The Day I (hay hay) Didn’t float

Day 5

Time: 930am-1230pm

Depth: 60Ft

For dive one, we were at the location tons of sponge. On this dive we did a few of the skills that we had left. These skills included:

  • CESA
  • Hover
  • Compass work (surface and underwater)
  • Fully remove mask and put it back on
  • No reference ascend and descend
  • Diving with a dive computer
  • Planned a dive (second dive of the day)

The CESA skill was a challenge for me, I was so nervous about doing it. My dive instructor reassured me that I could do it, I went into the water, and successfully mastered the skill! Woo! The other skills that we preformed today were not a challenge to me. Which I am surprised about because I hate flooding my mask never mind completely taking it off, but it was a breeze for me to complete. It shows that I have become more comfortable in the water. On dive two  which was at Sand Schute, we executed our own dive with our instructors behind us, this was very interesting to do. Definitely shows you how much you depend on them during a dive. I have had trouble with buoyancy the last couple dives. BUT, today, I was NOT floating away from everyone! YAY!! I am a lot more comfortable in the water today than I have been the past few times I have more confidence in myself in the water! WOO! After all the hard work of both dives today we are officially open water dive certified!! YAY! WOO! This is such a great feeling. Now after all the skill work, we are certified and now can dive anywhere! The dives are so much more enjoyable now that we don’t have to do any skills.  I cant wait to dive again on Tuesday! On These two dives we saw Caribbean reef sharks, that were big! Sharks are such majestic creatures. We also REALLY big french angel fish that was right in front of my face, that was pretty cool!

Tonight we are going to Dr.C and Dr.S’s friend’s house and then we are going to see the the glow worms!! 🙂 I can’t wait!!

9:54pm:

Just got back to the hotel, wow the glow worms were amazing!! It so great seeing something like that, and not many people know glow worms exist. It is very fascinating how this worms sync up with the moon phases. The world works in amazing ways. In the middle of our little excursion, we couldn’t find one of the dogs and we soon found that the dog was laying with a shark fin!!! It was neat to see a shark fin up close and personal. It’s sad because someone must of caught the shark and cut its fin off. None the less it was still neat to see. Tomorrow we are going to sailing! I can’t wait!! 

The shark fin we found. 

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May 12th

 

Day 4

Today was a very lax day compared to the previous days we had. We got to sleep in, and hang out for some of the morning. Around 11:30 we snorkeled around coral gardens; we saw a few different fish this morning. We saw a honeycomb cowfish, a lot of blue tang, scrawled filefish, a trunkfish, a smooth trunk fish. Also we saw a lot of yellow tail snappers, queen trigger fish, and many different parrot fish. We also we saw a spotted eagle ray. This animal is just so majestic, they are breathtaking. Then we ventured off to Smith’s reef. Here I saw a trumpet fish, and many of the other listed fish.  I saw a sand diver here too. There was some interesting behavior going on, I saw many different cleaning stations and I also saw a yellow tail snapper feeding. We also did some reef monitoring at Smith’s Reef today. That was fun to do! My partner and I did monitoring for fish. This program looks at very specific fish, we did monitoring on a 10 meter transect. I am interested in doing this again; it is an interesting way to monitoring a reef! Tonight for dinner we are doing a family style dinner and the entrĂ©e is tacos!! I love tacos so I can’t wait to eat them!!

 

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The beach area at Smith’s coral reef

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 11th

Day 3!

Today we dived in the ocean for our open water certification dives one and two! We got on AquaTCI’s dive boat, got our scuba kits ready, and as we were boating to the spot we got briefed on what skills we would be doing today.

