Monday, November 22, 2010

Undah da sea...

When I went to PNG in 2006, Andy had lots of research to do and genuinely needed my help for some of it, so we spent about 6 hours under water each day.  6 days a week (or more).  For 2 months.  It was pretty full on, and by the end of it I think I stopped being amazed by the reef and everything on it.

That was 4 years ago, and I've barely been in the water since then - aside from swimming at the beach, I've been in on snorkel once or twice, in cloudy water and fringing reefs (read: unimpressive views).  So I was looking forward to putting my mask and fins on again when I went to PNG earlier this month.  This time, Andy was wrapping up a few things, spending time in the lab but mostly waiting for samples to process.  Since he had some downtime, he decided to gather more data (what a dedicated scientist, hey?).  Luckily this was pretty easy - a few measuring tapes laid along the reef, and Andy went along measuring all the corals of certain species which were found within these 'belt transects'. 

It took no more than 3 hours to do all five transects on each reef, and he had four reefs total.  So we took it pretty easy, spending an hour or two in the water every day.  I was reminded of how wonderful it is underwater.

The colours are amazing.

One of the things I love most is the silence -- the only thing you can hear is your own breath.  Wait, that's not entirely true.  If you quiet your breathing you can sometimes hear parrotfishes munching on corals.  It took me a while to locate that scraping sound when I first heard it.
Parrotfish bit marks on a purple Porites coral.

These reefs are very close to the shore, and quite small, so they are largely overlooked by the dive resort.  And, under negotiations between the conservation centre and the local villages, a number of reefs have been designated as 'tambu' reefs, essentially turning them into no-take zones. 

An old and rusted Tambu sign on a protected reef.

As a result, they are pretty untouched.  The fish barely move out of your way when you swim past.

The cleaner wrasses go right on cleaning.

The clown fishes go right on... clowning.

Some of the life under the sea, like these purple and yellow ascidians, are evolutionary artefacts, representing early versions of a spinal cord.
Some look like artefacts from grandma's couch, like these big Cushion Starfishes.

Others look manmade but are not, like these silvery "sailor's eyeballs", a kind of macro-algae.

There is, basically, an entire world under the surface of the ocean.
This is the last of my PNG posts, because, sadly, I am finished with my holiday and back into the daily grind of marking essays, working on papers, and catching a cold (boo).  But I am so glad for the holiday I had.  It was really a break from everyday life -- I did lots of stuff that I never do, like drink cordial instead of plain water, eat white bread, throw the recyclables into the regular trash (this one made me feel dirty, but there is no recycling facility around), snack profusely between meals, and climb a semi-active volcano.  Now I'm back to my normal routine, but I'm much more relaxed as a result - must be a side effect of floating on top of the water, watching a world beneath the sea, and quite literally going with the flow...


Vicki said...

That looks so, so beautiful. Sounds like you had an amazing holiday.

Hannah said...

You had my heart as soon as you quoted The Little Mermaid.

Then you brought back lovely memories from my trip to the Great Barrier Reef in Year 6, and then there were clownfish, like in Finding Nemo.


Susan said...

It sounds like you had a great time. Your underwater shots are beautiful! Unfortunately snorkling is not something I can quite manage, but your photos make me wish I could!

Hope that cold doesn't get too hard a grip on you.

Dee said...

fabby post, must be time for a reef trip! When you live by the reef you take it too much for granted.

Millie said...

these photos are beautiful...what a fun time.

The Vegan Snorkeler said...

I LOVED your underwater photo journey! What kind of camera did you use?

Theresa said...

Vegan Snorkeler - Andy got an Olympus mju tough for his field work. It can go to 10m without an underwater housing. It's pretty good for a point&click camera in bright, sunny situations. Inside, or even in the shady rainforest, it has a harder time!

Claire said...

Your photos are breathtaking!

Vegan ninja said...

Simply breath taking! Wow, would like to go someday to Australia!