Published: August 21st 2011August 20th 2011
Hello again! As usual, I am slacking off immensely in my blog updates. Rest assure, I am having a wonderful time and working my tail off! The last 2 weeks here at CoCoView have been a blast! Today was another sad day of guest turnover, and goodbyes to Izzy and Gen, two fabulous divemaster interns from Canada. They definitely helped make my first weeks at CCV unforgettable! But before I get too ahead of myself, let me start where I left off....
As I mentioned in my previous update, the last couple days at Fantasy were a bit hectic with the move and busy weekend, in addition to whatever sickness that chose the perfectly wrong time to plague me. I did get the chance to hang out on the West End again during my "mobile" period, and stumbled upon the most amazing breakfast baleadas that I have found on the island. Cindy is a culinary genius in my opinion! After some bittersweet goodbyes to my Fantasy dive crew, I loaded the skiff with my piles of gear and headed to the neighboring cay. I was met at the dock by Deb, one of the CCV managers, with open arms. She
and her husband, Mitch, made sure I got quickly settled in and ready for the weeks ahead. After a few phone calls, I joined them for some great live music at the weekly "welcome party". It was precisely what I needed! Dinner was simply delicious, and word had it I was in for a treat the following day with Sunday tortilla soup. It did not let me down! Mitch and Deb are native Texans, so they know their food, and do it well!
Diving the next day was wonderful as usual on Roatan. However, I have been experience what I consider to be a bit of a turtle dry spell lately. It's a little tough to predict where the critters are going to be, and with 5 dive boats/reef locations to choose from, I typically just hope for the best! It is nice, though, as the guests and DMs are aware of my research so I get lots of turtle reports even if I head out on the "wrong" boat for the day. Tracking has also been tough, as I found out my sonic tags are not coded. This means that even though I typically get good signals when
I'm out with my hydrophone, I can't distinguish which turtle I am tracking unless it pops up to the surface for a breath, AND I happen to have the radio receiver pointed in the correct direction with it happens. My solution is to dive in and search for the turtles, but it proves to be much more difficult that I had anticipated. I have yet to re-sight one of my turtles, even when I have a strong signal that seems to be close to the boat. It's tough because I not only need to cover the top of the reef, but the wall drops dramatically, and these turtles have some amazing camouflage skills!
Last week, the Roatan Marine Park stopped by CCV with four turtles that were confiscated from a restaurant in a neighboring town. I guess they were living in a pen for an unknown amount of time, waiting to become soup. Thankfully the RMP was able to swoop in and save the day so they could be set free. I had spoken with some of the RMP employees during a previous trip to the West End, so they were aware of my research and let me tag
and sample the animals before release. We then released two small juvenile hawksbills in the "front yard" of CCV, and brought the greens to the West End for release, as they are more common in that area of the island. One turtle had a bad monofilament entanglement, having swallowed lots of line and likely a hook. We were unable to remove the line, but cut it as far down as possible and put it into a temporary holding pen. The same holding pen had 2 other turtles that belonged to someone as "pets", but Nick convinced the property owner to let us release them as well. It was, however, quite interesting getting them out of the pen, AKA barracuda pit! The locals
(and myself) were thoroughly convinced Nick and I were insane to get in there, but yet again, I sacrifice my body for science! Thankfully, the many 'cuda and massive tarpon (mostly 5 ft+) would provide a nice scare when swimming straight at our faces, but then veered off to the side before taking a nice nibble. I guess my turtle wrasslin' skills paid off, as we snagged the two turtles out without too much of a problem.
We took the remaining turtles to the RMP office to work them up, and a small crown gathered to watch the process. I think it was good for them to see what we do, as many of the shops there seemed to have misconceptions about how turtles in this project would be captured and handled. Hopefully they now realize we really are concerned for the well-being and future of the animals, and will be more enthusiastic about research and scientific partnerships in the future. We set the little critters free in half Moon Bay, where they will hopefully forage their hearts out and stick around for their own safety.
Last week we also did have a few guest re-sight 117-11, one of the turtles released here at CCV, which was pretty cool. We weren't sure if the released turtles would stick around or head to their original home range area, but apparently they have stuck around for at least a week!
Yesterday Lindsey and I spent the morning tracking out at a sight where I typically find my animals with no success. A few bands of rain passed through, forcing us to give up earlier than usual. I was
a bit discouraged, so I headed out with the crew for a second boat dive, as it was their last chance to get wet before heading out today. Divemaster Mark led us on a great dive, spotted a big moray and feeding it a tasty lionfish. Around the turnaround point, Lindsey signaled that she saw a turtle, so a few of us broke off from the pack to follow it. With the tropical storm rapidly approaching, I hadn't planned to capture any turtles yesterday, and this was an adult so I figured she wouldn't let me anywhere close. However, after a nice breath, and slow chase back to the mooring line area, she finally slowed down, hit the top of the reef and started to forage around a bit. I was super excited, as this is the first animal I have seen actively forage! I got some great photos and video, and after several minuted decided I couldn't pass up my shot at the adult, so I handed my camera off to a friend and tried to get close. I spooked her a bit and she moved on, but quickly settle back down to eat. I went in for the
grab and got a nice little ride! She was not very pleased and thrashed around for a while before settling down. She has a nice chunk taken out from her shell, from a prior boat strike, according to Mark. He said she is a resident who has been spotted around the area for several years. Good news for my study front, I hope she stays! We got her back on the boat, and over to CCV to process. I am getting pretty quick with the sampling process, so she got tagged and "tattooed". The rain was starting, so we did a quick release, which was thankfully close to the resort. Success!
More good news is that I finally found a couple options for my tracking boat! Yancy, the manager of beach houses here has a boat that he took us out fishing on a few times. Last weekend we snagged some tuna and bonito, but they were pretty small, so we kept them for bait, and I headed out with him Thurs afternoon to try to find my critters. As a bonus, the area happens to be a great fishing spot, so we threw a few lines 1200 ft
down, and got some nibble almost instantly! After a whole lot of cranking, I came up fish and baitless. Bummer. But there were lots of bites, so we threw another line down and came back up with a sweet satin snapper! After a couple more tries, I had a very heavy load, probably several fish, but halfway up, it got super light. I knew something happened, and sure enough, the weight and half the hooks were gone. Not sure if a shark got the fish or the lines just broke, but it as disappointing. A minute later, though, a fish did pop up to the surface. Unfortunately, the backup weight seemed to be a deterrent, so the fish were pretty much done biting. But on the good side, I made it back in time to jump on the boat for the afternoon drop dive. Still no turtle signals on the adventure, but next time I'll bring my hydrophone so we can really multi-task. Love it!
Mitch was awesome enough to fillet the fish for us, and last night Izzy, Gen and I made some amazing Moqueca (Brazilian fish stew) for dinner. It was not only delicious, but so much
fun to be able to cook healthy food for ourselves again! We "borrowed" the kitchen in a beach house rented by some new friends, and had a great ladies night dinner/goodbye party. I'll definitely be missing those girls! Last night was great as well, spent swapping dive stories, photos, and some great gringo dancing to top off the week! What better way to spend the time during the storm! Saturdays are always sad, as the crews head out and I hope for the best with the arriving bunch.
I've already met a good crew on the arriving airport shuttle this afternoon. And again, the "turtle girl" reputation is in full force! Hopefully things will be in place for another week in paradise. Right now, however, the fragrant buffet line is calling my name, so I am calling a quits. Hope all is well, and again, I will try to keep you updated a little more frequently! Hope life is well in the "real" world. :-)
There are more photos below