After a sweltering night between the sheets–or rather above–we awoke to hot coffee and daybreak. A breakfast of approximately 45 slices of french toast, a loaf of banana bread made from the bananas hanging out back, and 3.7 pineapples later, the troop left to learn about the local flora.
Craned necks scrutinized poisonwood leaflets and almond tree nuts, while curious fingers picked sea grapes and nino fruits. To the unaccustomed traveling eye there appeared to be a trash problem on this fair island of Ambergris Caye, however one man’s trash is another man’s foundation. One citizen decided that a constantly inundated lawn was best avoided through the stockpiling of a thick layer of cardboard and turtle grass neatly covered with a liberal application of sand. Strolling past this newfangled attempt at recycling, the group happened upon a gumbo limbo tree, which, interestingly enough, is the antidote to the pustule inducing poisonwood. The tiny stingless honey bees that provide the island with sweetener buzzed around our inquiring faces. We picked amongst the mounds of turtle grass blown up on the shore by the unrelenting wind, waves, and tides before heading back to TREC to ready ourselves for our first day on the water.
Goliath, our vessel for our ten day sojourn in Belize, laid in wait on the dock’s edge and we hopped abroad. After a fifteen minute sunbath on deck, we donned wetsuits, flips, and snorkels and finally dove beneath the aquamarine Belizean waters. Without much an agenda, we were relatively free to explore Tres Cocos, our chosen dive spot for the afternoon. Accountibilibuddies in tow, brain corals, trumpet fish, and the odd barracuda flashed in front of our goggles. An enormous hermit crab that had found refuge in a horse conch tried to snatch our flailing fingers as we posed for pictures.
Egg salad sandwiches and a glorious bean dip (not pictured because of the alacrity with which it was consumed) revitalized us after fighting unseasonably strong currents all afternoon. A move to the southern end of the reef yielded more fascinating corals and critters: starfish, stingray, damselfish, parrot fish abound. Pruned fingers grasped for Goliath’s steps and we pulled our sleek neoprene selves from the balmy waters. Tanned and exhausted we turned towards TREC, calling it a afternoon well spent at the office.
Hey friends! Geology 105 finally made it to Belize to begin our coral reef adventure! This past week we have been working hard learning and studying different coral species and organisms common to the Belize reefs to get ready for our field research. Sitting here in 90 degree weather and feeling the salty ocean breeze, we do admit that it is hard convey to you that we are actually doing work, but we promise we are!The morning started with loud alarms buzzing and everyone checking on each other at 4 am in order to get ready to leave. With the vans packed full of luggage and drowsy students, we were finally ready to go! The thunder, lighting, and torrential downpour had us a little concerned, but all flights went smoothly. Checking in, however, was a different story. Picture, for a moment, a group of 14 psyched college students in Chacos and baseball hats swamping the check-in desk with 25 duffel bags – a little hectic right? What isn’t apparent in this picture, though, is that the person with the most bags was none other than our fearless leader… Professor Greer 🙂 Which is funny… since she told us to pack light! (Professor Greer needed to bring extra research equipment in crates for summer research – I guess that is a good excuse).
We were excited to see that upon our arrival to Belize all of our bags were accounted for. But what was more exciting were the puddle jumper planes! The planes were so small that our group split into two separate flights.
The gang with our lovely, teeny tiny puddle-jumper plane
We didn’t care about the size once we were in the air, though! Flying from Belize City to San Pedro Island, we crossed over gorgeous views of the reefs. None of us realized how vast the reefs would be. Once we finally landed on the Island, we took a cab to the Tropical Research and Education Center (TREC) – our home for the next 9 days. The real thing exceeded our expectations when we saw the pool right outside our rooms and when we were greeted by plates of nachos and grilled cheese sandwiches. Needless to say us college kids were pretty happy.
We ate, moved in, tested out our snorkel gear in the pool and went over the TREC rules with Ken (i.e. Don’t poke a lionfish!). We also explored TREC a little more and found the hammock garden in the backyard. Soon after, we walked along the beach and tested our coral identification skills on the dead corals that were washed along the shore. Our studies this past week must have paid off, because we knew almost all the corals we found! Maddy even discovered what her new favorite coral was when she found 10 Manicina areolatas.
Later tonight we’ll meet for dinner and have our nightly paper discussion, during which we all read primary literature on coral reefs. We’re all excited for a good night’s sleep and our first day of snorkeling tomorrow. We’ll have breakfast at 8 and be on the water by 9! Be sure to check in for more updates tomorrow night!