Live Report from the Bahamas: SHARK ATTACK! With the Bahamarleys!

The Aquarium's teen diving expedition Sea TURTLE is reporting live from the Bahamas. This post is from Jessica.

Today we visited the Bimini Biological Feild Station, a shark lab in South Bimini. We're still not used to walking on land, so we found ourselves swaying while we were in there.

Emily showed us how the shark lab tracks the sharks they find for their research. Some are tracked using a microchip similar to the ones our cats and dogs. If found, they can be scanned and identified. Other sharks might be tagged or have an expensive chip, an SUR or Submersive Ultrasonic Responder. We also got to see and touch a snake! The species was indigenous to the Bahamas and probably the most calm snake I have ever seen.

We walked around to the Shark Lab's backyard, very shallow water. Emily walked in to a fenced area where some lemon sharks and a nurse shark were swimming around. Contrary to popular belief, these sharks DIDN'T automatically think she was dinner! Emily was able to hold a lemon shark and calmly show us some of the basic anatomy and some cool stuff unique to them. [Check out video of last year's Sea TURTLE visit to the shark lab here.]

When she turned the shark bellyside-up, he turned very calm, almost sleepy. We got to touch the sharks gently and feel their dermal dentacles. (Sharks have millions of itty-bitty teeth on their skin. It feels like sandpaper!)

When we got back on the boat, Lulu and I hosted a jeopardy game using some of the things we learned at the Shark Lab. The team names were "Shark Attack" and "Bahamarleys." It got REALLY competitive... [And was followed by the Foot Olympics, according to Tommy's play-by-play post.]

Thanks for showing us around the Shark Lab, Emily!
I'm having so much fun here but I miss you, Mom and Dad! I'll be home soon.

Live Report from the Bahamas: Just Do It.

The Aquarium's teen diving expedition Sea TURTLE is reporting live from the Bahamas. This post describing what the team does on the ship to entertain themselves between dives is from Tommy.

Ferocity. Tenacity. Fire. Not usually words associated with scuba diving, but tonight was no normal evening. The madness started with marine-themed jeopardy and was satisfied by a bizarre series of events including the newly invented Foot Olympics.

Sarah, a size 8 (women's) was pitted against Josh, a size 8 (men's). Because no one wanted to eat them, the licorice-flavored jelly beans were used to test the aptitude and dexterity of the athletes' toes. A contest was held to see which of the veteran players could hold more jelly beans using only their feet.

Sarah took an early lead and, with the help of random and sporadic cheers from Jenna, appeared to have the win wrapped up. However, just as Oregon could not hang with Auburn in the National Championship, and Butler's nerves made them inconsistent inside the arc against UCONN at the end of March Maddness, the inexperienced competitor cracked under the pressure.

As the final seconds ticked off the game clock, Sarah slipped and dropped the myriad of jelly beans held in her toes, giving the W to the steady, patient Josh. With hours of intense training wasted and her pride lost, Sarah sulked off the court as Josh gleamed with victory. It was a ludicrous end to a hectic day.

Also, shouts to Denise for vacuuming the salon.

[This isn't the first time a Coral Reef II crew has entertained themselves with such hi-jinks. Check out educator Tim's post from a 2010 expedition here.]


Live Report from the Bahamas: How to seine a beach in seven simple steps.

The Aquarium's teen diving expedition Sea TURTLE is reporting live from the Bahamas. This post is from Lulu.

Step one: Get a good group of people. About 16 people or so.

Step two: Assign positions- Lead line holders, buoy line holders, master/mistress snorkler (me), north beaters and south beaters.

Step three: Get your people in position. One set of buoy/lead line holders will go out to the snorkle master and then walk to the right of the snorkle master so that he or she is in the middle of the net. Use a big net (roughly 50 ft X 8 ft).

Step Four: Have the beaters line up (evenly) along the sides of the lead line/buoy line holders and tell them to "START BEATING" the water and have Captain John yell "Here fishy fishy fishy!".

Step Five: Lead line/buoy line holders, start walking towards the beach making sure that the lead line is just a little bit ahead under the buoy line and keeping it close to the bottom of the water. Beaters, keep beating!

Step Six: Once your close enough to the beach, bring the lead line up and hold the bouy line and lead line together as you walk out into deeper water.

