Andrew Blair's Diary
Jamaica's Coral Reef

Thursday, August 12, 2004
Wednesday, August 11, 2004
Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Monday, August 9, 2004
Sunday, August 8, 2004

Saturday, August 7, 2004
Friday, August 6, 2004

Thursday, August 5, 2004
Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Monday, August 2, 2004
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Sunday, July 4, 2004
Friday, June 18, 2004

Wednesday, June 16, 2004
May 2004

April 2004
March 2004

February 2004
Friday, January 30, 2004

Wednesday, January 14, 2004
Thursday, December 18, 2003

Friday, December 5, 2003


Related Sites


 
Thursday, August 12, 2004

Because of the storm, we really didn't have anything to do. James mentioned after the movie that we might have a snorkel at 9 a.m. the next morning. It was a morning to sleep in, but oh no, I was up at 6 a.m. just like every other. The alarm on my watch was even turned off.

It was a beautiful morning. The sun was out and there was just a slight amount of clouds in the sky. As the day went on, it got very hot. Julie, one of our team members, was heading home this morning.

James is going to take a trip to Brownstown this morning with three other members of the team. This is where most of the shopping is done for the food and produce that the lab uses. While they were gone, Dan, Gail, and I were going to do some snorkeling. Our route took us around the rocks in the bay, where we measured more coral. We measured about 75 to 80 samples.

On this trip, I was intent on tickling a puffer fish. When you do, they will blow up like a balloon. Well, I had been rubbing my hand across the edge of the rock, which had some weird stuff growing on it. The fish escaped, and Dan told me to look at what he had found. He told me to stay back some but to look. I asked, what was this fish? It was a scorpion fish, and this type of fish has a poisonous sting. I said I'm glad my hand didn't find that while I was chasing the puffer.

I almost forgot. We did assemble in buddy pairs for a morning snorkel to determine the amount of coral in the bay. We lined up across the dock area and swam out to the crest of the reef to see what we could find. We were trying to help map the location of coral in the bay. There was just too much to try and record, so we thought it would be easier if we used tanks. James was amazed he didn't realize there was that much coral growing in the bay.

I gathered my equipment to start packing for travel tomorrow. I guess I needed to start somewhere. The problem was I felt that with the storm, our job wasn't done. We owed James four more dives to get all the data. He is a very intense fellow that rubs off on you. I know he was bothered that the storm disrupted his work.

Tonight we're having a barbecue and no evening meeting. This is a farewell from the lab cook, who worked very hard to keep us full. We ate dinner and went down to the dock to socialize before retiring. All of us leave the next day for home. It will be nice to see my wife and children. The only contact I've had with them is by email. Some of the others had cell phones.

Our team has become a very close-knit family, which made it a very enjoyable time. This was especially true of our flat—we did everything together and talked about all kinds of things. This has made it much easier to be away from home.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

There is a tropical storm heading our way. Being the diehards we are, we all were at the dock at 6:30 a.m. trying to get the dive in. We loaded the boats, one of which I would skipper this morning. Anthony took the lead and left first with me right behind him. We didn't get very far as the engine started to jump all over the place. Then I noticed a light on one of the gauges was lit. I waited for Anthony to notice that we were not following him. He did and turned around. I briefed him on what was happening. We headed for the dock to take a quick check, and he decided to add more gas to tank. We restarted the boat. Since we saw no light, we decided to get moving.

Off we headed to Pear Tree Bottom. When we broke the channel from the bay, the seas were not very inviting, but we pushed on. The dive site was quite a long ride, and it was pretty rough. Anthony stopped and decided to try Dairy Bull instead. We anchored and started putting on our gear, and half of us had gotten in the water. James was one of the ones in the water, and he called the dive off due to the rough seas.

About halfway back to the lab, the engine started acting up again. Thank goodness for following seas, because the engine would only run just above an idle. This made it very difficult to handle the boat. The seas seemed to push us where they wanted, and I was very happy to hit the bay and return to the dock.

