was something that I will never forget. Towards the end of the swim I wanted to free dive a little more into the deep. I started diving down to deeper water and gliding across the bottom in short increments. I would guess I made it about 30-35 feet down, but I did not want to push it any farther (even though I think I could have;) )
The sunset was absolutely beautiful and I am sure Pat's dinner will be deliciously delightful! Till tomorrow...
I feel obligated to inform my readers that I am very tired from a long day of snorkeling so this blog will be a little shorter. My condolences.
The morning snorkel today was the best one yet in regards to fish spotting. It was a smaller group that went out on this crystal clear morning. We headed out at 6:15am and stayed out for around an hour. We managed to see cow tail sting rays, all 3 species of turtle, many large reef fish, baby blacktip reef sharks, and a huge abundance of guitar sharks hanging out under the dock. I managed to get really close to and swim along side a green sea turtle for a good thirty seconds. When I say close, I mean within inches. I am surprised how close they let you get to them if you know the way. Going to fast and acting like a predator..? My queen, that is not the way. I saw my first hawsbill turtle, and a massive Loggerhead! At the end of the swim, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a massive figure that lad to be close to seven feet from one side to the other. Everyone started to freak out, because we thought it was a Manta Ray!! It was not... However, it turned out to be a huge Spotted Eagle Ray, which was just as awesome. Along the way back we swam over many guitar sharks and I swam close up to a group of baby blacktips near the beach.
To shorten this a little bit, you should have no doubt that Pat took care of our appetites today. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were all masterpieces that created a field of joy throughout my taste buds.
We went out to the outer reef again today! I enjoyed this swim more than the last one because of the area we went to. The boat dropped us off at a spot called Coral Canyons, which is exactly what it sounds like. The reef had these little canyons where the sea floor would cut between huge coral walls. The best part was actually being able to free dive down and swim along the bottom with coral walls towering over all sides of you. Absolutely breathtaking.... The second dive spot was deeper waters and we were able to see more turtles and a couple sharks. Also found an anemone with a couple Nemos in it!!! I got a bunch of GoPro videos that I am super excited to show people when I get home!
We got back at 4pm, showered, played a game called Coup, watched the sunset, had a lecture on Megafauna, and now I am here falling asleep writing this blog. Tomorrow we do a coral reef watch lab, and another trip to the outer reef. I must say, that is the way.
p.s. "That is the way my queen" if from a video called Ugandan Knuckles... its a common impression here on the island with Russ and I.
Heluber, nice to see you here again reading my blog. Well today was a bright an early start without an early morning snorkel:( We had an early breakfast at 7 am so the 6:30 am snorkel would not have been long enough to see anything worth while. If you are curious why the title and my greeting are "Heluber," it all started when the world's first submarine Uber docked at Heron Island. It is called the scUber. Thereon, there is a helicopter on the island, and Clark, Brynn, Hailey, and I all came up with the idea of a helicopter Uber, thus was born the Heluber. (other people's blogs are titles pt. 1 and pt. 3)
Breakfast was no let down as usual. Pat gracefully cooked up a perfectly fried egg on a bed of sweet potato hash browns. Soooooooo good! Breakfast was pretty brief given the fact that we had to catch the low tide out in the lagoon in order to conduct our lab experiment. We were suited and booted by 7:45am and headed straight for Shark Bay.
This lab was to observe the abundance of all fish species swimming around the reef at high and low tide. The hypothesis is that all fish species are more abundant at high tide, due to the fact that predators have a harder time catching pray in a larger volume of water. My partner, Nora, and I set up a 30 meter transect line that stretched across the sea floor. We took our GoPro camera and swam over the line and patch reefs to video the abundance of fish in the water. After completing that portion, we headed back into the teaching lab to begin recording our data.
We had lunch at noon, which was the best damn chicken salad on a baguette that I have ever had! Pat once again filled our faces with delight. However, as soon as we finished our food, it was back to the water by 1! This time we were doing the measurement in low tide, so we only had to put on swim suits and wet shoes. We conducted the same experiment, only this time we just had to walk along the line with the camera under the water. Once we finished up in the water for the day, we headed back to the teaching lab and wrote up our lab reports.
