#14: Acceptance

By writing this one last blog that I promised, I am finally accepting that the trip is over and that I will not miraculously wake up tomorrow to the rocking of the boat, my shipmates shining faces, or the smell of salt water and sunscreen. *sigh*

All I can say to summarize is that I had the most amazing experience, and I wish everyone the chance to do something like this in their lifetime.

I also want to use this post to send a HUGE thank you to our participants. Russ, Don, Scott, Susan, Lionel, Sean and Terry made this trip happen with their support. All their hard work, from repairing busted nets, taking pictures, caring for the fish, helping with the education programs, staying up all night to pack fish and donating their computer equipment, made it a successful and enjoyable one.

Thanks to Captain John and Captain Lou for safely moving us all over and around Bimini, and sharing your stories, laughter and magic tricks. Thanks to Matt for keeping us VERY well fed, and making good strong coffee.

Thanks to Sherrie, Jeremy and Chris. I've never had so much fun working.

I could never thank Deb enough for sending me on the trip.

Thanks to Megan for putting together an education program that was destined for success.

And thanks to all you who read the blog! I hope you enjoyed the reading, and I hope you'll stay connected to the Aquarium's work and to the ocean!

Live Blue

- Bronwyn


#44: Many People Ask - Why do sharks have so many teeth?

As one of our sand tiger sharks swim by you often hear visitors gasp and say “Look at all those teeth!!!”

But why do sharks have so many teeth?
Sharks and rays are elasmobranches, or cartilaginous fishes. This means unlike us or any of the other fish that live in the Giant Ocean Tank, their skeleton is made out of cartilage not bone. Therefore shark's teeth are not anchored in bone but instead loosely embedded in their gums above their jaws. Not being anchored in bone means a shark's tooth can fall out very easily. When a tooth falls out it is replaced with another tooth from a row of teeth behind it, in a conveyor belt fashion. Depending on the species 3-15 rows of teeth can be visible! One shark can produce thousands teeth in its lifetime!

Our sharks in the GOT are no exception; they often loose their teeth, and we will find them around the tank. Here are a few pictures of some of our trophy teeth.

Even though it may look quite scary it is important that the sharks have so many rows of teeth, if they lost most of their teeth they wouldn't be able to feed which is very problematic since they don't make dentures for sharks.

- Andrea



#13: Safe Arrival

All 47 boxes of fish arrived safe and sound in Boston. We picked our cargo up at the airport and headed directly to the Aquarium. Our transport truck was backed up to the to the loading dock.

And a team of Aquarium staff and volunteers quickly got to work unpacking the fish.

Boxes were opened and each bag was inspected. We made sure every fish looked healthy (they looked great) and identified them by species.

Thanks to all the fast "runners" on the Boston-based team, the fish were acclimating in their new tanks within minutes.

Some even started eating right away--always a good sign.

Thank you to everyone in Boston who volunteered their time (and missed lunch!)

We'd also like to say a big thank you to the Aquarium members who helped collect such amazing specimens and also sponsored the expedition. Aquarium members make these trips not only successful, but possible. We couldn't do it without their support!

- Sarah


#12: Packing Fish All.... Night.... Long....

We pulled an all-nighter last night. Haven't done that since college. The fish had a flight at 7 am this morning, so we started packing them at 11 pm last night and worked straight through until they got dropped off at the airport. The packing of fish was a well oiled machine and everyone was working non-stop.

Susan and Lionel were setting up boxes. Terry was filling bags with water

Chris, Scott and I were catching (or should I say re-catching) the fish from their tanks.

Jeremy was putting fish into the correct sized bags

Sean was running bagged fish over to get sealed off

Sherrie and Captain Lou were adding pure oxygen to the bags and sealing them off

Deb was marking the Styrofoam boxes with the kind of fish packed in them. Don and Russ were cross referencing what fish had been packed with our collecting log. Captain John was stacking the Styrofoam boxes into cardboard boxes and sealing them up.

We finished packing all but four of the fish in about 4 hours. Of course the last four were the biggest fish we had, and the most challenging to pack up.

Remember those two white spotted file fish I was so excited about? And how one of them got close enough that I could see it's teeth? Well those teeth were great at biting through the bag, and it drains the water out. The problem was finally solved by drilling holes in a bucket and submerging it in a bag with water ... after trying a few other things that didn't work. That was another one from yours truly, the Tufts alumni Chris Doller.

The cowfish (above) and the barracuda are big, and can also bite through their bags, but layering cardboard between the layers of bags seemed to work for them.