The first wave of the tropical storm hit just after we got our gear stowed. The wind picked up, and it began to rain for about fifteen minutes. Anthony was rounding trailers for boats, and three or four us stayed to help. When finished with the boats, I headed for breakfast.

When I got done with my meal, I returned to see if Anthony needed help with anything else. He told me he would let me know, but I could see he needed help. I helped with all the loose items lying around. This took about two hours; there were a lot of things that needed to be put away. He really didn't say much, but I'm sure the help was appreciated.

Finally it was time to kick back and enjoy the rest of the day. We spent most of it socializing, catching up, and weather watching. We decided to get some beers and have a storm party. What else are you going to do? Instead of an evening meeting, James showed us another movie. After the movie, he told us the worst of the storm would be tonight while we slept. He was right. At about 10 p.m., it started to rain and lightning. As I am typing this, you can really hear the rumble of thunder. We have lost power five or six times throughout the day. Once was enough to kick the generator on. Being a lab, there are experiments that can't go without power.

It's really quite sad to think the trip is over. I don't think we'll be back in the water to measure anymore coral this week. It has been a GREAT EXPERIENCE and one that I know will stay with me for a very long time. I wish we could have gotten through the week, because I know James has limited time to do his research. He is an exceptional person and really loves his work.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

This morning was a little bit earlier because of the length of travel to the site. James had told us about this site on Sunday when we drove by it. They have begun to plan a resort that will be built near it. This site is called Pear Tree Bottom, for what reason he didn't know. This site has a nice assortment of coral and a wall dive that you get to by swimming through a large crevasse between two large outcroppings of rock.

On the way to the site, Anthony had me drive the boat. Coming into the bay, I noticed some flying fish swimming alongside the boat. They gave us quite a show, swimming like dolphins as we went by. When flying, these little guys could go about 100 feet (30 meters) across the water in the air.

Once at the site, James briefed us, and Anthony told everyone not to go below 60 feet (18 meters) on the wall. Our tasks were to randomly measure the site's coral. We descended and headed between the rocks to the wall. Once again, the lure of the deep got me and I went to 75 feet (23 meters).* I can say I was not the deepest.

Just about the time we came over the ridge of the wall, a school of fish swam parallel with the edge of it. This was quite a sight and deserved a picture.

With this part of the dive done, Gail and I headed off to measure coral. We collected data for about 40 minutes as well as some very good specimens. We didn't see many creatures this time down. It was time to ascend.

Upon returning to the boat, Anthony told me to drive back to the lab. He said Dalton, the other driver, was going to take a couple of days off. It was kind of nice being able to use my diving and boating for this trip. Off we went to stow gear and have breakfast.

In the next dive, Anthony told me the boat was mine for the dive. We loaded up both boats to go when James realized that Dalton was missing. Anthony told him I was going to drive in his place. This is against the rules, so James had us put our gear on other boat. With all of us and our gear, we darn near sank the boat.* But off we went to M-1, a site we had gone to before.

The seas were pretty rough, and the boat started to take on water as we prepared for the dive. On this dive, we were to take random samples from the transects. Gail and I headed off. We collected data for about an hour and then surfaced. We really didn't find any real surprises this time. When everyone was aboard, we headed for the dock to unload for the day.

Once at the dock, James asked if I minded driving the boat. Of course not, I told him. I think the trip scared him a little, realizing we were overloaded for the boat.* These boats are not small; I would say each is a nice 20-foot (six-meter) boat and powered by a 150 horsepower outboard motor. It has a center console and a full canopy overhead.

In the evening, James lectured on his DNA study of coral here. When he was done, we watched the movie Frozen Oceans. It was about the Arctic and Antarctic oceans. It was a fantastic movie, also from the Blue Planet series.

*Candid reporting of any perceived concerns regarding safety helps support continuous improvement in safety. Alcoa refers any such reports to Earthwatch for investigation and, if required, corrective action.

Monday, August 9, 2004

This morning was an early one as we were heading to a site much farther away than normal. The site is Rio Buenos, a great tongue-and-groove reef with a wall. James briefed us on what to expect and how the dive was going to go. We all prepared to enter the abyss; the wall was first on the agenda.

