Our group of coral reef explorers landed on Andros Island, Bahamas on Saturday morning. They have been sending us their stories every evening, which we invite you to read below. We'll continue to update this post throughout the week, so be sure to check back for the latest news!

7/30/16

Good Evening from Andros.

We are all settled in to Forfar Field Station. 

Had a rainy afternoon, fairly uneventful flights over and a great check-out snorkel in the river.

Camp orientation tonight and field trips tomorrow.

We are all safe, sound, and well fed.

All our very best wishes to all of you.

Bruce


7/31/16

Today was our first full day exploring the wonderful reefs that Andros has to offer. We thought the wind was going to be too strong for a boat trip, but this morning it was calm enough for us to go out, thankfully. Our first dive was on a small reef called Dave's Patch Reef. This was used as a scouting dive to be seeing where we will be doing our research and transect studies. We saw lion fish and tons of beautiful corals. After a fun little dive, we came back to Forfar for lunch. After lunch we had some downtime to journal and to go on a beach walk.

Our next outing was to a place called Pigeon Key which is adjacent to Dave's reef. The waves were a bit too rough for us to be able to circum-snorkel the island and explore the caverns like we have done in past years, but we snorkeled around the little cove there and saw many cool things. Goniolithon coral seemed to be the most abundant organism in that area. Helmet shells and Queens Conch's also graced us with their presence. Hopefully the seas will calm down some this week so we can go back- personally it's one of my favorite dive spots. 

Tonight we had a wonderful invertebrate lecture given to us by one of the staff numbers. We learned about the different phylums and the classes of each. This lecture gave us a preview of what we would see this week and what we would be studying/collecting. 

We're looking forward to a fantastic week here in the Bahamas and can't wait to do more exploring!

See you soon,

Emily & the other Bahamian Coral Reefers :)


8/1/16

Our day was filled with many snorkeling adventures. Our first stop was Money Point beach. There were lots of sea urchins that were tucked away in the little crevices of the ocean floor. In the seaweed, we saw sea biscuits, sea stars, and sea eggs. We swam into the shallow water and had to crawl army style through the seaweed. 

Next stop was Morgan's wrecks. Ships were sunk under the water near a cement wall. We practiced free-diving and got to see the inside of the ships through port holes and open doors. Barracuda were floating around the hulls as well as other tiny fish. When we were finished snorkeling around the wrecks, we jumped off the sea walls and played water games.

Uncle Charley's Blue hole was our last water stop. It was a freshwater pool that had sunk down below the surface of the ground. This provided a good place to jump off of and rinse off the seawater. Some of us decided to climb up the rocks instead of using the wooden ladder. A quick stop at a grocery store allowed us to supply our selves with chips and other snacks.

Tonights lecture was about fish and how to properly identify and describe them when we do our surveys. We can't wait to see what tomorrow brings us.

See you at the end of the week.

Brenna and the other Bahamian Campers.


8/2/16

Yesterday was an eventful day full of surprises.  The wind was still blowing strong so we took another day of land-based adventures with new exciting snorkels and beach walks. We all hopped into the vans around 9am and rolled out of ForFar.  Our first location was to a beach called Colors in search of the legendary "One Rock".  While we didn't find the spot we were initially searching for, we strolled over a beautiful sandy flat covered in giant West Indian sea stars and littered with Six-Keyhole sand dollars.  We discovered bunches of creatures living in the grasses and under rocks like long armed brittle stars and a tiny trunk fish that was just bobbling around. 

After our dive, we drove off to a new beach to eat lunch at.  While the lunch location was less than perfect, the shoreline was absolutely beautiful.  After hearing that Dale, a staff member here at ForFar, had supposedly found four Flamingo's Tongue shells in a 50-yard span of beach, a large group of us set of on a beach walk in search of a shell of our own.  Our walk-turned-hike was more than successful, we found lots of Flamingo's Tongues, a few cowries, and some of us were even lucky enough to find Flame Helmets.  However, shells were not the only thing we found on our beach adventure.  ON our walk back we stumbled upon an abandoned cemetery by the water's edge.  

Our next destination was Androsia.  Androsia is a local Batik factory and store.  Unfortunately the factory had already closed for the season but the store was still open for our enjoyment.  When we were all Batik-ed out, the crew decided to try something new and visit Captain Bill's blue hole.  This blue hole was much larger than Uncle Charlie's, the blue hole we explored yesterday, and the jump into its water was much more thrilling.  Holding hands or going solo, we jumped into its waters and played around.  It felt so refreshing to wash off in the fresh water before returning to ForFar. 

When we returned and ate dinner, we were given the opportunity to learn the art of basket weaving from two local women.  We didn't go into it thinking it would be easy, but I think it was much more difficult than many of us were expecting.  I also think some people found there true calling. Basket weaving. 

Overall, yesterday was an adventure filled with exciting discoveries and new sights to see. We're very excited for our up-coming day, we'll see you all at the end of the week!

