Hippies we met before Heron Island!
okay, so the updates:
June 8th rocked my world! We celebrated my birthday in Townsville (which is neither a small town or a big city. .. more of a Parma .. .) Anyway, we (meaning the crew here) went to an Irish pub where the guitarists sang me happy birthday, then to Mad Cow, a dance club next door, where we danced. alot. . AND. . .a pissed Australian got on his knees to sing happy birthday to me , and we danced, and drinks may or many not have been consumed. . .and we danced. . and somehow I woke up with a sombrero. . .What a night!
June 9th was a bus ride, a 2 hour wait in the rain, and a bumpy ride to Orpheus Island on a boat entirely too small for the 16 people squished on it.
Orpheus is my favorite of all the islands. The only thing on it is the research station, and the super-exclusive-rockstar-resort on the other side of the island. It's more rugged than Straddie and Heron, and it's ecology is different and the same altogether. It's a continental island, so the land isn't from a volcano or sand buildup, just a buckle in the shelf, and the reef is fringing around it, so it's not as huge as the other reefs. . .the water is more cloudy then Heron, but better than Straddie. ...Aside from the research station and resort the island itself is all forest. . .and it's full of bugs and birds and snakes and frogs. . .Found a python and a tree frog in the bathroom upon our arrive. . .I absolutely love it here!
June 10th--The day of the Death March!
Before the death march: Mangroves! And no mom, this isn't what you think, it's a tree.
Orpheus has a dense mangrove system, so, to familiarize ourselves with the different species, we climbed through the thick, muddy, slippery, dense (very very dense) mangrove system. We went over, under, through and on top of muddy mangrove roots, and man it was tough. Because of the nitrogenous layer of 'black mud' under the thin surface layer of sand, our climbing quickly got smelly! But it was definitely worth it!
The death march. . .you can only get to the other side of the island by taking a long, strenuous hike through the forest, up the ridge, over the summit and down the rocks to the beach. It is tough, not for the weak, the whiny, or the girly .... so of course, I was pumped. . . and so we hiked, we climbed, we discovered the largest spiders I have ever seen in my entire life, we slipped, skin was scraped, pants got muddy, bugs bit, birds squawked and girly girls screamed. . It was great!
also, some snorkeling. . love the reef love the reef love the reef. ..and! There are more things that can kill me here! woot!
June 11- Today I swam, swam and swam some more.
Today was the official start of our projects, and oh my it was a tough start. . .The project was on benthic fauner (ahem, fauna) - this is basically stuff that lives on the ocean floor and doesn't move much. So, corals, anenomes, cucumbers, gastropods, polychaetes, and clams. Well! Today, we decided to do the open water (subtidal) zone and the reef dropoff. To GET to these areas we had to walk about .8 km down a trail, climb over slippery rocks with clams (SHARP!)
wade into knee deep water, put on our snorkel gear (which we had to carry all this way) and swim out about 1 km to the open water, without kicking for about half the way so that we didn't hurt the corals. When we finally got into the open water we had to measure out a 10 meter line, dive down and tie the line to some dead coral, then do a 5 meter wide sweep along the line, counting everything we could see.
We did this twice, then swam back to the dropoff and did the same thing there, twice.
As we're doing this: the tide is coming in, so the water is a bit cloudy, we have to dive down pretty deep (2-3 meters), remember to equalize our ears, count what we can see, and come up for air!
As we swam in towards the dropoff something BIG brushes against my leg--it can only be a couple things so I'm not too worried, I turn to look and right next to me a black tipped reef shark is swimming. . .it was beyond cool. the thing was as long as I am tall, and just kept swimming along, it was probably a younger one, and curious. .so very very cool.
Reef sharks are harmless, really, so no worries (prounouced, no WAH-rays btw) just don't stick your hand in their face and you're good to go.
AND! It's dinner time, I'm tired, sore, itchy and hungry! And so very very happy.