11: Bahamas 2013 | Jumping ship

2013 Bahamas Expedition | Round Two
Emma is a former Giant Ocean Tank Dive Intern on her first Spring Collection Expedition. She joined Aquarium divers in the Bahamas to help collect fish, under special permits, so that visitors in Boston can appreciate the splendor of a healthy Caribbean reef.  After a top-to-bottom transformation, the Giant Ocean Tank is expected to reopen in early summer. 

It was another fun day in Bimini!  Our first two dives of the day were at a spot called the Piquet. This spot was my favorite of the whole trip—there were so many different kinds of beautiful corals and fish.  By the end of the second dive, my group had a gorgeous rock beauty, two wrasses and a smooth trunkfish in our catch bags. Unfortunately, smooth trunkfish secrete a colorless toxin from their skin, which may harm our other fish, so it had to be taken back.

During the surface interval between dives, we decided to try jumping from the ship into the water- and what a blast!  Captain Dave was kind enough to take these amazing jump shots.

Liz jumping from the RV Coral Reef II | Photo credit: Captain Dave

Franco jumping from the RV Coral Reef II | Photo credit: Captain Dave

Murphy jumping from the RV Coral Reef II | Photo credit: Captain Dave

Me jumping from the RV Coral Reef II | Photo credit: Captain Dave

After lunch, we moved to a new spot called Green Heads. Natalia, Franco and I joined forces to catch two wrasses and a harlequin bass on our first dive. This task was rather tricky due to my least favorite fish: lionfish. Lionfish are native to the Pacific Ocean but were released into the Atlantic, where they are an invasive species. Lionfish prey on many of the native fish of the Atlantic and have no natural predators to control their population. Most of our dive spots are infested with this fish. On each dive, I count at least five.

A lionfish

After a delicious dinner, it was finally time for our night dive!  We equipped ourselves with plenty of lights and dove in.

Getting ready to jump in for the night dive! Photo credit: Franco Lichauco

The first unusual animal we encountered was a large spotted moray eel. During the day, we usually spy them deep in their holes, peaking out warily at us. But tonight, this eel was almost completely out of its lair. After an almost successful attempt to capture a squirrelfish, we discovered a large, colorful, sleeping parrotfish—the target of our night dive. During the day, large parrotfish zoom around the reef, making it difficult to catch them. At night, these fish hide themselves under ledges to rest, leaving them vulnerable. Unfortunately, this fish managed to escape our nets as soon as we nudged it. A little while later, we successfully caught a small reef squirrelfish, but continued our search for parrotfish. As we peaked under every ledge, we came across not one, but two octopuses! These cephalopods are incredible and changed color right in front of my eyes.

As we surfaced after the dive, a large form moving around in the boat’s light caught everyone’s attention. At first, we thought it was circular and must be a ray. Then it started changing shape before our eyes, confusing us all until we realized it was not one animal, but many. It a bait ball made up of small fish drawn to the green light hanging off the boat. These small fish will swim in large groups to protect themselves from predators. It was an amazing sight to conclude a great day.

By showing visitors the beauty of a healthy Caribbean reef, we hope to inspire visitors to do what they can to protect these reefs and marine habitats around the world. Dive into the New Aquarium Experience, coming early this summer!

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