Location: Pain de Sucre, Les Saintes
Today we awoke anchored in Pain de Sucre, Les Saintes. Being we are in the French West Indies, we were treated to a great breakfast of fresh baguettes, croissants, cheeses, and other fruit and nut spreads. This abundance of food provided us with the energy we needed for what was to date our busiest day as shipmates on Ocean Star. After breakfast, those of us who hold our Open Water Diver certification participated in the night diving lesson with First Mate Matty. Completing this specialty lesson means that we, as Open Water Divers now, have only one lesson to complete before being certified as Advanced Open Water Divers. Things are getting exciting here in the Caribbean! Once we completed our Night Diving lesson, we took our fish identification quiz. This quiz was meant to prepare us for the two research dives that we completed today. We were asked to learn the names of, and be able to identify in color and black and white, twelve fish that we could encounter on these research dives. Everyone passed, and we completed our first research dive around ten in the morning. The first research dive had to do with identifying corals at different depths in one-meter square quadrants along a transect line. We used a scoring system based on percentages, and when identifying a certain coral from an aerial view, we would assign one of these scoring numbers, one through five, to the type of coral found in the quadrant. For example, when identifying massive coral in the second quadrant at a depth of about 40 feet, the massive coral occupied about 25 percent of the area in the quadrant, so we gave it a score of 3. A score of 3 meant that the massive coral occupied between 21-40 percent of the area in the quadrant. This scoring system ensured that when the research pairs came back to graph their results, there would be more similarities between the graphs of the research pairs than there would be differences. Once all of our results were graphed, lunch was had, and tanks were replenished, we set out for research dive number two. This dive involved identifying the fish that we were quizzed on earlier in the day. We had more freedom on this dive, and we were able to conduct the research the way in which we thought would be most effective. Freedom was a theme of the day today; for the Open Water Diver shipmates, these were our first dives without the guidance of an instructor. After a dinner made by master chef Keeley and an amusing conversation regarding the shipmate’s spirit animals, we set out for our first night dive. As we attached the glow sticks to our tanks and loaded our gear into the dinghies, there were plenty of nerves to go around for the new divers. It was an amazing experience, though, diving at night for the first time. When you’re diving in the daytime, you find yourself at peace breathing underwater. Still, at night, there is something even more peaceful and magnificent about breathing underwater while also being completely unaware of what is past your flashlight. Some of the divers were even able to turn off their flashlights to observe the bioluminescence, while others, like Bret, ventured to greater lengths to hold an octopus! It was a busy diving day today, but it was a great one to start our third week here in the Caribbean. I think I can speak for everyone in saying that now that we have night and research dive experience, we are even more excited about our future dives than we were before.