Day 11: San Sal… The Final Frontier
Today’s post is by Sara Urbanski:
These are the voyages of seven UNH students. Their twelve day mission: to seek out the interactions between fish and algae and to boldly go where no UNH undergrad has gone before. (Cue Star Trek intro music)….
Today is our last full day on San Salvador. This morning we all woke up at 5:15 to go see the sunrise on the beach, but when the alarm went off we realized it was cloudy and raining again, so we went back to bed. The rain cleared up and breakfast was scrumptious because the food supplies have been restocked. After breakfast we had a “final assessment” of the course. Most of us were worried about this exam because we did not know what to expect, but after three cleansing breaths in the beginning, it went well. We blew off some steam by going to Telephone Pole Reef to have a fun snorkel. We were followed by a barracuda the whole time, and we also saw some rock beauties (a fish), blue tangs, blue chromis, fairy basslet, a balloonfish, and yellowspotted rays. Most of us decided that on this last snorkel we weren’t going to wear our wetsuits, so we were rather cold, but definitely had a blast regardless. After about an hour of snorkeling, we looked into the sky and saw a sight that we have all come to hate: very dark clouds rolling in. Realizing that our towels and dry clothes were left on the back of the truck, we headed to shore at what started out as a slow pace, but quickly became a race when it started raining hard. I got out of the water quickly to try to save some of the towels and clothes by putting them in the cab, but the damage was already done. If we thought we were cold in the water, you guessed it….the rain made us freezing cold, only to be intensified by the huge droplets pelting us as we rode on the back of the truck to a sheltered place for lunch.
We went to Columbus Landing again to eat under the pavilion, but the rain had thankfully stopped. For lunch we were thankful to have strawberry jelly, turkey, and apples again. While we were excited about having that back, we are all rather sick of the same lunch and are craving home cooked meals, junk food, and particularly Olive Garden Breadsticks. Because of this, dead silence occurred as Dr. Kelly walked back from the truck with a bag of Deep Ridges Potato Chips. It was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. We all just looked at him with an awe of his junk food. When asked where he got them, he simply said “I bought it!” He nicely offered to share, so we feasted. The truck ride back to the research center consisted of listening to music, talking, and looking out at the turquoise water for one of the last times. We did not do an afternoon snorkel trip so that our gear can maybe, possibly, if we are lucky enough, dry out before we pack it. Nobody believes we (or our gear) will ever dry out completely, but we wanted to try anyway. With this extra time, we all had nice long showers and then started cleaning up the lab and packing equipment away. While that was going on, we were signing and decorating a buoy that we found on Garbage Beach. It is tradition that each group that comes to the research center finds a buoy there, decorates it, and hangs it in the snack shack before they leave. Since we are the first undergraduate marine biology group from UNH, we felt this was something that simply had to be done, no matter what. We all wrote our names, year of graduation, and some sayings and memories from this trip, along with spectacular drawings of organisms we have seen, created by Jodi. Dinnertime came and we realized this would be our second to last meal here. Some of us were happy about this, some were sad, and most of us had mixed feelings. Tonight we are all going to the library to collect our valuables that have been set aside for us (passport, money, license, debit card, etc.) and later we will hang the buoy in the snack shack. After that, we are all going to the Short Stop Bar for the traditional hanging of the college t-shirt, signed by all of us. Dr. Kelly just so happened to bring a UNH shirt with him that he is willing to let us use for this, so we are very happy to be able to participate in this ritual also. We hope that all of these experiences and traditions that we are participating in will be the first of many for University of New Haven’s Undergraduate Marine Biology program.