April 27th 2011- I’m on an elevator on a boat!

 

Good Morning! Welcome to the Cay Sal Bank. The furthest west of the Bahamian territories and some of the most beautiful waters you may ever see. Today is checkout dive day. Divers have to get in and make sure they have their buoyancy down and do some eye calibration for the fish and corals they will be surveying. Every time we go down we have to spend some time calibrating our eyes to properly estimate fish sizes as light behaves differently under water. Knowing the fish sizes helps us to estimate the amount of fish biomass on the reefs.

image0067 Leno points at his new office location, The Cay Sal Bank

The boat is a totally new level of research vessel. Prince Khaled Bin Sultan has allowed the use of his private vessels along with the crew to conduct the round the world study of coral reefs. Meals are served three times a day. Beds are made while you are out working and there are bathrooms with showers in each room, satellite internet and the most helpful staff ever! Of course as a SCUBA diver I am most impressed by the elevator; Capable of lifting the sea plane up onto the Golden Shadow, the elevator also can gently lower a crew of scientists into the water.

 

image0078 Who needs a giant stride when the elevator platform gently lowers you into the water? just hold on to your gear!

 

The Cay Sal Challenge: training in New Providence means you may get comfortable with a certain group of corals and fish so a juvenile Green Razorfish is a bit of a novelty. Also, the first dive was over seagrass which means significantly lower fish diversity. We kind of made up for it with the diversity of studies going on: Geologists crisscross the bank in boats ground truthing satellite maps and coral data, to find interesting sites; AGRRA surveys catalog some of the fish and coral diversity on each site between 30 and 60 feet; REEF fish surveys catalog all fish and take abundance data to determine community structure; roving divers note every coral fish or marine organism they see on all sites; One scientist used High definition underwater cameras to film sections of reef and record fish grazing behavior.

image0089 SCUBA Divers practice size estimation.

 

image00910 a diver places cameras to record fish grazing behaviour

image01011 a camera on camera is sometimes the best way to calibrate both at the same time.

image01112 Banded Jawfish are not very common, so seeing one on the first dive was a definite treat.

image01213 this pen shell is HUGE! Maybe that is how they make them in Cay Sal.