Reef Survey Time!

November 26, 2021

Author: Fiona Chlebecek, A Watch, The University of Rhode Island

flamingo tongue

Ship's Log

Noon Position
18°18.8’N 064° 46.3’W

Taffrail log
39 nm total

Sail Plan
At anchor

Weather
Wind NEN F5, choppy 1 ft waves

Location
0.39 nm from Rendezvous Bay, St John

Souls on Board

Today was our first day of reef surveys! Port watch had the deck from 0100 to 0700 this morning, personally I had anchor watch from 0230 to 0400, and then we had an optional breakfast and free time until noon. Most of us used the time to catch up on lost sleep from the night before. While we slept, our shipmates on starboard watch began preparing for a busy morning of surveys. While the morning was wonderfully lazy and relaxed, there was a mad dash as soon as starboard fully returned. The excitement mounted among those of us on port watch as our friends slowly began to trickle back onboard. There are furtive whispers between the students of strong currents, whitecaps above, and the struggle of having to constantly kick just to stay in place. The potential hazards are taken in stride however, we are thrilled to get in the water and put the skills we have been honing for the past few weeks to good use.

The reef itself is wonderful. We take up positions at the base of a cliff and the rocky bottom below holds many nooks and crannies for creatures to hide in. I’m paired with So and Emily, together we make up the fish and invertebrate teams (though I am mostly inverts). Our job is to follow a transect line laid on the seafloor by our shipmates and count all the creatures we can see along it. Right away the presence of sea fans and urchins is overwhelming. I struggle to accurately count them all as my partners swim ahead of me. It’s not all difficult though, we end up seeing some amazing things. My favorite of which being a spotted moray eel and the flamingo tongue pictured above. I’m actually super proud of that shot and consider it one of the best I’ve taken on this trip. Regrettably the eel was a bit too quick for me to get in frame.

As soon as we return, we scramble to unload our gear, properly clean it, and get new clothes. The turnaround is brutal and ends up with most of us in the lab to begin processing samples. I learned how to run bacteria samples and will check up on them for the next two days to see if anything grows in our petri dishes. I have watch this evening from 2100 to 2200, and hope to get a good look at the stars as the clouds melt away. Tomorrow we set sail for another anchorage, but I’m thrilled to get in the water again and have more opportunities to photograph ocean life, and snorkel with my shipmates.

- Fiona Chlebecek, A/Port Watch, The University of Rhode Island

Contact: Douglas Karlson, Director of Communications, 508-444-1918 | dkarlson@sea.edu

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