Today we did another outer reef trip! It was out of this world, absolutely my favorite reef we visited so far. The corals were incredibly diverse and there were so many fish! We all had a blast exploring and taking our last look at the most beautiful place in the world. I reallllllllly did not want to go back on the boat. I just wanted to stay on that reef forever.
The gorgeous reef was not the only fun part, our boat guy (affectionately known as a boat b**ch-- don't get mad at me dad, that is a real term), Ben, was hilarious and took us on a crazy boat ride, hitting all the big waves and giving us all a good laugh! I am honestly surprised nobody fell out!
Not to mention we all did "party" tricks by free diving down a few meters and doing dance moves or flips and such. It sounds really stupid but I was laughing so hard, especially at Logan when he tried to do the worm...underwater.
We had our final presentations tonight for our research projects, everybody did so well! Unexpectedly, my group won best presentation mostly due to our hardcore stats that we included.
Our final night also included a "Trash-off", a competition to see who could pick up the most trash in the ocean or around the island during our 2 weeks here. It was so inspiring to see how much of a difference we could make with only a few people in a short amount of time!
SAVE THE PLANET!
Another beautiful day on Heron Island has passed. I can't believe tomorrow is the last day! I have had the most wonderful time here, getting to spend so much time studying and enjoying the Great Barrier Reef. I really just want to let everybody who is reading this know how much this reef means to me. And it should mean a lot to you too! Coral reefs are a delicate and very important part of our planet. The fact that we are endangering coral reefs breaks my heart, if we continue living the way we do (with no thought about our impact), we will lose this underwater oasis in the next 30 years or so. We have to decide if we can live with the consequences of this. No reefs means no fish, no sharks, no dolphins. Island nations will lose their primary source of food, and that will only be the beginning.
There are things we can do! And not everything is so difficult.
1) CARE. Show the planet how much you care by reducing waste! Buy less plastic (which never decomposes), compost your food instead of sticking it a plastic bag for eternity, buy less stuff in general.
2) Reduce your carbon output. Co2 is rapidly heating our planet and causes extensive coral bleaching, be part of the change and BIKE more, hang dry your clothes, or walk to the grocery store every once and awhile.
3) Educate yourself about human caused climate change and pledge to do something about it. Show people around you how important this is!!!
** For simple life style changes you can make, follow me on Instagram @tealsavesthewaves
1. reef with tons of fishies
2. shark in the background of our research footage
3. my group for the final research project
4. Clown fish in his anemone
5. Black tip reef shark
Today was the day for video analysis for all of our footage we managed to get without drowning in the waves yesterday. We used the program imageJ to set a scale and then measure fish size and then the distance they traveled from their coral patch. It was actually more fun than it sounds, and since I was still feeling sick I welcomed the break from snorkeling in the cold water. BUT we only have two days left so I will be forcing my body to get better and will be snorkeling as much as possible the next two days. We watched the sunset on the jetty (dock) and saw like 8 turtles hanging out in the lagoon. It was a relaxing and peaceful day. Ed and Trish even sat us all down and gave us academic and career advice which I really appreciated. While going through all the videos we had quite a few visitors! We got a curious angel fish, and beautiful spotted eagle ray, a sneaky shark in the background, and the cutest crab that buried himself in the sand right in front of our camera!
Today was rainy, cold day. And I caught a cold. So not my favorite day for snorkeling. But we are in the middle of our final project and we had research to do! So I bought super expensive cold medicine from the gift shop and sucked it up. The waves were chopping and I kept swallowing tons of salt water. But my group (Logan and Rachel) managed to get our transects laid, our go-pros set out, and buoys attached. The entire time we worked a 5 foot black tip reef shark circled us, wondering what we were doing. We also saw a few spotted eagle rays! The rest of the week is supposed to be rainy, cold, and windy. But nevertheless, I will keep doubling up my wet suit and try to survive. Don't expect me to be tan when I get home---maybe just my face and hands!
Today I checked a major thing off my mental bucket list; scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef! It really was everything I ever imagined. Towering cathedrals of multicolored coral and thousands of tropical fish. 45 minutes never felt so short! There was this insanely blue anemone with a family of clown fish living in it...a blue so bright I never thought nature could produce something like that. Huge puffer fish, and this giant grouper bigger than me. I saw a large octopus, completely blending in with his surroundings. And most spectacularly, we saw a MANTA RAY (from the boat only, unfortunately). But he was HUGE, at least a 10 foot wingspan. My dive buddy, Logan, used a red filter on his go pro and his footage is amazing! I will get that from him before we leave and I will post some screenshots. Brady---we have to get a red filter. I took our go pro down and the video sucks in comparison, the colors are too washed out and it might as well be a lake with brown coral.
