Today (or should I say yesterday?) followed the now typical routine of an early rise, gear gathering, and a plentiful breakfast at the marina. Breakfast was passed by discussing manly things and gawking at the CNN ticker running on the TV. Once we were sufficiently stuffed, we traversed the treacherous 20 yards of flat ground over to the office, where we meet with Dr. Shannon Gore, colloquially known as the island’s resident turtle master. She gave us a presentation on a brief history of turtles and their different types. Once she and the marine biology 1 guys had left to go turtle tagging, we stayed behind to take another look at the live camera feed. The site proved to be perfect for our purposes, as it has scenic coral surrounding it, but can easily place our transplanted coral within its field of view. After this excitement, we hopped on a taxi to go to the north of the island. The ride covered a path that rose to the top of Virgin Gorda, forcing the taxi to clamber up at least a few thousand feet. The second half of the journey proved equally steep, as evident by the several goats we saw standing nearly perpendicular to the ground on the cliff faces to the side of the taxi. Once we had reached our destination, a quiet bay protected by a barrier reef, we donned our gear to begin wading through the water. This area is known for being a common shark gathering area, a somewhat disconcerting fact given that we would be wading around in water that quickly became rather murky. Of course, the expedition went without incident, and produced several small lemon shark and stingray sightings. The ride back to the marina mirrored the excitement of the the original trek out, this time featuring a lumbering dump truck lurching up the serpentine roads connecting the two halves of the island. Lunch was served in the marina, and featured a live musician with a penchant for imitating the calypso and warmth of the likes of Bob Marley and Jimmy Buffett. After his rousing renditions, we all reconvened at the resort to gather our snorkel gear. Hiking up to the Baths, our next stop, Glenn happened to be driving a small group of tourists but agreed to pick some of us to shorten the trip. Serendipitously, I was walking at the back of the group and was therefore able to get a spot in the taxi. Once the others had finished the remainder of the walk, we began the tour of the baths, listening to Sarah explain the folklore behind the various sights along the way. Apparently the stories about ghosts in the Baths must be true, as some ethereal force possessed me to, at Sarah’s suggestion, try a literal, genuine, certifiably real, live termite right off of one of the trees. Admittedly, it did taste similar to its touted “peppery” taste. Further down the path, we also had the opportunity to shake mangos out of a tree to have them as well. Following these experiences was a tour of the Baths themselves, a collection of rocks that had varying degrees of exposure to the elements. At the end, we put on our snorkels to prepare for the swim back to the Guavaberry Beach. The swim was relatively long, but gave the opportunity to see numerous small reef fish and to unofficially compete in free diving. The snorkel concluded at the beach, where we then were given time to recreate with frisbees. The afternoon also saw the reinstatement of the classic game ‘catch rock’, originally intended as solely a joke. Before any disastrous injuries caused by this game, Jeff and Casey showed up with the grill that would be preparing our beachside cookout. Sunset came and went, and then the grill was fired up. Grill master Jeff serenaded us with more life lessons while we waited. Dinner also proved to be a birthday celebration for two of the guys with birthdays while we are here. A piñata incident was nearly catastrophic for Mr. Kirby, who was nearly pegged by an errant stick accidentally released during an attempted swing. Despite the narrowly avoided crisis, dinner went on, and darkness set in. Once the tiki torches were the only thing helping us to see our hands in front of our faces, it was time to start the night snorkel. We each received a light, and grouped up in the water. Along the way, we saw how life on the reef had changed since the day time. Some fish hid while others emerged. Still others developed new colors at night. Casey had also brought along UV lights that were shined on the corals to cause a reaction in them similar to the changes they undergo during the day to deal with the sunlight. The snorkel brought with it the sighting of several rays, a squid, and a large tarpon that at least a few people confused for a shark. After the snorkels, we went back to our cabins, showered, and rendezvoused at my cabin for what appears to have become a nightly tradition of capping the day with aggressively competitive card games, replete with consolation prizes for all of the losers.
Morning dawns on today in a very similar fashion to all the others: alarm, chickens, Glenn’s taxi, and breakfast. With our daily morning routine steadfastly holding, we make our way to the boats to head to an area known as ‘Wreck Alley’. This opening between two islands has 4 artificially sunk boats, hence the name. The ride over to the site was bumpier than usual, but paled in comparison to the tidal rocking once we were moored up. The thrashing of the waves against the boat made several guys sick, but I thankfully remained unfazed and successfully managed to avoid being thrown headlong onto the deck. On the first dive, we saw several reef sharks swimming around. In addition, there were a couple of stingrays gliding. After an hour long surface interval and short boat ride later, we arrived at the site of our second dive. The highlight of this dive was of course the ‘Goliath grouper’ that we found on one of the he wrecks. Looking like the captain of the entire ship, the grouper’s enormity was staggering. It could have easily been upwards of 300 lbs. The dive was followed by the extremely well lauded fish-n-chips on Cooper island. A snorkel over the seagrass beds followed, and featured the he appearance of countless rays and turtles, many of which seemed completely apathetic to our presence. Once the day was over in regards to the water, we showered and redressed for a hill top Mass. The homily was about the necessity of evil in world. After Mass, we rode back to the restaurant at the top of the Baths, where Casey gave a presentation about tomorrow’s coral transplantation.