Location: Martinique

The drums from Mardi Gras were still banging as we awoke this morning after a night of fun for both Martinique locals and the Ocean Star crew. Last night we had seen for ourselves some of the excitement onshore, with what I can only guess was the entire population of St Pierre out in force to celebrate the carnival-style festivities. There had been all sorts on show during the evening with cross-dressing fathers, schoolgirl devils, strange masked people in white throwing flour at small children (and the Ocean Star lads), and an array of other interesting spectacles! For us, the morning was more sedate than the continuation of the party onshore, with bright sunshine, flat, clear blue waters all around, and a breakfast feast of fresh croissants, baguettes, and a mouth-watering assortment of French cheese and meat. After breakfast, the first 5 OCE presentations were given with students talking on an array of marine issues, from coral bleaching and coastal erosion to plastic pollution and changing global weather patterns. A navigation dive around Ocean Star followed class with the continuation of the Advanced Open Water PADI course. A strong current made the navigation more tricky but enabled everyone to improve their diving skills and got them one step closer to that next diving certification. For Emma and me we had an equally important task on the dive, to collect some important specimens for the afternoon dissection in OCB class . . . Lionfish! Lionfish are an invasive species to the Caribbean and are decimating reef fish populations throughout the region; therefore, culling the lionfish is encouraged. We took down our homemade spear (2 forks and a sharpened butter knife) and set about on our scientific collection for these voracious predators. Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait long, and after a short search came across a small section of reef covered by Lionfish. In a 10-minute spree, we managed to catch eight individuals, a clear indication that their numbers in Martinique are dangerously high. The dissection itself was saved for after lunch, and with the morning’s good catch, everyone had the opportunity to dissect. It gave a perfect view of fish anatomy, the lionfish’s poisonous spines, and the ability to see what they had been feeding on! The rest of the afternoon was free, with some people (myself included) heading to dive into an old wooden wreck sunk by the last big volcanic eruption in Martinique in the early 20th century. Others enjoyed their maining action at the carnival, and the rest enjoyed some relaxed time on Ocean Star before the conclusion of the presentations tonight and some more carnival-style dancing!