reflections on bermuda

In the Los angeles airport–they only gave me an hour of free internet Bruce, so here goes.

The trip to Bermuda was amazing, and even though it is a small country, hence easy to get around on, I feel really lucky to have seen & experienced so much. Definitely more than the average Bermuda resort-goer. The two weeks spent in lab in Maine preparing to go I found were also very helpful. It was nice to go there already having the necessary information in the back of my head so that when I was there I could just be there and experience it fully, and we didn’t have to drag ourselves indoors from the beautiful island views to learn. Although if we were there for the whole month, I would have conceded to spending some time in the classroom.

Truthfully, the only downside to this trip (not the passport, I’m pretty much over that) was that evil puzzle that was falling apart! Doomed never to be finished and to torture all those who tried! A small price to pay though for everything we were able to do. Despite how densely populated Bermuda is, there are still peaceful places you can go to–like Tom Moore’s Jungle and those caves, and the postcard-worthy beaches on the South Shore. Everything feels laid back and I totally loved it.

It was also exciting to become proficient at riding a moped. On lefty roads nonetheless! There were times when I felt like a Bermudian, but then I remembered my helmet said “OLEANDER” in big letters so it was fairly obvious that I wasn’t.

I also have a soft spot in my heart for caves, and I am always wow-ed by the features that can be produced with limestone (just add water!). Swimming in a cave was also a somewhat alien experience, just because of the feeling in your gut when you look down into the deep cave pools and there is no life and it seems to continue forever. An infinite abyss. Pretty cool and slightly freaky, but I enjoyed it.

Another notable thing we did was snorkeling! Reef life will also never cease to amaze me. The amount of symbiosis and even just how much life you can see by staring at one place that isn’t always apparent upon first glance. Its such a mystical & unique place on Earth. I always kind of feel like an intruder to the life that has been created in these amazing carbonate environments…except for when our guide speared the lionfish. So beautiful so invasive so deadly! And they never really move in the water column; they float along with the current until they see prey they want to snatch. The reefs at North Rock were some of the most extensive I’ve ever seen. Some of our group kept swimming out to try to reach the drop-off, but it seemed to go on forever so I turned around. Don’t want to end up in Davy Jones’ locker! We saw a hawksbill sea turtle at this location too! Far out!

One last thing to reflect on was the Bermuda Aquarium/Zoo/Museum. What an establishment! It really had everything. It was awesome to be a VIP and see all the tanks from the other side. It was the most interesting to see how injured fish and birds were being cared for. I thought some of the fish were talking to me….but they weren’t :(

On the whole, this Jan-Plan trip was so special and fun. It was also a nice follow-up to last years’ Belize Jan-Plan and another chance to apply and enhance my knowledge of carbonate environments. Every day on this trip I was so happy; we did so much! Thanks Chief!

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Stony Corals

So Bruce asked us to summarize our second presentation about carbonate organisms in a post, and I plan to talk a little about stony corals. After seeing them in reality while snorkeling at North rock, I found them even more interesting than I expected, especially in variety and color. In this post, I will write about the characteristics and classification of stony corals, introduce a few species, and end with some life stories about stony coral. Continue reading

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Summary of thoughts and the experience

All right, it has been two days since arriving back stateside and I still have Bermuda on the brain. I meant to write this post earlier but just now remembered that I never finished it. So here goes.

The trip was awesome. I don’t exactly know what I expected from it but I certainly know that I didn’t expect to miss Bermuda so much after only being there for 10 days. When I realized that I already missed it on the plane to Boston, I knew it was more special than I had anticipated.

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Last Day in Bermuda

(Which I forgot to publish amongst the rush of packing bags and preparing to leave)

This morning, we revisited the aquarium for a behind-the-scenes tour. Our tour guide told us all about the many species of fish, and taught us way more than we could have learned from just reading the short info cards next to each tank. She also let us see the seabirds she was rehabilitating and the quarantine process that fish go through before going on display in the aquarium.

At lunchtime, we headed out on a faster-than-usual boat to North Rock, the location of the northernmost coral reefs in the world. There was no wind for the first time since we’ve been on Bermuda, and the sun was warm and refreshing, making the 11 mile trip out very enjoyable. Once we arrived, I was amazed at the glass-like clarity of the water and eagerly jumped in!

