Monday, September 22, 2014

The Birthday Week

Intern Tom recounts the exploits of a very wet, shark free week in Seychelles....

Well this week hasn't been the most exciting of weeks shark-wise, but that doesn't mean that it hasn't been a good week. In brief, we’ve been diving, getting a lot of rain and wind, data entry, and celebrating an interns and one of the pilot’s birthdays. 

Friday, we dove in the afternoon to replace more of the acoustic receivers that we have been working on. It was great to once again be in and underwater doing something useful to the scientific aims of the Bay Ternay Nation Park. 

 Tom & Jo replacing a VR2 receiver
Tom inspecting a very crusty VR2
All sorts of marine life, well it is a Marine Park!
Following a full day of diving we heading out for a Friday night on the town, but that did not stop us from continuing with data entry the following morning. Luckily we had the afternoon off so all the interns headed to Eden Island to watch the South African and Australian rugby games and get a bite to eat. Saturday night we spent watching movies. David was nice enough to let us use the projector which is good because 1) we are running out of puzzles to do and 2) we are in the middle of the rainy season and our activities are limited since every activity on Mahe is outside. 

That brings me to Sunday and Monday which were monsoon days and I mean monsoon! The rain started late afternoon on Saturday and continued till Tuesday with very little break. I even had to make the trip down to the dive shop by bus through it, which involved placing the booking folder into a plastic bag that in turn went into my bag which went under my coat, oh and it still nearly got wet… So sadly there was no boat work, or outdoor activities that could be done. 

Tuesday the sun came back out, but the dive center was short on boat captains so we couldn't go out. I had a day off and so when I had heard that there was no boat work packed my bag and went for walk. From the house I heading north along the beach road and before I knew it has managed to walk past North Point, which isn't exactly to close to the house. I then took a path off the road that was less of a path and more of a water runoff, but was well rewarded when I found that it lead to a secluded beach so stopped to have some lunch there. I then went further on to find another nice spot to relax that had a natural rock pool large enough for at least 10 people but completely calm and facing the large waves breaking before you, a must return to spot. The rest of the interns went to Sunset Beach and had a relaxing beach day. Tuesday was also Kyle’s, one of the pilots, 27th birthday so we went out for pizza and drinks and then got some beers and sat on the beach. We were sitting in a circle and Amber said ‘I have a game we can play called charades. In Florida, we play at the bar and it's an app on my phone where you pick a category and then hold the phone to your forehead so everyone can see the word and give you clues to guess it’. So you can picture both MCSS interns and employees with a iPhone stuck to their forehead yelling words and making gestures to guess music, movies, fairytales, harry potter, animals and of course science. It was quite entertaining and we spent about 1 1/2 hours doing this before we decided it was time to head home and get some sleep. 

We’ve been getting calls of crown of thorns starfish hotspots so we had to go out that day and do some eradication. Crown of thorns decimate the reef in large numbers because they eat their size in branching corals daily. They also have venomous spines so not many things can eat them. So when calls come in of hotspots they need to be acted upon as soon as possible to ensure that they are found and removed as quickly as possible! We went to two reef sites and did about hour long dives to ±15m and had a skewer which was a piece of rebar with a handle. When we found one, we would just stab it in the center and after you got a few on your skewer, about 3-4 depending on how heavy they were or 8 if you found too many in a spot without the basket. But they can get very heavy especially the 30cm ones which were easily over a kilo or two which adds up if you have too many on! We would swim over to a plastic laundry basket attached to a buoy at the surface with a snorkeler following it and deposit the crown of thorns as carefully as possible not to get stabbed with a spine. When the basket was half full we would signal to the snorkeler following us to haul it up to the boat and we continued this until we hit our air/time limit. 
 A bucket full of COTS
Jo disposing of the COTS in special collection bins
At the second site, Amber was depositing her starfish into the basket when Michaela swims up and shows her the four she had on a skewer. . . then Michaela points to her knee which is bleeding and full of sea urchin spines (our second sea urchin injury to date) so Amber had to grab her skewer and sent Michaela to the surface.
Michaela's battered knee!
Poor Michaela who was limping around had to have hot wax poured on her knee and then peeled off repeatedly.  She took it like a champ!

In total we killed 82 crown of thorns between 6 of us! The starfish are then deposited on shore in special bins to be disposed of. Stabbing sea stars was probably the most fun dive day we have had thus far, even though it was torrential down-pouring. The second dive site was especially nice with loads of swim-throughs, caverns, tunnels, and amazing sea life so it felt good knowing that we had done our bit to help. Sadly though I found another hot spot at the end of the dive, which meant we do need to return and as soon as possible!

Thursday and Friday were acoustic receiver days. We only have one more shallow receiver to replace now before we can start tagging turtles. Yep, you heard me correctly, we are going to tag turtles!!  

Oh and finally that other birthday you may be wondering about. Friday was my 23rd birthday so everyone from MCSS went out to celebrate. We drank on the beach and then went to a South African bar in Eden Island, my god did Kyle and myself feel at home. We met some of the people great people and bumped into others we met around before and had an absolutely brilliant night. A huge thank you to everyone for making it such a great night and a great birthday as well! Saturday was a bit of a no event day, especially for myself as the night went on till 7am which is apparently normal for here..

Let's hope for no rain today so Kyle and Amber can hopefully see some sharks! But sitting here, writing this and looking out the window I fear that today is not going that way as the heavens have reopened and left the sky a blanket of grey :( 

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