This Friday we completed two project dives and a third dive on the coral nursery. Our first dive took place just off Ginger Island at a dive spot called Ginger Hole. My project group and I dove to a depth of about 35 feet and searched for heads of coral with suitable fish populations for our experiment. After finding a test site, we set up on the sandy bottom and began to test using the same procedure we used Wednesday. After the test, we put some air in our BCs and swam to find a new spot. Twice when we were entering a new area of the reef, two Reef Sharks swam around us for a couple of minutes to check us out. We also saw an enormous lobster running along the sand. His antenna must have been at least a foot long. The dive was a success as we experimented on three more sites, giving us six sites in total- meaning we had an hour of video data to comb through and evaluate back on land.
The next dive was a brief trip away on the other side of the island at a site named Ginger Backside. Casey explained that this site was either named due to its being located on the back side of the island, or that it possibly got its name from a certain rock formation in the cliffs above. This was slated to be a second project dive, but since my group had worked efficiently we had no need to collect more data. This meant that we had the opportunity to explore as we chose. On this dive we observed two more sharks. Rather, we observed one and the other observed us. The first was a small Nurse Shark. It was nestled under a large head of coral almost completely out of sight bathed in shadow. I was incredibly surprised that Casey was able to find it. It took me a while to see its form even after it was posted out to me. The next shark was observing us. As we dove along a reef parallel to a sandy shelf we noticed there was another reef shark observing us as we swam. In addition to the predators, I also saw many other marine animals that I hadn’t seen before. One of my favorites was a brilliant purple and yellow Fairy Basslet. It was cleaning a school of Jacks. They would swim up, hold their jaws open, and the Basslet would eat off their jaws. It was exciting seeing the larger fish who could easily eat the smaller hold still to get cleaned off. We also saw a series of file fish and [xxxxx] fish that were so docile I was able to get so close to them with the camera I nearly touch them. The file fish had a tiny cleaner fish swimming beside it just behind its gills creating another great example of a symbiotic relationship. After the dive, Sea Monke and Sea Dragon rafted up along the beach for lunch.
The purpose of our third dive was to measure the coral growing in the nursery trees for the Association of Reef Keepers and Dive BVI. Each coral tree was measured for the longest coral piece on each of the four branches and for the number of points on each piece of coral. This was especially exciting for the marine two guys because last year we cleaned each piece by hand in order to remove algae – a job that parrotfish usually take care of – in order to help them get the sunlight zooxanthellae. In just a year they had grown from about the length of a finger to up to 30 cm point to point and they had up to 25 points. I was really glad we had the opportunity to take part in this project again this year, especially because we saw the success of the patches of coral growing in the wild.
I’m really looking forward to going back to the Rhone wreck tomorrow and for the night dive. Last year the Rhone was my favorite dive and is a great location to spot rays, some of my favorite marine animals. Last year I spotted an octopus carrying a fish and played with the bioluminescent phytoplankton on the night dive. I can’t wait to go back for my two favorite dives.