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.
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.
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...