-Elly and the other Bahamian Campers :)


8/3/16

Today the weather was much calmer today so we spent the day snorkeling from the boat at various different sights. We departed Forfar on the boats at about 9:30 am and arrived at our first stop about half an hour later. The sight was called 'turtle reef' and it offered some fantastic snorkeling on the edge of the barrier reef. The water was slightly deeper here than what we'd been snorkeling in the past couple of days, about 15 ft deep. There was a huge variety of wildlife here, including corals, fish and inverts. Here we saw squid, barracuda and trumpetfish.

After Turtle reef we stopped for lunch at Saddleback Cay right on the beach, the weather was lovely and sunny and the beach offered some shell collecting. We soon went on our way to our next sight called Rat Cay. The water was still quite deep in some areas with a blue hole which featured coral reef formations and some larger fish, there were also some sea grass beds in much shallower water where we found a number of invert species. We also saw stingrays and a Barracuda.

Our final snorkel sight that day was Acropra, here the water was exceptionally clear and looked stunning, you could make out details on the bottom even whilst on the boat. There wasn't much on the sandy bottom near the boat, but the rockier areas nearby offered corals and other invtert species and the clear water made it easier to make things out. We managed to see a nurse shark here, the first shark we've seen this trip. 

On our way back to Forfar we stopped by Dave's patch reef in order to prepare our spot for tomorrow where we'll be carrying out our survey on the species living there. The weather today was certainly in our favour, there wasn't too much wind and the water was reasonably still, which helped visibility. As a result we were able to go to a variety of sights and see a huge amount of biodiversity. Tomorrow we'll be carrying out our research on Dave's patch reef, plenty to look forward to!

-Albert and the other Bahamian Campers


8/4/16

Dear Legal Guardians,

We must inform you we will be returning your children tomorrow evening, I suggest you enjoy your final moments of freedom while they last. As of yesterday these rascals enjoyed a wonderful continental breakfast provided by the local Bahamian staff. After a series of bouts of indigestion I now rely on oatmeal alone to survive. We then proceeded to prepare for a long day of research. After packing our gear we continued to slather each other in sunscreen and prepare for a day of solar radiation. (The previous night we all prepared for this excursion by creating data sheets to record our info on.) The boat ride was short but blissful as the wind provided a small break from the flesh eating bugs swarming every inch of this island. (have lots of after bite lotion ready for us when we return). When we reached Dave's patch reef, the fish team was first to jump in, they were the weakest and used as bait for the sharks. Luckily for them, all survived and they started with their research. Teams would collect data on the reef by following certain transects we had laid out the day before and record it on data sheets we made on water proof pieces of paper. (I didn't know that this existed, but water-proof paper is as mind-blowing as it sounds.) The teams that went in the morning were fish, coral, gorgonians, algae, and sea grass. After research, it was time for the usual delectable lunch and we pulled up the a beach to eat which Elly said looked like a "computer screen saver" because it was so beautiful.  We all passed out into food comas as the excessive amount of imported food sank to the depths of our bowels. After we awakened from our slumber we proceeded to return to the boats and continue with our reef exploration. In the afternoon, both the sponge and invertebrate groups dove into their research (I know, punny). On the boat the remaining campers sprawled out on the bow of the boat in order to cure our vitamin D deficiencies. Our boredom initiated a friendly competition on whether or not you could push your neighbor into the water, turning friends into enemies and enemies into fish bait. On another note, the campers in the water invested themselves in the research and noted every species on the transects in order to gain insight on how marine biologists would survey a reef. After this was finished we headed back to Forfar and worked on our stunning hand-made art projects that any first grader would be proud of. We ate a quick but very caloric dinner of MRE's, which is pretty much a last ditch effort to contradict the impending starvation we have been experiencing. After adding copious amounts of sodium the food was actually quiet tolerable. (but as we found out later, would triple in size in our stomach). With our stomaches stuffed we loaded up our equipment for the night dive. The sky was filled with stars and the new crescent moon shone orange on the horizon of the ocean. However, the real sight was underwater. Barracudas, slipper lobsters, squids, basket stars, and even more creatures occupied the reef and amazed all of us and we looked at them with our flashlights. Even the usually boring sea grass glowed with bioluminescence. It was truly a sight to see. On the way home we nearly caught hypothermia, but the constellations were pretty enough to distract us. Its easy to say we slept well that night. 

The following morning we enjoyed a traditionally southern breakfast of biscuits and gravy and the ever present canned mandarin oranges. As groggy as we were we hopped on the boat and went out to finish our research. Fish and Gorgonians went in for a second source of data and we performed the lion fish sweep. We reenacted scenes from finding dory by performing the seal dive off the from of the boat. Off we went to visit a coral propagation farm, which was pretty cool. A storm was coming through so we headed back to base to have lunch. Before lunch we displayed our art project for the week, mine was an algae colony i knitted using paintbrushes and green twine. (might I mention that this project was knitted 5 minuted before it was supposed to be finished and looked like a giant knotted ball). We all took much needed naps and later went out to a small little ice cream store with a huge variety of 2 flavors. For dinner we had roast, and remarkably, more applesauce. Also we had a good ole campfire, because it wasn't hot enough in the first place. At this fire we were told some very comforting ghost stories that most definitely not keep me up at night. As of now, this story has caught up to the present and we sit here writing this hoping that no ghost is looking over our shoulders disappointed in our run-on sentences. See you soon!!!!

With love, 

Will and Cat

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