I finally completed my Advanced Open Water, concluding my training with a deep dive to 25 meters. I was in charge of planning this dive, so was looking over maps and calculating surface breathing to see how long we could spend at specific depths. It was really fun to do, and it is a skill I will have to get used to, as it increasingly becomes the intern’s responsibility to plan and lead dives. Though we will have our instructors monitoring and helping us for now, one we become rescue divers, which we should be by the end of the month, then we shall be leading dives by ourselves! Scary, but exciting!
We have now started to do coral cleans at least once a week. Around one of our closest dive sites, a marine protected area called Rose Garden, reef doctor has built a variety of rebar structures to grow coral on, the most notable ones being the nursery table, and swim through. These structures are tourist attractions for divers from the local hotels, and it is our job to maintain them. As the water in the bay is warming up for the summer months, algae is thriving. This means that the swim through and other such sites are becoming covered in more algae than coral. A coral clean dive is comprised of floating around, with toothbrushes in hands scrubbing away at the metal and the base of the corals, making sure that as much is cleaned off as possible, without damaging the coral. It’s a really peaceful dive to go on, and a good way to practice your buoyancy control.
This week we have also started monitoring the health of the coral itself, with many bleaching surveys taking place in response to the summer heatwave. In fact, the water right now is 30-32 degrees, more like a bath than an ocean! Coral bleaching occurs when the algae within a coral, that helps it photosynthesis and gain energy from the sun, overheats and dies, leaving coral appearing pale. Without the extra sustenance, most corals proceed to die. Though this allows hardier coral to thrive, it is still good to monitor what is surviving and what isn’t to keep track for future bleaching events. To monitor the bleaching of the coral, we must first identify the coral on a species level, a rather complicated task, but with the help of a couple of waterproof guides, I feel like I am getting the hang of it! The process itself is easy, simply set down a quadrant randomly on the reef and write down the different types of coral that you can see within that square, mark whether it is alive, pale or bleached, and then calculate the percentage cover of the coral within the quadrant, along with soft coral and algae. Then rinse and repeat as many times as possible!
I have realised, reading over old blog posts, that I don’t really talk about what I do on the weekends. Not to leave it with an air of mystery, but they are simply not that interesting! For example, last weekend, I went into Toliara, the nearby town, and went to the shops, than sat around in a restaurant eating good food and using their wi-fi. If I put that in every post, I’m afraid it may become quite repetitive! The weekend is my chance to have a hearty meal and some sweet treats, along with a bit of a lazy day, reading and listening to podcasts. I like some peace and quiet after a busy week of science and diving!
Next week; The return of seagrass, along with a new contender, macro algae!