Thursday, March 19, 2009

Coral Reclamation Comes to an End

Life takes turns that are often unexpected. Before a year ago I never really considered becoming a certified scuba diver. On Saturday I completed my 46th dive. This has been since June 22, when I completed my dive cert.

Saturday was the final dive on the Grand Turk BioRock. Lucy, the marine biologist, has been working with the DECR for more than a year leading the coral reclamation work. When I came to Grand Turk, the museum provided volunteers for the BioRock work. Under my dictum of developing sustainable partnerships, the museum tries to provide a volunteer anytime the DECR needs bodies in the water. I have assisted with 22 DECR dives doing coral reclamation.

I don't think Dinah really ever considered becoming a certified scuba diver either. She completed her cert in December, I believe. During the last three coral moves, Dinah and I have worked as one of the teams moving coral from the Cruise Center site. These corals were then attached to one of the two BioRock sites, which are artificial reefs.

I like working under water. The focus is very different than typical recreational diving. Coral collection is completed typically in 30 minutes. As people have left Grand Turk, I have become a senior volunteer (this has nothing to do with age by the way). We collect coral from the area south of the Cruise Center. When ships come in their props stir up sand that settles on and kills the coral over a large area. We dive in an area about 30 feet under water working in teams of two. One diver looks for at risk corals that are on the floor. These corals are removed with a hammer and chisel. The second diver puts these corals into a laundry basket and swims them back to a very large basket that is then attached to a boat and moved to the BioRock site. On my best day, I collected 40 corals with Lucas. Dinah and I collected 18, then 25, and then 20. But on our last two dives we brought back the largest corals. So that is a plus.

Attaching the coral to the BioRock often entails a 70 to 90 minute dive. This getsw long and sometimes it gets very cold as your core body temperature drops. This month the water has been very cold. I have gone from always wearing a short suit to double suiting. I wear both my short suit and my long suit. Oh, do you remember when I was debating if I should buy a new long suit when I was in Columbus in November? Well I did - and I should have. It is 78 degrees on land and 74 degrees in the water here right now and it is freezing!

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