We were only allowed to descend to a maximum of 60 feet (18 meters). Oops. Charlotte and I were at 70 feet (21 meters).* We didn't get into any trouble, because both of us are deep-water qualified. I did burn through some air pretty quickly. This is because the deeper you dive, the more air you consume. I was hoping I had enough air to finish the dive within the time we had.

Gail and I began to do our measuring; it was a random sample dive. We could measure whatever corals we wanted to. We ended up with quite a few, and there were lots to pick from. This reef was doing very well. There were beautiful swim-throughs and crevasses between the mountains of rock and coral. This was my favorite; I just wished we could take two tanks. This dive deserves a swim-through first and then a second to measure coral.

The ride back was slow and rough. The seas had picked up quite a bit since we had arrived. We went through our normal morning routine and got ready for our second dive, which was at Columbus Park.

James wanted to do something different this dive; he wanted to do two new transects that would only be temporary. He picked Gail and me to be the posts. James had me hold the end of a tape measure, and he swam across the reef, letting the tape out. Gail followed to hold the end. When it was set, James would video the tape measure to get the coral that was under it. Dan and Deb would then do the measuring. This transect laid east and west; the next would be north and south.

It was a very boring job to be a post; nothing to do but sit. I did notice one thing. When we would be swimming, the fish didn't get very close. But now, I'm just sitting there. The fish are no longer scared, and they get very close. They kind of just keep creeping in closer and closer. Some of them would knock into you. This was my entertainment for the dive since about the time they were done measuring, the dive was over.

We returned, had lunch, exchanged data with James, and entertained ourselves until our evening lecture. Tonight, James was giving a talk about his studies in Indonesia. It was very interesting but a bit over my head. I'm not really into scientific research of this type. We retired for the evening.

*Candid reporting of any perceived concerns regarding safety helps support continuous improvement in safety. Alcoa refers any such reports to Earthwatch for investigation and, if required, corrective action.

Sunday, August 8, 2004

We don't have to move fast this morning since there's no early dive to make. We just have to meet James at 9 a.m. for a ride. Today is our day off, and James has our day planned—a guided tour of the sites from here to Ocho Rios.

We started at Dunn's River Falls, just outside of Ocho Rios. I didn't climb the falls as I had been there in October of last year. I did enjoy the fresh, cool water of the falls at the bottom and about midway with four others. Three of our group did climb about three quarters of the way.

We got back to the car and headed off to the market in town. I shopped for about 45 minutes, and that was enough for me. When I got to the street, I recognized the building across the way. It was a T-shirt shop where my wife and I had good luck finding things for the kids. I ended up buying four shirts and two pins of Jamaica. The pins were for Deb and Gail to remember the trip with.

It was time to rendezvous for lunch, and we decided to have Indian food. The food was good, but it took two hours to get it. I ate buttered chicken, which was different than I had thought.

Our next stop was an old plantation just east of Ocho. It reminded me of a place you might see in the old south in the U.S. The lower level was a restaurant, and the upper was an art gallery and souvenir shop. There were some banana trees and sugar cane plots. The art work was Jamaican and very brightly colored. There were some very nice paintings hung for sale. We didn't spend much time here as I think James wanted a good cup of tea.

Heading back toward town, we made a left at sign that said Fern Gully this way. It was a very beautiful road through the mountains, with massive trees and ferns everywhere. The edge of the road is either vegetation or stone wall. The road was only about five miles (8 kilometers) long, so at a point where the road opened up, we turned around and did it again. This is definitely a place to see in Ocho.

At this point, we started to head back toward Discovery Bay. James told us we had three more stops on the way. The first was the old Seville Plantation. This place goes back to the sixteenth century. About all that are left were foundations, and they are excavating the sites. The best part of this stop was in a small gift shop. I found a new Hawaiian shirt for myself. It is covered with brightly colored fish and says "Undiscovered Diving." Everyone agreed it was me.