We saw more fish than any of the other times we have gone snorkeling on this trip at North Rock!! I was amazed by a giant grouper, who changed colors several times in response to our uninvited presence on his reef (we learned during our tour at the aquarium that groupers changed colors based on their mood and are highly territorial). We also swam above a sea turtle, but it swam away before we could get a picture with the underwater camera.

We then proceeded to swim farther away from the boat (perhaps too far) to explore deeper waters. Amazingly, we encountered a swath of warm water that seemed to be an eddy of the Gulf Stream. It was filled with larvae and at least 10°F warmer than the surrounding water. Then, when we looked up, we saw that the boat was much farther away than we realized and began swimming back. It was a long swim, but luckily the current helped us along in the right direction!

I could not imagine a better day than this one to top off this amazing time in Bermuda! Even the seasickness that I suffered after snorkeling couldn’t dampen my spirits after experiencing so many amazing things in such a short time. Unfortunately, it’s now time for me to pack my bags and leave… but hopefully one day I’ll be back!

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closing thoughts

So this is the last blog post for our class trip to Bermuda, its kind of weird to be writing it from my house in Boston and not at the BIOS station, but Bruce wanted us to give our final thoughts about the trip as a whole, so here it goes..

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Limpets and Polyplacophora (chitons)

Presentation12-1

Limpets and Chitons of Bermuda.

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Final thoughts

We’re all sitting in the Bermuda airport waiting for our flight back to Boston. I think we all  could stay a few more days. I’d feel worse about leaving if I wasn’t so excited to head up to Katahdin tomorrow. Yesterday was the warmest yet so I might experience an 80 degree temperature difference over three days. I hope Bermuda hasn’t made me too soft.

I’m sure I’ll be back to Bermuda someday but I know it won’t be the same without Bruce’s connections. Yesterday’s highlight was going back to the aquarium, this time for a behind the scenes tour. We got to see all of the machinery that makes the aquarium work and the animal rehabilitation room. They had two young orphaned Longtails who were surprisingly docile,  sitting on the scale to be weighed and letting us pet them without protest. Apparently they lose weight rapidly if they don’t eat about 1/3 of their body weight per day. To for me that would be eating about 50 pounds of fish per day. The Longtail ate a sardine nearly as long as himself; I was afraid he would choke on but he managed to get it down after a few spastic jerks.

Yesterday we also got to go snorkeling at North Rock, a tiny island about 9 miles north of the mainland. North rock marks the northern edge of the Bermuda platform, the mostly underwater carbonate reef that Bermuda sits on. In past ice ages, when much of the ocean went into forming the glaciers, a much larger area of this reef was exposed above water, making the island of Bermuda many times larger than it currently is. Sea level has also risen in warm periods, resulting in a smaller island that can be observed in the fossil reefs many feet above current sea level. Bermuda, unlike Maine, shows little evidence of isostasy, i.e. change in how high or low the plate floats on the liquid mantel. The Maine coast is still expanding today as the land slowly rebounds from the weight of the glaciers. Bermuda on the other hand is stable, so it is the perfect yardstick for understanding changes in sea level. Seeing that exposed reef was the first time I’ve seen with my own eyes proof of a past higher sea level. Scientists use Bermuda to understand sea level change all the time. Another good way to see it is in caves. Many caves on Bermuda fill with water which stays more or less at sea level. Stalagmites (the ones on the floor) standing under the surface indicate that they formed in a time when the oceans were lower because  stalagmites can’t form underwater. We went in one cave with a 25 foot stalagmite fully submerged under water. Ice ages take a lot of water out of the ocean.

In the end I can see why Bruce keeps taking geology trips to Bermuda. Its the perfect place to see and understand geological events without getting into too much esoteric reckoning like absolute dating and taking core samples. We could look anywhere and see the hardened dunes, carbonate shells, and cup reefs that took part in forming the island. In this way Bermuda’s sedimentary geology is much simpler than Maine’s igneous history, allowing me to feel pretty accomplished for a single month course. Thank you Bruce, and everyone else who made it a great trip including my compatriots in course credit. And if your reading this and have the choice to go on this trip in 2015, do it.

