18: Bahamas 2013 | Queens and Highhats

2013 Bahamas Expedition | Round Three 
About a year and a half ago, this trip's blogger became an intern diver in the Giant Ocean Tank at the New England Aquarium. Luigi loved being at the Aquarium so much that he became a volunteer diver after his internship was over. He also joins Aquarium divers to help collect fish, under special permits, so that visitors in Boston can appreciate the splendor of a healthy Caribbean reef. 

Luigi joined the dive team on a recent trip to the Bahamas to collect animals for the new exhibit.

Today was another great day here on the R/V Coral Reef II! We finally woke up to beautiful weather and calm seas. Our day today consisted of four dives at two different dive sites. The first of the two sites was called Frank and John's. At this site, we collected many fish, but our target was blue chromis.  These are beautiful little fish and are always a big hit in the Giant Ocean Tank.

On the first of the two dives at this site, we saw a scrawled filefish and a queen triggerfish! We already have a few beautiful scrawled filefish in the new exhibit who will be eventually moving into the Giant Ocean Tank, and the colorful queen triggerfish was just a little bit too quick for us to collect and take home to Boston. On the second dive at Frank and John's, we saw a unique fish called a highhat.

Juvenile highhat

This little guy was a juvenile and probably about half the size of a dollar bill. We would have taken this little guy home with us too, but he was smart enough to hide out in some large sea urchins where we couldn't get him (little did he know how lucky he would have been to come home to the G.O.T.)!  What is really fascinating about highhats is the way that they change over time. If you look up a picture of an adult highhat and compare it to the juvenile above, you would never even guess it was the same fish!

After splashing down at Frank and John's, we decided to make our way over to a new site called Lunkers Head (couldn't tell you where the name came from). Though the visibility (the distance you can see underwater) wasn't all that great at this site, we didn't mind all that much because we were able to collect a lot more blue chromis! It was also at this site that we were able to finally find and collect some really cool fish called hamlets! It is difficult to get pictures of the fish we collected, because, well, we are busy collecting them, but it is nice being able to get some great shots of other amazing animals on these sites. In an attempt to collect a hogfish, the chef on board (Chris) and I were unknowingly brought within inches of a large, rather grumpy looking barracuda!


On the second dive at Lunkers Head, we chose to collect at the part of the reef in front of where the boat was anchored. In this area, we saw huge, amazing schools of beautiful Creole wrasse.

Creole wrasses

These colorful fish are really gorgeous, and a few of them were already collected for the newly renovated Giant Ocean Tank by the an earlier collecting group to Bimini this year! We also happened to see a few random, larger fishes during the dive on this site as well.

Tomorrow we will be doing some more diving, as well as a special method of collecting fish called a beach seine. Usually in a beach seine, we attempt to collect needlefish, barracuda, small parrotfish and sometimes different kinds of box fish. The fun and exciting parts of this method of collecting is that there is always a surprise and always something interesting that turns out. Be sure to check back to see what comes up in our nets!

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