Location:  Eel Garden at North West Point

Time: 9am-2pm

Depth: 40ft

Today underwater we did a few different skills, we half flooded our mask and cleared it and full flooded our mask and clear it. These skills are the ones that I have the most trouble with, I think it’s because its a fear of losing my contacts and the fact that there is water in my mask. It’s a new feeling that makes my nerves uneasy. We also did the skill of using our buddies alternate air source if we don’t have air, and we did an alternate source ascend with a buddy. These skills are the one that I don’t seem to have trouble with! We also did a snorkel regulator exchange, tired divers tow and the finn pivot. These are all skills that I feel like I mastered very well! On the dive we saw some pretty interesting things! We saw a nurse shark and a moray eel underneath a coral head.  There was a flamingo tongue on a coral, those are pretty neat to see in person. We also saw a baby sting ray! This sting ray was very little! We also saw a bunch of garden eels, poking their heads out of the sand beds! Being under water again today was amazing. The feeling of being 40 ft under water, is an incredible feeling. Nothing else matters down there, it just you and the fish. You become one with the fish. its pretty great. Before the second dive we had to swim around the boat for 3 minutes and tread for 10 minutes. That went very well for me. Will, on the other hand, threw up after this and he fish came up to the surface and ate his throw up. This was a feeding behavior. We also saw flying fish jump out of the water, this was a great thing to see! On the second dive of the day, the water seemed much colder. I don’t know if it’s because we warmed up from the sun and jumped back into the water, but I was colder on the second dive. On the second dive, I was weighted perfectly during the dive, but as the cylinder got lighter, so did I and i started floating away. My dive instructor, Alizee had to take a hold of me so I didn’t float to the top. That was quite comical!

 

Later that night, we went to the local fish fry.  This was a fun experience. We all got drinks in coconuts, and ate food, danced and shopped a little. This was a great way to experience the culture here. It got pretty busy towards the end of the festival, more people showed up.  For dinner I ate chicken tenders and mac n cheese. I also tried plantains, those were pretty good! Most of everyone danced for a couple hours. This was so fun! We had a native island boy come up and start dancing with us, this was interesting! I loved it though, he was funny and really enjoyed dancing with all of us. He was about 20 year old. At the end of the festival we saw a band! This was also really fun, it was really interesting to see them, and they were very good too! This was a great way to end a perfect day!


Here are some pictures from today!

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The sun setting!

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The Band at the end of the festival!

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All of us girls who danced the night away!

 

May 10th: Day Two

Today is day 2 and we have our confined water dives today. We did this in the pool! It was fun putting our scuba kits together, and learning all the information that comes with the skills. Today we learned a lot  some of the skills I remember are, taking on and off our mask underwater and then clearing it out, we practiced using our buddies alternate air source, and we ascended making the ahhhh sound, without breathing from the regulator. These were a few of the skills I had a little trouble with, but finally mastered. Swimming with fins on is a new feeling too. It is like you are gliding in the water! These new experiences are so great and I highly appreciate them. I am more hopeful and confident to dive now, than I was yesterday. We did our confined water dive #5 in the ocean!

scuba gear

 

Day 2: May 10th

location:Coral Garden Reef

Time: 2:30pm

On this dive we dived 20 feet. This was our 5th confined water dive, and it was in the ocean. This was a very new and interesting feeling. Your anxiety is high, especially if this is the first time that you have dived. I felt  the nevousness today in the ocean getting ready to dive. When you enter the water everything that has been bothering you vanishes. It is like a sanctuary, so peaceful. Underwater your vision is the best thing you have, all the fish, sea grass, corals, everything is so new, and lovely. The feeling of just breathing under water at 20 feet is incredible. You don’t hear much under water besides your breathing. The biggest issue I had today was my buoyancy, I kept floating, when I should of been “sinking”. The issue was solved by having the instructor add weight to my weight belt, after that I was ready to go. We saw a sea turtle on our dive, this majestic animal was just munching on the turtle grass. This was an amazing animal to see on our first time diving! I saw many fish today eating coral, and I also saw a cleaning goby clean today cleaning a large fish. Cleaning goby’s clean dead skin cells and ectoparasites off of fish! This dive was only about 30 minutes, but I can’t wait to dive tomorrow again too!

 

After this dive we brought all our gear back to our instructor’s truck. The scuba kit is very heavy when your out of water.  After we were all squared away, we got an hour of free time and went to a restaurant on the island called Tiki Hut! I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!