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Last day in Bermuda

Wowie ZOWIE!   Today was beautiful!   Quite possibly the best day we’ve had here in Bermuda.  The sun was out, the wind was not, and all things were quite enjoyable.  I pretty much got over whatever sickness I was feeling over the past couple of days and had full energy to enjoy the activities of the day.  In the morning we stopped by the Aquarium, Zoo, and Natural History Museum for the second time.  While there we were given a behind-the-scenes tour by a friend of Bruce’s named Linn.  She showed us around the aquarium and explained the different tanks of fish and sea organisms.  She also showed us the quarantine center where she was working on rehabilitating Bermudan Longtails.  We were also given a tour of the Zoo.

In the afternoon, we boarded a different boat than we had taken previously, and headed out toward North Rock which is located 9 miles away from the main land.  Surprisingly the water was quite calm and glassy.  This was the first time all in a week and a half that there was not a hint of wind.  The ride out was quite enjoyable, however the boat vibrated a lot and my head soon became numb.  It took about an hour to reach North Rock and I was very eager to begin snorkeling.  The water was very clear and the visibility was pristine.  We swam around for about an hour enjoying large grouper fish and endless corals.  To end the day we went out to dinner at the Swizzle Inn.  I am now very tired and sunburned and am not looking forward to returning to MAine.

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all the news that fits in print (also pictures)

Last full day on Beautiful Bermuda! A tragedy at best. :( It was a day well spent. In the morning we got a VIP tour of the aquarium; we saw what really goes on back there. It’s pretty much what I expected. We got to see tanks where fish were healing and bins where injured birds were also healing. There were two Bermuda Longtails and one American coot in the infirmary. We saw the tops of the aquarium tanks for each fish…it was really cool! Then we checked out more of the zoo and museum; I liked the Australasia exhibit. I had a nice conversation with a tree kangaroo, but the flying fox bats just stared at me. In the museum I calculated my ecological footprint, and if everyone lived like me we would need about 6.3 planet Earth’s to sustain all the me’s………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….but I only guesstimated the questions that involved kilometers so it could be less. I hope it’s less.

I forgot to mention that the weather today was AWESOME! Not that windy, not that not sunny and blue skies and gorgeous….this meant that we were able to take the hour-long boat ride out to North Rock for some spectacular snorkeling. And spectacular it was! There was so much reef! The coolest thing we saw was a sea turtle! It was swimming along the sand near the a reef ledge, but when I tried to call all my friends over to check it out and take a picture it got scared and swam away. There were also a few massive grouper swimming about. Unbelievable how big they are. I just couldn’t believe it! It was a beautiful reef; saw lots of stoplight parrotfish whose name I finally remembered.

For our last supper we had a lovely meal at the Swizzle Inn, a classic haunt around these parts. It’s so sad to be leaving this place so soon! And tomorrow is supposed to be the best weather of the whole trip….you can’t win all the time. This was a great day to end on…expect one more post, dear readers, unless the flight tomorrow ends in the depths of the Triangle.

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SEA TURTLES OH MY

This afternoon was the perfect way to end our trip to Bermuda. We went to North Rock to snorkel on the northernmost coral reefs in the world! How cool is that? It was pretty awesome. The rock itself was rather unimpressive (it was tiny), but the reefs were spectacular.  There were so many sea fans and colorful fish! Guess what else we saw? A sea turtle! Yay! It was so exciting. Except it swam away really quickly as soon as it saw us so we couldn’t get a picture. Darn. This was definitely my favorite creature spotted near the reef!

The weather was also prime for snorkeling. Instead of freezing on the ride back, today we were able to sit in the front of the boat in the sunshine! The lack of clouds and wind made this boat ride the most enjoyable yet. So much sun. It felt so nice!

Now, after a yummy dinner at the Swizzle Inn, it is time to begin to think about the journey ahead of us tomorrow. I’ll definitely be sad to leave this beautiful island paradise and go back to chilly Maine. Maybe if I accidentally drop my passport into the ocean……..

 

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