We met at the car to head for the last visiting spot—Cranbourne Gardens. What a beautiful spot—flowers of all colors everywhere. One gazebo we passed through was just covered with orchids and a couple of species I don't know. James led us down a path, which had multitudes of flowers and trees. The path soon turned to trees and a stream flowing by. We followed the stream to the end, where we swam in the spring-fed pool. It was nice to get in some cold water. Charlotte and I were the first in, and we coaxed the rest in when they got there. You could see the water boiling in at the far edge and two places where there are falls in the rainy season. We got to swim for about 15 minutes and then headed back to the car. This really was the top spot of the trip.

Time for dinner, and we selected a seafood restaurant near Discovery Bay. All of us had grilled lobster along with Jamaican beer. Dinner was very good, but now it's time to head for the lab. When we returned, James reminded us it was going to be an earlier morning because of the dive site. We all called it a day.

Saturday, August 7, 2004

The seas were a little rough, but we went. We headed east from the bay about a mile (1.6 kilometers). This site was about 100 yards (91 meters) offshore in front of some houses in 30 feet (9 meters) of water. You could see the bottom even with the waves. Gail and I headed off to our transect to start measuring. Today, you could really feel the surge from the waves above. It was very hard to stay put.

James had told us we may encounter numerous sea urchins at this site, and he was right. Our starting point had three—two on the bottom and one on the coral we needed to measure. Gail grabbed my slate and persuaded it away.

There were so many coral specimens, we only made it down the transect 10 feet (three meters). Plus, the surge made it hard to stay in one place. There was one instance where Gail hit some fire coral, and I heard a scream underwater. The classic moment came while she was measuring a coral. An 18-inch (46-centimeter) moray eel swam away from where her hand was. This blew her whole concentration for the rest of the dive. After an hour, we surfaced and returned to the lab. James was very happy with our work so far.

We ate lunch and assembled for our next dive. This one was great—a free dive. The seas had gotten pretty rough by now; there were whitecaps on the ocean. The site was Dancing Ladies, and we could randomly measure and check the sites. This is another very nice site.

We measured our coral samples and started hunting for creatures. There was a point where we switched duties and I measured. It was great. I got to hunt in cracks for crabs and starfish. I did find a pair of cleaning shrimp—they're very tiny but pretty feisty. Another critter we found was a brittle starfish. I could see just a tentacle sticking out from under a piece of coral, and I tried to catch it. Gail thought I was trying to scare it away, so she took the slate and blocked me from getting it. We did see some bigger crabs, but I just couldn't reach them.

At one point in the dive, you could hear something on the surface. If you looked up, it was pouring like the sky opened up. It only lasted about five minutes, and I was totally amazed that you could hear that through 35 feet (10.7 meters) of water.

When we got back to the surface, Dan told us he had seen two squid. These are animals you want to see in the open water. When communicate lights go off inside them, they can change colors to help camouflage themselves from you. I will get some pictures from Dan of the trip. He and I have gotten a lot of good shots. This camera has worked out great; you know right away whether the photo is any good. I have learned it is wise to have a computer with you to download pictures off the camera. The memory goes kind of quickly.

After lunch, it rained hard twice and the wind began to blow pretty stiff. The one rain was actually coming down sideways. James spoke to us about another movie for the evening; it would be from the Blue Planet series. This one was called Open Ocean, and it was fantastic. This is a series I may look for when I get home. James also talked to us about what we wanted to do on our day off.

The rest of the afternoon was filled with conversation and Jamaican beer. We all seemed ready for a fun day. You wouldn't think of this as work, but hang upside down for two hours of the day underwater. It really is quite an experience; I would do it all over again. This is something I will remember the rest of my life!

Friday, August 6, 2004

We all met at 6:45 a.m. in front of the dive office to start our day. Today, I'm going to be Thor the hammer man because we're putting a new transect in the bay near Columbus Park. This part of the bay has murky water, but today it is crystal clear. The water is murky because of the bauxite-loading dock. Bauxite is used in aluminum and is a brownish powder. This powder is loaded onto freighters for shipping, and the loader sometimes spills bauxite, making the water murky.