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Mangroves

What is a mangrove?

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Mangroves” by Pat (Cletch) Williams licensed by CC by 2.0

Mangroves are a group of trees and shrubs that live in the coastal intertidal zone. Many mangrove forests can be recognized by their dense tangle of prop roots that make the trees appear to be standing above the water. This tangle of the roots allows for the trees to handle the daily rise and fall of tides. This means that these forests get flooded twice a day. The roots for the trees allow for the movement of slow tidal water causing the sediments to settle out of the water. Mangroves stabilize the coastlines, reducing erosion from storms, currents, waves and tides. The intense system of roots is attractive to fish and other organisms seeking food and shelter from predators. You can only find mangrove forests at tropical and subtropical latitudes near the equator because they cannot withstand freezing temperatures.

 

How do they survive in the salt water?

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mangrove roots” by eric molina licensed by CC by 2.0

Salt water can kill plans so the mangroves extract the freshwater from the salt water. Many species of mangroves survive by filtering as much as 90% of the salt found. Some of these species excrete salt through glands in the leaves.  Some mangrove species store salt in their older leaves and bark. When the leaves and bark shed, so does the salt that is stored in them.  They store the fresh water in their thick leaves. Another interesting fact about mangroves is that they will grow roots that stick out of the water..its like a snorkel for the tree, this is how they breath. These breathing tubes are called pneumatophores.

 

Why do they matter?

Mangroves, seagrass beds, and coral reef work together. The trees trap sediment and pollutants that would flow out into the sea. Seagrass beds provide another barrier to slit and mud that could smother the reefs. The reefs protect the seagrass and the mangroves from strong waves. Without mangroves this ecosystem would collapse.

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Virgin Islands 2015” by dirksevet licensed by CC by 2.0

Mangroves provide many species with breeding grounds. Some of these species include shrimp, crabs, barracuda, tarpon, and snook. These species will find shelter in the mangroves as juveniles and then these organisms head out to seagrass beds as they grow and then eventually they will move to the ocean when they are adults. These trees provide a habitat to thousands of species, from bacteria to barnacles to Bengal tigers. These forests also attract birds which take cover in the branches. They are a perfect for nesting sites for hundreds of migratory bird species. Additionally, the leaves that fall from the trees provide nutrients to invertebrates and algae!

 

Threats to mangroves

Shrimp farming is by far the biggest threat to the world’s mangroves. Many acres of wetlands have been cleared to make artificial ponds for shrimp. Shrimp farmers dig channels of water to supply these ponds with ocean water. These water channels alter the natural flow of water that maintain the mangroves as well as other ecosystems. Diverting the water from mangroves can hurt them by preventing their seeds from being dispersed, and it can kill them by cutting off fresh water supply. Agriculture is also another threat to mangroves. Thousands of acres have been destroyed for rice paddies, rubber trees, and palm oil plantations. Farmers use fertilizers and other chemicals that runoff into the water supply. Although mangroves are resilient mangroves can only tolerate so much.  Of course coastal development is another huge threat to mangrove forest. Ports, docks, hotels, gold courses, and marinas are being built which is taking away from the mangroves.

 

Mangrove Conservation

There are many different projects going on that address the conservation of mangroves. For example the mangrove watch that looks at Australia’s mangroves. The mangrove action project is another group that takes a bottom-up approach to mangrove conservation and restoration issues. Here is an interactive case study about mangrove conservation. It is pretty neat, check it out!

Here is a video from the mangrove action project on shrimp farming, check it out!

Check out Melissa’s post on mangroves!

Reef Conservation Groups

There are plenty of different organizations that want to help protect the coral reefs. In this blog I will talk about a few of the organizations that are working to help conserve the reefs.

