Sunday, January 27, 2013

First Blogpost!

Welcome to the first post on the VCS EWeek in the Bahamas Official Blog!  We hope you will follow us on our journey beyond the horizon and beneath the waves.  We will be staying at The Island School in Rock Sound on the Island of Eleuthera.  Each day we will have a busy schedule including island adventures, classes in fish identification, visits to the Island Institute, and of course lots of swimming and diving.  As we will be there on MLK Day, we will be devoting one day to service - helping to build a new EMT Rescue Station.  The Island School is a semester long boarding school program and we will be visiting between semesters, so the facilities will be great.  The school seeks to be as self-sustaining as possible and it will be fun to learn how that can happen on a small scale.  (One part of that will be "Navy Showers" lasting about 60 seconds max!)  All in all it will be a great time so stay tuned to our blog.  BTW; Each time a new post comes up you can receive an email notice (some folks are already getting them) just use the email field to the right to sign up.  Also, feel free to "Comment" on our posts - maybe tell us the temperature in Vermont?

Best,

Peter Gilmore and Christie Beveridge

Day One - Early morning departure - Burlington

Travel pix. All good.







Saturday, January 26, 2013

Day One - Travel

Day One has come to a close. Lots of fun and catnaps as we traveled South on smooth flights. The weather has been great - even a little rain to refill the cisterns at the Island School was just fine.  Once we arrived we were briefed on our week ahead by our personal guide Tiffany - lots of cool things on the schedule.  Everybody is excited and tired now so sleep is nigh we hope.  Lights out at 9:30.  Below are a few pix from our PineApple Air flight - if you can figure out how to get out of the plane using that diagram from the safety card you're  better than I!  (Looks like one is supposed to fold up the tray, jump toward the window, and fall out the bottom of the plane??)

All the best,

Peter and Christie





Day One - In Nassau - Chillin'

Everything (and everybody) on time. And nobody has lost their Passport yet!



Friday, January 25, 2013

Day Two - The Island Institute

We had a filled day today of snorkeling, touring, and diving! We began with a morning snorkel to a wreck off a beach by the school. It was a great chance to make sure we were comfortable with some of our gear, as well as to make first encounters with starfish, stingrays, and sea cucumbers! Our next activity was to take a tour of the Island School's sustainable systems, including a farm with pigs, ducks, and a permaculture garden, a biodiesel processing plant, a windmill, rain cisterns, as well as an amazing aquaponics system. The tanks of fish, whose waste helps fertilize the school's garden, brought to mind jumbo versions of Peter Goff's students' eco-machines. After a delicious lunch in the school's dining hall, we packed up the boat for our first SCUBA dive! All of the students remembered the lessons we learned this fall in Lake Champlain as we practiced  key skills underwater. We then descended to 35 feet, viewing some stunning, colorful fish. After our dive we had some downtime, when we napped and played card games. Following dinner, our guide, Tiffany, gave us a slide show presentation on the reef fish and other invertebrates that we saw today, and that we will be encountering during our dives over the coming days: Lionfish, Damselfish, Fairy Basslets, and Nassau Groupers, to name a few. Our day tomorrow begins bright and early with a 6:45 a.m. run or bike... so we'll be headed to bed soon!

Sunrise over The Island School Campus


Checking out the School's aquaponics system



Walking the bridge over the mangrove flats on campus (the bridge was made of "rumber"- a combination of recycled rubber--old tires--and wood!)


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Day Three - The World Below

Divers Log Day 3:

Today, we started off biking around the island and jumping off cliffs into crystal clear warm water.  (See video below)  Afterwards we spent a few hours learning about all the fish in our vicinity in order to better recognize the organisms in our future dives.  After lunch, we loaded up our dive gear and sped off toward "Tunnel Rock".  Forty feet below the surface, lay massive heads of corals, populated by fish of all shapes, sizes, and colors.  When we checked in back at campus a couple hours later, we compiled a list of our observations.  It included:
  • Fairy Basslet
  • Barracuda
  • Chub
  • Masked Goby
  • Lionfish
  • Christmas Tree Worm
  • Blue Tang
  • Princess and Stoplight Parrotfish
  • Split Crown Featherduster Worm
  • Nurse Shark
  • and many more!
In the "crepuscular hour", or dusk, we went on an night "nature wade" and ended up finding two Caribbean Reef Octopi.  After capturing one, Henry Harder accomplished his lifelong dream of hugging an octopus!  Having a great time!

