Hello world, this is Lindsey Wright coming to you from CCMI reef research center. I am a fourth year Marine Biology and Journalism major, with a minor in Scientific Diving at Humboldt State University in California. I am going to tell you a story of our day on June 5th, 2017.
Today is our 5th boat dive day, by now we are all seasoned veterans of the routine. We rally our troops for a 7 AM breakfast of cereal, toast or bagels, choice of peanut butter, jelly, and cream cheese, and either an apple or banana. We pack up our gear, load up the truck as full as possible with the necessary amount of tanks and file into the van by 8 AM sharp to head to our faithful dive boat, The Banana Wind. Loading up the boat takes a true team effort to carry all of the gear down the dock, pass it all onto the boat, securing all tanks and correctly stowing gear. As we set up our scuba kits, Lowell, our very talented captain, pulls away from the dock and we head toward the cut, a narrow opening in the reef, which is typically being hammer by breaking waves, today is no exception. Personally, I believe that the boat ride is as much, if not more enjoyable, than the actual scuba dives. I love the feeling of the wind rushing through my hair, the boat carrying us swiftly over the rise and fall of the swell, The 82 degree water is refreshing as it sprays up over the bow of the boat, showering us all in the salty, sticky seawater. I feel as if we are flying over the top of the powerful ocean similar to the graceful frigate birds gliding beside us.
One of my dive buddies, hard at work!
Our first dive site of the day is called Crystal Palace; it lives up to its name. This site is beautiful. The large coral structures are the focal point of this site. They are all different shapes, sizes, species, and colors. Some of the coral configurations are the largest that I have ever seen. The abundance and vibrant colors of the fish swimming around the reef is hypnotizing. Our three person teams set up for our first survey, a 50-meter transect survey; each person has a different roll. There is one person in charge of setting up and rolling in the transect tape, my role was to use our GoPro set ups to document the benthic habitat every half meter, and the third person does an urchin abundance count. The second half of the dive is used to do roving urchin counts. We all come up to the surface to board the boat with different stories and smiles on our faces.
The second site that we survey is known as Martha’s Finyard. It is a very dynamic reef. The spurs of reef extend off a massive wall, with a large drop off on the North side. Peering into the deep blue abyss makes my heart race a little bit faster than it should, I couldn’t tell you if it was from wonder, adrenaline, or anticipation of something quite large swimming out of the bottomless blue. During our survey, our dive leader signaled that there was an eagle ray feeding beside us. We took a short break from our work to go admire the beautiful creature, which also happens to be CCMI’s mascot. I think that out of everything I have been able to see with diving, eagle rays are the most graceful and beautiful. This is only my second time seeing one and my breath still catches. They are massive, their wingspan is larger than my own, and each beat of their wings is slow and deliberate. Needless to say, we are all very stocked to have seen one on this dive, everyone’s mood, once back on the boat, bubbling with enthusiasm.
Tomorrow, we have a mellower day planned, A few snorkels and lectures. I have to say that I am most excited for the students versus CCMI staff and instructors dodge ball game that we have been promised! Our time here is flying by too fast. I am still not bored of the beachfront view that we are able to wake up to every morning.
Lindsey Wright, CCMI Rutgers Intern
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