I am proud to say that I am a member of the elite corps of men who have tagged a turtle. Not only that, but I also fulfilled a lifelong dream and snorkeled a great reef today. Very exciting day today….
Again, I had some trouble sleeping, as it is not only hot/humid, but I was also very enthused about the day. After hitting the snooze on my alarm, I finally rose at about 7:45, and then proceeded to the cattle gate to meet with the team. We took the truckbed taxi to the olde yard resort again, where I had a quick swim before breakfast. After a delicious sausage sandwich (heh), Casey taught the class breathing techniques for us to use to lengthen our bottom time while snorkeling. At first, Tucker Reed and I tied for longest breath hold at one minute and twenty seconds. Casey then explained the “mammalian water dive reflex”; a reflex all dry land mammals have that cause them to hold their breath and slow heart rate when submerged. She demonstrated by having Chris Lanyon and Mr. Nevitt submerge their heads in water.
I too attempted, but the cold water gave me a headache. Luckily for me i was much too excited to care about a little headache. We then all tried this dunking in the pool. This was all enjoyable but it finally ended and the real fun began: turtle tagging. After a speech by Joel, who works for the fish and wildlife conservatory -English equivalent about sea turtles, Snorkel gear in hand, we all boarded the Sea Dragon and headed for Little Dix bay. upon arrival, we saw a turtle as we pulled into the dock. After docking, we were taught proper catching technique and grouped into fours. I was grouped with Luke Curran, Andrew Chittoor, and Chris Lanyon. thanks to my “forward” excitement and volunteering, our group was selected to hunt for the turtles first. We loaded into a smaller boat and moved out to find a turtle. We spotted our first turtle. It serves well to mention that our chase was not only comical, but also incorrect and unsuccessful. We went wrong when we sprinted after the turtle that Luke had spotted and was trailing. We failed to grab him in time, but luckily for us one of the people from the conservatory grabbed a turtle. After this we moved on for a while.
Eventually we were all called back to the sea dragon for tagging. Along the way I saw three stingrays.
As I approached the dragon, I was alerted to the presence of one of my favorites, a barracuda underneath the boat. My favorite. After some picture attempts, I went aboard.
Once all were present, we proceeded with the measurements of the turtle. It was when Joel had finished measuring that he asked if anyone wanted to do the physical tagging of the turtle. I knocked over not only the basket of snacks but probably three of my classmates to get to the turtle. This was IT. For years I’ve read about turtle tagging. You know what comes next. With Joel holding the flipper, I placed the clenched over the turtles flipper and clamped. I did it. I tagged a turtle. “Pics or it didn’t happen”, you may say.
And for the other flipper, Luke was lucky enough to be right next to me so he got to tag the other flipper. After one more tag inside the neck, a quick photo session with the turtle ensued. Luke and I are the only ones who got one on one pictures with the turtle. (if it’s not clear, I was literally oozing with excitement during this entire sequence.) Read Luke Curran’s blog for today for a great play-by-play of turtle tagging.
After we release the turtle, we headed back to the marina for some lunch. It should be noted that the boat rides are exhilarating- I stood up on the top deck with Brian as he steered. I had a “volcano burger”. A little heavy on the bleu cheese and it was hardly spicy enough to warrant the title “volcano”, but it was a filling $15 burger nonetheless. Still buzzed with excitement atfrom the turtle tagging, we then headed to “The Baths” after a quick stop at our cabins. If SCUBA makes me feel like an astronaut, then snorkeling makes me feel like a fighter pilot. After a pirates of the Caribbean-esque trip through some huge boulders along the shore, we snorkeled up.
It was at this point where my camera died. Yet pictures would not be able to capture the beauty and diversity I saw. After exiting the caverns frolicked by sports illustrated swimsuit models as well as models for sports less illustrated, (gross winky face), we greeted an antagonist for many, but merely a plaything for a diver so experienced as myself. The water we snorkeled had a large number of jellyfish that stung a majority of the guys today. Nobody was hurt beyond repair, and the snorkel was fun for all. Over thousands of year, graphite and quarts were pushed up by the earth tectonic plates, creating not only these islands, but also many rocks which formed the baths and the reefs we dove. Huge ravines underwater, fish at every glance, beautiful algaes, coral galore. Luke and I took a liking to a tiny blue fish with vibrant electric-blue spots along the tail. I was able to identify these as juvenile yellowtail damselfish. I also spotted a jellyfish without large tentacles; I took this opportunity to do some poking and photo shooting.
I was aware enough to avoid any other jellyfish encounters; Luke became wrapped in the tentacles of one and was stung many times. Another favorite part of the dive was my newfound bottom time ability. Using the breathing methods taught by Casey, I was able to submerge to new depths for longer periods of time. This allowed me to see fish that aren’t as easily seen, and also to navigate underwater tunnels. I dove through three underwater archway/tunnels. Pure adrenaline. Although I was very safe, there’s nothing quite like being able to see something so amazing purely because of your own athletic ability. I wish my camera had not died… Oh well. After finishing our dive, those that were stung recovered while I returned to the cabin and showered. We were then treated to some Mexican food and a quick few throws of frisbee before our daily video. Tomorrow is the day we learn to identify fish and do some night snorkeling. In both closing and continuation of my current motif: I AM VERY EXCITED.
Eat. Snorkel. turtle. eat. snorkel. eat. sleep.
Also, right before bed we found this guy