Day 5: night snorkel and Fernandez Bay
Today’s post is by Brian Spangler:
Our last blog entry ended with a bit of a cliff hanger. We were planning on doing a night snorkel and for many of us it was our first night snorkel. To sum up the feelings of everybody present the thought of getting in the water at night with little visibility, lionfish and the possibility of riding a wave into a reef was “awsifying” (terrifying and awesome all at the same time). We grabbed our snorkel gear and hiked a short distance to the dump reef since the research center does not allow classes to take the trucks out after dark. We got to the dump reef eager to get into the water however when we arrived at the beach we discovered that the tide had come in and we were left with a rocky shore, no beach and waves crashing against the rocks. After a few moments of thought our intrepid professors decided that it was not the best idea to undergo a night snorkel with a bunch of students who were new to night snorkeling. But all was not lost, we decided to hike to the pier where our first snorkel ended to night snorkel in an area with less wave action and a beach instead of jagged rocks to wash up on. On this leg of the night snorkel we saw a sea turtle and a few squirrel fish. The night snorkel expedition lasted about five minutes due to low visibility, not a whole lot of marine life present and a lot of insects. Because of these circumstances the night snorkel was aborted and we decided to take some well-deserved R&R.
After a morning full of studying the names of the fish, algae and the coral that we have seen and become well acquainted with over the past five days we set out for Fernandez Bay in order to see the marine organisms living there. The trip to Fernandez Bay was different from our other trips due to the fact that we were downgraded from one of the best trucks of the Gerace Research Center’s fleet to truck R (which was not one of the best trucks of the Gerace Research Center’s fleet). On the trip to the bay there was a general consensus to commandeer our old truck when we pulled up next to it in the town just minutes away from the bay. Once at the bay we got in the water and snorkeled to the patch reef. On our surface swim to the reef there were juvenile Stripped and princess parrotfish, various algae including Padina, sargassum, and acetabularia a flying Ganard and a golden tail moray ell hiding in the cracks and the crevices of the shallow rocks. When we got out to the fringe reefs our professors were greeted with a sight that was the most horrifying for one and the coolest for the other. This sight was an eight foot hammerhead shark. Somehow all of the students were not able to hear the shouts of excitement and terror in order to see the hammerhead. Instead our attention was turned toward the absolute beauty of the patch reef that we had snorkeled to. Amidst the corals there were large schools of schoolmasters and yellowtail goat fish. Amidst these schools there were squirrelfish, french grunts, blue tangs, ocean surgeonfish, stoplight parrotfish, a Nassau grouper, blue chromis, yellowtail damselfish, bicolor damselfish, banded butterflyfish and multiple southern rays. On our snorkel back we were graced by the presence of a Caribbean squid and at the intertidal pool we saw many brittle sea stars (including one that was bright orange) many brightly colored, small crabs and a few sea biscuits. The trip back to the research center consisted of everyone singing everything from Bohemian Rhapsody to I believe I can fly. Tonight consists of identifying all of the various marine organisms that we caught on camera at Fernandez Bay today. Tomorrow consists of snorkeling at a fringe reef and exploring the main lighthouse on the island and the lighthouse cave.