Step Seven: Shake the net into a little pool like shape in the water and have someone recored what species you find and how many of them you find! Yesterday, we got to do a beach seine which is a popular way to collect fish that live a little closer to shore. On every trip that the R/V Coral Reef II takes, there is a beach seine. However, on the Aquarium's collecting trips, they will use 100 ft long net. After doing three beach seines, we found 23 different species of fish. Most of them were juvenile fish that live in the sand and turtle grass. My favorite ones were the band-tailed puffer, sharp-nosed puffer, red-banded parrot, queen conch, orange-spotted filefish, and juvenile trunkfish! For the second and third seine, we got some help from a family from Boston and New York!

We met some new friends from Boston and New York and quickly put them to work on the seine.

For us, it was a great experience. Being able to see how our very own collecting staff gets to do there beach seines. Even after doing just three seines, we still got a whole lot of different species. We got to also learn about what the different purposes are for doing a beach seine. For example, people might do many beach seins to do research about what the different organisms are that live in that particular area. Another reason is for education/entertainment. We got to do ours for education and learn mostly how a beach seine works. The entertainment part of it, would be sort of like what the Aquarium does during collecting trips. They collect fish to bring back to the Giant Ocean Tank so that people who normally wouldn't be able to see these types of fish, could see them. Overall, it was a great learning experience. I wouldn't mind doing it again!


[This process is described in this previous post from the 2011 collecting expedition, this post from 2010, as well as this post from the 2010 teen diving expedition and this 2009 post.]

Live Report from the Bahamas: FINALLY!

The Aquarium's teen diving expedition Sea TURTLE is reporting live from the Bahamas. This post is from Dina.

Today was by far my favorite day on the boat. This morning we dove the Sapona wreck. I've had a pretty bad head cold since we got here and I was so nervous that I wouldn't be able to equalize on this dive again. I kept telling myself to just stay calm and not to get upset if I couldn't dive again today. As soon as we got under the surface I felt my ears equalize!

The Sapona (Photo: Bill Murphy from this 2010 post)

I've never been so happy to equalize my ears before. Diving the Sapona was one of the things I was really looking forward to and I'm thrilled that my cold went away and I got to experience it. After lunch we got off the boat and went to explore the island of Bimini.

Stepping foot on land for the first time in 6 days felt weird because the whole group was so use to rocking with the waves on the boat. We all had a little bit of time to go shopping at the local market and we even got to go to the Bimini All Age School. We chatted with some students and they showed us their agriculture farm. The students and their teacher were really informative and it was great to see their positive impact on the environment.

Only 2 more days here in Bimini then it's back to reality for these Sea TURTLEs. I'm going to miss it here so much, and I definitly don't want to go home yet (sorry Mom). Since we've been on the boat, I've created a tight bond with each and every person. I'm going to miss our long talks, silly jokes, and diving in the crystal clear ocean with my Sea TURTLE's. This has been an opportunity of a lifetime and I'm so glad I got to share it with such great people.


Live Report from the Bahamas: CERTIFIED!

The Aquarium's teen diving expedition Sea TURTLE is reporting live from the Bahamas. This post is from Aquarium educator Dave Allen.

Guess what? Libna, Lee, Chris, Tommy, Porshai, Michelle and Josh are now Open Water SCUBA Certified! Meanwhile, Lulu, Dina and Denise are finishing their Adventure Diver Certification and Jess is working on her Discover SCUBA!

Diving teens (this is last year's Sea TURTLES). We'll post a photo of this year's team soon!

This compass skills dive was our last Open Water certification dive! Some compasses were on our Breathing Control Devices (BCDs) and some had their compasses on their wrists. We need to know how to use them so that we wouldn't wind up losing our way in the ocean, which is pretty easy to do. Anyways, enough of that. Here are the Sea TURTLES thoughts on their certifications:

I am excited for everyone's certification. I'm glad everyone had an opportunity to work with a PADI instructor because when I was certified, I didn't get this kind of opportunity to come to such an amazing place to get certified. I only had dives in a pond in Connecticut and dives at Gloucester Beach. I had four dives in total for my certification. Everyone here is lucky to have this great opportunity to be certified out here.

