I remember several years ago going for a swim at Royal Oaks country club in Dallas. The diving boards there allowed me to do something I once thought to be incredible: to dive down to the bottom of the 12 foot deep pool. The adrenaline I felt then resurfaced as I did the opposite and sank. Among more exciting things today, I dove down thirty five feet on one breath.
My alarm to go off this morning was the guitar solo from “The Hellion/ Electric Eye” by Judas Priest. This was my first hint that today would be awesome. We woke up and headed to the taxi, which then took us to the harbor, where we ate a quick breakfast. Along with my classmates, I boarded the sea monkey and headed for long island. My day was to consist of three parts: a preliminary snorkel, a dive to collect, and a dive to preserve. I wasn’t sure it was possible, but somehow three of my three favorite things were combined today: SCUBA diving, attaching things to other things, and danger. You guessed it: CORAL PLANTING.
We set out: Sean, Killian, and I towards the reef. The reef at long island had been damaged by hurricane Katrina in 2005; but the parts left were still beautiful. We saw a variety of fishes; including reef squid. We even saw a green turtle which i snorkeled after for a few minutes. But no matter; we were on a mission in search of staghound and elkhorn coral. This snorkel was done so that we could identify healthy specimens ripe for harvesting and replanting. We found several staghorns; and there was one area that I wish I’d had my camera for, because this was a real reef. It’s the sort of reef you imagine when told to imagine a coral reef. It made me glad to be helping to restore such a reef to an even greater status of health and beauty. After identifying specimens, we returned to the boats for a quick snack. We SCUBA suited up and went back down; this time with a dive knife and weight to break off coral. We collected a total of nineteen specimens for the Sea Monkey. As we got back to the ship, we saw a jackknife fish; one of my favorites in that it reminds me of both a zebra and the lead singer for A Flock Of Seagulls.
Back on the ship, we had some turkey sandwiches. Casey brought out some fish flash cards and we had a competition to see who could name the most fishes. I would have had EVERY single one had I known the difference between a queen angelfish and a rock beauty. Every one. But, I got an “anti-prize” for playing: a pirate hat. This complemented Francis’ pirate headband very well; I think I’ll just let him have it. We then set out again for an acre underwater where we would be securing our corals. I attached about four pieces of coral, some elkhorn and some staghorn. Dylan was in charge of the zip ties, and Killian wrote down the measurements and ID tags for each piece of coral. I carried one of the two bags that the coral was stored in. I felt like a real marine biologist for the full hour that we were down there. So much fun out on the reef. I’m very excited to come back next year and see all of the progress that these coral will have made. After about an hour, we finished planting all the coral and returned to the boat. We weren’t quite ready to go, so we had some fun swimming and diving off of the boat for a while. Mr. Kirby had my camera for the whole process, so he snapped some pretty good shots of us all planting coral and then jumping off the boat.
Once we got back to the harbor, I ran into the dive shop to check and see if they had a diver’s log available yet. It’s kind of bad that I don’t have any dives recorded for the last few years, but Casey says that I can sit down and try to really remember them and be fine. When I returned to the boat, Mr. Kirby gathered everyone around. He said that all of the students had voted on a “MVD”, or Most Valuable Diver; someone who had put forth a lot of effort, attention, and enthusiasm over the trip. I am proud and honored to say that I was given this honor of MVD. As a symbol of my Most Value, I was given a phenomenal sun hat. It has been a pleasure and an honor, gentlemen. I would remind the reader of something; before I left for this trip, my mother and I had a difference of opinion on the necessity of a hat for this trip. Although I was insistent that I would not need nor wear a hat for the duration of the trip, I still was made to bring two (2) hats, neither of which I have worn. Through the duration of the trip, I have indirectly acquired three new hats, in addition to the two I brought. If there is a karma, then this is it.
We then headed to our cabins, where I took a shower, a snickers bar, and a powernap before dinner at Mad Dog’s. Dinner was an assortment of wraps and macaroni and cheese. I then returned to my cabin, where I blogged for a bit and then went to sleep.
The details are a little hazy, and I’m getting them second hand, as I vaguely remember them. At around eleven thirty, Killian and Jeff returned to the room and turned on the lights. Apparently I sat right up and looked them dead in the face and said “we have to take care of their skin”. This threw them into hysterics, so they called guy and tucker to come see this. At this point I had gotten up and walked to the kitchen. They kept telling me that I was asleep, to which I said, “I’m not asleep. Which is, of course, something that someone who is sleepwalking would say, isn’t it?” At this point I just returned to bed and went to sleep. Man what a fun trip.