We made several attempts to get a spike to stay, but nothing seemed to stay. Finally, James picked a dead coral head, and I began to set the spike. Wow, is this stuff hard! Once the spike was in, we added rope to go to the next spike. We didn't have much luck with this one, so the rope was tied to a piece of coral. At this point, success. The transect was in!

For the rest of the dive, Gail and I were to measure random coral samples of the area. We found many samples around the transect. This site was fantastic. I picked up a buddy—it was a remora. This little guy followed me everywhere. I was worried he wanted to attach to my leg for a free ride.

We had breakfast and got ready for the next dive at a site called Dancing Ladies. Once again, I used my hammer to put in a new transect. This site went much faster. The reefs here have made a great comeback after Hurricane Allen destroyed them in 1980. There's not a lot of branching coral here, but what is here is doing fine. The hard coral we're measuring seems to be doing well. There seems to be great specimens of all sizes. Small fish and other reef creatures seem to be inhabiting the reef here.

We returned to the lab for lunch and the data-exchange meeting. James has been happy with the data collected so far. Tonight, we get to see a movie, The Coral Reef, that is part of the Blue Planet series. This movie was excellent! It explained how coral starts and grows along with the fish and creatures that inhabit the reef. Before we left, James told us our assignments for the next day. Dairy Bull was the reef of choice.

Thursday, August 5, 2004

Our day begins at 6 a.m., and we needed to be at the dive building and geared by 7 a.m.

The first dive of the day is a check out. Anthony the divemaster took us on a skills tour to make sure everyone could dive. He asked us to remove our masks and put them back on underwater. He also wanted to know if we could buddy breathe should we run out of air. Both are important skills for divers to know.

On this first dive, you could see the bottom 50 feet (15 meters) down. It was just magnificent. We each did our skill and went on a tour lasting 30 minutes. It was great. This reef is rebounding nicely. Returning to the lab, we stowed our gear and headed for breakfast. James told us to be back at the dock and ready for a second dive by 11 a.m.

I'm paired with Gail for the second dive, and she ends up being my diving partner for the rest of trip. We were instructed by James on which transect our team was to measure, and the fun began. Gail would measure, and I would decide what type of coral it was and then write the numbers down. Boy, was this fun. I just wished I knew the types better. I think a lot more study would have helped! We did make it through, and things were alright. Our dive lasted 46 minutes and was in 48 feet (14.6 meters) of water. It really was fun.

I skipped lunch since I had swallowed some saltwater and got sick. We needed to meet with James at 2:30 p.m. to exchange data since the five groups were all assigned different transects. After James collected the data, we received more instruction on identifying the type he wanted.

We were adjourned for some free time. Dan, Gail, and I went snorkeling in the boat bay. We saw a little bit of everything—coral, fish, and creatures. I would have never believed all this life would have been here.

At dinner, James told us to meet him at 7:30 p.m. for the details of tomorrow. He wanted us to put two new transects in the Columbus Park area. By the way, this park is where Christopher Columbus first landed on Jamaican soil.

James needed volunteers to carry stacks, rope, and a hammer. The hammer job was given to me without volunteering. He looked right at me and said "Thor, the hammer is yours." Everyone thought that was pretty funny, and the name has stuck. After the lecture, we were dismissed and went right to bed. Six a.m. comes pretty fast. The reason we get moving so early is that the seas are calmer.

Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Travel day—it's finally here! Up at 3:45 a.m. to leave by 4:30 so I will be at the airport by 5:30. The flight leaves Grand Rapids for Atlanta at 6:40 a.m. No problems in the beginning, only I slept through breakfast going to Atlanta.

Once in Atlanta, I got a snack and waited my hour and a half. What a busy place. We boarded the plane, and just as we were supposed to leave, the pilot informed us there was a mechanical problem. One of the GPS systems for navigation wasn't working. About 20 minutes later four passengers boarded the plane, and mysteriously our mechanical problem was fixed. The doors closed, and off to Montego Bay we headed.

A great flight until the flight attendants tried to tell us the time in Jamaica. They were two hours off, and the Jamaicans aboard informed them they were wrong. It was quite a funny joke after that. It really was no big deal, as I had plenty of time to get to the lab.

