Friday, April 12, 2013

dive, snorkel, repeat: orpheus island

okay first of all, sorrrrrrrrry that this post is weeks late! the past two weeks since i got back from orpheus island i've been flooded with schoolwork. crazy right? who knew that i would have to actually do real work while abroad? all i want to do is explore. luckily all the assignments are behind me and now i'm ready for lecture recess, which i keep wanting to call spring break although its sort of still summer here... its kind of pathetic how over-used my brain feels after only a week of serious work (i.e. its taking me way too long to do this post). 

anyway, over the long easter weekend my reef corals class went out to orpheus island on the great barrier reef for three incredible days of diving and snorkeling. besides the research station and a small resort, orpheus is an uninhabited tropical oasis. the cerulean sky and turquoise waters beautifully contrasted against the lush emerald flora. in case you can't tell, i'm trying really hard (too hard?) to use a superfluity of descriptive adjectives. 

view of orpheus from the r/v challenger III

our lovely accommodations

luckily my phobia of falling off bunk beds has decreased over time

panorama of pioneer bay. we did our diving and snorkeling by the point to the left

for the field trip, our assignment was to study a particular species of coral in buddy pairs. ryan and i chose Diploastra heliopora, and we got three hour long dives in over the weekend, along with tons of snorkeling! we started the day on saturday with on a snorkeling trail of labeled corals in order to practice identification. actually recognizing the species in the field did not prove to be as difficult as the process to observe them was- i quickly and painfully became aware that while i am a confident and fairly experienced diver, i SUCKED at snorkeling. i don't know if it was my snorkel hanging at the wrong angle or my timing was just horribly wrong, but i ingested/inhaled more saltwater in that first snorkel than was healthy. luckily i did manage to improve by the third day, and i won't embarrass myself too much (hopefully) when i return to orpheus on sunday to snorel for my reef fish class.

the visibility was amazing, water was warm.. i was easily distracted from my work by the amazing diversity of fish and corals. i loved photographing underwater! here's just a bit of what i saw:

the giant clams were so cool!!! there were so many of them, and it was really cool to swim over them and watch them snap shut. 

this guy found himself a spot right in the middle of one of the D. heliopora we surveyed

see, there was real work going on under the water!

we measured the number of coral polyps across a healthy part of a colony and compared this to the number of polyps along a damaged area, where regrowth (and presence of smaller polyps) was likely taking place. the topic for our research, which we will be continuing through data analysis and in-lab observations, is determining how much energy D. heliopora is putting into repair and maintenance versus reproduction. 

after each dive, we would join the rest of our class in snorkeling. now that i actually know how to snorkel, i really like it! nice to not have to wear all the heavy scuba gear.

there were so many mangrove trees! they have an incredible root system, around which we saw a ton of tiny shovelnose guitar fish, baby black tip reef sharks, and stingrays.

this is paradise

see the shadow?

words cannot express how full of life orpheus island is. i even got to brush my teeth with a few companions.

none of us wanted to leave orpheus. being immersed in the natural world brought around a strong sense of living entirely in each moment, a feeling that i find i can lose track of sometimes. 

ps, sorry for breaking the hammock. 

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