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!
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.
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.
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!
P.S. Want to get involved? Become a member of the New England Aquarium today!
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
"We have the best waters in the world!" - Gezellehere) 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.
"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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ...
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.
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:
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:
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.
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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.