Salty flamingos

March 3, 2018

Genevieve Davis, NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center

A flock of flying flamingos above us as we walked through Inagua National Park
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A flock of flying flamingos above us as we walked through Inagua National Park

Ship's Log

Current Location
020° 51.4’ N x 073° 38.9’ W

Ship’s Heading & Speed
Anchored outside Matthew Town all day, currently hove-to, south of Great Inagua

Weather
NW winds at force 4, with a passing squall bringing gusts and increasing seas to 3-4 feet

Souls on Board

We just completed our fastest port stop yet from Great Inagua.  Greeted with the most beautiful Caribbean blue seas, we anchored among a shining sun and calm sea.  As the guest whale person aboard, I am thrilled to say we saw one lonesome dolphin before the rest of the day was set into motion.  Today, our focus shifts from the majestic humpback whale experience that is forever imprinted to memory, to lots and lots of salt and birds.  After venturing to shore, thanks to our skilled crew, we awaited Caribbean-style (i.e. for at least an hour) for our shuttle busses to arrive.  And oh, were they worth waiting for. We piled into the beds of two pickup trucks, one even decked out with folding chairs, and made our way along the dirt road of the second largest island of the Bahamas.

One of the many salt flats with a pump doing its thing.

One of the many salt flats with a pump doing its thing.

We all instantly felt as if we were transported to another universe.  The beginning drive took us past endless salt flats, where we witnessed the stages of salt separating from the sea and forming mountains of the white grains we consume daily. The island is half owned by Morton Salt, and along most of the drive, one side of the road was the "Morton" side, containing various stages of salt extraction, with the other side a beautiful natural reserve. The landscape kept changing in ways that felt like we were on another planet, or perhaps had fallen into Middle Earth.  We eventually made it to the Inagua National Park, filled with beautiful species of birds including the Roseate Spoonbill, Greater Flamingos, Great Blue Heron, Tri-colored Heron, Great Egret, Neotropic Cormorant, Burrowing Owl (species ID thanks to Gary- our bird expert, and Nick- our blossoming bird expert), among others.

As I sat in the truck, watching beautiful birds flying around and listening to my surrounding companions singing at the top of their lungs, it is easy to be happy with this group.  Every day, I am blown away with these amazing people I have had the pleasure of sailing, exploring, and living with for the past 2.5 weeks.  It is rare occasion to be in such close quarters with 35 people for so long, and have only wonderful things to say about every single person on board.  We have so quickly and easily blended into a ship family that has taught me so much, both about sailing and different ways of life. I am so grateful for every moment, and so sad this journey ends for me next week in Jamaica.

I boarded the ship thinking I was a veteran to the sea- little did I know sailing would kick my butt and put me back to the starting line.  The best part of this journey has been witnessing the learning, both in myself and all the students, and seeing the confidence that comes with figuring out how to blend the ways of a sailor, scientist, and shipmate altogether. Special thanks to all the crew for your patience and incredible knowledge (with cheerful smiles too); to C-watch for being the first third of my Cramer family; and to the sea for always having a new lesson and experience ready to serve.

I'll end this blog to go stand watch with Captain Sean, an honor in and of itself.

Cheers,

- Genevieve Davis, Whale Acoustics, C-Watch from the start, but mostly an Other NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center

P.S. Joy, Julianne, and Heather-  you were so right. Sofie- thanks for getting me here and encouraging it further.  PA group- I love you all.

P.P.S.  Hi Mom and Dad, I know you're reading this. Love you too.

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