I am really excited for everyone. I was certified in a pond that had no visibility. This is an amazing opportunity to dive here rather than in the cold weather in
Boston. Im glad because I had Sarah as an instructor and I know she is a wicked good teacher.

Im basically really excited. Congratulations to you all. Yeah, just... wow.

I'm happy that I was able to dive on this trip and see these beautiful animals. I'm excited for everyone who got their certification and I can't wait to be certified in the future!

I am so relieved. I got it done! I successfully did every task. Now, I'm anticipating a future in diving in either the G.O.T., Bahamas, and other places.

It hasn't hit me yet but I'm relieved. I'm excited to explore and dive
without having to go over dive skills.

I feel accomplished. It was difficult for me to start diving in the beginning but I proved some people wrong. Now, I can't wait to dive in the G.O.T.

Getting dive certified, I felt great. For the first time, I got to go down in the water and all my life I've been snorkling. Instead of floating at the surface, I got to go down to the bottom and stay down. I get to absorb so much more down there.

I am still in disbelief! The idea of being certified is still settling in! I'm extremely excited though, we finally accomplished something that we worked so hard for!!! I can't wait to see more of this whole new world and go on some more spectacular adventures!

So I finally got certified and I feel awesome. I feel like an expert in diving and its all thanks to our dive instructors Mike and Sarah. We all feel confident diving in open water and we have come a long way from our first pool session. Being dive certified, I will start to get more involved with diving environments and meeting new people so I can experience new adventures. Getting certified is one of the best things to happen to me since getting my learners permit

I have to be honest. I don't feel any different. I'm one of those people who need time and experience to fully realize something. Other than that, it is great to finally dive and not have to go over skills anymore. I'm pretty sure that once I get my certification I.D., it'll hit me and I will say "Wow. I'm a certified diver." I will cherish these memories and never forget any of them.

Today was a big day for all of us. It is now our time to make adventurous dives and our next dive will take place at the Sapona (photo above), a wreck that has a lot of history to it [last year's Sea TURTLEs posted about it here]. We will be diving in the daylight and at night!

-2011 Sea TURTLE Expedition writing from the Bahamas


Live Report from the Bahamas: Just because you're Hispanic doesn't mean that you can't burn.

The Aquarium's teen diving expedition Sea TURTLE is reporting live from the Bahamas. This post is from Libna.

Hello world, this is Libna! So far the Bahamas has been treating us all well.

Between our dive certification we have some down time. Some Sea TURTLES take naps and others go outside to tan. I decided to both. I took a nap outside and slept for about an hour and a half. When someone woke me up my face was really red!! I was in disbelief, I always thought Hispanics can't burn. Oh well, this proves that everyone is different.

With my burn I began to think why I can burn more in the Bahamas than back home in Boston. Well with some thinking and some help from my chaperones I came with a conclusion: the Earth revolves around the Sun and hits more here near the equator than back in New England. With more heat and more sun I was able to burn quicker.

 Zodiac boats on the Coral Reef II

I also should have put on a little bit more sun block. Lesson learned!!! :)

Mama te amo y te extra├▒o!!!


Live Report from the Bahamas: The Jouney to Adulthood

The Aquarium's teen diving expedition Sea TURTLE is reporting live from the Bahamas. This post is from Chris.

Today we traveled to Bonefish Hole, to snorkel in the mangroves in Bimini! Before many fish are big enough to make it into the open ocean they use the mangroves for shelter and food.

When we traveled to the mangroves and had our snorkeling adventure, I gained a whole new understanding of how important magroves are to the ecosystem. Before coming to the Bahamas I had learned all this from the classes, but one can not truly understand how important they are until you take time to stop and observe for yourself.


The mangroves also act as a barrer which protects the land from storms. It is heart breaking to hear how many mangroves were cut down to build Bimini Bay Resort. There were also plans to make a golf course on the island which would have meant cutting down more mangrove forests. Had this happened, fish would have no place to grow up or live and this Bimini would sease to exist.

 Lionfish (Photo: NOAA)

It was also really cool to see a lionfish up close and see how beautiful they are! But at the same time, you have to stop and think about the negative effects they have on the ecosystem since they are invasive species. They don't belong here which also means they have no natural predators to keep them from killing off the native species.