It came to be about 5pm when we all finished up our analysis and reports. Everyone knows 5pm on Heron Island is sunset time! A bunch of us headed out to the jetti to watch the sun go down below the horizon, with rays of golden light sneaking out through the clouds. It was a beautiful sky the whole evening, with cotton candy color clouds and the orange light still coming out over the horizon after the sun had set. The jetti is also where we saw the "scUber."
Dinner here seems to always be a fun time with everybody. I think it is a mixture of fatigue, hunger, satisfaction, and all around happiness to be here. Pat made us a braised beef/mushroom bake with a potato and cheese crust on top, alongside a bed of sweetly steamed broccoli. We shared stories, talked about movies, cracked jokes, and apparently people get a kick out of some of the voices/accents I can do, who knew \_('_')_/ Dessert was again fantastic and the day has now come to a close. A lot of people are here in the library writing blogs, or over in the teaching lab studying. Yet again, another beautiful and amazing day here on the island. Can not wait for tomorrow where we venture back out into the outer reef!
Green, orange, red, blue, purple, and that's the blog.... nahhh I'm just playin even though those are true colors *crowd laughs* okay let us begin with this exquisitely exquisite day. Well it started off on the rough side due to the fact that Russ's phone died overnight so there were no 70's lady jams to spring out of bed to :/ but it did let us sleep in a little longer which was much needed. Turns out everyone slept in a bit because Ed was the only one to go out on the morning snorkel. I woke up and saw a bit of rain coming down and a windy amount of wind blowing the greenery about, so I went back to sleep. I told myself that I was going to go on every morning snorkel, but sometimes your body needs a break. Eventually waking up at 7 am, breakfast was set for 7:30.
Pat made us a delicious variation of breakfast burritos/beans and the freshest fruit to be cut since 1942 when Columbus sailed the ocean blue *crowd applauds*. The man never ceases to bring smiles to the faces of anyone he cooks for. Once breakfast was over, the schedule had to be changed around because of the rough seas and strong winds. Instead of boating to the outer reef in the morning, and lecture in the afternoon, Ed and Trisha swapped them around. Now we had about two hours of free time to chill after breakfast, and chill we did. Zach, Russ, and I all headed down to the beach next to the jetti to relax and do some studying. Zach and I set up some towels on the beach and laid in the sand while reading up on the articles that would relate to the fish lecture. Russ set up his hammock under the jetti and I'm pretty sure dozed off. Once our free time was up, it was time for lecture.
Trisha led an awesome discussion/lecture of the different species of fish we had seen and should expect to see around the reef. After the lecture was over, Pat had a chick pea and lentil burrito with coleslaw ready for us to devour with pure delight. Now it was time to suit up for what we have all been itching to do, boat out to the outer reef for a long snorkel!!
I guess I am the meat head of the group, and I know that because not only did Ed tell me, but i was assigned to give the boat a "little push" to help it get free from the sand. To be honest I am happy I was able to do it because I would have been ashamed if I was not able to perform under all the pressure haha! After a quick boat ride, we made it to the outer reef. The pictures of the Great Barrier Reef do not do it justice when you are actually swimming right over it. The "true colors" of the reef are magnificent. Being able to free dive down and get up and close to the coral and marine life is an indescribable feeling. Knowing that you are witnessing the worlds largest living structure and the fish that live in it is just wild. I guess it is an alright place to find yourself, I mean I have a swimming pool so it pretty much just a larger version of that ... *awkward silence* nahhh I'm just playin again.
Our boat driver took us to two separate dive spots on the reef, each with abundant marine life and thriving corals. My favorite thing to do on any of our snorkel trips is just to take a big breath and dive under to get up close to the reef and see as much as I can from as close as I can get. Plus, there is just something really satisfying being down at the seafloor with meters of open water above you. After being in the water for around an hour and a half, we climbed in the boat and came back in. We cleaned up, downloaded the pictures off our GoPros, and went to dinner.
