Day 4: long swims

Today’s blog is courtesy of Jasmine Crowell:

The chronicles of San Salvador continue…

Fernandez Bay (Large)

Columbus Landing monument (he probably landed a few miles north of here).

Today was the same as yesterday: a full journey. After breakfast, we made a few tourist stops, first to the scenic Fernandez Bay, where Columbus was once thought to have originally landed. We then headed over to the remains of Watling’s “castle”, located at the top of a hill, and took the time to appreciate the remains of a Tory plantation from the 1700’s. It was enlightening to realize that this small island has such a rich history.

Acropora palmata (Large)

Acropora palmata (elkhorn coral) at Grotto Reef

After the mini history lesson, we then set off on a bumpy ride for Grotto Beach. We took a bit more time to appreciate another fossilized reef, where we noted a great presence of Neogonolithon, a calcified, or coralline, red alga. Then we finally set off for the water. After a slight struggle (for some) to gear up with fins, snorkel, and clipboard in the strong waves, we were off to discover more organisms. There, we saw more triggerfishes,

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San Sal Selfie

parrotfishes, grunts, wrasses, and tangs, along with the notorious fire coral (cue Dr. Carlile’s “hand signal”, which is really just jazz hands). We also saw the coral Acropora palmata, and a yellow stingray. After being not-so-gracefully shoved back onto shore (well, I was), we headed back to the truck for a lunch only fit for the greatest researchers—sandwiches and fruit.

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Red mangrove prop roots at Pigeon Creek

Once our energy was restored, we went to Pigeon Creek to “float” and observe some mangroves. Unfortunately, the floating aspect of this trip was…not so much floating, as it was unexpected cardio swimming against the current. But, toned legs aside, we did get the awesome experience of seeing the algae covered prop roots of mangroves, and the variety of fish that bobbed and weaved, hiding in between them. We were thrilled to see live lionfish in the wild (a first for some of us, including me), and were able to gain some practice in effective floating to prevent disrupting the soft sediments so we could observe the fish feeding in the seagrass meadows. Once we came back to shore, we headed back to Gerace and cleaned up for dinner. A dinner, I should mention, that featured mac and cheese and more importantly chocolate cake, which was greatly desired (mostly by me).

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Red lionfish (Pterois volitans) at Pigeon Creek. This beautiful fish is native to the western Pacific and is considered a serious invasive threat to tropical Western Atlantic ecosystems.

So at the end of the day, no hats were lost, we didn’t get caught in the rain, nobody got stung by territor    ial wasps, and we saw and learned about new organisms and the history of San Salvador. After our nightly discussion and taxalogue-ing, we are once again looking forward to reconnecting with our lonely beds and going on our next excursion tomorrow.

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