2016 Day 5: Immersion of San Sal, in and out of the Reef

Professor’s note: today’s post is by Nikki Hornlien, complete with haiku.


Tired and itchy

Bohemian Rhapsody

Africa No-Go



Acropora palmata on the reef crests at Grotto

This morning we woke up to the best kind of weather San Sal could offer: overcast. It was a breezy, cool morning as we headed to breakfast. Pancakes, bacon and cereal were offered today and were happily consumed by all. As we headed out for the day, Dr. Kelly had a chance to show off his amazing driving skills when he pulled our truck out of a parallel park. We had a decent drive to our first dive location at Grotto beach, which is located at the southern end of the island. This drive included an outdoor concert with a selection of songs sung from favorites by Disney, The Spice Girls, and the most favored song of the day; Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen.

At Grotto, we found a nice pavilion where we left our stuff and we observed a fossilized calcified red age in the rocks named Neogoniolithon spectabile. Once we took note of what this fossilized alga looked like, we went off to snorkel! There was a lot to see including organisms like the blue tang fish (as I like to call it the “dory fish”) and some algal species that were pretty common at most of our previous locations. We were fortunate enough to get a look at some new organisms too, including Elkhorn coral and trumpet fish! After our awesome snorkel we settled down at the pavilion to eat our pb and j’s and cold cut sandwiches. We relaxed and enjoyed the amazing view of the beach as we ate; some of us even utilized the hammock there.

roughtail stingray

roughtail stingray

Once we finished lunch, we headed to our new location where the next adventure would take place at Pigeon Creek. Needless to say it was a VERY bumpy trip with lots of turbulence but we made it there safe and sound. Once we were in the water, right away we spotted red mangrove roots, which were a beautiful sight! As we ventured out, we swam right over a bed of sea grasses, which tickled some tummies but still we swam on. Past the sea grass beds we were able to glimpse the majesty of a nurse shark, the elegance of a very large rough tail sting ray, and juvenile Nassau groupers; the national fish of the Bahamas! Throughout this snorkel we faced a great evil: the outgoing high tide. It was difficult to swim against as it carried us a little ways out, but just like our booty tan lines, we continued on.


marine biologists risking the perils of 8 inches of water! (this was at the end of our snorkel, and we were mesmerized by feather duster worms)

After our snorkel at Pigeon Creek, we made two stops along the way back the station. The first was a site where part of Queen’s highway was obliterated by hurricane Joaquin last October. Our professors took note of how different this spot looked compared to previous trips while we safely explored the rocky left overs from the hurricane. Our second stop was to see Watling’s Castle. Here we observed remnants of an early 19th century home, kitchen area, and barn area where crops would dry if they could be grown. We were able to grasp some of this islands history just from this one spot, which was nice break from all the science. As we ventured home, we had a semi quiet ride back where we thought about what would be made for dinner, when laundry could be done, and sleeping.


sunset on San Salvador

Once back at the station, we cleaned up, had a delicious dinner and came to lab to work on some organism identification. We ended our night finalizing our blog song, identifying individuals, and a jaw dropping sunset.



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