People must understand that it is not just happening in Bimini but all over the world have suffered and it is to late to doing anything. I know that I will be paying more attention to what goes on around the world, and to also do my best to help out in any way I can. So if you take the time to help out our oceans and their nurseries, then fish can continue to grow up and also other people will have a chance to see them with their own eyes.



Live Report from the Bahamas: Josh's Big Move

The Aquarium's teen diving expedition Sea TURTLE is reporting live from the Bahamas. This post is from Josh.

Today we had the second and third of our cetification dives. Some of the skills we did were things that we had done in the pool such as mask clearing and taking off our Buoyancy Control Devices (BCDs) while in the middle of the ocean.

Then, we had the chance to explore around the dive site called Bimini Road - an area with a lot of biodiversity such as scorpion fish, stingrays, grunts, and various other fish. I felt very relieved that I didn't get stung by fire coral like yesterday. [Note: It's not uncommon to be stung by fire coral. Aquarium educator Tim reported being stung during a 2010 expedition.] 

Josh and Sarah

It was nice to see how animals are able to live in an environment peacefully instead of humans who argue to find approval. It's kind of like a city of fish with one thing on their mind - survival - but instead of arguing or violence, they all just adapt. Something that stood out to me today was how well the scorpion fish and the stingray can camoflage themselves. If we couldn't see it, then how could their prey see it?

 Josh gives the OK sign during a practice session at the MIT pool earlier this month.

Another big moment today had to do with the heads, or bathrooms, on the boat.
I was explaining to some of the TURTLES that I had not done #2 since Wednesday. As we were sharing our stories it got me to thinking that it was time. I went into the head and...let me explain to you about how the head on a boat works. First, you need to turn the dial timer. It goes up to five minutes. So the toilet is not like any ordinary toilet, it has a foot pedal on the bottom which is used to flush. You'll know when to flush when it reaches the 30 second mark.

The challenge is to make sure that the toilet does not clog or get backed up. I was nervous the first time I used the head because I was scared that I might break it and I would have to wake up the captains to fix it. Today was a true accomplishment in many ways.


Live Report from the Bahamas: One tough dive

The Aquarium's teen diving expedition Sea TURTLE is reporting live from the Bahamas. This post is from Dina.

Yesterday we arrived in the beautiful waters of Bimini. The crossing over from Miami wasn't bad at all, but I was pretty tired so I took a nap in my cabin. Jenna knocked on my door and screamed "we're here, we're here!" I rushed upstairs, took a one look at the crystal clear ocean around me and realized I definitely wasn't in Boston anymore.

It was finally the time we've been anticipating, our first certification dive. My ears have been bothering me since I got off the plane in Miami, so I had trouble equalizing. I could only decend a few feet before my ears started to really hurt. I felt really down on myself that I had to miss the first dive in Bimini, but I'd rather be safe and in good health than risk it. I still supported the rest of the Sea TURTLEs on their first certification dive.

 Today was our second certification dive at the Three Sisters rocks. My ears we're still blocked, but not as much as yesterday so I decided to try and dive. It took me a while, but I finally got my ears to equalize. The dive was absolutely gorgeous, we saw tons of beautiful fish and we even got to see a barracuda.

I'm having the time of my life here in Bimini with the Sea TURTLEs, the weather is amazing and I couldn't ask for anything better. I'm so grateful for having the opportunity to be here and I can't wait for the upcoming days.



Live Report from the Bahamas: It can finally come down!

The Aquarium's teen diving expedition Sea TURTLE is reporting live from the Bahamas. This post is from Porshai.

In the summer of 2009, I heard about the New England Aquarium's Sea TURTLE program. I was encouraged by Jenna, Sarah, and Jo to apply so I did. I even created a poster in my bathroom that read "Sea TURTLE 2010, No exceptions," so I was constantly reminded to strive and attain my goal of becoming SCUBA certified.

All of the applicants went through an extensive interview process. During the individual interviews, applicants were asked to bring an item that has some type of significance. I decided to bring the poster in my bathroom. I expressed to Jenna and Sarah that I had difficulties swimming. They made a decision and told me that due my struggle in swimming it would be not very safe and not very fun if I attended the trip. I respected their decision because ultimately my safety was the most important element on the trip.

