Heron Island

I’ve been busy busy.  Between research, reef walks, beach bumming (yes this is busy work), working on papers and species cards, snorkeling, 5 meals a day, lectures, and watching the sunset – I haven’t had time to update!

Our days are long but amazing.  We wake up early, for 7am breakfast, have a lecture then morning tea, then we go for a snorkel, return to the research station for lunch, usually do some work around the library or go out and collect more data all afternoon, watch the sunset, have dinner, and have a lecture before crashing in our bunks.

Snorkeling has been amazing – it’s so different than any Caribbean reef’s that I’ve seen.  We’ve gone for snorkels off of the different shores and a boat snorkel.  I’ve seen so many species on the coral reef.  Black tip sharks, dolphins, turtles were among the many different fish, crabs, anemones, and corals.  It feels like you’re swimming with Nemo in there – I keep quoting the movie in my head.  We’ve also taken walks at low tide along the Reef flat.  There are abundant numbers of of sea cucumbers and sea stars.  We walked out far until the reef crest, where the waves break before the coral.  It was a far walk, wading out into the water, but it never got deeper than my legs.  At the edge, dead and broken coral collected and formed a platform.

I have  a small group that has been working on a research project looking at the 3-stripe Damsel fish and the coral that they live in.  We’re studying the relationship between the complexity of the coral and size and number of fish living in it.  We’ve been collecting data by measuring the coral and counting the fish.  We have a paper to write and due when we’re back.

The sunsets are my favorite part of the day.  Every day, I take a walk on the beach about half an hour before sunset to capture the golden light with my Canon Rebel.  The light enhances everything, adding to the beauty of this island.  There is a shipwreck off of the west side of the island that the sun dips below before disappearing into the Pacific Sea horizon.  We’ve been trying to catch the green flash but it’s rare.  Hours after the sunset, the stars come out.  Because we are so far from big cities, the sky is much darker.  There is a light glow from over the Australian mainland.  But, you can see the whole Milky Way streak across the sky and hundreds of stars.

The research station is nice.  We have bunks with 8 people.  The floor has gotten quite dirty and sandy over the week but it doesn’t really matter because I’m running around without shoes all day, except in the kitchen.  The kitchen staff, Maggie, is a rough woman.  She bakes great breads and tea snacks but she has strict rules – shoes on inside, no leftovers, and only vegetarians get the meatless options.  There is a library with books that I’ve been using to identify species.  There is also a small lecture classroom and microscope research room.  It’s a comfortable campground here in the middle of the Island.

Tonight, October 7, is our last night here.  We’re going to the resort for dinner with the professors.  Tomorrow we’re heading back – I hope the ferry ride is smoother!

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