The fall 2008 collecting Expedition is underway!
Educator and blog author Megan Moore (left) joins NEAQ staff, including Sherrie Floyd (far right) on the September 2008 Bahamas collecting expedition.
Yesterday we made the 6-hour voyage down the river that runs though Miami and across 40 miles of ocean to the Bimini Islands. The trip was everything everyone was hoping it would be: calm. The Dramamine in our stomachs prepared us for swells and rolls but Captain John only reported waves ranging from 0-8 percent! In fact it was so calm that a pod of 6 dolphins decided to surf the waves off of our bow. An incredible sight.
The rest of the afternoon was a whirlwind of excitement. Before we had even cleared customs people were pulling out tanks, checking gauges, inflating BC's and pulling up wetsuits. Our first dive was a quick get-your-feet-wet kind of a dive - no collection nets allowed. It was quite a tease to drop down 25 feet and look around at all the fish you were hoping to catch. After that first dive we were all so excited that by 5:30 p.m. we were giant-striding back in for a second dive before dinner. Every diver made sure they had two large plastic nets with mesh at the ends and a small Tupperware-like catch bag clipped to their diving vest. This time our nets carefully closed around several beautiful fish, including 3 four-eyed butterfly fish (pictured below).
When catching butterfly fish we had to first check if they were paired up or swimming stag. Butterfly fish bond for life and we do not wish to cause them any stress by separating them from their partners. In fact, you can see several happy couples in the Giant Ocean Tank at the New England Aquarium. When collecting a pair of butterflies the trick is to catch one and then place it in your catch bag. Eventually the fishy partner will come around looking for his lost mate, see it in the bag, and stick around until we catch it. Then we re-unite the two (in the catch bag). The lucky couple will then stay together in their own private tank on the boat--almost like a honeymoon suite!
Then it is the aquarium staff's responsibility to keep these fish well fed and swimming in clean water until we return to Miami. So besides the relaxing dives, beautiful sunsets and gourmet food I am also lucky to learn the skills necessary to help keep fish happy. More to come on that in my next blog.
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Aquarium divers go on several daily dives to care for the animals in the Giant Ocean Tank (GOT) as well as lead expeditions to the Bahamas.