I still kept the poster in my bathroom as a reminder that I did not fail but I simply needed more time to improve. I was determined to reapply for Sea TURTLE in 2011 and soon thereafter, I learned that I was accepted! I immediately started to count the days until the day we left. In the blink of an eye, that day arrived. After arriving in Miami we drove to the boat yard where the R/V Coral Reef II was docked.

 R/V Coral Reef II

We spent the night on the boat and the next morning we had breakfast and then we began an almost one hour trek out of the Miami River. As excited as I was, while exiting the Miami River, the trash and pollution was in great quantities. Animals like manatees and real sea turtles could mistake the trash as food get sick or die.

It was really disappointing to see the affect that humans have on marine wild life. As a Sea TURTLE, I am going to share as much information with family, friends and co-workers, to think before they litter.

Now that I am a Sea TURTLE, once I arrive back in Boston my poster can finally come down. And I will replace with a goal of attaining at least 24 dives before head off to college!

Signing Off,

P.S. Mom, Dad, Baby Bro. I miss you all.

Live Report from the Bahamas: Wake up in the morning, feeling like WE'RE READY!!!

The Aquarium's teen diving expedition Sea TURTLE is reporting live from the Bahamas. This is the first post from the boat, written by Lee

Last night, the Sea TURTLE II team landed in Miami and boarded the R/V Coral Reef II. We are all safe and sound, not to mention EXCITED!!!

My first plane ride EVER was SPECTACULAR! Thanks very much to my super buddy Chris who let me have his window seat and told me all the wonders there are to being 4000 ft above sea level! I felt like I could touch the clouds!

R/V Coral Reef II

Lee and Jess Enjoying a Cruise down the Miami River

We arrived pretty late with a wake up time of 6:45 am so we cozied into our beds (after hitting our heads a multitude of times on the low ceiling for those of us with top bunks, like me.)

 Onboard bunks

After breakfast, we left port traveling down the Miami River and made the crossing over to the BAHAMAS!!! At first everything was smooth sailing, the weather was beautiful and we congregated on the ship's bow to enjoy the ride.

We have so many photos to share but not enough internet connection to do it! [Note: these photos are put in from previous expeditions.] Before we left Miami, Dina and Lulu had said they saw a manatee and ever since, we've been on the look out for more. I have still yet to see one of these mysterious elusive sea cows but I am much excited to!

But by lunch time, most EVERYONE was queasy. I for one, spent a good chunk of quality time with my earphones in, eyes closed, and knocked out in the salon to avoid the spinning headache that the waves were giving me. Later, I migrated to my cabin where everyone else had gone to lie down to do the same.

 Bahamas sunset
I woke up to Jenna telling me, "We're here." ...And when I looked outside, I couldn't believe it. The scenery in the Bahamas is GORGEOUS!!! The islands would be ever the more breath taking without some of the construction going on along the coastlines. Condos are cool and all but clearing all the room to build them does a lot of damage to the natural ecosystems (mangroves and such) which in turn disrupts the habitats of many fish.

There's so much to talk about that I haven't even gotten to diving yet! OUR FIRST OPEN WATER DIVE WAS TODAY!!! No time left, more to come tomorrow!



Last class before the Bahamas: Learning about lionfish

Today, was our last class before we meet at the airport. I can't believe I'm going to be on a boat in a couple days!

 Lionfish (Photo: NOAA)

Our guest speaker today was Don Stark, a volunteer at the New England Aquarium. He talked to us about the lionfish, an invasive species we're most likely going to encounter in the Bahamas. We have lionfish at the New England Aquarium but this lecture was really in depth!

Don Stark

Don Stark showed us a map of lionfish sightings over the past 10 years. There were a few near Miami but then all of a sudden they appeared EVERYWHERE! They were in Mexico, the Bahamas, Dominican Republic and even up here in Massachusetts! We found out that they were going so far because when lionfish lay their eggs, they travel with the current. Don showed us another map of major currents and we saw that there was one in Miami that lead to each of those places.

 Lionfish distribution graphic (Photo: NOAA)

But why did we have to learn about this species? Not only might we see this species, but they are invasive and threatening the health of the coral reefs. lionfish have very few predators because of their venomous spines, and they eat a LOT of juvenile fish that at the algae off of coral. The lionfish have been thriving and it has been threatening the health and balance of the reefs.

