Friday, March 25, 2011

March 25th, 2011: Very Tired and Heading Home

Shannon and Billy from Scripps carrying REMUS.
Billy and Shannon deploying REMUS
When I wrote last time saying that things had been crazy, apparently I didn’t know how the next couple of days were going to go.  On the 23rd, the Scripps group got permission to run their REMUS in Jelly Fish Lake to look at jelly fish biomass estimates.   Of course this meant that we needed to get the vehicle into the lake, which requires hiking uphill 150 feet and then downhill over treacherous limestone rocks with all of the gear that we needed.  We had a lot of help from the rangers working at the lake and Emilio from CRRF, which made it a lot easier, but it was still rough getting everything in.  We set everything up with lots of tourists looking over our shoulders and then had the vehicle circle around the lake for a couple of hours.  While the vehicle was underwater we got to relax and enjoy our surroundings.  After we were all finished we had to hike all of gear out and head back to the lab to put everything away. 
When we got back we found out that one of the instruments wasn’t working, which meant we needed to do the same thing again the next day.  None of us were excited, but we all still realized how cool it was to be doing this work so we sucked it up and hiked everything in and out again the next day with beautiful results.  We were going to do another run in the West Channel, but the currents were too strong so we ended up diving to retrieve our last instruments and then headed back to the lab.
Loading gear to go to airport.
After wearing ourselves out the over last two days, we now needed to pack up 2000 pounds of gear and take it to the airport to ship back home.  With only minutes to spare we finished up the paperwork and packing and went to drop everything off.  We returned to the lab to pack up all of our personal stuff, transfer data and take care of last minute things. 
We had some great experiences and worked really hard these last couple of days and now it is time to get on a plane and head for home so we can see our families and work up all the data that we gathered here in Palau.     

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

March 22, 2011: The Final Days

Deploying current monitoring instrument.
The last two days have been a whirlwind of activity.  Yesterday started off with the Scripps group doing a REMUS run along the western channel to try and image the fish spawning event that usually takes place around the full moon.  Fortunately for everyone, thousands of fish had gathered and the cameras and REMUS were able to capture part of the event.
Hawaii spent the morning doing one last REMUS mission around their instruments and then they pulled everything out of the water.  The rest of the afternoon was spent packing, working with data and getting ready for a REMUS run tomorrow morning.
Mark snorkeling.
Mark and Eric left last night so we are down to just 6 people and the last 2 people from Hawaii are leaving tonight.  This meant that the Hawaii group spent all day packing.  It always amazes me how much stuff goes into a research project. 
Humphead Wrasse.
Ian during beach landing.
Billy and I took the Scripps vehicles out to a protected feeding area for Dugongs, which are close relatives of the Manatee.  Nobody is allowed into this area, but luckily we got permission and were able to survey it.  What we are hoping to do is characterize the feeding habitat and bottom types in a couple of hours, which can take months by hand.  Since we were there we did a little diving and snorkeling.  It was pretty special to be in an area where people are not allowed to go all the time.    
The Scripps group went back out to change a battery on one of their current meters and I stayed back to work on data.  It is getting close to the end.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

March 20th, 2011: Jellyfish and Starting to Remove equipment

Lots of Jellies in the lake.
Ian swimming with jelly fish.
Yesterday the Scripps and CalPoly vehicles surveyed an area on the west side of the island that was surveyed last year to look at bottom types and how they had changed, if at all, from last year.  The weather was not good and we got a lot of rain during the missions so we needed to head back home, but the Scripps group wanted to check the time lapse camera’s, so we got to go on a dive with them.  Fortunately for me, I got to see the beautiful anemone that we found the day before.   We headed back to the lab to look at data and prepare for the next day, which was going to be rather early.  The Hawaii group ran another mission around their instrument cluster on the west side of the reef.  They ran into the bottom and bent one of the REMUS’s fins so we spent the rest of the afternoon working with them to get that fixed.
Today was an interesting day.  We were planning on helping the Hawaii group remove an instrument cluster on the east side of the island so they can pack up to go home.  The wind was really blowing by the time we got out there at 9:00 in the morning so the ocean was really rough.  The Scripps group was also going to look at one of their instruments, but had to turn back because the ocean was too rough for the small boat they were on. 
Mark swimming in tree roots around the lake.
We set our anchor and put divers in the water to collect the instruments, but since the water was so rough it was hard to do everything in the order we had planned.  Two of us ended up getting sick and we lost an anchor, but we did get all the instruments out of the water before we headed back to the lab. 
Dr. Eric Terrill from Scripps swimming with Giant Clams.
The best part of the day was getting to go up to jelly fish lake in the afternoon to scout out a remus mission that Scripps was planning on doing to look at jellyfish biomass.  This is one of the most amazing things I have ever seen.  It is a lake that is full of jelly fish that were land locked when sea levels were so high thousands of years ago.  The water is mostly salt water, but does not have a direct connection to the ocean.  Since the jellyfish have no natural predators they have lost most of the ability to sting.  They still can sting you, but it is very weak and you will probably not feel it.  Once you make it out into the middle of the lake there are thousands of jellyfish all around you.  As you swim through them you cannot help but bump into a couple, which feels like you are running into blobs of jello.   After this it was back to the lab to prepare for tomorrow  and look at data from the past days.