Pat whipped us up a huge pasta bake with a nice salad and coleslaw. For dessert it was a tasty slice of cake with chocolate moouse and coconut on top. Nothing less than perfection it was. Everybody, including me, seemed exhausted after the day was complete. To be honest I put all the effort I had left from the day into this blog and I am about to fall asleep on my keyboard. Sooooo yeah it was an awesome day and that's goodnight from Heron Island!
p.s. jellyfish can hop off and quit stinging me... that's twice now... next time I'm throwing hands
There is no wake up call that will get you more ready to enjoy a day on the island than the Banana Song on full volume echoing through the dorm room. Russ knows how to get us all vibing for the day. The morning swim was set to take place at 6:15 am and we needed to be back by 7:15 am for one of Pat's beautiful creations. Well what was supposed to be an hour snorkel along the jetty reef shelf turned out to be a 15 minute swim of not being able to see five feet in front of you and waves sending water straight down the snorkel. We plopped into the water and immediately saw how murky the water was and how strong the current was. About 15 yards off shore Ed, Zach, Hailey, and I all turned into a big swimming sandwich with the waves crashing us into each other. The entire group tried to follow Ed as he guided us out as best as we could, but it became common to have to look out up above the water in order to find each other. When we all made the decision to cut the swim short, Zach and I made a b-line for the shore but found ourselves basically swimming sideways trying to swim a straight line! Once we got back to the beach, it was clear that it was time for hot tea and a hot shower.
Breakfast was at 7:30 and you already know what's up... the amazing Pat was back at it ready to feed us until we dropped. We all walked into to an array of fresh eggs, fried mushrooms with spinach, fresh fruit, muffins, and coffee/tea. After scarfing down two plates worth and a whole loaf of toast, it was time to begin the lecture and lab for the day. Ed is a great teacher and was really enthusiastic with getting us familiar with the different types of invertebrates that the lab was going to be covering. After 800 million years of evolution was crammed into a 45 minute lecture, it was time to suit up and head out to the north beach.
Today's lab was actually pretty awesome! I was paired up with Cat and we killed it as a team. The objective of the lab was to take sediment core samples along a 20 meter transect line, with each sample being drawn at marks of 0-m, 5-m, and 10-m. Even though it was only waist deep crystal clear water, we had to strap on the masks and dive under to force the syringe into the sediment. Taking into account the strong winds and constant waves, it made this portion of the lab quite a show! After everybody finished up in the water we headed back to change and get ready to spend a good 4 hours in the lab. The objective was now to take our sediment samples and place them under a microscope to find all the tiny invertebrates living in them. Live organisms that we got to find and pick out!!! Since everybody got their own microscope, Cat and I were able to bust out that portion pretty quick. Some people took longer than others but eventually everyone finished the analysis and lab report by 5pm. Just enough time to run out to the dock and sea a semi-sunset. Semi because it was super cloudy today:( We did manage however to spot a big "stingray cuddle puddle" from the dock! It had to be about twenty cowhead stingrays all laying in the sand in a big blob right under the dock!! Not to mention we also got to watch a bunch of baby blacktip reef sharks cross under us. From the front of the dock we managed to pick out a small group of spotted eagle rays gliding by. The wind made it super cold out, which was weird for being on this warm tropical island \_('-')_/ Anyway the few of us that were out there came back to change and get ready for dinner.
I forgot to mention earlier but Pat made an exquisite lunch for us as well. He is out here putting us all in food comas and we could not be more happy about it:) Anyway now let us talk about the amazing feast he prepared for us. The aroma of the deliciousness spread out the windows which we could smell while walking up to the kitchen. We were greeted by bowls of roast beef with carrots along with green beans/carrots/cauliflower, and a nice big plate of potatoes. One great thing about Pat (aside from all the other great things) is he always makes enough to go back for more. For dessert he brought out an AMAZING chocolate mousse with fresh berries and an orange slice on top. The man knows how to give people food babies. Dinner in all was just a really fun time! The first few nights was mainly people being quiet and kind of feeling out the crowd, but tonight the table was filled with jokes and good fun:) We were all cracking so many jokes and laughing so hard that Hailey almost died trying to take a drink out of her wattle bottle haha! All in all it was an awesome, fun, and tiring day. Just another day out here going to school in paradise!
