Bahamas Expedition: Sending the fish packing

This guest blog was written by trip participant George Bauernfeind (left), who also happens to be Chris' dad. Stay tuned for one final post from Chris with his favorite pictures from this expedition.

It was 5 a.m. Sunday morning when Chris’ alarm went off.  I was already awake, relaxing in the hum of the boat’s generator and reliving the wonderful experiences of the past week (night diving, learning to catch fish, hunting for moorings, making new friends, hunting for invasive species... I could go on). In minutes the 15 crew members would be up and about, hot morning coffee in hand as “good morning” greetings would be exchanged.

Per usual, we were on a timetable, with this morning’s agenda being packaging of the 300-plus fish and invertebrates we had collected and delivering them to the Miami airport for their flight to Boston. As had been the case every other day, with Captain John barking orders and Expedition Leader Sherrie scurrying about, the 15 of us came together and functioned as one, accomplishing our objective with time to spare.

A compilation of pictures from the morning of fish packing

First, let me back up a bit. The trip started out with a rough Gulf Stream crossing and several days of seemingly endless monsoon-like winds and rain. With no dryer on the boat, wet gear and wet towels hung in futility, extra clothespins and bungee cords needed just to keep the stuff from getting blown overboard.

Even in the rain, of course, once underwater, the wonders of the ocean opened up as only they can to a scuba diver. Swimming with the fish is an experience unlike any other; the quiet and serenity of the ocean floor a welcome relief from the noise and busyness of our normal everyday schedules.

The animals generally were unbothered by our invasion of their world, with one exception — the young green sea turtle who was curious enough to follow us around for a while, even nibbling at a diver’s outstretched fingers.

In our one-on-ones with a fish, more often than not the fish won. An early target was a longspine squirrelfish, and as we clumsily approached with outstretched nets in hand, he definitely had the initial advantage. His sight, and his ability to feel the increased water pressure from the advancing nets, heightened every defensive mechanism he had. But with our advantages of a bigger brain, persistence, and a bit of luck, the little guy soon was in our catchbag. A short stay in the boat’s holding tank, a quick trip to Boston, and before very long he would be entertaining and educating the many thousands of schoolchildren, their families and tourists who come to the Aquarium each year. 

Chris the cook fed us well the entire trip. We all continued to be amazed at the creations he produced out of the cramped little boat kitchen, any thoughts that we had of possible weight loss from a week of good physical activity soon dispelled.

I’ll think back often to the new friends made, that feeling of exhaustion as I climbed into my bunk each night and the many highlights of the trip. Thanks to Captain John and Co-Captain Lou for their leadership and continuing emphasis on safety during the trip. Thanks also to the aquarium staff:  Chris, who also happens to be my son; Shara, the natural-born teacher who had the patience to explain to me, more than once, the operation of my new dive computer; and the amazingly energetic Sherrie who, even after a long day on the boat, found even more energy one evening when we were granted a few hours of shore leave and discovered a place in Alice Town with loud music and a sand dance floor.

One last group shot before the fish head to Boston

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