15 Jan AM – Something really cool

Sitting outside on the balcony to my room, enjoying the cool Jamaican night breeze blowing in off the gently rolling water of Discovery Bay. Just returned from a snorkel under the stars. I can see Orion tonight.

 

Thanks to the snowstorm in NY, we all arrived here at different times yesterday. From as early as 9:30am to nearly midnight. But I have already heard a few say, “Remember yesterday when you saw that (insert cool looking marine critter here)!”, when they mean this morning. We are a small group and a busy group and we’re settling in quickly to make the most of this Caribbean experience. Nothing like a subtropical climate and bountiful amounts Jamaican cooking to make one forget the 2 hours they spent excavating their car from the snow the day before.

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Morning view from the dock at Discovery Bay Marine Lab.

 

Well since I was one of those who raised my hand in class in response to the question, “Who saw something really cool today?” I have been elected to write one of the first 2 blog entries.

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The colorful flesh and eyes in the center belong to the octopus Matt caught during the night snorkel.

I think everyone probably could have raised their hand to that question. It depends on perspective. But, I did see some pretty cool stuff. During the morning snorkel I saw a southern stingray, lots of sea urchins and donkey dung sea cucumbers (I am not an expert on animal droppings, but yes, they do in fact look like some kind of dung). And I finally discovered my first octopus in the wild! It was just nestled into a valley in the coral about a foot and a half from my face, its evolutionarily humanesque eyes staring up at me. Unfortunately I did not bring my underwater camera on that trip and got so excited when I saw it that I looked up to see who else I could show it to. When I looked back down the current had moved me just enough that I lost it. I did, however, get a picture of an octopus that Matt found and captured on our night dive. On the way back to the dock we came upon a school of cuttlefish. They seemed to have arranged themselves from largest to smallest and the big one in the front turned around backwards from time to time, as if to check on the youngsters.

 

Later in the day, the certified divers went out with the dive safety officer to demonstrate our aquatic skills. Despite being nervous to dive with no experience since my certification in August, the lull of the environment underneath the surface calmed me. I saw a lizard fish and yellow sting ray.

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Lizardfish that Brooks, Megan, and I caught at night.

After our evening lecture a few of us (Brooks, Matt, Megan, and I) went for a night dive [snorkel]. The Long-spined sea urchins (Diadema antilarum) were out, along with lots of other fish, anemones, urchins, brittle stars, sea slugs, balloonfish, squirrel fish, and of course our friendly donkey dung. It involved some solid teamwork but, we managed to catch some lizard fish and puffer fish to bring back to our collection tanks in the lab. I found 2 sea slugs one on top of the other, perhaps mating? When I gathered them ever so gently to bring back inside they inked, sending a cloud of beautiful magenta into the water. When I checked on them in the lab they were still quite drawn to one another.

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In order from left to right: Donkey Dung Sea Cumcumber (Holothuria mexicana), Spotted Sea Hare (Aplysia dactylomela), and West Indian Sea Egg (Tripneustes ventricosus).

I better sign off now and get some sleep. Breakfast at 7:30am. Yum! Goodnight from Jamaica.

 

Habenero Hazel Wodehouse

 

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