his morning was one I will always remember. There was a chain of events that created something that I will remember for my whole life. The day started early when I woke up to the Pussy Cat Dolls blaring out of my roommates alarm. I would be lying if I told you it was not a great start to the day. After waking up and getting our wet suits on, we all set out to the boat jetty at 6:30am. With the sun about to crest over the horizon, the water was crystal clear and calm. Without even getting into the water yet, I could spot stingrays and turtles swimming around the boat dock. The excitement in everybody showed as many of us were racing to get into the water. What this snorkel had in store for us was truly amazing.
Immediately after getting in the water, my snorkel buddy Cat and I set off to follow behind our instructor who was guiding the swim. We were not even one minute into the swim and I had seen more wild stingrays and turtles than I had ever seen in my whole life!!! We swam under the boat dock and out to a shipwreck that is about 100 meters off the island. Swimming over and beside all the marine life in the Great Barrier Reef is truly an indescribable experience.
I began seeing more and more marine life as we got into deeper waters and out to a larger part of the reef. We saw everything from small needle fish, to green sea turtles, to cow-head stingrays, and even blacktip reef sharks!
The ship wreck is incredible and to be able to be close enough to actually swim into the top part of it was awesome. The amount of marine life that congregate around it is breathtaking. The swim continued around the boat and that is where we started to see the sharks. We began a slow meander back into shallower waters and every other minute someone would be pointing out a blacktip reef shark leisurely brushing past the coral reef and seafloor. My biggest fear in life is sharks, but I have to say all I wanted to do was get closer to it and find more! Swimming back to shore, we saw more stingrays, sharks, and turtles. I am so excited for these morning snorkels everyday for the rest of the trip!
The day continued on to another one of Pat's absolutely amazing creations of food. Seriously, Pat Williams is the best chef to ever walk the earth. Not only is he an artist in making meals for us, he is the coolest and nicest guy! We had a huge classic breakfast and then it was time for class. Trisha delivered a great lecture on the introduction to reef morphology and told us about the lab we would be conducting that day. After class we had about two hours of free time to do what we wanted around the island. Myself along with my friends/roommates Russ and Zach all went to the North Beach on the island. It was absolutely gorgeous. Nothing bust soft sand and crystal blue water out to the horizon. We took lots of pictures and laid out on the beach hoping to get a little bit of a tan. Those Utah winters can really pale you out. We hung out on the beach for about an hour and a half, and then it was time for lunch.
Let me tell you something else about chef Pat, he knows how to make a mean Mexican style lunch. We all walked into the kitchen and were greeted by a huge tray of fresh supreme nachos, beans, vegetable salad, and muffins! If you come to Heron Island on the study abroad trip, be excited for the food just as much as the reef. After demolishing about three plates of nachos and beans, it was time for lab. We went out to the west end of the island to the shallow waters where we set up transect lines 30 meters off shore and measured the benthic cover in quadrant squares we had placed on the seafloor every 10 meters. The goal was to measure how much sediment, coral, rock, and algae covered the seafloor where we set the quadrant down. This gives us an idea of the benthic cover as we get closer to shore and into shallower water. My partner Hailey and I had mainly sand in our quadrant most of the time, but eventually started getting moral coral as we went farther out.After finishing up in the water, we went back into the teaching lab and did our lab write up and field analysis. Once all the school work was finished, it most more free time.
Russ, Zach, Hailey, Nora, and I all went to an area called Shark Bay. We saw a huge amount of stingrays and guitar sharks (which live up to the name). The sun began to set shortly after so we made our way to the dock to enjoy the beautiful sunset over the open ocean. Then it was onto more food!
Once again, Pat came in with a mouthwatering couscous and Mongolian chicken meal, topped off with a delicious cake and vanilla custard dessert. Now its more time to hang out, enjoy the stars, and write our blogs. Tomorrow should be another amazing day and I could not be more excited!!!!