Day 5: The Search Continues…

The internet was not cooperating last night, so another late post, today brought to you by Zach Enck:

Ladies and gentlemen, today can only be described as a day of great adventure, a day filled with mystery, danger, and a whole lot of science. After a long day of scienceing yesterday all of us were quite exhausted in the morning as we rolled out of bed, but after a healthy and nutritious breakfast we all jumped in the back of the truck as giddy as young schoolchildren and were ready for the day. Throughout this trip we have observed new and exciting marine organisms on every single dive, but with each passing day on this amazing island our hopes have only grown ever higher with the thought that today might be the day we finally see that shark, and day number 6 was no different. I mean come on, the sun shining, the wind was blowing, the birds were singing, and the waves were waving, so there seemed to be no better conditions for us to finally witness a shark in all its glory…. and of course some algae and corals and other stuff like that too. [Professor’s note: we’ll be testing these young scientists on that “other stuff”!]

Souther Stingray (Dasyatis americana) (edit)

Face to face with a roughtail stingray.

Our first destination of the day was at Snapshot Reef, a beach that boasted warm crystal clear waters and a number of coral reefs that served as a home to hundreds of different marine creatures. With clipboards and cameras in hand, people knew we meant business as we made our way towards the water. After gracefully putting on our gear, we headed out towards the reefs in a manner that I can only imagine looked like an epic slow motion action scene from a movie. Once we reached around 15 feet of water we came across a large group of patchy coral reefs that were filled with so much color and life. Instantly we were easily able to identify many species of fish such as blue tang, ocean surgeonfish, queen parrotfish, damselfish, triggerfish, squirrelfish, sergeant majors, and many species of wrasse. Some of us were even so lucky as to see a great barracuda and a small spotted moray eel. What really got everyone screaming through their snorkels was when we happened to stumble upon a massive southern stingray that was around 4 feet across. It’s the closest thing we have gotten to a shark so far since stingrays are considered cousins to sharks because of their cartilage skeleton, so personally I spent way too much time freaking out about it. Throughout the rest of the dive we were able to see a few other species of stingrays including a yellow stingray, roughtail stingray, and another large southern stingray. As for the algae at this location there were large groups of Sargassum fluitans surrounding the coral reefs that reached several feet in length. Other species of algae that could be found on the reef itself was Padina sanctae-crucis, Stypopodium zonale, and Galaxaura spp. As for the corals, we were able to observe many colorful sea fans, large heads of brain coral, and different branching gorgonians.

Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta) (edit)

Lefty, the lucky loggerhead turtle.

Our next destination was to  Lindsay Reef where we took a break to sit down and eat the finest gourmet lunch that San Salvador had to offer, PB&J and cold cuts. While we were eating we were entertained by the loud gospel music that was being played by a local church fundraiser group and some of us thought it would be a good idea to try and sound like a Bahamian and sing along (it was me). After lunch we moved and grooved our way to the water and started our swim out to the reefs that awaited. Unfortunately because of human destruction and pollution, these reefs looked very different than the ones we had observed back at Snapshot Beach earlier in the day. Litter from the nearby park could be found scattered throughout the reefs and large pieces of coral could be found dead on the seafloor because of careless boat activity. But even with the poor condition of the reef many unique organisms could still be found living in and around the corals. Once again many blue tangs, parrotfish, and wrasses were found on the reef and even a porcupinefish was spotted casually swimming by. Later on a large loggerhead turtle was found chilling on the seafloor just by the edge of the reef which got everyone pretty excited. The back part of the turtle’s shell had a huge chunk missing from a bite that could have only been caused by a tiger shark, so once again my hopes skyrocketed. As for the algae found at this location, Padina sanctae-crucis and Microdictyon marinum pretty much dominated the entire reef surface so it was kind of hard to miss.

DCIM100GOPRO

Atop the San Sal Lighthouse

After taking a few tourist stops that included a look at the San Salvador lighthouse, we headed back for a much needed dinner and then ended our day with our invigorating discussion. As for our shark, it eluded us once again but you can be sure that we’ll be looking for it again high and low tomorrow. Who knows what we’ll see tomorrow, a shark, a whale, the Lochness monster, or maybe a Sasquatch. I personally hope we see all of four of those things but you literally never know what you’re going to find on this island so every day is an adventure.

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