Experimental Tropical Marine Ecology

A Glorious Day
by -- October 15th, 2008

Pretty much only one thing you can complain about today….

And that thing is that our benevolent and wonderful food providers forgot to bring the hot sauce for lunch.  All 5 stages of grief ensued at news of this heart-rending travesty.  The burning pain we have grown to love so dearly on our tongues migrated quickly to our hearts.  There was even mutinous talk of going out to dinner some night should such an event recur.  But we must move on backwards in time to morning….

….which dawned gorgeous.  Brilliant blue sky without the usual clouds that seem to prevail here (pretty sure it’s because it’s the wet season).  After breakfast we took off for the turtlegrass bed again where we laid transects in groups and took quadrat samples every 10 meters of urchins, seagrass, mangrove leaves, sea stars, sea cucumbers, etc. in hopes of establishing some connection between urchin density and presence of these other variables.  Still trouble finding urchins (my group didn’t find any).

After finishing the transects, we took a snorkel on the other side of the mangrove island on the coral reef there.  It was superior to the previous reef in abundance and diversity of organisms.  Still lots of fire coral and brittle stars, but more sponge species and other coral types.  More fish (though still small and herbivorous) and some giant sea cucumbers.  Upon returning to the boat, Matt brought a giant Jabba-the-Hut style cucumber to the boat which, according to Jackie and Andy had the consistency of “congealed vomit.”  I think I remember James maintaining that it in fact felt like holding a giant pile of snot.  Either way, this did not prevent Andy from agreeing to be photographed with it on his head.

After zooming back to the lab at that speed that has been known to make bladders burst on any significant wake, we discovered the lamentable hot sauce-less lunch.

A nice little siesta later and we were back in the lab measuring urchin spines and testing crab orientation to light stimulus.  This is not exciting to do.  But it must be done and you become very familiar with the brittleness of urchins spines and the smell of scores of little hermit crabs.

We got done early and Humberto secured trucks to take us into town to walk around.  Some supplemented our FREE Smithsonian t-shirts with souvenirs like hammocks and we had a beer on the deck/dock of a nice little bar ($0.75 a beer ain’t bad).  Then back to STRI for a delicious dinner, took a quick break, and then most of us headed back to town to the sunken ship bar.  This is a truly awesome establishment that needs explaining.  You walk in on land which consists of sand, palm trees, and little bridges over streams and waterfalls.  You cross a dance floor to the bar (where drinks are very cheap) and then have your choice of any number of pathways on planked dock walks over the water with little tables and beach chairs scattered about, some on different levels, and most impressively, centrally located in the deck area, is an area about 20 feet square open to the water below.  Lit up under water is a real shipwreck in which lives a moray eel and around which all manner of fish and squid carouse.  Or, one can simply recline at the edge of the deck by the channel and watch the night action on the water.

No, not a bad day at all.

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