Coral Reef Alliance

This organization was found in 1994 by Stephen Colwell. He wanted to engage the dive community in protecting coral reefs that were significantly declining due to human activities. This program is called CORAL and takes a multi-purpose approach to restring and protecting coral reefs. They work with communities living near the reefs. The work to reduce local treats to reefs. These include over fishing poor water quality, and unsustainable development. They help communities befit socially, culturally and economically from conservation.  CORAL also works directly with the tourism industry to decrease its environmental footprint and they also work to educate the visitors about the importance of coral reefs. If you want to learn more about the Coral Reef Alliance and their program CORAL please go to their main page.

Check out this video!

NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program

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NOAA” by Wikimedia Commons licensed by CC by 3.0

This program was established in 2000 by the Coral Reef Conservation Act to protect, conserve and restore the nations coral reeds by maintaining a healthy ecosystem. This organization focuses on impacts from the top three global threats to reefs. This includes- climate change (and ocean acidification), land based sources of pollution, and unsustainable fishing practices. This program brings together expertise from across NOAA for studying these complex ecosystems. This program works closely with NOAA scientist in the National Ocean Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, and National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service. Want to learn more about this group? please click here.

Coral Guardian

Coral Guardian helps out reefs by developing the biodiversity of marine ecosystems in Indonesia and repopulating damaged reef areas. This program developed in 2010, and they aim to promote innovative approaches to marine conservation and encourage sustainable patterns of development.  Their mission included four topics. Conservation, awareness, research and valorisation ( develop sustainable solutions to improve the livelihoods of local communities). Want to learn more? Go to their main page!

Check out their YouTube video channel!

Reef Check

This organization was found in 1996 and its duties are to help reserve the oceans and reefs which are critical to our survival yet are being destroyed. The  programs headquarters are in Los Angeles and has volunteer teams in more than 90 different countries and territories. Reef check works to help tropical reefs and California rocky reef through education research and conservation. Want to learn more about this organization? Click here!

Watch this video about them!

Oceana

This program wants to make our oceans rich, healthy, and abundant again. Found in 2001, Oceana is the largest advocacy organization that is focused on solely ocean conservation. They want to identify practical solutions to use and then apply them. To learn more about this program, visit their home page.

 

Check out Marisa’s post about conservation group too!

Coral Bleaching

What is Coral Bleaching?

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Coral bleaching in the Gulf of Thaialnd_01” by Eco Cafe’ Phuket licensed by CC by 2.0

warmer water temperature is what causes coral bleaching. When the water is too warm, corals will expel the algae (zooxanthellae) living in their tissues. Corals have a symbiotic relationship with these algae. This means that the organisms depend on each other for survival. The alga produces food via photosynthesis for the coral. When ocean temperatures rise the corals expel the algae. This will cause a coral to turn completely white. When a coral bleaches it is not dead, they are under more environmental stress which can lead to a dead coral. Global warming is a big cause of coral bleaching but other environmental factors plays a role too.

Why is this a big deal?

Coral reefs may not be a huge portion of the oceans (They actually only make up less than 1% of the sea). But they are an important player in the ecosystem. These majestic reefs shelter the marine species that inhibit the ocean. More specifically they shelter about 25%  of marine species. The reefs also protect shorelines from waves, storms, and floods.  Reefs support the fishing industries, and they could also be the next big thing for medical breakthroughs.

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Clown Fish” by Ian Russell licensed by CC by 2.0

What species are affected by this?

Butterfly Fish

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Butterfly Fish” by Riz Warker licensed by CC by 2.0

This species munches on coral polyps. If their food source disappears survival of this species does not look good. Butterfly fish assist in keeping algae from covering the corals.

Spiny lobsters

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Spiny lobster” by Diverbelow licensed by CC by 2.0

Spiny lobsters rely on coral reefs for protection, especially during molting episodes. Spiny lobsters are a predator of sea urchins, which feed on kelp forests and can destroy them is populations are not predator controlled.

Hawksbill Sea Turtles

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Hawksbill sea turtle” by Raymond™ licensed by CC by 2.0

All sea turtles would be affected by loss of corals but the Hawksbill sea turtles are highly dependent on coral reefs. These turtles main food source is sponges. They also play a role in helping cycling nutrients from ocean to land, and they also help maintain healthy sea grass.