Another day has passed here on Heron Island. The days end so quickly here, as the sun sets by 5:30 pm every day. We did fish counts at low tide and high tide today, calculating the differences in the abundance of fish at each time of the day. I thought it was so interesting to see how many more fish come in at high tide! After our research was done, my buddy and me stuck around to snorkel all over the reef. We saw so many fish, but the highlight of my day was this beautiful sea anemone, with a big old cinnamon clown fish viciously guarding it, upon closer inspection we found teeny tiny BABY CLOWN FISH! I died. I have never been so gleeful! Great day today, but tomorrow we DIVE.
Another outer reef trip today, and this time I brought the go-pro. But I probably will only bring it once more, on the scuba trip on Tuesday, because I hate focusing on taking videos and what not. I plan on stealing our photographers photos, if possible.
Tonikaku, the dive was great today! Beautiful, healthy reefs, with thousands of fish. I swam through this HUGE school of fish which were all bright blue, just like the water. No crazy wildlife, but more fish than I have ever seen! However, the current was VERY strong, I am just positively knackered now.
Speaking of fish, we had a species ID test today and I got 100%. This surprised me, especially. It goes to show, when you love what you are studying you pay a hell of a lot more attention.
The outer reef took my breath away. I have never seen a reef like this, and I probably will never see one like this again. The sheer amount of diversity, both in corals and fish, was astonishing. The first thing I saw was a four foot black tip reef shark dodging in and out of schools of fish. Then I looked down. Huge plate corals stretching across the ocean floor, massive coral towers creating caverns, neon sea anemones with a family of clown fish darting in and out. A group of squid, changing colors as they moved. Sea turtles munching on jellies for lunch. Diving down, I saw huge groupers, and massive sting rays about the same size as me. Despite our group invading the space, it was business as usual on the Southern Great Barrier Reef.
I wish I could describe this more accurately, and the pictures won't do it justice. Just know that you have to come see this. There is nothing like it in the world. I am having a great time here, and I can't wait for our dive tomorrow on the outer reef once again! I will take more pictures!!
Also, the stars are insane here at night. Tom and Tibble, the professional photographers got some mad pictures of stars tonight. I will have access to those later, I believe.
I finally have some underwater pictures to offer you! I went out on a fantastic early morning snorkel this morning. I saw a red octopus, creeping in his little cave. I saw a wobbegang shark (you cannot convince me that the Aussie's didn't name that one), plenty of sea turtles and sting rays to boot. I also saw, and attempted to video a white tip reef shark, but somehow completely failed to do so. The reef near the island is beautiful and very diverse, but tomorrow we are going out on the boat to visit the outer reef and THAT is what I came for. Show me the Great Barrier. Bring it on.
We also did another lab today, this time testing how many invertebrates were in sediment cores taken from different distances from the reef. I thought it was quite challenging to get the sediment cores, and even more so to find the tiny worms and things in the sediment after examining them under a microscope.
Without missing a beat, the lot of us was in the water at sunrise ready to see our first glimpse of the famed Great Barrier Reef. It did not disappoint. Though I will, because I forgot the go-pro and have zero underwater pictures to offer you today. Though the visibility was low, the water was choppy and cold, I jumped straight in...and about ate a jelly fish. There were heaps of tiny ones floating all around us. Then I swam with about 5 different sea turtles, followed two huge sting rays, gazed at numerous giant clams, and countless other creatures and corals.
The afternoon was dedicated to research. We swam out to the crest of the reef and measured the different sections of using a transect line and a quadrat, determining the percent ratios of several different types of benthic covers. It was exciting and different to have something to focus on in addition to the beautiful reef.
Everyday, at low tide, the reef is exposed to the surface. It rather looks like a bunch of dead coral, or brown rocks, but it is in face part of the living reef. My instructor, Trish, was telling me that the type of coral that is exposed has a special mucus that is excreted to protect the coral from being damaged during this time, and or course all of the zooxanthellae are safely tucked away for the exposure.
Heron Island looks like just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the mainland, but I was surprised to see that that from the shores of this oasis, Australia is just barely visible. After a 2 hour ferry ride from Gladstone, we saw the reef sticking out of the low tide surrounding Heron Island, our home for the next 10 days. It is a first for me, being in such a remote location. The calls of hundreds of different bird species surround us, the only permanent residents on this isle. The sunset was stunning, setting just over the blurred outline of the mainland, contrasting with the glassy water of the Coral Sea. We played in the water at dusk, and to us amateurs, everything looks like a deadly cone snail. I'm quite knackered now, but I am looking forward to our first snorkel, first thing in the morning.