It'll be very difficult to remove them, but we can try to control their population. There are some contests in the Turks and Caicos to catch as many lionfish as possible.

After the Don's presentation, we finally found out who our roommates are for our 10 day adventure. Jenna also had us compete in the Packing Olympics!-- Oh! That reminds me! I still have to pack!

Thank you for coming in, Don! It was awesome!


Do you have what it takes to be a professional child?

Tonight, Dr. Randi Rotjan, a New England Aquarium research scientist, came to speak at our Sea TURTLE class. According to her, a being a marine biologist is a lot like being a professional child because the world’s oceans are like giant sandboxes to explore. As a marine biologist, Randi has done research on topics including reef-building corals and hermit crabs. We learned about how much time and hard work it took her to reach this level.

Dr. Randi Rotjan in the field.

Being a marine biologist, Randi gets to travel the world and explore places like this:

Carrie Bow Cay, Belize (Read field reports from this expedition here)

And this:

The Red Sea (Read field reports from this expedition in 2010 and 2011)

And this:

The Phoenix Islands (Read field reports from this expedition here)

One of the main reasons that Randi goes to these places is to ask scientific questions and then try to answer them. Sometimes, researchers think of questions before going to such places and other times the places inspire the questions. Once Randi asks a question, she would do research until she is satisfied with the answer. There will be times when the available answers do not satisfy her and sometimes there won’t be an answer at all.

Randi also talked to us about coral reefs in the Bahamas and gave us a few tips in what to look for when we’re diving. One thing I’ll definitely be looking forward to is following a fish and observing what they eat. Apparently, you can hear some species like parrotfish making crunching sounds underwater! Thank you Randi for coming to talk to us! It was awesome!

Next stop: Bahamas! We’re so close!


Countdown to the Bahamas!

We are almost there. In just a few short days, the Sea TURTLE teens and instructors will be together in Miami and then on to the island of Bimini in the Bahamas. Everyone has put in a lot of time and work to get to this point: applications, interviews, seven weeknight classes, three pool sessions, awesome guest lecturers, SCUBA quizzes and tests and (of course) blogging. And all the while, teens and instructors alike have had to balance Sea TURTLE with family and school and work.

Michelle and Tommy showing off their official expedition t-shirts! 

Amid all of the expedition preparation, tonight we took some time to reflect on what still lies ahead of us: a ten-day expedition aboard a research vessel in the Bahamas. As a group, we all spoke about what we were most excited about and also got a chance to share anything we were nervous about. Here are some of the things that we shared:


Sleeping on a boat, tasting new foods, seeing the fish and the water—everything! –Denise

Diving in general and growing closer to everyone over 10 days! –Dina

Night diving, meeting Bahamian teens and a week away from technology (like cell phones) –Lulu

Everything but especially the food! –Chris

Being in a new environment—the Bahamas! –Libna

Getting there and experiencing a new place! –Jess

Getting away from the city air and “chillin with the wind in my face” in the Bahamas! –Porshai

My first time on a plane, on a boat, being in another country and swimming in the ocean! –Lee

Everything! Just excited to get to be in the program and get to this point! –Josh

When I heard about night diving, I was like “ahhhh” (in a good way). And being away from my life in Boston –Michelle

All the SCUBA and night diving! –Tommy

The reactions on everyone’s faces as they experience the Bahamas! –Mike, Divemaster

Having the teens meet the ship and it’s Captains! –Sarah, Expedition Leader

Watching how teens adapt to a new environment! And experiencing a beautiful island together! –Jenna

New experiences for everyone and sharing this big adventure together! -Dave


Being on the boat during a natural disaster. –Denise

The night dive. –Dina, Chris

Having my SCUBA gear fall off in the ocean. –Libna

Seasickness. –Mike

Being homesick for my mother, father and brother. –Porshai

Everything, bust especially forgetting to pack something important like SCUBA mask or passport. –Lee

The plane. And using the ship’s bathroom and breaking it. –Josh, Michelle

Telling my coach I’ll be out of the country. –Tommy

That teens forget their passports. –Jenna

Sharing what has been on our minds was really helpful. Lots of excitement and some common concerns. The best part is that we will experience all of this together! And you can share with us by following our blog! See you in the Bahamas!