 All pictures provided by William F. Middleton of Scripps.

Good Night,


Friday, March 18, 2011

March 18th, 2011

Yesterday was an amazing day.  We got to travel down to the Southern tip of Palau and watch the Scripps group deploy an ADCP to measure water currents.  This was right off of the island of Peleliu, which was a huge battle site during World War II.    The currents were very strong and the Scripps group did a great job.  We moved on and deployed a wave sensor on the west side of the island and then looked for a good place to run a REMUS mission with two vehicles.  The place that was most interesting happened to be one of the beaches that was used for Survivor Palau.  While the vehicles were out running we got to snorkel around and look at the sea life and coral heads.
Today we headed to the West side of Palau and worked in the estuary to look at runoff from the island and how it disperses in the local channels.  The vehicles had a hard time running since the currents were pretty strong, but we got everything back on board.  We moved over to the main channel and deployed some transponders for the Scripps REMUS and then put out some time lapse cameras to capture a fish spawning event that occurs around the full moon.  We had couple of beautiful dives and got to see a shark and lots of beautiful fish.  We even found Nemo’s anemone.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

March 16th, 2011

View from the back door of Coral Reef Research Foundation.
Banded sea snake. Photo by William F Middleton, Scripps
Yesterday we started out the day with a visit from the U.S. Ambassador of Palau, who stopped by to see what we were doing and how this information will be useful to the country.  After the show and tell, we departed for the west side of the island to survey an area with 3 REMUS’s.  This is the first time that I have ever seen that many vehicles in the water at the same time.  Everything ran successfully and we collected lots of good data.  We even recorded a shark in the REMUS video.

Today the groups split up.  The Hawaii group went and surveyed a reef where they had their instruments deployed to look at how the data from the REMUS compared to the data from the stationary instruments.  The Scripps and Calpoly group went to another spot on the west side to deploy a wave and pressure sensor and do a REMUS run along a main channel to look at fish biomass.  Afterward we moved over to join the Hawaii group and put all of the REMUS’s in the water again. 

All around, a successful day again.

Fish in coral head.  Photo by William F. Middleton, Scripps

Shark swimming below the REMUS during flight.

Monday, March 14, 2011

March 14th, 2011: Successful AWAC Deployment

We finally got a sunny warm balmy day, which means we all sweated the day away.  It was definitely nice not to have to worry about what was going to get wet and what wasn’t.   
Mark and I finished setting up our wave and current sensor so that we could deploy it.  We had to get all the lead ready to hold it down in the water and then drill some holes so that we could stake it in the ground to make sure it stayed put.  After everything was ready, we took off to the deployment location.  Everything went very smoothly getting it all in the water and setting it up.   The best way to describe this is imagine doing whatever your job was today underwater. 
We made a second dive along a beautiful wall of coral, fish and other sea life to install one of the last pressure sensors for this trip. 
The Hawaii and Scripps groups went to the other side of the island to deploy a similar wave and current sensor on the reef and a couple more wave sensors at other locations.  They also ran REMUS missions to test out a couple of new devices to look at fish schools and bottom types.  Another successful day in Palau!


Sunday, March 13, 2011

March 13th, 2011: REMUS Lost, REMUS Found, and other deployments

Mark watches the Scripps group install a wave sensor.
Ian in front of the Kemedukl

Lots of rain today.  The Hawaii group went out to do a remus run and look at bathymetry and water flow around the reef.  The CalPoly and Scripps group went out to deploy the pressure sensors that were retrieved yesterday and put out some wave sensors.  Most of the pressure sensors are deployed by snorkeling, but the Scripps group needed to scuba dive to put the wave sensors in so we followed them down to film and take pictures.  The whole day was beautiful.  We did get a little cold though because we were all wet the whole day from the rain and being in the water. 
On our way back we saw the Hawaii group and they told us that their vehicle was stuck on the bottom and they couldn’t find it when they dove for it.  The scripps group had a special underwater tracking device, so they went down and were able to find it.   It was a good way to end the day.