Sierra 1 Trip Update Day 18 – Lizzie, Mate
The day started off with the last SCUBA dive of the program. To make these last few dives really count, we performed Coral Watch surveys, in which we collect data on coral color, which is an indicator of overall coral health. As we have learned these past few weeks, many other ecosystems, like seagrass beds and mangroves, are interconnected with coral reefs, so having a good idea about the state of the reefs is really important!
We had a short yet relaxing sail from Marina Cay over to Monkey Point. Ezra, our skipper of the day, put the boat on the mooring ball like a seasoned sailor. After the silent mooring yesterday afternoon, the crew really understands the importance of good communication on maneuvers like mooring and it showed today! The afternoon started with a quick lesson on the differences between native, endemic, alien, and invasive species, driving it home with the example of the lionfish in the Caribbean, which have a huge negative impact on reefs of the British Virgin Islands. The afternoon was for preparing for our two presentations coming up in the next few days: more to come on those!
Tonight had to be one of the most beautiful sunsets of the entire trip, so as you can imagine, everyone took at least 25 pictures of it! Dusk brought a lesson about bioluminescence and the deep sea. For example, did you know that the average temperature of the deep sea is less than 35 degrees Fahrenheit? The Sierra program prides itself on hands-on experience, so after we learned about bioluminescence, we jumped in for a biolum splash! As Graham said, “Every movement looks like you are stirring your own universe!” We continued on to do a full night snorkel looking for other organisms that produce bioluminescence. We ran into a feeding spotted eagle ray and juveniles eels (which look like scotch tape with eyeballs)…so cool! The captain and mate had hot chocolate waiting for us when we got back to the boat, so we powered down, playing UNO while sipping on hot chocolate. Not a bad way to end the day!