Dave and the entire Sea TURTLE 2011 team

Bahamas Collecting Expedition: The Life Aquatic

Posts from the Sea TURTLE teen diving program will continue, but at the same time New England Aquarium staff and volunteers are on their regular spring expedition to the Bahamas. This is that team's tenth post, written by guest blogger and volunteer Sarah M. Winchester.

Our collecting expedition has come to a close, and as I sit at my computer downloading my 500+ photos and avoiding my stinky bag of laundry, I am reveling in the post trip haze of exhaustion, exhilaration and nostalgia. My husband and I were asked to volunteer for the 2011 Bahamas expedition, back in November 2010 and have been waiting in eager anticipation for this adventure like a 6-year-old Christmas Eve. Let me tell you, the trip was everything and more. It was the adventure of a lifetime or perhaps now an annual adventure, as we had such an amazing time. To help give you blog readers a little peek into our 10-day adventure, I wanted to share with you a little photo journal of what life out to sea on a New England Aquarium trip is like.

Life on the Coral Reef II
The Coral Reef II research vessel was our home, work place and transportation for the week at sea. While the quarters could feel a little tight, she served us well.

The Coal Reef II – She was yar alright.

The deck – where we prepped for dives, housed the fish we collected, and relaxed between dives.

The bridge – Captain’s quarters, wheelhouse, and zodiac boats for shore trips

The Salon – where we ate, relaxed and studied our fish identifications.

The engine room – loud and hot, this room powered us through some high seas.

Below deck – After a long day of diving I slept like a baby in these little bunks.

Up next: day-by-day account of our adventure.


Goodbye pool, hello Bahamas!

So this past Saturday, the seaTURTLE II team and I did our last pool session at the MIT pool. We practiced the last of our skills that we needed to become successful SCUBA divers. Some of these skills included helping our buddies maneuver around with their masks off. This is to simulate an event where a diver’s mask being knocked off and the buddy being the eyes of the diver.

SCUBA buddies, Josh and Michelle.

We also practiced buddy breathing with just one regulator! My buddy, Michelle, did a fantastic job at helping me get around when I didn’t have my mask and she always reminded me to make sure I had an ample supply of oxygen left. After all buddies are both important and fun at the same time! [Check out this post from the Aquarium's Dive Safety Officer John Hanzl for more about buddy breathing and certification.]

Josh flashing the SCUBA sign for OKAY.

Once we had finished practicing skills, we were all done for our confined water sessions. I couldn’t believe how fast we had done all 3 pool sessions! The next thing I thought was, “the next time I will be in the water, it’s going to be in the Bahamas," which was in five days! How cool is that? I am definitely up for the challenges of diving in open water. So all in have to say for now is, “good-bye pool, hello Bahamas!"


Bahamas Collecting Expedition: Coming full circle

Posts from the Sea TURTLE teen diving program will continue, but at the same time New England Aquarium staff and volunteers are on their regular spring expedition to the Bahamas. This is that team's ninth post, written by Andrea.

As I am sitting on the Coral Reef now back at Jones’s Boat Yard, it is very quiet; all the fish have left and made it back to Boston, safe and sound as well as all the participants. Looking back on the trip I felt like everything wrapped up sort of poetically.

 Fish leaving

The collecting dives finished up with an exciting dive called Three Sisters. It was very shallow but had plenty of fish to catch. The last fish we brought on board was the red-lipped blenny, which Barbara spent most of the dive trying to catch! It was very fitting that the last fish we caught was the trip fish.


And for our last dive; we finally made it to Rainbow Reef, which was the first place we originally tried to dive, but had to change plans due to the seas. It was a nice quiet calm dive with beautiful fish to just look at and not try to catch.

Rainbow Reef

Queen triggerfish (also photographed in 2010)

Getting out one last time

As we were saying good bye to all the participants it sort of felt like leaving summer camp. You are dirty and tired, but had a blast. Then you are saying good bye to new friends, who you hope you will see again and keep in touch. But even if you never see them again they will always be part of this amazing experience which you will never forget.

Group photo (Photo credit: Sarah W.)