Immigrations and customs were fun, very slow, and hot. The customs' woman did want to know what Earthwatch was. I told her all about it and explained what I was going to do. When I got finished, she ushered me on my way.

The next part was to get a ride to Discovery Bay. It wasn't hard, as the first person I met told me exactly where to go. It cost 20 dollars, and I raced across the parking lot to catch the bus. I threw my bags on and away we went. It takes an hour to get there from the airport, and the roads are not the best. The driver wasn't sure where to turn, but the closer we got, he knew right where to turn. The sign might have helped. I arrived an hour before our first meeting and 12 hours after I left.

What a day, but I'm checked in and heading for my flat. I first met Dan from Atlanta. He and I will be rooming for the stay. Dan is a marine biology teacher at a private school. He had come in earlier in the morning. He did inform me that Deb was here but was sleeping. Deb is my fellow Alcoa employee from Australia. It took her two days to get here, which means it is a different day for her.

While unpacking my bags, I noticed security at the airport was sloppy in their search. The bottle of dive deodorizer had been opened and was all over everything. My socks, shirts, and underwear had blue soap on them. They dried, but it took two days.
Once I got settled in, Dan and I went out to the porch to talk. While sitting there, Deb walks out. It was so nice to finally meet her after six months of e-mailing one another. The next to show up was Gail, a reading teacher in Chicago. Right behind her is Neal, a student from North Carolina State. Our flat is now full. We talked till 6:30 p.m. when we left for dinner to meet Professor James Crabbe and the rest of the team.

In another flat were three people who are in our group—Carol from Seattle, her son Alex from Boulder, and Carol's sister Julie from Los Angeles. They were lucky and arrived the day before. We still had two members on their way—Charlotte and Rich from England. Charlotte is a writer for Dive Magazine, and Rich is from Earthwatch. These two missed dinner but did arrive in time for our briefing of the project.

Monday, August 2, 2004

This trip seemed so far away six months ago, and now it's here. One more day to work and off to the airport I go.

I got the dive gear all packed last night and started laying my other belongings on the bedroom floor. It's time to get it together since I fly out Wednesday morning. It could be a very long day since the flight leaves at 6:40 a.m. I need to be there two hours ahead, and it's an hour to the airport. The flight goes from Grand Rapids, Michigan, to Atlanta, and then on to Montego Bay, Jamaica. It's then an hour-long taxi ride to Discovery Bay.

There is where the fun begins!

Wednesay, July 21, 2004

I went through a practice pack with my dive equipment since I'm going to a smaller bag for travel. Everything just fits, so I'm ready. Trying to travel light isn't easy, especially when you need to take dive equipment.

I got to try out my new dive camera last Thursday. It takes really good pictures even in our poor visibility. It's very small and not hard to dive with. Digital is so nice; you know what your picture will look like before you lose your subject. Film will be a thing of the past for me!

I go to have my last shot for the trip on Friday. I'm not really looking forward to this as the shot spot is sore for a couple days. The protection will be worth it.

I heard from Earthwatch yesterday. It seems not all of my paperwork made it, so they promptly e-mailed the marine skills sheets I needed to fill out. I also had to send my dive certificate and information on the last eight dives I've made. I tried to fax it to her from home, but my computer didn't like that. The file was nine meg big, and I know that won't e-mail. A slight bit of panic hit--how can I get this to Denise? The feeling wore off and presto, the thumb drive can transfer the data to work. I'll print it out and fax it from there. Success--it happened. Hopefully it was legible.

Two weeks to go, and I'm so pumped up for the trip. This is a once in a lifetime trip; it will get my full attention. It is so great to give back to a sport you love so much.

Sunday, July 4, 2004

One more month. I can't wait to go!

Friday, June 18, 2004

I decided to get my shots taken care of—tetanus, hepatitis, and typhoid. My arms and legs are a little sore. I learned you don't want to get one of these shots in your thigh. Every step the next day told me I had a shot there. I have one more hepatitis shot in a month, and then I'm all set.

