Arrived into Gambier yesterday, and it’s been busy busy since then. If Ducie was a postcard atoll this place is the poster child for French Polynesia. Amazing azure waters in between huge mountains of volcanic rock with sheer cliffs. Palm trees and white sand beaches. I’m currently eating coconut harvested from the local beach. My roommate Elsa decorated the back deck with palm leaves, and we are all currently festooned in our tropical wear. Hello, Jimmy Buffett dreamscape. Except sadly no margaritas. God I really need a drink.
Yin and Yang reefs and the MMM
So while the above water sites of Gambier are astonishingly good looking, what about the underwater ones? Hmmm well that’s tough. Yesterday’s reef was, as Pete described, “all sorts of bad.” While there was a lot of diversity and good 3D structure, the corals were mostly dead, bleached, diseased, and in the process of dying. Even the evil fire coral was sick and mostly dead. If one was to stick their head underwater and then above it three times in a row it would sound something like “ugh,” “oh!”; “yuck”, “ahh!”; “eeek” and “sigh!” Yeah I know that’s a weird thought, but I thought it.
But today’s dive was a very different story. This site was on the outside of the barrier reef and the corals were the healthiest we’ve seen on this expedition. Plus, it was right at the edge of very deep water, so we were in some amazing fish company: huge schools of blue, pink, and marron parrotfishes (Scaridasomething) along with monstrous unicorn fish and surgeon fish. We were also blessed with several pelagic animals including three different kinds of tuna, giant trevally, and several sharks. It was awesome! Plus, it was a scouting dive so we could just look and watch. The down side of this site, is that it did take us almost an hour dingy ride to get there but I thought ‘hey no worries, it’s prime whale watching time.” Right? But any whales? No. Apparently there isn’t a single freaking whale in the entire Southern Hemisphere right now. I mean seriously, ocean, we’ve travelled 1700 miles, and you can’t put out 1 goddamn measly marine mammal? Sorry about the goddamn, Mom, I know how you hate that, but SERIOUSLY! JUST ONE! Come on! I’m not asking for a whole pod of breaching blue whales (although that would be nice). A dolphin maybe? Porpoise please? Seal sir? Walrus? ANYTHING? No… well fine. Be that way. Keep your whales to yourself. See if I care…. Okay I care, and I’m gonna be pist if I traveled half way across the planet on a sailboat and didn’t see even a whale spout.
I am a marine biologist goddess, beotches!
From some of my posts you might think I am pretty clumsy (true), that I spell bad (totaly true), and that I’m a somewhat of an incompetent marine biologist (incontrovertibly true). But as I think back on the last three weeks I want to present some evidence to the contrary and highlight some of my prouder moments during this sailing adventure…moments where I totally nodded my head, put my hair behind my ears, pat myself on the back, and thought to myself… ‘dude you just rocked that! You are a kickass marine biologist.’ So the following are just a few snippets of random things that have occurred where I owned it.
1. Pencil meets a sharp ‘end’!
When Emilie (me dive buddy) and I were diving one day our handy-dandy pencil’s ‘end’ met a sad ‘end’ (see what I did there…snort laugh) against a rock. Emilie was distressed, but I looked her in the eyes, wagged my finger, pointed to her knife, and sharpened the shit out of that pencil, old school style. Both Pete and Emilie remarked on my quick cleverness underwater. +1 marine biologist point.
2. Tied some wicked knots!
Had to attach some weights to my fancy PVC gear and tied some killer knots I learned rock climbing. When one sailor came by and asked to make sure I did it right, his shocked face at my ropey awesomeness was priceless. +1
3. Taught French sailor guys to speak California girl.
Nothing is more fun than teaching Frenchie sailors weird surfer slang like “cashed” “dude” and “wicked”. Now all the sailors say in a french accent (imagine an accordion is playing in the background) “it is as, Becky, says….casssshhhed” as in “my tank is cashed” “I am cashed” and “the soap is totally way cashed…dude.” No points but hysterical.
4. Only used 200 bar during a 70 minute dive! +1
5. Used my emergency responder training.
‘Annie, Annie, (really Emilie, Emilie) are you okay? No? Did the first mate smash your fingers under a scuba tank? Yes? Okay, I am, sort of, maybe, trained in first aid. Can I assist you? … and I make the most amazing finger splint ever! +2 points
6. Giant stride off a 103ft sailboat, 15 feet off the deck.
Perfect 10! Threw a “wheee” into it. +1, although the DSO just hung and shook his head. ‘A-mer-i-cans! What show offs.’
7. Can now identify a total of 3 coral species (well, genera really), sometimes. YES! +3
8. Peed in my wetsuit. And admitted it. +1
Even though I was informed that it was not allowed because we wear ‘communal’ Tara wetsuits, I peed in that baby. Many times. You really expect me to go three hours without peeing after I drank five BOWLS of coffee this morning? Right. All you people lie. I know you peed in there. What, the French have giant bladders of steel? I don’t think so. Fess up.
9. Informed the crew that the English name for that bird we just saw is a “boobie.” Lots more snort laughs. +1
10. Gave a fish a kiss.
Remember those annoyingly friendly fish? Well while we waited at a 3-minute safety stop, I took my reg out and literally gave one a kiss. +1, although he/she didn’t like it and swam away. -1
Till next time land ‘lubbers! -Becky