EXPLORING CORAL REEFS: FOWL CAY MARINE PRESERVE, ABACO


EXPLORING THE CORAL REEF AT FOWL CAY MARINE PRESERVE, ABACO

First, a warning for anyone arriving new to this blog (hi! welcome) either on purpose or accidentally: I can’t swim very well, I hadn’t snorkelled for decades until last year, and I’d never before used a camera underwater.

That said, there is probably enough in this 2:40 min video  to warrant a quick view. As with other videos from this expedition to Fowl Cay Marine Preserve (STINGRAY / BLUE TANG), best viewed small to avoid queasiness and disorientation. You can always Pause for a breather. There are some nice fish obligingly in view from time to time, and the coral is very diverse. And I’ll know what to do this year to get better results, besides trying harder with the swimming… (Music: East Wes by Eric Johnson, off Ah Via Musicom)

GRAND BAHAMA CORAL REEF DAMAGE: CRUISE SHIP POESIA GROUNDING (3 VIDEOS)


On 7 January 2012 the enormous Panama-registered cruise ship MSC Poesia – 100 foot long, 100,000 tons, 6000 + 1000 crew capacity – ran aground on the coral reef off Lucaya Beach, Grand Bahama. She was refloated by tugs on the evening high tide, leaving a trail of destruction to the reef behind her.

Video footage posted by FREDGBSCUBA shows the predicament of this huge vessel above the surface; his subsequent underwater footage graphically shows the extent of damage and explains the longer-term consequences of the incident, including the toxic effects of the anti-fouling paint scraped off the hull (video 3).

STOP PRESS Jan 18 The first video has now been blacked out, with the message that it has been “removed by the user”. Hmmmmm. No comment.

But through the magic of techo-wizardary it has been restored to life and can be now be seen again by clicking===>>>VIDEO 1 HERE

Video 2 has survived intact

Whoops! Video 3, a scientific analysis of the toxic anti-fouling paint, has now ‘gone’ too. Let’s see if we can… Good, here it is again

I’m no mariner, but wouldn’t a ship of that size and weight in known shallow water and reef territory have (a) navigators (b) detailed nautical charts (c) depth gauges or sounders and (d) one or more pairs of eyes keeping a look out? Or does this sort of thing happen all the time?

This is not Poesia’s first brush with misfortune. I see from Wiki that in her first year of operation, 2008, “…MSC Poesia and Costa Classica collided in the Adriatic Sea near Dubrovnik. No one was hurt, and the damage was minimal. The cause of it was that MSC Poesia’s anchor loosened and precipitated (sic) her to hit Costa Classica. Both continued their scheduled itinerary with no delays”. The coral has not escaped so lightly…

I see that this ship also plies the Venice lagoon. I hope she knows not to stray from the deepwater channels: the average depth elsewhere is ± 1 metre…

The website of MSC Cruises sets out an encouragingly positive environmental mission statement (below), so let’s hope the company swiftly applies these principles and comes up with proposals for redressing the adverse environmental consequences of this episode…

The vessel’s name means ‘Poetry’ – so, an inspiration for some hot doggerel: It really is beyond belief / That she should ground upon a reef / For ‘Poetry’, once set in motion / Upon a pristine turquoise ocean / Should avoid such Eco-griefs / And steer well clear of coral reefs…

Credits: Thanks to Fred Riger of Freeport for approval for using his 3 videos

STOP PRESS For a report of the incident in the Freeport News 14 January 2012 CLICK LOGO===>>>


BLUE TANG: THE MOVIE (REEF SNORKELLING, FOWL CAY, ABACO)


BLUE TANG: THE MOVIE

RECIPE: Take one incompetent swimmer who hasn’t snorkelled in, oh, nearly 40 years. Place him over a coral reef for his first time ever. Add a small underwater camera totally alien to him. Immerse for 30 minutes in warm briny water.

Lessons have been learnt for next time. Mainly, don’t keep waving the camera about; let the fish move round you rather than vice versa; and most important of all, remember to keep breathing or else…

Here for the first time on public release is BLUE TANG: THE MOVIE (music by Adrian Legg), 45 secs of advanced camera-shake with some beautiful fish more or less in shot for most of the time. If you are prone to sea-sickness, do not enlarge the video. If you are allergic to poor photography… well, thanks for visiting.