All the boxes of fish made it safely to the Aquarium and will be in quarantine for at least 6 weeks to watch for any parasites that we wouldn't want to spread to our exhibit. After that you may start to see some of the more obvious fish go on exhibit ... the file fish, the barracuda, the cowfish. But be on the lookout for some of the more under appreciated animals, like the beautiful sponges, feather dusters and tunicates.

The participants on this trip have gone home. For staff the rest of the trip is mostly cleaning the boat and packing away all our gear.

I'm going through a bit of withdrawal from scuba diving and all the participants I've lived with for the past 11 days, so I'm going to ease myself off it a bit by posting some more short stories and great pictures from the trip that haven't made the blog yet over the next few days. So I'm not done yet, keep checking back.



#11: Celebrating a Succesful Education Program at the Bimini School

I'm sorry for not posting a blog last night. We took the RIB (the red inflatable boat) into town to have a good time because it was on our list of things to do.

We needed to go have a good time and celebrate because …

We ran a WILDLY successful education program for the Bimini school. We invited students and teachers to come onto the boat and learn about the Aquarium's collecting trips. About 30 kids and 4 teachers came and participated in 4 education activities. We relied on our aquarist staff and participants to lead the different activities, and everyone rocked it.

Fish Husbandry
Chris and Don rocked. They had the kids completely engaged, leaning over the platforms to observe the fishes different behaviors, using an aquascope to get a closer look at their shapes and colors and helping to feed the fish their last meal before they were shipped. I think the coolest part was that the kids were sharing their own names and stories of the fish we collected. One of our commenters wanted to know if you can eat black durgon (mom). Apparently you can and according to one student they are delicious! But before you run to the store to pick it up, check the Aquarium's sustainable seafood list to see if it's a good seafood choice.


Expedition members Jeremy and Susan had the students picking up and identifying different adaptations these little creatures have. Jeremy was a natural, acting out different behaviors and encouraging them to pick up and touch the animals. Susan, a gynecologist, had a chance to mentor a student who wants to become a gynecologist.

Fish Collection

Biologist Sherrie and team member Russ threw themselves into the activity, they were both down on the ground demonstrating the process, and surely keeping the kids entertained on the process. They also encouraged students to think critically about the challenges and problem solving associated with catching fish for our exhibits.

Invasive Species
I ran this activity with expedition team member Scott, and was so impressed with how bright these students were. They had done a unit on invasive plant species and were able to apply what they had already learned to the invasive lionfish now found in the Bahamas. Scott jumped in to run the last group by himself so that I could roam around and observe the other activities. He told me that the kids asked what the lionfish's natural predators are in the Pacific, and he didn't know the answer so he said "Dragons." I'm still not entirely sure if he was joking or not.

To wrap up I asked the students to jot down anything they would want our blog readers to know about where they live or their experience on the boat. Here's what they had to say...

"We have the best waters in the world!" - Gezelle

"It is VERY beautiful" -Cristal

"The people are very hospitable" - Levia

"They take their jobs very seriously and the fishes are beautiful" - Latrowia

"We learned a lot about the fishes we have on our island and in our waters and we now know that our water is the best in the world" - Shanique

We sent them off with "Live Blue" Aquarium hats (you can see the "Live Blue" t-shirts here) and an I.D. Booklet of all the fish we were hoping to collect. In return one student thanked us on behalf of her school, and we all, even Russ, teared up a bit.

Now I need to take a minute to try and right something. After the program we walked around town and ran into Marie, an aspiring Marine Biologist. I invited her to come check out the boat and all the animals we collected. Just as we were pulling away from the dock she showed up with her family and we missed them. It was the most disappointing part of the trip for me, to let this young lady down, so ... Marie from Ontario, if you're reading this, I'm so sorry we missed you, and please email me.



#10: Quick night dive report

By the way, the night dive I mentioned in this post was awesome. I was so focused on keeping my partners work area lit, without crashing into them, that my imagination couldn't run wild and I didn't freak out.

I was pretending to turn Deb's air off before she jumped in the water.

Huge shout out to Don for trying to repair my salty power cord and to Russ for supplying me with an alternate power source.



#9: Trash and/or Treasure?

Okay, it's time. It's all been beautiful fish and dolphins so far, but now I need to share the less glamorous side of what can be found on the ocean floor.

Wanna know what made me think of it?

So, I was sending the blog the other night, enjoying the warm, clear Bahamian night. When I stood up to go inside I heard a ding ... doink ... splash. My power cord fell off my lap, under the crack in the side of the boat and into the ocean. I fished it out first thing in the morning, but it made me think of all the other things that end up in the ocean and DON'T get fished out.

Then today we dove at a wreck site, the Sapona. During World War I steel was scarce, so Henry Ford experimented with making the Liberty ships out of concrete. In 1926 a hurricane grounded the ship in shallow water, 15-20 ft. It was then used as a base for rum runners, and later for target practice for WWII planes. The Lost Avenger fleet went missing after using it for target practice and became one of the first stories of planes going missing in the Bermuda Triangle.

