Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sharks, first coral survey and nesting turtles

Week four began with a fun dive at the lighthouse. The lighthouse is a dive site just outside our bay, and is littered with granite rock, providing a pleasant change of scenery for the volunteers, bringing with it the opportunity to see some mega fauna; we were not disappointed. Groups saw large Eagle Rays, enormous Bumphead Parrotfish, and one lucky dive pair saw reef sharks!

Tuesday was Christena’s 21st birthday and she did not let a sudden torrential downpour stop her from having an awesome night at base. Kitchen group prepared a feast for the occasion, baking a very delicious orange and vanilla cake for the birthday girl. What better way to spend your birthday than in paradise. Good food, good music, and good company was enjoyed by all.

Turtles proved very illusive to the divers on Wednesday’s in-water turtle survey. Ironically, whilst many of us were under the sea searching for them, the boat crew spotted one on the surface! The weather that day was stormy, the rain was heavy, and the sea was choppy and carried a fog. It was a serious test of our navigational skills, and also our whistles on our BCD's! I think we had never kitted up on deck so fast.

Four volunteers, Brendan, Vincent, Yvonne and Edvan joined Elke, a researcher from MCSS on her beach turtle walks, during which they found a nesting turtles! When the turtles had just finished laying they were able to tag it and send it on its way. And in case of Yvonne and Edvan they had to dig up the eggs to place them in a safer nest above the high-tide line. The turtle walks form an important part of MCSS’ work and allow those participating to educate the tourists and locals in how to conduct themselves around turtles, to ensure that the turtles return and the eggs have the best chance of survival.

Week 4 also introduced the invertebrates that the ten week volunteers will be surveying as part of this phase. These include species of sea star, sea cucumbers, urchins, lobsters, and octopus. The crown of thorns sea star is of particular interest to us, as it feeds on coral and has been known to wipe out entire reefs! The first coral surveys began today for two volunteers who have successfully been signed off on their coral spots. This is fantastic news, as now the data collection can begin and we can start to use what we have been learning and practicing.

Friday night’s Halloween party! Decorations, costumes and games are in the mix, whilst the weekly Friday BBQ will fuel the volunteers for a night of fun and ‘spooky happenings’ I’m sure.