Right now we're docked at a marina on South Bimini Island, preparing to make the crossing back over to the U.S. The surrounding area looks like a beach resort in a movie. There's even a soft-voiced, head mic-wearing yoga instructor giving directions to a small group of guests on a little pavilion about 50 yards from here. It's a funny digression from the surroundings we've had for the last two weeks. I wandered over and took some pictures.
Where are we?
On Saturday we docked in Alicetown (also on Bimini) for our community outreach program. The Aquarium has been doing collecting expeditions in the Bahamas for about 30 years, and this has only been possible because the Bahamian government has allowed us to do it. It's extremely generous on their part—they absolutely don't have to give us permission to collect in their waters, but they do, and as a result, the Aquarium is able to share really beautiful, unique animals from this part of the world with over 1.3 million Aquarium visitors every year.
It's amazing to think about the journey that a lot of the fish living at the Aquarium have made.
In recent years, Sherrie has been working to make this process more transparent for the people of the Bahamas—to provide them an idea of what's made possible by their nation's generosity, and to give them a glimpse into the entire process of how the fish get from the Bahamas to Boston. (Click here to learn about last year's education program for Bimini school kids.) This year, we organized a community open house on the boat for the people of Bimini, so anybody on the island was welcome to come aboard to learn about what we've been doing. Trip participants and Aquarium staff were stationed at different parts of the boat to talk to the folks as they came aboard.
Although Sherrie had been communicating for months with the local board of tourism and other community groups to publicize the event, people also did some great on-the-spot advertising. After we docked, two trip participants, Russ and Mike, walked off towards town to spread the word. Here's Russ coming back fifteen minutes later:
Mike had paid to rent the golf cart (when they told him the price, I heard he said something like, "We don't have time to negotiate!" and threw right down for it), and then he came back on foot so Russ could load up with the maximum amount of local kids. To see them pull up was this great mixture of touching and hilarious.
Everyone on the boat, from cook to captains to paying participants, completely threw themselves into the event. Here's John showing kids what it's like to wear SCUBA equipment and breathe off of a regulator:
Photo Credit: Steve Winer
And here's Caitlin showing a little guy some of the invertebrates we've collected:
Photo Credit: Steve Winer
It was also fun to see a mixture of people from Bimini and families who were visiting from other places, and to watch them get a chance to interact with each other. Here we're looking at some of the fish in the main wells:
Photo Credit: Steve Winer
The guy in the middle, Chadwick, ended up sticking around for about two hours. We had caught another lionfish, and had it in a little tank so Don could talk to people about them during the event. I pointed at it and asked Chadwick if he knew anything about those fish. He said, in his great Bahamian accent, "They are dangerous, and they don't belong here. But they are good to eat." It made my day. You're the man, Chadwick. (In case you missed it, the divers sampled lionfish and Tim shared some of the reviews in this recent post!)
About fifty people came onto the boat, and I think everybody had a great time. It's nice to feel like we're slowly strengthening the bond between the Aquarium and the people from whose country many of our fish come. Both Sherrie and Deb did a really great job of setting it up, and all of the trip participants were incredible. It was a great day.
We're finished collecting, so tonight we'll go back to Miami to pack up all of the fish for shipping back to Boston. It's quite a process. (Check out the all-nighter last year's group pulled to get the fish ready to ship!) I'll keep you posted.
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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.