Monday, November 27, 2006

Underwater Florida!!

Aquarius is one of my fave places to hang out underwater, as you can always see all kinds of cool stuff around there...such as this barracuda, getting itself all spruced up by a cleaning wrasse.

Big big ray!

Lots and lots of fish always...

Steve and his friends

So there're things to amuse yourself with during safety stops. Once though, we got a real special treat..

Guess who came to visit?

Didn't stay for long though, sigh!

Large groupers are called jewfish here (don't ask me why though)! This one was hanging out under the top grating of Aquarius!

Aquarius itself is situated on Conch Reef, where we spent a lot of our time working on the permanent Xestospongia muta transects.

Conch Wall- the 'tourist' part of Conch Reef. The rest is a restricted area meant for research only!

There's really not much coral on the reefs here compared to the Indo-Pac; last I checked, the average cover was around 6%. But there's still stuff growing, and you can see a multitude of seafans, sponges, and soft corals. Plus, so many fish!

Big green moray out swimming!

Spotted moray? Argh, I need to learn some fish names!

They eat sponges!

The first one was exciting, but I admit I kinda just looked after the 4th or 5th...

Plenty scorpionfish out here! Have to watch where I placed my hands...

I managed to find some macro opportunities though!

The blennies here are so cute!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Notes from Florida

Okay, seems like I should blog about my recent field trip to Florida first, and the rest just have to wait till later!

Met my labmates a couple of Sundays ago to drive down to Key Largo from Wilmington on a cold frosty morning at 6am. 15 hours later, the socks, gloves, scarf and sweaters were off and we were in warm and balmy Florida!

Look at the sky!

We stayed in a really nice apartment, which we had to share with the US Navy, so 5 of us squeezed into one bedroom. The condo was situated above a small lab and dive facility, with the boat right in the backyard, docked in the canal leading out to the sea. How luxurious!

Couldn't dive on the first day due to windy conditions at sea, so we stayed in to sort out gear, make larval traps out of nylon stockings and vexar, and Susanna, Sven and myself took Tim's car out to various marinas to look for a particular tunicate.

How you look for tunicates

While we were facedown on the floating pontoon looking for a tunicate shaped like a potato, Susanna suddenly got very excited. There were dolphins in the bay in front of us! They were feeding as currents brought fish out to sea during the tidal changeover, and some of them got really close- like 10m away from us! Abandoning all thoughts of tunicates, we watched them corral and chase fish for the next 45min.

The next day we had an all-clear- we were going out diving! The waves were still pretty high...such that I couldn't bring myself to eat my sandwich! Was a relief to hit the water. I was really excited as my first dive was to visit the underwater lab Aquarius, or as they call it here- the Habitat. Have read a lot about it- a research facility located 15m underwater on top of a coral reef. So cool! Tim was setting up some larval traps for his Callyspongia specimens, and was helping him out with them.


Looking through the porthole

The gazebo. Check out the huge barracuda in front! It's often found lurking there.

We went for a bit of a swim around after work. Lots of fish and other fauna to be found around the Habitat. Here's the entrance! You can poke your head out into air and talk to your buddy 18m underwater :).

Larval traps

It was rather chilly underwater, about 26degC. Was glad I brought my neoprene rashguard along, even though it felt really constricted when I first put it on under my wetsuit! My labbies said they've seen better, but the waters were so clear! >10m, and you can see the reef from the surface, plus, you can actually swim back to the dive platform just by looking for the boat underwater!

More in a while!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Food Fest!

Yup, it's been some time since I posted. But rather than jump straight to Florida (awww...) thought I'll keep things in chronological order, so here're some pics of the food fest I attended, organised by the Mrytle Grove Presbytarian Church in Wilmington a couple of weeks ago. Was asked to bring a dish to represent Singapore/Malaysia, so I prepared chicken curry!

Rasaku spice packet

Brahmins spice packet

Wah, my whole apartment smelled of chicken curry for a couple of days afterwards!

Lots of people brought food too! Like this one!

Check out the bottle on the left...

The food table before the hordes attack

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Your Birthdate: November 9

You are a born idealist, with more pet causes than you can count.
You prefer be around others, both when working and while relaxing.
Generous and giving, you believe you can change the world one person at a time.
You're open minded and tolerant. People feel like they can tell you anything.

Your strength: Your go-with-the-flow flexibility

Your weakness: Your flair for the over dramatic

Your power color: Pine green

Your power symbol: Circle

Your power month: September


THANK YOU EVERYONE for your really sweet and nice wishes!!!

It's been an excellent birthday, and yup, that's my real age up there. I don't see any reason to hide it!

Went out diving with the lab today, scraped metal tags, collected sponge larvae, nosied around the underwater lab, Aquarius..and then went out for a really nice sushi dinner, complete with hot sake (which was good!). I even received a complimentary tempura ice-cream ball from the restaurant- so sweet!

Went window shopping at a dive supply shop with Sven and Steve after dinner, then came back to another ice-cream cake, courtesy of my labbies! It was a Snickers-flavoured football cake! I was wondering what Tim was doing in the kitchen larder in the semi-darkness while he was trying to light the candles in secret....

Anyway, will post photos soon! Been diving everyday, not much time to edit photos and blog, plus there's so much to say!

But I really had to say Thanks to all of you!!! Miss you all!!