2016 Day 9: The Abyss and Everything In Between

Professor’s note: today’s blog is by Kelli Mosca.

The sun is shining

Chips and abyss are pure bliss

Smooth ride in truck S

 

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San Sal selfie

We woke up this morning to a blue, almost cloudless sky with the sun shining bright, something that we all missed dearly after the past two days of rain. Our destination for today was Fernandez Bay, an area we are familiar with from our snorkel at snapshot and telephone pole. All a little tired still from the night dive, we soaked up the sun on our truck ride, excited that today’s water will feel refreshing instead of cold. We took a quick pit stop at a lake in order to appreciate how people used to travel around the island, the water. Many of the lakes connect and reach the ocean in some fashion therefore before the time of cars and roads, the waterways were how people got around. There was a quick stop at the store for snacks and petting a very friendly cat before the work began at Fernandez Bay.

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probably a juvenile yellow jack…babies are hard to identify!

At the Bay it was apparent that we all have become quite efficient at working transects underwater. Each group had collected our data and had bags full of algae in what seemed like no time at all. Some of us even had time to swim around with an extra playful baby yellow jack (nicknamed Lassie) who loved twisting and turning in the water with us. Soon lunch arrived at Columbus landing. Here we enjoyed yet another San Sal surprise, this time courtesy of the professors, two big bags of Doritos and Lays chips. As we relished our special snack we excitedly awaited our next snorkel spot for the day, “the wall”.

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Southern Sting Rays on the way to the abyss

 

“The wall” is a vertical drop of that extends down to about 3000 meters. The swim from shore to the drop off is about 300 meters, and many different organisms awaited us all along the way. First were the shallows, this was littered with Diadema antillarum (long spine urchin), fire coral and various species of fish, including barracuda, gobies and lionfish. Before we knew it, we were above large sand flats on which we saw razorfish, Queen conch, and southern stingrays all making their way across sand that seemed to last forever. As we pressed on the dark blue of the wall began to approach faster and faster, the bottom of the sea floor

students above the abyss

students above the abyss

beginning to look fuzzy. We all caught glimpses of a nurse shark as well as a group of oceanic triggerfish before the sandy floor completely disappeared. All we saw around us was the darkest of blues, the abyssal plain and countless unseen organisms below. After a couple underwater group pictures, and a few minutes of contemplating the magnitude of this great ocean we all strive to study; there was nothing left to do but get back to campus, and analyze the data we have collected for the day.

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