I helped with a scuba pool that had come to town. This was a great chance for others to try scuba or at least get underwater.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Diving is in full swing now on both Thursdays and Saturdays. I'm still focusing on buoyancy, which is going just fine. I'm trying to decide which suit to take for the warm water. I'm pretty warm-blooded, so I think it might be just the bathing suit and a T-shirt.

Since being selected, I've been searching for a new underwater camera to take with me. Today the looking is over. No more waiting to see if pictures turn out—next week I'll be trying out my new digital camera. That way I can view the photo right away.

Six weeks till the trip, and it still seems so far away. I am ready, though. I've been occasionally checking the weather in Jamaica and the site for Discovery Bay. Everyone at work keeps asking when I leave, and this makes it even worse. This is such a great opportunity!

May 2004

Really starting to think about the trip more and more. Divemaster training is going well, and I'm about halfway through the program. Diving here has been bad because of rain—lots of rain. The problem is flooding of rivers, which run into our lakes. Plus, visibility is bad when we get too much rain.

April 2004

Diving has begun, and the first dives have gone well. I began to work on my divemaster certification—this is more work than I thought. Four more months. All paperwork sent in.

March 2004

Paperwork filled out, physical scheduled, plane tickets ordered. I just can't wait to go. I talked to the dive shop owner about a night to give a talk when I get back. He thinks it's a great idea.

People at work are really excited for me and keep asking questions about the trip. They really want to see pictures.

February 2004

After seeing the list of people accepted for the Earthwatch projects, I contacted my fellow Alcoan, Deb. She and I emailed each other with questions and advice for the trip.

It's still too cold to do any diving here in Michigan, but soon it would be time to practice for the trip. It's off to the pool for now. We don't have coral here, but buoyancy would be a top priority. You don't want to be crashing into what they're saving!

Friday, January 30, 2004

The time was getting close, and I still hadn't heard anything. About noon, I checked my email, and there was the letter. Congratula-
tions, you have been chosen to participate in the Jamaica Reef Project. I was so excited I don't think I did anything the rest of the day.

This began the search for information on the reef in Discovery Bay. The reef has its own website, and I was finding other sites with valuable information on reefs and coral. I remembered a book that was given as a prize at one of the dive dinners—Corals of the Caribbean. This book had pictures of all the corals I would need to know. This is when I thought—six months to go!

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Got a little worried since I hadn't heard anything yet. I found out through email that we would know by the first of February. I still had a lot of reservations about whether my diving experience would get me selected. Everyone at the plant kept saying you have to know someone to get picked. They just don't give trips to the average Joe. I still hope this was for me.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

The day had come to send the material in. Hoping to hear back soon, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Friday, December 5, 2003

I was walking by the employee postings by our lunchroom and noticed something new—a posting for volunteers for a group called Earthwatch. Wondering what this was about, I did some research. There were projects for all kinds of work and places around the world.

The Jamaica Reef caught my eye. What an opportunity to give something back to the sport I love. Plus, in October, I had gone by this bay while on vacation. I immediately checked with the Human Resource department for an application. They didn't have the right form, so I asked to have one emailed to me. It was in my possession the next day. I wasn't really thinking I would get picked since I'm usually not that lucky. I worked on the application for about a week to get everything just right.


Related Sites


The Coral Reefs of Discovery Bay
This interactive site lets you explore the different zones of the reef system.
go

Discovery Bay
This paper on the bay provides in-depth information about the geology, climate, and environmental impacts.
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Photos of Coral Reef Environments
Forty full-color photos of coral reef environments and explanations of reef ecology.
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Coral Reef Action Plan
This 12-page action plan by a stakeholders group workshop at Jamaica's Discovery Bay Marine Laboratory addresses pollution control, coastal zone management, monitoring, education, and financial considerations.
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Photo Gallery


View the images from Andy Blair's diary.
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Earthwatch Institute


Learn more about this international nonprofit, which supports scientific field research worldwide.
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Jamaica's Coral Reef


Learn more about the expedition and its scientists.
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