Thursday, May 17, 2007

Rota, Rota, Rota

I must apologize for the paucity of posts over the past few days. Something about the 18 hour days, several of which are underwater, that has me longing for my rack (bed) as soon as possible. I was able to stay up just a little while longer last night after capturing one the most amazing sunsets of the cruise.

For the past two days we have been surveying around Rota, a wonderful little island 50 miles north of Guam. While we have not seen very many large fish, the water has been warm and clear and the island is beautiful. One difference I had not originally thought of is the birds. Birds have been all but exterminated on Guam by the brown tree snake, a predator introduced from the South Pacific shortly after World War II.

There is something about being in a small boat with terns, petrels, and boobies wheeling overhead that just feels right. Rota also differs from both Guam and Saipan as it was not burned to the ground during the war. As such, the island is highly vegetated with a wide variety of fruit and flowering trees and bushes.

In general the diving has been good with several areas of high coral cover and some spectacular walls both above and below. One area we dove today was dominated by a wall dropping nearly 100 feet to a shelf far below. I will try to ask some of the other teams if they have some nice underwater shots for the blog. I am afraid all of my footage is video and I have not had the chance to put together any new clips. Those will have to come later.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

An overview of Guam

We have completed our surveys at Guam and are on our way to Rota. Overall, Guam has been nice, but not terribly impressive from a diving point of view. In terms of large fish (greater than 50 cm long) we have seen very few. The chart I have posted here shows the distribution of large fishes around the island. Bear in mind that each pie slice generally represents a single fish with the largest pie at the northeastern tip of the island representing a grand total of twelve fish! Not a great many for a tropical island in this part of the world. I apologize in advance for the rather cryptic 4 letter species codes, one of the data processing steps currently involves the use of a file format that doesn't support names longer than 8 characters. We are hoping to get this fixed in the near future.

Of the few fish we did see, most were concentrated at the points of the island where there is generally the greatest current exchange and also where the overall slope of the sea-floor appears steepest. We will have to look into this last point a little bit more to see if it stands up to statistical testing.

Tomorrow we start our work at Rota and are hoping for more exciting dives (at least as far as fish surveys go). After spending just one day at Rota we will continue on to Aguijan, Tinian and then Siapan before heading into the Northern Marianas. It is these, sparsely inhabited, northern islands we are all very much looking forward to.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Trees, Cliffs, and Clear Waters

We have been working along the northwest coast of Guam and I will have to admit, it is nicer than I remember. The below water world has not been the best (lots of reef areas that have been taken over by algae) but there have been notable exceptions. And the above water world has been spectacular. The north side of Guam is quite green with stark cliffs dropping to secluded beaches at the water's edge. Couple that with the flat calm days we have been having and it has been paradise (albeit a little hot after an hour in the sun).

Today we start working down the east side if the island and, while it should be nice, the winds will definitely have more force and effect on this side of the island. Not quite as idyllic as yesterday. If memory serves, however, the underwater world on the east side should be much nicer with areas of higher coral cover and a greater number of large fishes. Let's hope my memory is correct.