STINGRAY AT FOWL CAY MARINE PRESERVE ABACO


A while ago, I posted stills from a reef-snorkelling video – my first ever underwater video attempt, and indeed my first snorkel for about 40 years CLICK===>>> REEF FISH   I started with a stingray, producing some rather… ok, very… modest results, but it was at least identifiable if you looked carefully and felt benign.

I’ve learned a few tricks since then. Here is the whole clip, still hopeless in most respects but there’s something quite cute about the creature. Mercifully it is only 37 seconds long. I reserve the right to delete this post when I realise no one has actually watched it! [LATER: Oh! I find a few hardy souls have done so. It's a democratic vote for the ray to stay, as I see it]

[Belated credit to the fairly litigious Joe Satriani (see JS v Coldplay 2009) for borrowing the intro to one of his  songs. It's a non-commercial tribute, Joe]

REEF SNORKELLING AT FOWL CAY MARINE PRESERVE, ABACO


  

You will need: swimming kit; sweatshirt (it can be cold on the boat after snorkelling); stuff for Island Hopping later on, inc. camera, money etc; snorkel practice in the pool if you haven’t used one for (say) 20+ years – use the Club gear; Ian Took’s slim ‘Fishes of the Caribbean Reefs’. NB there is limited room on the boat, so you’ll need a bit of a nifty towel work to preserve modesty when changing…

Kay Politano of Abaco Above and Below in Marsh Harbour pencils in an unspecified number of places for a day’s island-hopping and reef-snorkelling while I find out how many non-fishing-that-day Delphi guests might be interested. Seven sign up, and one morning we all set off to Marsh Harbour. In Kay’s shop we try on our flippers, marvel at the scuba possibilities (a completely implausible proposition for most of us…), then we troop off to the marina and Kay’s reassuringly powerful and safe-looking catamaran. It takes 12 passengers; the other 5 are already aboard. We set off towards a threatening-looking weather front; rain later is a certainty…

Kay and rh at the controls

Passing by several Cays, we arrive at Fowl Cay Marine Preserve and drop anchor. We don our flippers, wrestle with our masks and snorkels, and in turn drop off the back of the boat (ok, stern, is it?) into warmish water, under thick grey cloud. My practice in the Delphi pool has paid off, and soon I am wheezing and gurgling my way towards the reef with my head (mostly) under water, a situation I generally avoid.

I am completely unprepared for what I find when I get to the reef. David Attenborough’s favourite production team has kindly arranged for a wide variety of bright fish, some electrically charged, to come up close and inspect me, an intruder in their world. I’ll spare you the colour-supp superlatives and graphic intensifiers – you’re probably blasé and have seen it all before – but I am totally gobsmacked, even with my mouthpiece in place. It’s all real! It’s even better than TV! And don’t get me started on the coral…

Sergeant Major

Parrot Fish

Blue Tang / Ocean Surgeonfish

Blue Chromis

Sting Ray

While I gasp and bubble my way around, I keep a small waterproof video camera running (see GADGETS review). My swimming is feeble at the best of times, but somehow it all seems to be coming together – my flailing limbs, the laboured breathing, the reef, the fish and the footage. We circle round the reef – occasional pale figures appear in my lateral vision – for about 25 minutes, then return to the boat and the struggle to remove our flippers…
 Everyone is excited about what they have seen (some saw barracudas). Who cares that it’s started drizzling… we are wet already and it’s off to Lubbers Cay for lunch; see forthcoming Island-Hopping Post. And see MARINE LIFE page for more reef fish photos taken on this expedition.

ADDITION April 2012 I notice there have been a few specific searches ‘what is the plural of Sergeant Major?’ Good question. The strict grammatically correct answer is, I suspect (as with the military rank), ‘sergeants major’ because it’s the sergeants who are plural and the ‘major’ is a qualifier to distinguish from other degrees of sergeant (were there sergeants minor, for example). It’s the same with courts martial – not ‘court martials’. BUT it sounds all wrong and pernickety. I reckon the whole fish is a sergeant major. If there are 2 or more, you’ve got some sergeant majors to play with.