Yesterday morning (we didn’t have time to write a blog yesterday) we got up and took a trip to the marina where we had breakfast at Casey’s office and hung around the marina until it was time to go. We started to move our dried cement blocks to the boat for the artificial reef plant. The trip to Long Bay was a short one and with the help of Jeff Jr. we started to lower the blocks to the bottom of the reef. At this point Alex realised his reef structure’s cement hadn’t dried correctly around his dowel rods, and he decided not to sink his, therefore only leaving 12 reef structure to move. Jeff Jr. debriefed us on the use of lift bags for the heavier cement blocks and then gave us the cue to go. Julian and I partnered up, geared up, and jumped in the water. This was mostly unsupervised buddy-team work as there was a lot of work to be done. Julian and I were the first team to move a cement block to the flagged off point amidst the reef, and did it pretty flawlessly besides the occasional buoyancy mishap. After moving the heavier of the two of my blocks, he and I went back to grab the lighter one, which we carried without the use of a lift bag. We situated my reef structure and zip-tied it together so it wouldn’t drift in the current. Then we went to move Julian’s blocks from the edge of the reef, which we definitely needed a lift bag for. He had two blocks that were filled with cement and one that was a regular breeze-block (the term Laura likes to use). Jeff Jr. helped us string the two cement blocks together at once, but unfortunately I ended up getting my middle finger smashed between the two while loading them on – don’t worry,1 I only needed to amputate my arm. We moved Julian’s blocks to an opening in the reef near mine and zip-tied his together as well. At this point I had run low on air and had to surface, but Julian and Alex stayed under to take pictures of the reef. We were all recalled to the boat after a decent interval and had sandwiches and chips for lunch. Andrew, Julian, and I all laid on the front of the boat and tanned a little while we ate. After lunch, each Marine II buddy team was paired with a Marine I kid to plant coral. Jules and I were paired with Jackson and we were given 4 fragments of coral to plant on our blocks. While being debriefed on this dive by Laura, we had to fill out an informational sheet on our reef block and draw a layout of it. We all geared up, grabbed a few zip-ties, and jumped in. We sank to the bottom, and immediately got to work. Casey gave us a few fragments from a plastic tupperware box and we used the zip-ties to secure the branches to the dowel rods on the cement blocks. I secured one, Julian secured one, and Jackson secured 2 because we had already done the same activity on last year’s trip. After planting the coral, we measured each segment and photographed it for documentation purposes, then messed around in the reef for 20-30 minutes. Julian and I got some really good pictures of the marine life and went back up to the boat to head to the marina. We got to the marina, unloaded the ship, and got on the taxi back to Guavaberry to shower off for church. After showering and changing, we got back on the taxi and went to the church on the top of the hill (it has a great view by the way) for a short mass. After mass we went back to Guavaberry to change AGAIN and walk to the beach barbecue on Guvaberry Beach. Jeff Sr. was the cook for the night, and he makes a damn good burger (although he won’t admit it). While waiting for the food, Julian, Andrew, and I buried Matt in the sand while the others were playing frisbee. After talking and eating for 30 to 45 minutes, Casey quieted us down and told us about the night-snorkel we were about to go on. We all changed into our wetsuits, got into our flippers, and grabbed flashlights. Julian and I were on Team Caitlyn as were Tucker, Guy, Alex, Andrew, Austin and a few others. As we were swimming through the bay, Caitlyn was telling us about the type of marine life we would see and how to identify species in the dark. Jules and I switched off using the flashlight a couple of times throughout the snorkel session and spotlighted for each other. The species we were trying to see where turtles, octopi, stingray, and a few other nocturnal feeders. The only one of these that we did see was the southern stingray, which was pretty cool to see feeding on the sea floor. We were called back to shore, stripped out of our gear, and walked home. It was pretty late at this point so we decided not to write our blogs and call it a day.
This morning we woke up at 7:25 to get ready for breakfast at 8 in the commissary, but couldn’t find the key to our room to lock up. We hid our stuff and ran down as it was already 7:55 and we were going to be late. It turns out that we were late and that Mr. Kirby had our key because it was left in our outside door when we went to bed the night before (and trust me, we felt like idiots). We walked back up to lock our stuff up, and came back to eat breakfast. We then got on the taxi to head to the marina for our final dive. We headed to a patch of open water to anchor for our lionfish hunt, but the water was incredibly choppy so we decided to move to another spot. The second spot we went to was called Mountain Point, where we actually did dive. The boat was divided into two teams for the dive and my side was Jeff Sr.’s team. We geared up and jumped in for the final time this trip. We dove down into a reef system about 70 feet down to look for lionfish to spear. Because the pressure that far down is 2 ATM’s, our dive time was much shorter, as we used air 2 times faster. We couldn’t find anything at first but after looking for a few minutes on a slope of the reef, we saw some sea turtles and lots of fish. We come to a clearing to see a sunken sailboat of some kind where 6 lionfish were chilling and eating baitfish. Jeff Sr. and Fernando come in with spearguns and pull a killshot on a few of them, pass the guns over to Julian, Tucker, and Joe and let them spear some more. We put the dead lionfish in the “murder tube” as Jeff Sr. called it, and swam back through the reef to the boat, as we were all extremely low on air. We re-surface, get on the boat and mess around until the other dive team returned. We headed back to the marina (about a 20 minute trip) and dumped all the collected lionfish into a bucket on the ground. We headed over to the Rendezvous Bar where we had delicious chicken wraps and then messed around in the marina until the lionfish dissection. Jeff Sr. was dissecting the fish – he cut the venomous spines off, cut around the ribs and filleted each fish. I measured the length of each fish and gave the information to Laura, then took a picture with one of the dead fish. Lionfish are beautiful animals but are aggressive predators and invasive to the BVI. They tear up the underwater ecosystem, killing coral and eating tons of fish through the food chain. Andrew, Julian, and I walk around to take pictures and wait for Glen to come get us to take us to Guavaberry. Doc and Mr. Kirby told us to write a blog about what had happened the previous day, start to pack up, and enjoy ourselves for the rest of the day until 4:30 when we’ll pack up, shower, pay our tab, and go to dinner.
I had such an incredible time this week, all because of our amazing dive instructors Jeff, Casey, Jeff Jr., Caitlyn, Laura, Fernando, Pablo, and AJ. Thank you all for the amazing experiences and I hope to see you all again (maybe in the graduate program?).