Tuesday, September 3, 2002


Carnival Cruise Ship

We woke today with the tide even higher than it was the day before. Everything was flooded. The sun was shinning and it was quite beautiful.

We knew it was Tuesday just by looking at the horizon. The Carnival cruise ship was back with a new tour group and anchored off the coast of Belize City. During the season, the ship
always appears on Tuesday and leaves on Wednesday. It is huge! We mused about what a different experience we were having from those on the cruise ship. If nothing else, we can safely bet that they are probably cleaner than we are. Team member “X”, whose name shall not be mentioned but who has to do her math homework each night, is on her sixth day without a shower. She is trying for a record. The rest of us may just have to force her into the shower if it gets much worse! Then again, she is swimming in the ocean for several hours each day.

After breakfast the team was again divided into two groups. One team stayed back to process yesterday’s seagrass samples and the other went out in the boat to look for manatees.

Manatee Sightings

Today was a bonanza—we saw eight manatees! One was a mother and a juvenile. The mother took a number of paddle divesvery near us. From the boat it looked like she had some scarring on her back. We spent quite a bit of time trying to get a good photograph of her paddle and scars so that Caryn might match her to one of the animals she has catalogued.

While props can be very damaging to manatees, encounters with the hulls of boats can also be potentially harmful and even fatal to manatees. A collision with a moving boat or ship can cause damage to a manatee’s internal organs, internal bleeding, or a head injury. A manatee’s lungs run almost the entire length of its body and are located right underneath the skeleton near the top of the animal. A bruised or punctured lung can lead to pneumonia and the animal’s eventual death.

At one point it started raining and we all huddled in the center of the boat for cover. It didn’t do much good though as the wind was blowing the rain through the boat. Tami finally jumped in the water to get warm. Waiting for the rain to stop we spent some time investigating the nearby mangrove trees. There were mangrove oysters growing on some of the roots. Underneath a dead fish was floating nearby.

Needle In A Haystack

Katie is attempting to measure the growth rate of turtlegrass—a particular type of seagrass that manatees eat. The first day we were here we anchored at the mouth of Bogue G. Katie marked 20 plants growing on the bottom of the sea floor by placing a plastic tie with an orange streamer at the base of each of the 20 plants. She then took a safety pin and put a hole in one of the leaves at the base of each plant.

The plan was to return today and pull up all 20 plants. By looking at where the original hole was in the leaf in relation to the plastic tie she can measure how much the plant has grown. There was nothing on board that first day to mark the location of the sample site so she used the boat’s broom, sticking its handle deep in the mud. We of course took a waypoint (remember waypoints map to degrees longitude and latitude) and Gilroy took a visual marker on the shoreline.

We stopped at the location that Gilroy thought contained the broom and samples. Confident that they were directly beside the boat he dove down only to discover that they were nowhere in sight. As he searched around a bit, it slowly dawned on us that we could be there a very long time. Where in all this water could they be? A search party jumped overboard to help. After an hour and a half of searching Gilroy found the broom. He is truely an amazing diver. All but three plants were retrieved! Katie was happily measuring plant growth in the late afternoon.

After the boat returned, some people went snorkeling down the shore from our research station. A large chunk of the seabed had collapsed at some point leaving a long channel and a 20-foot “hole”. This area has a lot of interesting sea life. The snorkelers saw an eight-inch long hermit crab, a ten-inch diameter clamshell, sea cucumbers, and clusters of coral with brightly colored fish of all types swimming through them. Caryn saw a Jew fish—a huge grouper-like fish three to four feet long with a giant mouth. Despite its size, it is thought to be harmless, but looks somewhat intimidating.

The Feast

The task tonight was to cook all the remaining food because tomorrow we restock with fresh supplies. Ernest, Pam, and Mike made lobster curry, fried rice, plantains, cabbage-potato stew and a potato frittata. Delicious! After dinner there was a backgammon game.

Tomorrow Pam, Ernest, and Katie leave for home. We will all take the boat to Belize City. Hannah and Tami will shop for next week’s supplies. Those that are leaving will head for the airport while the rest of us will probably try and eat everything we have been craving for this past week. We will also be visiting the zoo. Apparently the zoo in Belize City is an educational center and quite good. At 4:00 PM we will all meet back at the dock along with Steve and Jen who flew into the country today and will be joining us for the remainder of the trip.