Divers Henry S. and Mikhal

Day Three - Discovery!

After our very cool lecture on sharks, we did a night stroll on the beach and found an octopus within minutes! After some close observation, we returned the critter back to its habitat.

video

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Day Four - Underwater Pix

Here are some underwater images from todays' day of diving. Note the students participating in the REEF Volunteer Survey Project. More information about the program at www.reef.org



Josh takes note of his buddy team findings

It's cool working in an almost weightless environment

These are called Flamingo Tongues

Lobster dinner.... not!

Henry uses a waterproof fish guide to help identify the species

A Queen Angelfish

Peter Gilmore signals "Okay"

More surveying

Henry S. inverted

Jason, our Divemaster, leads the way

The invasive Lionfish
Another Lionfish - they're everywhere!

Jason has a captured Lionfish

A Coral Banded Shrimp watches from his home under a ledge

Tiffany, our group leader, explores the reef

 Henry H takes notes

Mikhal and Henry check out a Hermit Crab

Day Four - Divers Day


Today was divers day for our hearty crew.  We started with a five mile bike trip around "the loop" stopping at a remote snorkel site.  After breakfast, kitchen duty, and chores cleaning the dorms we headed off to the dive shop.  The first dive was an expanded repeat of yesterday's visit to "Tunnel Rock" reef - a 35ft dive in 75 degree water.  We surveyed the coral heads with pairs of divers recording fish and creatures we learned about over the last few days.  A researcher traveling with us speared three invasive lionfish which were brought back for study.  The second dive, at "Ski Slopes" allowed us to enjoy an even wider variety of sea life - about 40 min. at 35-40 ft.  Sightings included stingrays, groupers, a white spotted eel, and even a cool trumpetfish. Although the surface of the sea was choppy, life beneath the waves was calm and inviting.  We ended the day watching an interesting movie about conservation in the Bahamas, and using the Island School telescope to view the stars!

Cheers!

Peter and Christie

Day Four - Slideshow

Here's a slideshow of images from our first few days:

http://www.flickr.com//photos/33205694@N06/sets/72157632573243831/show/

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Day Five - The Living Island


 Road Trip! We jump in our Bio-Diesel van to explore the island. High winds and choppy seas ruled out diving


Trees and caves

Light from above

Northside beach


Local fare for lunch!

 Dissecting a Lionfish

 Looking at the stomach contents

Day Five - Student Impressions

Day Five:

Today, we woke up to the amazing feeling of not having to work out at 6:30 in the morning. Sleep, glorious sleep! Afterwards, we walked over to the dining hall and ate some granola and cinnamon raisin buns. We are totally missing brand name cereal now. After breakfast, we headed back to the dorms to start today's far venture: Island Exploration. We first went to a series of caverns that had been underwater a long time ago. Some trees had broken through the ceiling and rooted into the cavern floor, creating living pillars. Next, we went and saw some massive banyan trees and proceeded to climb them.  Unfortunately, with a no-past-head-height limit, we didn't get very far. The next part of our down island trip was a stop at a rich blue hole called Rock Sound Ocean Hole. Most everyone went jumping off a cliff into the waters, and everyone had a wonderful time. The last stop on our adventure was a magnificent beach and a delicious lunch at the Northside Restaurant. We feasted on cracked conch, chicken wings, fried grouper, mac and cheese, peas and rice, and coleslaw. After the lunch of champions, we headed back to our home base at the Island School, and visited the school store. After the store, we headed over to the Cape Eleuthera Institute for a lesson on lionfish, and even a lionfish dissection. Nasty creatures. A bike trip over to the marina for candy produced no fruit, but provided some of the crew with our lost morning exercise. For dinner, we had a yummy dumpling stew, and some Johnny Cakes. then it was off to the Prez Room to chart our fish. And so ended our day.

Nic Horgan, Class of '17, and Peter Larsen, Class of '14

P.S. Happy Birthday, Zac! Enjoy the cold weather, bro! - Nic
P.P.S. Hi Mom! I love you! And Dad, and Azzi! - Peter

Day Five - The Island School





Chores in the morning

Our Fabulous lunch spot.





Dissecting Lionfish with Elizabeth and Jocelyn

 Tiffany uses the biodiesel created from cooking oil




In the Banyon Tree caves and "forest"