Thursday, June 23, 2011

Hello from Little Cayman!

So I’ve been here since Sunday now and have been so busy I havn’t had a chance to even stop and think about everything. There is so much that we have done that I’m just going to give you a play by play, because otherwise I’ll be giving you a jumble of information.

Day 1: (June 18th) Basically this was the day of my departure. I got to the airport at 730 for my flight at 950, but there was a massive line. (see picture). Basically the computers went down and no one was being checked in. Planes weren’t flying out either, but the delays weren’t being listed. Over an hour later they finally get the computers up and I got checked in, but they didn’t know the depart time. I go to the original gate number and there was no plane, and I found out the gate had been changed I was at A, the new gate was in C. It took me 15 minutes to get there and by the time I did the plane was leaving (I could see it backing away). It was pretty much terrible. So my depart date changed to the 19th. (basically the worst day of my life…because if you read my first blog I was obviously nervous about flying alone.)

Day 2: (June 19th) I got on the plane! YAY. Except my carryon/ emergency bag had to be checked because the plane was full and then there was a delay, BECAUSE THE COMPUTERS WERE DOWN IN CHARLOTTE (my layover airport), of course. But I finally made it to Grand Cayman, to find out BOTH my bags had been lost. I pretty much had to worst luck in airport situations ever, and I missed my flight to Little Cayman. (basically the second worst day of my life).

The best part about this is probably the feeling I felt once I got there. I was so relieved and excited and a little on edge, but I couldn’t even be nervous about meeting my classmates and professor and everyone. Little Cayman is beautiful and more remote than I even thought. The resorts don’t even look like resorts (just beach houses), and there is a lot of trees and plant life and then ocean. We got in the truck to drive to the research center and we were driving on the left side of the road. Then right as we saw an Iguana crossing sign a giant iguana was in the road. It was pretty awesome. It is definitely a new experience and pictures don’t really do it justice. Once we got to the research center I was kind of just blown away. The research center where we are staying is mostly just one big house, but it’s all very open, and we are right on the beach. The water was so blue and clear, but you could see the dark portions of the sea grasses and small reefs.

I met all my classmates (9 of them) and then we had dinner where I learned 4 others had lost their luggage too, so I had calmed down, but I didn’t have much with me (thank god I grabbed a suit out of my carry on). That night we collected corals on the beach to begin IDing them, where we were all attacked by the immense amount of mosquitoes (something I was very unprepared for).

Falling asleep to the sound of the ocean, and the night breeze was nice too. It was still hot and sticky, but every day is so tiring you don’t really notice at that point.

Day 3: 20th
We all woke up by 730 which is breakfast and than after we went to scuba dive. I was nervous because I had just gotten my certification, and I had none of my own stuff too and had to borrow my mask (my face is small so it ended up leaking, (AND SALT WATER IN YOUR EYES HURRTTTS) my snorkel, booties (water shoes so you can walk on the sand with the coral and rocks and sea grass without getting cut and also needed for scuba fins), and fins. The first dive didn’t go so well comfort wise because of my leaking mask, but experience wise it was amazing. The water was so gorgeous and the coral and fish I saw were all different from anything I have ever seen. Later we went snorkeling in CCMI’s “backyard” and learned about the three different types of sea grass (Turtle grass or thalassic testudium, manatee grass syringodium filliformae, and shoal grass halodule wrightii). We also saw two different types of green algae, halimeda and penicillus and learned about how they are actually the main types of contributors to sedimentation (sand) on the island. This is because they actually have calcium carbonate within their structure. I found this really interesting that the sand here doesn’t come from rocks and erosion, but algae.

Day 4: 21st
This was both the most Holy S***, O-M-G, ndjfhjednfhhdsuifmds, and tiring day of my existence. After breakfast we went snorkeling in the “backyard” and looked at different types of coral and tried to identify or get a grasp on what was in the water behind CCMI. Considering this water just looks like ocean and blue water and in places some dark spots, it was amazing to see what was out there. We saw many different corals and tried to find unique finds like the invasive species of lionfish. When we got back we had lunch and YAY, by this time my luggage had come. I got it all out and then we left for s scuba diving trip. This was a two dive trip. We first started at Jackson Wall, which has been by far my favorite. The second you go under the water you are just awed by the pure massive expanse of coral, fish, and blue ocean in the other direction. The wall was huge and you look down and just see corals and then darkness, and you look up and see schools of blue tang. (look them up they are gorgeous). We went into an area where the wall of coral was on both sides of us which was scary because you don’t want to touch anything by accident. We saw a giant tagged Nassau grouper which ended up following us for most of the dive. The best part though (besides the entire dive) was the sea turtle. To express excitement underwater is apparently a difficult endeavor. All I could do was wave my hands energetically and watch as the turtle swam upward for air, took a breath, swam back down, and went to eat. It was the cutest (I love sea turtles), most amazing thing I have ever witnessed.

(Above the dive)

We then got back on the boat and went to our second dive on Barracuda Bite, bloody bay wall. This dive was not as exciting because I was tired and just too amazed by the sea turtle. We did see a barracuda though and I immedietly felt like Finding nemo and the drop off with the barracuda. We then got back on the boat and started on our way back. We were all so exhausted from both snorkeling and scuba diving we were just excited to eat. After we ate we kind of just passed out in the class room and listened to two presentations. (We all have a presentation on topics and we discuss them after they are done.) After that we mostly just sat around and did work or had free time.

Day 5: 22nd
All day we basically studied. We were given about 30 different coral and 30 fish to know and study. We were so exhausted from the two scuba dives and not getting free time that we got time to study and make index cards for all the different corals, fish, and algae we need to know. At some point we went out with two interns and for two hours either went out to identify damselfish, blennies, and gobys or to identify the different types of green, red, and brown algae’s in Little Cayman.

At night there was a storm, which was cool but the idea of lightning and living next to the ocean was a little scary, but cool none the less. It didn’t really rain though which was weird and you could still see the

Day 6: 23rd. LIONFISH DAY
Today we woke up and had breakfast and then split up into two groups. One group spoke to the professor (Tom) about our projects, while the other went to look at lionfish and dissect them and take notes. I was in the first group and I got the job of cutting out the stomachs. In previous classes I was always with a partner who didn’t give me much chance to dissect, so I was excited but nervous because I didn’t want to cut the wrong thing and make Morgan (the intern who is working on the research project) upset, so I was slow none the lease. We saw two large fish and small fish within the stomachs of the lionfish which was cool. While cutting the lionfish open I pricked myself a few times on their spikes. Usually these spikes contain venom. Since the lionfish has been killed the night before it wasn’t as strong so I didn’t feel anything after the first few pricks, but I had one in my pinky and it stung, like a wasp sting. It wasn’t that bad in comparison to a wasp sting, but it probably can feel a lot worse. After a while we were going to slow and needed to keep the fish cold so we had to stop. Currently we have been sitting in the classroom studying or having free time.

Later my lionfish group gets to talk to Tom about our research ideas and I’m excited. The other group is discussing working with the calcifying halimeda and I want to work with them on decalcification due to co2 input into the water (I hope).

In essence we never do the same thing twice, are always learning, but still enjoying ourselves. The worst part is definitely the bugs and the heat and stickiness is up there. As of today we didn’t have air conditioning, but we will tonight (yay!), so hopefully sleeping doesn’t feel so sticky, but it isn’t a bad price to pay for getting to live here for 2 and half weeks.

Although I know it is probably difficult to do, but everyone should spend at least a week on a tropical secluded island or at least sleep on the beach. Words to live by.

Time to go study. Off I go.

Hope your having a good day. I know I am!


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