Location: Bonaire

Today was another jam-packed day aboard Argo, where we made the most of what was around us. Our first activity this morning was passage prep as we got the boat ready for our afternoon sail. As everyone is becoming more familiar with the boat, everything is starting to run so much smoother. It’s great to be able to hand more and more responsibly over to the shipmates who are taking a wonderful level of ownership of the boat. Sail covers came off, tanks were stowed in the laz (with some uncannily similar renditions of the Black Eyed Peas by Tim and Seby), benches lashed, and everyone’s treasured snacks secured. Before we could set sail, however, we had the important business of a lionfish dissection lab!

As very conservation-minded, a lionfish dissection was a perfect win-win, with being able to give a hands-on, interactive class as well as doing to reef a favor. Lionfish are not native to the Caribbean and are an invasive species that has a huge negative impact on the reef ecosystem and also further afield to commercial fisheries catch. This species does not have any natural predators here, and as the invasion is relatively recent in ecological terms, many native species have not evolved into seeing them as predators. To conquer this, Bonaire encourages the hunting of lionfish for certified individuals using an ELF (eradicating lionfish tool). The hunters of Bonaire obliged and came up trumps with lionfish for us to dissect. For Amanda’s oceanography class, the students undertook their research projects. So another win was that the fish stomach content analysis group (Alex, the Davids, and Seby) collected their first set of data. We discussed both external and internal anatomy, and then it was time to get our hands dirty and take a look. Inside the stomachs, we found numerous spines, some shrimp eyes, and many otoliths (fish ear bones – you can use them to age fish, just like tree rings). We also tried to sex the fish (which is very challenging with smaller fish), but we found an awesome example of a female who was on the brink of spawning before she was speared! Everyone did an awesome job of investigating their fish and working out what was what.

The rest of the afternoon was a great practice of setting sails, dealing with dock lines, and then dropping sails! Getting out on the water always feels great, and the beautiful backdrop on Bonaire certainly was a great place for a Friday afternoon sail.

Jack has a menagerie of different sous chefs today with our busy schedule, and he did a smashing roast dinner with tons of veggies (all the staff’s favorite part!) As I write this, everyone is currently learning about ocean sediments through the wonderful means of chocolate and sweets!

Pictures: Alex is helping David D. out on a brief walk through town; photos from Amy’s lionfish dissection for Marine Biology class.