When you swim around it there's this constant distinct crackling noise. Schools of fish take cover under its massive propeller. Thousands of invertebrates stick and grow on its frame. People, just like us, come to dive and explore the wreckage. So what is it? History? An artificial habitat? Pollution?

I didn't keep a count, but so far we've seen about a dozen bottles and cans, a propane tank, a knife, and three garden statues of a goat, pig and sheep Not too bad I suppose, but what would the coastline of a much more highly populated area look like?

I have not seen any plastic trash, presumably because currents seem to push plastics out to the Giant Pacific Garbage Patch. It's no joke, look it up.

I don't think this blog is the place to lay out my plan of action to solve the world's problems, but I hope it makes us think about our impact, and how we might be able to reduce it, one action at a time.



#8: "They're SO beautiful!"

We swam with dolphins today.

Photo credit: Lionel Galway

Now, no disrespect to all the other amazing fish and corals and other reef animals we've had the privilege to see (I have a shout out to some awesome fish below) but I'd sound like a bumbling idiot if I tried to explain how amazing it was to be so close to them. But I'll try anyway ...

They were curious, swimming under and around us, and when they were bored with us, which was long before we would have been bored with them, they just took off.

You could hear all the clicking sounds they make to communicate with each other. Maybe they were commenting on how incredibly clumsy we were in the water. I felt like such an awkward doofous next to them.

Photo credit: Lionel Galway

Sherrie was beside herself, and is now enduring the jokes we've been making about her technique of holding her hands behind her back to "look more like them." We can joke all we want, but the dolphins did come the closest to Sherrie.

Photo credit: Lionel Galway

Before anyone gets alarmed by our swim with the dolphins I would like to make a few short statements:

1. We were not looking for dolphins. We noticed them playing on the wake behind our boat, so we stopped and jumped off the back of the boat.

2. We were not chasing the dolphins. Not even Michael Phelps can chase these animals down. You cannot chase a dolphin in a mask, snorkel and fins. Compared to dolphins, we stink at swimming.

3. If they were feeling threatened by us, they would have been long gone before I even had my face down in the water.

4. These are the kinds of experiences that make anyone appreciate these animals more, and want to protect them and their environment.

And that shout out to the fish ... We now have two white spotted file fish. Don and Russ caught the male with the color blocking first, but since these fish bond with their mate we had to catch the female in order to be able to keep them. On our second dive we found the female. Here they are together:

I know it seems odd that we were able to catch them both, but on two separate dives. How do we know we got the right one?

These fish don't travel far within the reef, and we didn't see any other of these species in the area we were. So it was a good find, and lucky that we caught the female on the second dive. If we hadn't we would have had to put the male back. When I was taking this picture the male was being very shy at first, but then kept getting closer and closer to my legs. When it got close enough for me to see his teeth I decided I had enough pictures. I don't know if he was going to bite me, but I think I'd bite me if I were a fish, especially if I was defending my territory and my mate.

I know Deb said something in an earlier blog about a possible Barracuda feeding. What Deb and I are now learning is that the Barracuda are picky eaters, and can go weeks without food. Sooooo ... we'll keep you posted on that. Tomorrow we're planning a night dive so I may not get around to a post. I needed to say that mostly so that my mother doesn't start worrying about my safety when she sees I haven't posted anything for the day.


#7: When Divers Collide (Safety continued...)

Knock on wood, we have not had any major safety situations, only a close call and a few dive related injuries. For the following stories I've change the names of the subjects to protect their privacy...and pride. In this picture Bruce is giving us the "o.k." signal, however he is clearly not okay as his wife Samantha is about to descend onto his head.

Not a major safety infraction, but you ALWAYS want to look to see what is above and below you. Hitting your head on the boat is not good. You could hurt your neck or knock yourself out, but most likely you'll panic, putting yourself at greater risk. (Yes, I know this from experience). Crash landing on a head of coral is also not good. It means you just wiped out a whole city of coral.

Water and rubbing on skin never mixes well, so most of our injuries have been wet suit related. Lindsay got a major abrasion on her neck from her wetsuit, and two of us have identical cuts on our feet...because we have the same booties with a poorly placed seam. One other person has had an allergic reaction to something in the water that got smooshed between her skin and wetsuit.

I had to try to make this somewhat humorous so you would read it, but seriously, safety is no joke here. An accident or medical emergency is bad ... and an accident or medical emergency on a boat in the middle of the ocean is really bad. So we don't mess around when it comes to safety.'

- Bronwyn